Countdown Clocks

Countdown Clocks

Posts tagged "Roe v. Wade"

h/t: George Zornick at The Nation

h/t: Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress Health

This myth of origins is oft repeated by the movement’s leaders. In his 2005 book, Jerry Falwell, the firebrand fundamentalist preacher, recounts his distress upon reading about the ruling in the Jan. 23, 1973, edition of the Lynchburg News: “I sat there staring at the Roe v. Wade story,” Falwell writes, “growing more and more fearful of the consequences of the Supreme Court’s act and wondering why so few voices had been raised against it.” Evangelicals, he decided, needed to organize.

Some of these anti-Roe crusaders even went so far as to call themselves “new abolitionists,” invoking their antebellum predecessors who had fought to eradicate slavery.

But the abortion myth quickly collapses under historical scrutiny. In fact, it wasn’t until 1979—a full six years after Roe—that evangelical leaders, at the behest of conservative activist Paul Weyrich, seized on abortion not for moral reasons, but as a rallying-cry to deny President Jimmy Carter a second term. Why? Because the anti-abortion crusade was more palatable than the religious right’s real motive: protecting segregated schools. So much for the new abolitionism.

***

Today, evangelicals make up the backbone of the pro-life movement, but it hasn’t always been so. Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society andChristianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

Although a few evangelical voices, including Christianity Today magazine, mildly criticized the ruling, the overwhelming response was silence, even approval. Baptists, in particular, applauded the decision as an appropriate articulation of the division between church and state, between personal morality and state regulation of individual behavior. “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision,” wrote W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press.

***

So what then were the real origins of the religious right? It turns out that the movement can trace its political roots back to a court ruling, but not Roe v. Wade.

In May 1969, a group of African-American parents in Holmes County, Mississippi, sued the Treasury Department to prevent three new whites-only K-12 private academies from securing full tax-exempt status, arguing that their discriminatory policies prevented them from being considered “charitable” institutions. The schools had been founded in the mid-1960s in response to the desegregation of public schools set in motion by the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954. In 1969, the first year of desegregation, the number of white students enrolled in public schools in Holmes County dropped from 771 to 28; the following year, that number fell to zero.

In Green v. Kennedy (David Kennedy was secretary of the treasury at the time), decided in January 1970, the plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction, which denied the “segregation academies” tax-exempt status until further review. In the meantime, the government was solidifying its position on such schools. Later that year, President Richard Nixon ordered the Internal Revenue Service to enact a new policy denying tax exemptions to all segregated schools in the United States. Under the provisions of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbade racial segregation and discrimination, discriminatory schools were not—by definition—“charitable” educational organizations, and therefore they had no claims to tax-exempt status; similarly, donations to such organizations would no longer qualify as tax-deductible contributions.

On June 30, 1971, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued its ruling in the case, now Green v. Connally (John Connally had replaced David Kennedy as secretary of the Treasury). The decision upheld the new IRS policy: “Under the Internal Revenue Code, properly construed, racially discriminatory private schools are not entitled to the Federal tax exemption provided for charitable, educational institutions, and persons making gifts to such schools are not entitled to the deductions provided in case of gifts to charitable, educational institutions.”

***

Paul Weyrich, the late religious conservative political activist and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, saw his opening.

In the decades following World War II, evangelicals, especially white evangelicals in the North, had drifted toward the Republican Party—inclined in that direction by general Cold War anxieties, vestigial suspicions of Catholicism and well-known evangelist Billy Graham’s very public friendship with Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Despite these predilections, though, evangelicals had largely stayed out of the political arena, at least in any organized way. If he could change that, Weyrich reasoned, their large numbers would constitute a formidable voting bloc—one that he could easily marshal behind conservative causes.

“The new political philosophy must be defined by us [conservatives] in moral terms, packaged in non-religious language, and propagated throughout the country by our new coalition,” Weyrich wrote in the mid-1970s. “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Weyrich believed that the political possibilities of such a coalition were unlimited. “The leadership, moral philosophy, and workable vehicle are at hand just waiting to be blended and activated,” he wrote. “If the moral majority acts, results could well exceed our wildest dreams.”

But this hypothetical “moral majority” needed a catalyst—a standard around which to rally. For nearly two decades, Weyrich, by his own account, had been trying out different issues, hoping one might pique evangelical interest: pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion. “I was trying to get these people interested in those issues and I utterly failed,” Weyrich recalled at a conference in 1990.

The Green v. Connally ruling provided a necessary first step: It captured the attention of evangelical leadersespecially as the IRS began sending questionnaires to church-related “segregation academies,” including Falwell’s own Lynchburg Christian School, inquiring about their racial policies. Falwell was furious. “In some states,” he famously complained, “It’s easier to open a massage parlor than a Christian school.”

One such school, Bob Jones University—a fundamentalist college in Greenville, South Carolina—was especially obdurate. The IRS had sent its first letter to Bob Jones University in November 1970 to ascertain whether or not it discriminated on the basis of race. The school responded defiantly: It did not admit African Americans.

Although Bob Jones Jr., the school’s founder, argued that racial segregation was mandated by the Bible, Falwell and Weyrich quickly sought to shift the grounds of the debate, framing their opposition in terms of religious freedom rather than in defense of racial segregation. For decades, evangelical leaders had boasted that because their educational institutions accepted no federal money (except for, of course, not having to pay taxes) the government could not tell them how to run their shops—whom to hire or not, whom to admit or reject. The Civil Rights Act, however, changed that calculus.

Bob Jones University did, in fact, try to placate the IRS—in its own way. Following initial inquiries into the school’s racial policies, Bob Jones admitted one African-American, a worker in its radio station, as a part-time student; he dropped out a month later. In 1975, again in an attempt to forestall IRS action, the school admitted blacks to the student body, but, out of fears of miscegenation, refused to admit unmarried African-Americans. The school also stipulated that any students who engaged in interracial dating, or who were even associated with organizations that advocated interracial dating, would be expelled.

The IRS was not placated. On January 19, 1976, after years of warnings—integrate or pay taxes—the agency rescinded the school’s tax exemption.

For many evangelical leaders, who had been following the issue since Green v. Connally, Bob Jones University was the final straw. As Elmer L. Rumminger, longtime administrator at Bob Jones University, told me in an interview, the IRS actions against his school “alerted the Christian school community about what could happen with government interference” in the affairs of evangelical institutions. “That was really the major issue that got us all involved.”

***

Weyrich saw that he had the beginnings of a conservative political movement, which is why, several years into President Jimmy Carter’s term, he and other leaders of the nascent religious right blamed the Democratic president for the IRS actions against segregated schools—even though the policy was mandated by Nixon, and Bob Jones University had lost its tax exemption a year and a day before Carter was inaugurated as president. Falwell, Weyrich and others were undeterred by the niceties of facts. In their determination to elect a conservative, they would do anything to deny a Democrat, even a fellow evangelical like Carter, another term in the White House.

But Falwell and Weyrich, having tapped into the ire of evangelical leaders, were also savvy enough to recognize that organizing grassroots evangelicals to defend racial discrimination would be a challenge. It had worked to rally the leaders, but they needed a different issue if they wanted to mobilize evangelical voters on a large scale.

By the late 1970s, many Americans—not just Roman Catholics—were beginning to feel uneasy about the spike in legal abortions following the 1973 Roe decision. The 1978 Senate races demonstrated to Weyrich and others that abortion might motivate conservatives where it hadn’t in the past. That year in Minnesota, pro-life Republicans captured both Senate seats (one for the unexpired term of Hubert Humphrey) as well as the governor’s mansion. In Iowa, Sen. Dick Clark, the Democratic incumbent, was thought to be a shoo-in: Every poll heading into the election showed him ahead by at least 10 percentage points. On the final weekend of the campaign, however, pro-life activists, primarily Roman Catholics, leafleted church parking lots (as they did in Minnesota), and on Election Day Clark lost to his Republican pro-life challenger.

In the course of my research into Falwell’s archives at Liberty University and Weyrich’s papers at the University of Wyoming, it became very clear that the 1978 election represented a formative step toward galvanizing everyday evangelical voters. Correspondence between Weyrich and evangelical leaders fairly crackles with excitement. In a letter to fellow conservative Daniel B. Hales, Weyrich characterized the triumph of pro-life candidates as “true cause for celebration,” and Robert Billings, a cobelligerent, predicted that opposition to abortion would “pull together many of our ‘fringe’ Christian friends.” Roe v. Wade had been law for more than five years.

Weyrich, Falwell and leaders of the emerging religious right enlisted an unlikely ally in their quest to advance abortion as a political issue: Francis A. Schaeffer—a goateed, knickers-wearing theologian who was warning about the eclipse of Christian values and the advance of something he called “secular humanism.” Schaeffer, considered by many the intellectual godfather of the religious right, was not known for his political activism, but by the late 1970s he decided that legalized abortion would lead inevitably to infanticide and euthanasia, and he was eager to sound the alarm. Schaeffer teamed with a pediatric surgeon, C. Everett Koop, to produce a series of films entitled Whatever Happened to the Human Race? In the early months of 1979, Schaeffer and Koop, targeting an evangelical audience, toured the country with these films, which depicted the scourge of abortion in graphic terms—most memorably with a scene of plastic baby dolls strewn along the shores of the Dead Sea. Schaeffer and Koop argued that any society that countenanced abortion was captive to “secular humanism” and therefore caught in a vortex of moral decay.

Between Weyrich’s machinations and Schaeffer’s jeremiad, evangelicals were slowly coming around on the abortion issue. At the conclusion of the film tour in March 1979, Schaeffer reported that Protestants, especially evangelicals, “have been so sluggish on this issue of human life, and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? is causing real waves, among church people and governmental people too.”

By 1980, even though Carter had sought, both as governor of Georgia and as president, to reduce the incidence of abortion, his refusal to seek a constitutional amendment outlawing it was viewed by politically conservative evangelicals as an unpardonable sin. Never mind the fact that his Republican opponent that year, Ronald Reagan, had signed into law, as governor of California in 1967, the most liberal abortion bill in the country. When Reagan addressed a rally of 10,000 evangelicals at Reunion Arena in Dallas in August 1980, he excoriated the “unconstitutional regulatory agenda” directed by the IRS “against independent schools,” but he made no mention of abortion. Nevertheless, leaders of the religious right hammered away at the issue, persuading many evangelicals to make support for a constitutional amendment outlawing abortion a litmus test for their votes.

Carter lost the 1980 election for a variety of reasons, not merely the opposition of the religious right. He faced a spirited challenge from within his own party; Edward M. Kennedy’s failed quest for the Democratic nomination undermined Carter’s support among liberals. And because Election Day fell on the anniversary of the Iran Hostage Crisis, the media played up the story, highlighting Carter’s inability to secure the hostages’ freedom. The electorate, once enamored of Carter’s evangelical probity, had tired of a sour economy, chronic energy shortages and the Soviet Union’s renewed imperial ambitions.

After the election results came in, Falwell, never shy to claim credit, was fond of quoting a Harris poll that suggested Carter would have won the popular vote by a margin of 1 percent had it not been for the machinations of the religious right. “I knew that we would have some impact on the national elections,” Falwell said, “but I had no idea that it would be this great.”

Given Carter’s political troubles, the defection of evangelicals may or may not have been decisive. But it is certainly true that evangelicals, having helped propel Carter to the White House four years earlier, turned dramatically against him, their fellow evangelical, during the course of his presidency. And the catalyst for their political activism was not, as often claimed, opposition to abortion. Although abortion had emerged as a rallying cry by 1980, the real roots of the religious right lie not the defense of a fetus but in the defense of racial segregation.

***

The Bob Jones University case merits a postscript. When the school’s appeal finally reached the Supreme Court in 1982, the Reagan administration announced that it planned to argue in defense of Bob Jones University and its racial policies. A public outcry forced the administration to reconsider; Reagan backpedaled by saying that the legislature should determine such matters, not the courts. The Supreme Court’s decision in the case, handed down on May 24, 1983, ruled against Bob Jones University in an 8-to-1 decision. Three years later Reagan elevated the sole dissenter, William Rehnquist, to chief justice of the Supreme Court.

I personally consider the beginnings of the modern-day Religious Right in the USA were founded around the time that Engel v. Vitale was being decided by SCOTUS in 1962. In the 1970’s, Roe v. Wade, Ronald Reagan, Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell, and backlash against LGBTQ acceptance led by Anita Bryant were the main causes of the catapulting the Religious Right into a potent political force.


h/t: Randall Balmer at Politico Magazine

thepoliticalfreakshow:

The Lone Star State, which now contains a 400-mile swath without a single abortion provider, has become somewhat of a symbol for what happens when harsh state laws force reproductive health clinics out of business. But Texas is hardly the only state that’s successfully advancing this type of anti-choice agenda. In Louisiana, for instance, lawmakers have been quietly laying the groundwork to shutter clinics for the past several months — and they’re currently poised to accomplish that goal.

The latest installment of this saga involves Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who is currently pushing for a state investigation into Baton Rogue’s only abortion clinic, alleging that it violated federal privacy laws. On Tuesday, Vitter sent a letter to the state’s health department along these lines. Even though the letter doesn’t contain any specific allegations, it asks the department to “impose serious consequences” on the clinic if the accusations are proven true.

Reproductive rights advocates are questioning the timing of Vitter’s concerns. On Wednesday, state lawmakers are scheduled to hear House Bill 388, a measure that’s directly modeled after the new abortion restrictions in Texas. Vitter’s letter, which was released just one day before the final vote, may be intended to influence state lawmakers by reinforcing the myth that reproductive health facilities need tighter regulations.

“It seems like very suspicious timing that David Vitter would release information about an investigation the day before the House hears the bill for final passage,” Ellie Schilling, the lawyer who represents Louisiana’s abortion clinics, told the Times-Picayune. “I’m not really sure why David Vitter is involving himself in this.”

HB 388 would require the abortion providers in the state to obtain admitting privileges from a local hospital, a medically unnecessary requirement that’s often impossible for clinics to comply with. It will likely force the majority of Louisiana’s five clinics to close.

This type of legislation is known as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, or TRAP. It’s an indirect method of restricting women’s access to abortion by making it too complicated and costly for clinics to remain operating. In reality, abortion clinics are alreadyhighly regulated and extremely safe. But conservatives’ rhetoric around “women’s health and safety” has helped advance TRAP laws across the country anyway.

And in Louisiana, abortion opponents have furthered this framework through several different means. At the beginning of this year, the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals attempted to regulate abortion clinics out of existence by imposing complicated and burdensome new rules on abortion providers with little public notice. Those rules were eventually rescinded after a massive outcry. But it’s not hard to see why HB 388, which essentially seeks to accomplish the same goal, has been able to advance so easily this session. The state is all too eager to follow in Texas’ footsteps.

In addition to the admitting privilege requirement, HB 388 includes several other problematic provisions that would limit women’s access to reproductive health care. It would impose a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for surgical abortion procedures. It would also limit the number of abortions that private doctors are allowed to perform before they’re officially considered to be an “abortion provider” — an obscure policy change that could actually have huge implications for women’s access to the procedure, as the number of clinics dwindles and women increasingly turn to private physicians for first-trimester abortions.

Ultimately, these type of restrictions on the medical procedure end up having a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable women, who already struggle to afford the cost of an abortion. Even though Roe v. Wade is still technically the law of the land, an increasing number of harsh state laws ensure that women’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights depend mainly on her bank account and her zip code.

“The New Orleans Abortion Fund is outraged by this bill, which will push women and their families further into poverty,” Amy Irving, a founding board member of the organization, which provides financial assistance to low-income individuals who need to end a pregnancy, told ThinkProgress. “Louisiana lawmakers continue to pass laws that erode our communities’ social safety net and demonstrate that they do not trust women to make decisions about their healthcare and abortion, in particular. This bill will penalize low income women, especially.”

In a previous interview with ThinkProgress, Irving said she’s noticed an uptick in the number of New Orleans women resorting to potentially dangerous methods of ending a pregnancy, like buying abortion-inducing drugs on the black market, as they lose access to legal clinics. That dynamic is already unfolding in Texas in the aftermath of its recent clinic closures, and there’s no reason to think the trend won’t continue in Louisiana if the state passes a similar law.

If Louisiana lawmakers approve HB 388, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is expected to immediately sign it into law. When it was first introduced, the governor’s office released a statement praising the legislation, saying “these reforms will build upon the work Governor Jindal has done to make Louisiana the most pro-life state in the nation.”

Source: Tara Culp-Ressler for ThinkProgress

Texas GOP candidate: It’s a ‘myth’ that Planned Parenthood does ‘anything’ for women’s health (via Raw Story )

Dan Patrick, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Texas, argued this week that the reason Planned Parenthood clinics were being forced to close throughout the state was because they did not have “anything” to do with women’s health…



 

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Over the past several years, state legislatures have enacted a record-breaking number of abortion restrictions. That pace hasn’t abated during this year’s legislative sessions, as lawmakers are rushing to pass measures to shut down abortion clinics and create additional red tape for women seeking abortions. But even though the assault on reproductive rights has been steadily gaining ground, there’s one type of restriction that hasn’t been able to win enough support, even among some anti-choice Republicans.

So-called “fetal heartbeat bills,” a radical proposal to cut off legal abortion services at just six weeks — before many women even realize they’re pregnant — are failing in states across the country. Although the far-right abortion opponents who push six-week bans claim that the procedure should be outlawed after a fetal heartbeat can first be detected, they can’t always get their other colleagues to sign onto the effort.

Last year, North Dakota and Alabama became the first states in the country to pass abortion restrictions banning the procedure after the detection of fetal heartbeat (although Arkansas’ ended up being amended to a 12-week ban). Perhaps observing that those two laws have both been blocked from taking effect because they blatantly violate Roe v. Wade, at least five state legislatures have declined to advance fetal heartbeat bans so far this year:

ALABAMA: Lawmakers in Alabama introduced a package of several anti-abortion restrictions, including a six-week abortion ban, on the same day in February. The legislature rushed to approve two of those measures before the state’s session came to a close this week, but the Senate didn’t take up the heartbeat ban. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) said he’s waiting to see how the legal challenges to six-week bans in other states before Alabama passes its own version “and spends dollars we don’t have as a state.” The lawmaker who introduced the bill said she’s “very, very disappointed” that the legislature “didn’t have the fortitude” to approve it anyway.

MISSISSIPPI: Mississippi has been trying and failing to enact a heartbeat ban for several years in a row. Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has already indicated that he’s eager to sign one. “It would tell that mother, ‘Your child has a heartbeat,’” he told supporters at an anti-abortion event last year. But so far, this bill has repeatedly failed to make it out of committee. The state recently passed a 20-week abortion ban, but the heartbeat bill — which would have banned abortion at 12 weeks, like the one in Arkansas — remains a step too far.

KANSAS: Top Republican lawmakers in Kansas have decided to block a six-week abortion ban this year because they’re not interested in provoking a legal fight. Even though the legislature has strong GOP majorities, the politicians there are taking their cues from Kansans for Life, the most influential anti-choice group in the state. Kansans for Life doesn’t support the proposed fetal heartbeat ban because they’re nervous that a court battle would end up striking it down. “We’re just being cautious,” House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey (R) explained when asked why the legislature hasn’t scheduled a vote on the measure.

KENTUCKY: A fetal heartbeat measure was introduced again in Kentucky this session, after failing to advance last year, but abortion opponents haven’t had much luck this time around either. The measure is currently stalled in committee with little chance of passing. Pro-choice Kentucky lawmakers have been able to successfully block proposed abortion restrictions for several years in a row, so there’s little chance that a radical six-week abortion ban will make it through.

OHIO: Republicans in Ohio have long been divided over whether to adopt an aggressive anti-abortion strategy, and attempt to enact a harsh fetal heartbeat ban, or take a more subtle and incremental approach to chipping away at reproductive rights. This split has prevented the state from approving a six-week ban for the past several years, although it continues to be re-introduced. Senate President Keith Faber (R) says he won’t schedule a vote on the measure this session because he’s worried it will trigger a court challenge.

Indeed, legal battles over unconstitutional abortion restrictions come with a cost. North Dakota is gearing up to spend at least $600,000 to defend its stringent anti-abortion laws in court, while Kansas and Idaho have both accumulated legal fees in this area that top one million dollars.

In general, abortion opponents haven’t decided whether it’s better to continue gradually chipping away Roe v. Wade piece by piece, or whether it’s necessary to take a bold stance to ban nearly all abortions. So far, feuds over this divide are bubbling to the surface in political races in Georgia and Kentucky. And some Republicans will need to adopt a particularly hardline stance against abortion if they want to court support from thecountry’s major anti-choice groups before the upcoming presidential primaries.

But so far, anti-choice lawmakers have actually had more success with the first, incremental strategy. That’s largely because radical restrictions like six-week bans, which are obviously extreme on their face, tend to capture headlines and spark outrage — while more subtle efforts to undermine abortion rights are able to slip under the radar.

This is a new flashpoint in the battle against abortion rights. Draconian v. ultra-draconian. 

h/t: Robin Marty at TPM Cafe

thepoliticalfreakshow:

Abortion opponents are confident that they’ve found a winning strategy in 20-week bans. In January, at the Republican National Committee’s annual meeting, the group approved a new “pro-life resolution” encouraging GOP candidates to speak out against abortion rights. That resolution cited 20-week bans as one restriction that’s politically advantageous for Republicans, since it tends to poll better with the American public.

By some measures, they’re right. This policy — often construed as a “fetal pain ban,” since it’s based on the scientifically inaccurate claim that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy — is picking up steam on a legislative level. Ten states already have 20-week bans on the books, and several lawmakers introduced new fetal pain bills at the beginning of this year. This past weekend, West Virginia became the first Democratic-controlled state to pass a 20-week ban, and it’s not yet clear whether the state’s Democratic governor is going to block it. Abortion opponents are now able to claim that this is an issue with bipartisan support.

The push to cut off access to later abortion services has always relied on framing 20-week bans as moderate and popular. This has been working really well for the anti-choice community, which is able to capitalize on emotional outrage about “fetal pain” and come across as entirely willing to compromise. Lila Rose, the president of the right-wing group Live Action, often points out that 20 is exactly half of a full-term 40 week pregnancy, so it’s a perfect middle ground.

But don’t be fooled. The political momentum for 20-week bans isn’t actually about compromising, or about adhering to a specific deadline that will prevent fetuses from feeling pain. It’s really about finding an initial foothold to chip away at Roe v. Wade, and then continuing to move the goal posts. It’s the first step in a larger strategy to cut off legal abortion access altogether, cloaked under the guise of a “moderate” policy.

For evidence, look no further than what’s currently going on in Mississippi. Lawmakers there are trying to pass a 20-week ban — but this week, they made a last-minute change that actually transforms the bill into an 18-week ban.

Lawmakers moved up the cut-off point by using a new way to define pregnancy. Abortion restrictions typically calculate gestational age beginning when a fertilized egg implants on the uterine wall, which is the medical and scientific definition of pregnancy. Mississippi’s new bill chooses to start counting from the end of the woman’s last menstrual period. There’s nothing wrong with that in theory. But in the context of an abortion ban, that ends up shaving off about two weeks from the legally acceptable window to terminate a pregnancy.

“It goes far beyond similar legislation in neighboring states,” Felicia Brown-Williams, the director of public policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in a statement regarding Mississippi’s proposed ban. “Legislators should stop wasting taxpayer time and money by pushing bills that could easily end in litigation.”

Mississippi is modeling the new legislation after a similar law in Arizona, which is the only state so far that’s passed a fetal pain ban outlawing abortion two weeks earlier than usual. Last May, Arizona’s restrictive ban was permanently struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for overstepping the legal protections in Roe v. Wade. And at the beginning of this year, the Supreme Court reaffirmed that decision by refusing to review the Ninth Circuit’s ruling. The lawmakers in Mississippi are likely counting on the fact that their state is under the jurisdiction of a much more conservative circuit court, which recently upheld an extremely restrictive abortion law in Texas that’s forcing dozens of clinics to close.

So why does all of this matter, and what does it say about the larger strategy behind later abortion bans? It proves that the states enacting 20-week bans aren’t really interested in a good faith effort to accomplish what they claim they care about, which is preventing women from exercising their abortion rights after a specific point that “causes pain” to their fetus. In fact, there’s no good policy justification for this type of restriction at all.

First of all, the arbitrary cut-off clearly doesn’t matter to abortion opponents — since there’sno real scientific evidence to support the notion of fetal pain at 20 weeks, sneaking in an 18-week ban under the same specious logic is even better. On top of that, it’s important to remember that cutting off later abortion access doesn’t even have a real impact on abortion opponents’ stated goal of lowering the abortion rate. Abortions after 20 weeks are already extremely rare, representing just 1.5 percent of all abortions nationwide. This is especially stark in Mississippi, since the state’s sole abortion clinic doesn’t even perform abortions after 16 weeks in the first place — this is essentially a meaningless ban.

But addressing a real issue or having a real impact isn’t the point. Instead, this policy simply allows Republicans to have a convenient talking point to make the case that Americans support limiting abortion rights. Unfortunately, that often comes at the expense of targeting women who are making heartbreaking decisions about a pregnancy that’s gone terribly wrong. A “fetal pain ban” or a “late-term abortion ban” is a politically popular way of defining a policy that can force women to carry doomed pregnancies to term.

Amanda Allen, the state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights — one of the groups that successfully litigated against Arizona’s ban — told ThinkProgress that all fetal pain bans are “as cruel as they are unconstitutional.” That’s because they typically have very narrow medical exceptions that prevent women from terminating a pregnancy even after they’ve discovered serious health issues.

“When states try to ban abortion earlier in pregnancy, they’re really banning it before the time that women can receive critical prenatal care,” Allen pointed out. “Now that it looks like Mississippi is following in Arizona’s footsteps with this bill, lawmakers have added all these bogus findings about why this legislation is necessary for women’s health. But of course, it’s actually directly the opposite — it could force women to continue their pregnancies until a potential health issue becomes life-threatening.”

But lawmakers typically aren’t persuaded by that point. Indeed, when Arizona was arguing in favor of its restrictive ban, lawyers tried to make the case that fatal fetal birth defects are simply the “woman’s problem.”

The American people, on the other hand, actually are sympathetic to the emotional context about later abortion care. When voters realize why women may need a later abortion, they oppose cutting off access to that type of reproductive health care. This has been put to the test. Last year, when abortion opponents put a proposed 20-week ban up for a popular vote in Albuquerque, voters resoundingly rejected it for exactly this reason.

Nonetheless, this incremental strategy to undermine Roe continues to be extremely successful in state legislatures across the country. Anti-choice politicians aren’t showing any signs of stopping the onslaught of 20-week abortion bills.

“We’re continuing to see these relentless attacks from politicians. Right now, I’m tracking 12 different 20-week bans that have either been introduced this year or carried over from last session, and three of those are moving,” Allen noted. “I think we need to ask why lawmakers are so insistent on spending their time passing unconstitutional bills when states like Mississippi have some of the highest rates of child poverty and women living in poverty.”

Source: Tara Culp-Ressler for ThinkProgress

h/t: Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress Health


h/t: Janet Reitman at Rolling Stone

On yesterday’s “Faith and Freedom” radio broadcast, Matt Barber and Mat Staver rejoiced that recent polls show that the majority of Americans now consider themselves to be “pro-life” and encouraged politicians to “get on the winning side of history” and start passing legislation to outlaw abortion.

What anti-abortion activists always fail to mention whenever they trumpet this claim is that polls consistently show that the vast majority of Americans believe abortion should remain legal and available, with generally no more than 20% of the population wanting it to be outlawed entirely.

But for Barber and Staver, these polls demonstrate that legal abortion will soon become a thing of the past.

 

h/t: Kyle Mantyla at RWW

ppaction:

41 years of protecting every woman’s constitutional right to make her own personal health care decisions. And we won’t let politicians take that right away.

Happy birthday, Roe v. Wade.

Wednesday is the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade handed down by SCOTUS. 
Our duties are to keep Roe intact at any cost and stop any further attacks against a women’s right to choose to have an abortion. 

Abortion rights activists let out a collective sigh of relief recently when the Supreme Court announced it wouldnot take up Horne v. Isaacson, which successfully blocked an Arizona pre-viability abortion ban specifically designed to try and upend Roe v. Wade. The refusal to hear the challenge fell just two weeks shy of the 41st anniversary of Roe, the landmark Supreme Court decision that decriminalized abortion nationwide, but that routine order from the Roberts Court was far from a given.

Though Roe’s foundation feels shakier today than ever, it has long been under attack—first with Harris v. McRae, the Supreme Court case decided just a few years after Roe that upheld the constitutionality of the Hyde Amendment and effectively cut off access to abortion for the poor by making it too expensive to obtain. That attack accelerated after Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 Supreme Court decision that held states could restrict abortion rights so long as those restrictions did not pose an “undue burden.” Since Casey, but especially since 2010, anti-choice activists have rushed to find out just how far they can go to restrict abortion rights under that standard.

The result has been a mess. One federal appellate court upheld mandatory ultrasound requirements as consistent with Roe and Casey, while state supreme courts have struck them as violating those same decisions. Despite the fact that states cannot ban abortion pre-viability, at least 11 states currently have pre-viability bans on the books, with some, like Arkansas and North Dakota, brazenly banning abortion as early as six weeks. Meanwhile, states like Texas,Mississippi, and Wisconsin have used medically unnecessary mandates requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at their local hospital to try and drive providers out of business and force the legal question of whether or not states unduly burden a right to choose by shuttering clinics within its borders. So far, at least one appellate court seems to think they don’t.

But it’s been over the last four years that those attacks have truly escalated, as conservative lawmakers in states nationwide seized political opportunity and passed restriction after restriction, each more draconian than the last. And given the Roberts Court, its conservative majority, and deep sympathies to the anti-choice cause and tactics, well, it’s easy to see why this anniversary feels different.

Yet, when given the opportunity, the hostile anti-choice majority on the Roberts Court passed at taking another look at Roe. Not only that, but two other times this year the Supreme Court avoided calls from conservatives to “revisit” or “clarify” the ruling that prior to fetal viability states may not ban abortion, nor unduly burden a woman’s right to choose abortion, letting stand decisions supporting abortion rights. So what gives? Despite a career advancing the cause of the anti-choice right, has Chief Justice John Roberts softened on abortion rights?

Not quite.

First, let’s consider the role of the Roberts Court in helping make all that state-level anti-choice legislation possible, because it was the Court’s decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that opened the door for big money to connect with conservative model legislation and advance such restrictions, which RH Reality Check’s Adele Stan chronicles here. From that unholy union sprang copycat abortion-restricting legislation in Texas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. This already bleak landscape may be made even worse if the Roberts Court rules as expected and strikes individual donation limits later this term in McCutcheon v. FEC.

Then there’s the First Amendment. Building off its decision in Citizens United to grant corporations First Amendment speech rights, the Roberts Court looks primed to grant them First Amendment religious exercise rights too. But that’s not the only place where conservatives on the Roberts Court can, and likely will, use the First Amendment to roll back reproductive privacy rights. There’s good reason to think the Court will turn away from the reality of clinic protests and side with the “plump grandmas” and strike down a Massachusetts buffer zone law. A broad enough ruling there could make this kind of harassment routine at clinics everywhere at a time when anti-choice extremists are testing the limits of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act by arguing their promises to blow up abortion providers’ cars are not really “true threats” and are therefore protected free speech.

During his confirmation hearing, Justice Roberts famously quipped that he saw his role on the Court as one of an umpire—that he was there to call balls and strikes. That feigned objectivity served him well during the first round of challenges to the Affordable Care Act. As the author of the majority opinion, Justice Roberts managed to uphold the general architecture of the law while gutting one of its most important components, its broad Medicaid expansions. As a result, conservatives furiously fundraised, campaigned, and governed around ending health-care reform all together, while making it as difficult to obtain in the short-term.

So, more than four decades since Roe, and that is the question at hand: Will the Roberts Court do to Roe and abortion rights what it did to health-care reform and keep just enough of it intact to call it legal, while rendering it nearly impossible to obtain? So far, all signs point to yes.

h/t: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/01/17/can-roe-survive-roberts-court/