President Trump’s appointment legitimizes the former president and CEO of Americans United for Life, an anti-choice copycat legislation mill looking to restrict access to comprehensive reproductive health care.

President Trump on Friday installed virulent anti-choice activist Charmaine Yoest as assistant secretary for public affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The appointment vaults Yoest to one of the top positions at HHS, the agency that sets public health policy in the United States. She will report to HHS Secretary Tom Price, serving as his “principal counsel on public affairs—providing executive leadership, policy direction, and management strategy.”

In other words, Yoest will communicate the policy decisions of her boss, who believes “there’s not one” woman who can’t afford birth control, to the press and the public.

Yoest’s record on reproductive rights is arguably even more extreme than Price’s.

Trump’s appointment legitimizes the former president and CEO of Americans United for Life (AUL), an anti-choice copycat legislation mill looking to restrict the right to access comprehensive reproductive health care nationwide. The federal courts have largely blocked AUL’s efforts.

By tapping Yoest, the Trump administration sends a clear signal that it plans to use HHS to restrict reproductive rights as much as possible, no matter how much money that will cost taxpayers.

“It is unacceptable that someone with a history of promoting myths and false information about women’s health is appointed to a government position whose main responsibility is to provide the public with accurate and factual information,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation America, said in a statement. “Charmaine Yoest has spent her whole professional life opposing access to birth control and a woman’s right to a safe, legal abortion. While President Trump claims to empower women, he is appointing government officials who believe just the opposite.”

As Emily Bazelon wrote in a 2012 profile of Yoest for the New York Times, the anti-choice activist’s “end goal isn’t to make abortion safer. She wants to make the procedure illegal.”

“She leaves no room for exceptions in the case of rape or incest or to preserve the health of the mother,” Bazelon wrote. “She believes that embryos have legal rights and opposes birth control, like the IUD, that she thinks ‘has life-ending properties.’” Yoest reportedly dismissed using contraception to bring down the abortion rate as a “red herring.”

Yoest worked as a senior adviser to Mike Huckabee’s failed 2008 presidential campaign. Huckabee holds a hardline opposition to abortion rights, and in 2015 suggested he would be open to the idea of using federal troops to stop legal abortion. Yoest also worked as vice president at Family Research Council, which has been classified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Yoest served on the Trump campaign’s anti-choice advisory council. She came to Trump’s defense when he faced allegations of sexual assault.

Yoest is one of many anti-choice advocates installed at HHS since Trump took office. Paula Stannard, who ProPublica reports was hired to the agency as a “beachhead” in January, worked at HHS in the George W. Bush administration. Anti-choice activist Hadley Arkes has claimed that during Stannard’s time at HHS she worked on dubious “born-alive” efforts.

“Trump has broken nearly all of his promises to the American people in his first 100 days, but he has certainly stuck to his pledge to erode the constitutional right to abortion, punishing women in the process,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “This nomination helps fulfill that twisted promise and speaks volumes about the Trump administration’s continued disdain for reproductive freedom and women’s rights.”

Yoest has already influenced the U.S. Supreme Court for decades to come, per White House pool reports. Yoest, along with other prominent anti-choice activists who helped guide the process, convened at the White House on February 1, the day after Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.

Congressional Republicans are already pressuring HHS officials to wield regulatory power undermining reproductive rights.

A day before Yoest’s appointment, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives met with Price to discuss so-called conscience protections, according to a press release from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). McCarthy, House Budget Committee Chair Diane Black (R-TN), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and other prominent anti-choice lawmakers swayed Price to examine the Weldon Amendment, which prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care.

Congressional Republicans have falsely alleged the Weldon Amendment doesn’t go far enough and forces doctors to provide abortion care. They sought to codify and expand it last year in a successful House vote, but the legislation failed to advance to the U.S. Senate.

McCarthy said the Republicans are “fully confident” that their meeting with Price would yield a “fresh look” at the “controversy and other conscience violations.”

Source: Rewire

https://rewire.news/article/2017/04/28/breaking-trump-appoints-anti-choice-extremist-prominent-hhs-post/

The Montana GOP’s “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” relies on junk science claiming a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks’ post fertilization.

Montana’s Democratic governor plans to veto legislation that outlaws abortion care at 20 weeks, a spokesperson told Rewireon Thursday.

Gov. Steve Bullock “strongly believes a woman’s medical decision should stay between herself, her doctor, her family, and her faith,” said Bullock’s press secretary, Marissa Perry.

SB 329, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, relies on junk science claiming a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks post fertilization—which doctors call 22 weeks’ gestation, calculated from the first day of a person’s last menstrual period. The bill bans abortions at 20 weeks’ fertilization, except in cases of serious physical health risk or life endangerment. In those instances, the emphasis remains on the fetus, with medical practitioners instructed to end the pregnancy in a way that gives the “best opportunity for the unborn child to survive.”

Violators of the Republican-backed measure could face fines of $1,000 or up to five years behind bars.

Perry said Bullock had not yet seen the bill, but said the governor has a record of vetoing anti-abortion legislation. Bullock has ten days from when legislation reaches his desk to veto it, or the bill becomes law without his signature, Perry said.

Republicans control both of Montana’s legislative chambers. The bill’s lead sponsor, state Sen. Keith Regier(R-Kalispell), has backed various anti-choice bills over the years. He sponsored failed legislation to make abortion a homicide, and an unsuccessful ban on administering abortion pills via telemedicine. Regier was behind a 2012 fetal homicide bill, which went into law without the governor’s signature.

The influential anti-choice groups Americans United for Life and the National Right To Life Committee drafted the first “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act” for Nebraska in 2010, as Rewire reported. Since then, Republicans and reproductive rights opponents around the country have advanced or enacted unconstitutional 20-week abortion bans under the guise of preventing a fetus from “feeling pain.”

The medical establishment holds fetal pain is unlikely before the third trimester.

Source: Rewire

https://rewire.news/article/2017/04/27/montana-governor-says-hell-veto-20-week-abortion-ban/

(Photo: Getty Images)
State legislatures across the country are proposing and, in some cases passing, antiabortion bills. (Photo: Getty Images)
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On Tuesday a bill passed the Illinois State House that would keep abortion legal in the state even if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned by the Supreme Court — but Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a pro-choice Republican, has vowed to veto it.

The events in Illinois today are a perfect example of just why the focus of reproductive justice advocates and supporters needs to be fixed firmly on the states. While all eyes have been focused on the White House and Congress, state legislatures across the country have been proposing and passing bills to make access to abortion care even more difficult for those in need of it.

“Reproductive health and rights continue to be attacked by politicians at the state level,” Diane Horvath-Cosper, MD, the reproductive health advocacy fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Yahoo Beauty. “Whether it’s interfering with the provider-patient relationship or trying to limit access to family planning, it is clear that attempts to dismantle access to women’s health care continue during this year’s legislative sessions.”

Or, as Nikki Madsen, the executive director of the Abortion Care Network, tells Yahoo Beauty, “there are some politicians who will stop at nothing to burden abortion care providers and bully people who need this care.”

Here’s a look at some of the bills that are currently moving — and some that have recently passed — and what you need to know about them.

Arizona

In late March, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a number of antiabortion bills into law — including one that would require doctors to do everything possible to resuscitate an aborted fetus that is “born alive,” a term being defined by the state as any fetus born with a heartbeat and respiration, and having movement of voluntary muscles. Yet research shows that a fetus does not develop the nerves and neural capacity to experience pain until the third trimester, and a fetus is not traditionally thought of as viable outside the womb until 26 weeks gestational age. According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 1.3 percent of abortions in 2013 were performed after 21 weeks gestation.

“Arizona politicians need to get out of the exam room and start treating women and families with some basic human dignity,” says Madsen.

Arkansas

Two weeks ago, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a first-of-its-kind piece of legislation that would require doctors to investigate their patients’ medical histories before being able to provide a pregnant women with abortion care. Doctors who fail to adhere to the law could face up to a year of prison, $2,500 in fines, and civil penalties.

“In Arkansas, politicians want to turn abortion providers into the thought police,” muses Destiny Lopez, the co-director of All* Above All, a grass-roots organization that works to oppose all forms of bans on abortion coverage and to advocate for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. “It’s insulting, not to mention unworkable.”

Kansas

The Kansas House recently passed legislation that would require women to receive written information — in 12-point type in black ink in the Times New Roman font — about abortion before being allowed to make a decision as to whether to have the procedure.

“Not content to only play doctor, politicians now want to be graphic designers too,” says Lopez.

And yet, as Horvath-Cosper notes, “a bright spot is that there are efforts at the state level to safeguard reproductive health, such as by enshrining the protections of the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision and protecting funding for the vital services Planned Parenthood provides. As physicians, we know that timely access to high-quality reproductive health care services is essential to women’s health.”

Oklahoma

In March, lawmakers in the Oklahoma House passed a bill that would ban abortion solely on the basis of whether the fetus had a genetic abnormality, with no exceptions made even for cases of rape or incest. Now the Oklahoma State Senate is considering the measure. Should it pass, Oklahoma would be the third state in the U.S. with this kind of abortion ban.

“Abortion care providers treat their patients with compassion and respect; politicians have no place forcing them to target women with needless restrictions,” says Madsen of the Oklahoma bill.

Montana

A bill is headed to Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk to be signed into law that would restrict abortions and criminalize doctors by banning all abortion care performed after 24 weeks gestation, even in the event of a medical emergency. In situations where a woman’s life is endangered, she would then have to undergo a C-section or induced labor should there be at least a 50 percent chance that the fetus might survive outside the womb. Doctors who are found performing abortions after 24 weeks could face homicide charges.

Says Madsen, “It is not always possible for a woman to get an abortion as soon as she has made her decision. With this restriction, politicians are interfering with doctors’ ability to provide care that is right for their patients.”

Texas

A budget bill passed the Texas House two weeks ago that would divert $20 million from environmental regulators and instead direct that funding to “programs that critics accuse of coercing women against having abortions.” It now remains to be seen whether the budgeting provision will pass through the reconciliation process between the state’s House and Senate.

“Texas is in the middle of a maternal health crisis — but instead of funding programs to support women’s health, they’re spending precious resources lying to and coercing women,” notes Lopez.

West Virginia

The West Virginia Legislature is advancing a measure that would require minors to go to court to seek approval before being able to access abortion care. The bill is currently on the floor of the state Senate and is also being considered by a House committee, so it could be approved as soon as this week.

“It’s hard enough for a young person facing an unwanted pregnancy to get care — now they have to go to court?” says Lopez. “For young people from small towns, this undue burden is also a disaster for privacy.”

Source: Yahoo News

https://www.yahoo.com/beauty/7-states-quietly-moving-restrict-abortion-access-215450138.html

Restrictions on abortion perpetuate economic inequality.

 
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, speaks at a Democratic National Committee rally, Friday, April 21, 2017, in Mesa, Ariz. CREDIT: AP/Matt York

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took a firestorm of criticism over the weekend for campaigning for an Omaha mayoral candidate who supported abortion restrictions. In the slew of coverage following Sanders’ support of Democratic Nebraska lawmaker Heath Mello, media outlets and Sanders himself framed abortion access as separate from economic issues — when in reality, abortion restrictions hurt low-income people the most.

In 2009, his first year in Nebraska’s state legislature, Mello supported a bill mandating doctors offer an ultrasound before performing an abortion, which he said was a “positive first step to reducing the number of abortions in Nebraska.” Mello also sponsored the final version of a 20-week abortion ban and voted for a law banning insurance plans from covering abortion, Rewire reported. Mello’s campaign manager told The Huffington Post that he received a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, but Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska said the statements about a 100 percent rating were misleading.

Understandably, Sanders’ support for Mello was seen as running counter to progressive values.

In response to Sanders’ support of Mello and the resulting criticism from progressives, the Atlantic ran a story with the headline “Rifts over abortion and economic populism threaten to divide Democrats.” In the article, a former Sanders campaign staffer calls the support of abortion rights an unreasonable standard:

I don’t think the senator is anointing anyone or imposing a litmus test on candidates, and I don’t think he sees it that way either. He’s always cared about a core set of economic issues, which is why people flocked to his campaign, and he wants to make sure he supports people who believe in the same things.

The New York Times published a similar piece about how the Omaha election is “pitting abortion rights activists against economic populists.” The Times piece poses this question:

But the ferocity of the dispute this time reveals a much deeper debate on the left: Should a commitment to economic justice be the party’s central and dominant appeal, or do candidates also have to display fealty to the Democrats’ cultural catechism?

Last week, Sanders told NPR that in order for Democrats to get control of the House and Senate, they have to “appreciate where people come from.”

“But I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue,” Sanders said.

The low-income people most affected by abortion restrictions might disagree with Sanders and the media on the characterization that abortion is just “one issue” or a social or cultural issue, rather than an economic one.

Seventy-five percent of abortion patients were poor or low-income in 2014, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Due in part to barriers to contraceptive access, poor women and other people trying not to conceive are three times more likely to get pregnant than higher income people and five times more likely to give birth, according to a 2015 Brookings Institution paper. Abortion rates were also lower for the poor, because although middle-class women abort more of their pregnancies, they have less unintended pregnancies, and thus fewer abortions overall, Slate explained.

With lack of access to affordable abortion options — thanks to the Hyde Amendment, which officially prohibits federal taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions — many women have attempted to induce their own abortion. Only 17 states direct Medicaid to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, but the national average for an abortion in the first trimester is around $500 and as much as $2,000 for the second trimester.

The Hyde Amendment has restricted abortion access for many economically distressed groups, such as low-income Washington, D.C. residents, incarcerated people, military personnel, and Native Americans.

Alicia Hupprich, whose husband serves in the military and could not use his insurance to pay for an abortion, shared her story for NARAL Pro-Choice America. She became pregnant in 2015 and after 18 weeks, discovered her baby had fetal hydrops, which has a very high mortality rate. Hupprich and her husband had to travel very far to find a clinic that would provide an abortion.

Because of the Hyde Amendment, my husband’s military insurance would not pay anything towards our termination for fetal anomaly. Though every doctor mentioned that termination was an option in our severe situation, our doctors would not perform the procedure, and they would not point us in the direction of a safe and legal place to have it done. We had to travel over 250 miles to a clinic that could help us.

States continued to pass restrictions on abortion last year. Fourteen states passed 30 laws to make it more challenging to get an abortion in 2016. Today, 31 states have at least one restriction on abortion, including waiting periods, requiring doctors to have admitting privileges, restricting health insurance coverage for abortion, and banning abortion after 20 weeks. And these requirements have very real consequences for low-income women and women of color.

A 2016 University of Buffalo study looked at 3,999 intakes from the George Tiller Memorial Fund, a National Network of Abortion Funds-affiliated nonprofit fund, and found that about half of the women who tried to get assistance from the fund were black, which squares with data on black women facing more health care barriers than white women. Thirty-seven percent of the women already had multiple children. The average distance they traveled to get an abortion doubled from 2010 to 2015.

Low-income people face difficult decisions when they don’t have the resources to get an abortion. Somewhere between 100,000 and 240,000 women of reproductive age living in the state of Texas alone have tried to induce their abortion without any medical assistance, according to a 2015 report from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP), a group of researchers at the University of Texas. Most of the women surveyed said they would have gone to a clinic if they had the option.

Sanders was not the only progressive who faced blowback for his support of Mello. Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, who has been traveling the country with Sanders on what they’re calling a “Unity Tour” to address political differences between Sanders and DNC supporters, did not attend the event but has also supported Mello.

Sanders, Perez, and others who ignore the economic realities of abortion — or pit the two as separate issues — would do better to reconsider.

Source: Think Progress

https://thinkprogress.org/abortion-is-economic-1b05be2b3d

Clinicians and patients normalize the mental labor of contraceptive use.

Birth control pill

 The burden of preventing a pregnancy has long fallen disproportionately on those who would actually carry a baby. Yes, there are vasectomies and condoms, but it’s the uterus-owners among us who are tasked with taking pills, getting IUDs, or tracking ovulation in order to control reproduction. But according to a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research, there’s not just a physical burden of not getting pregnant, but a mental and emotional burden that comes along with it. And both clinicians and patients assume that the latter has to go with the former.
The study, done by Dr. Katrina Kimport of Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a reproductive health research organization based at UCSF, tracked 52 contraceptive counseling visits with women who said they didn’t want children in the future, and for whom all available contraceptive methods were an option. It showed that clinicians “articulated responsibilities associated with contraception that were integral to the physical work of using a method, but still fundamentally mental and emotional tasks.” The study also showed “clinicians generally did not question that these responsibilities were assigned to women.”

The clinicians, most of whom were women, also showed reluctance in offering a permanent option like sterilization, thus legitimizing the assumption that women are responsible for fertility work. “In the visits, clinicians regularly expressed doubt or dismissed women’s desire not to have future children, thereby reifying ongoing fertility, and the attendant mental and emotional burdens of contraception, as normative,” wrote Dr. Kimport.

In an interview with ELLE.com, Dr. Kimport said that often assigning the work of fertility to women seems like common sense. After all, most contraceptive methods work in the female body, and the stakes of pregnancy seem higher for women. However, she says it’s important to distinguish physical work from the mental and emotional labor that we tend to throw in with it. “It’s not just about having the medication in your body, it’s about the time, attention and stress that is associated with it,” she said. Picking up prescriptions, remembering to take the pill, the fear of the side effects. And most clinicians tended to normalize those aspects, figuring it came with the territory of preventing pregnancy. There was no “imagination that you could distinguish the physical experience from that mental and emotional labor.”

As much as women are socialized to assume this labor, men are also socialized against it. Dr. Kimport pointed to the research of Nelly Oudshoorn on clinical trials for male contraceptives, and why, though it is a technical feasibility, there is no male pill yet. Recently, a study for a male pill was halted, after side effects of depression (and one death by suicide) were reported. And though that was serious enough for the study to be halted, many women pointed to initial studies for women’s hormonal birth control having nearly identical results, and to how depression is a common side effect of hormonal birth control women are expected to endure. “That is definitely a manifestation of our social belief,” says Dr. Kimport, “that it’s important enough to women to prevent pregnancy that they would have a higher threshold of acceptability for some of the side effects.”

As for sterilization, Dr. Kimport says that, from a medical perspective, it would make sense for a clinician to favor a long-term, non-surgical option like an IUD rather than sterilization surgery, in terms of going for the least invasive procedure first. However, “a piece of that is a social comfort with the idea that women would continue to do fertility work,” and moving forward, we should be “pushing on how much people are using social criteria instead of medical criteria” to inform their decisions.

In general, Dr. Kimport hopes for an increase in “articulating the ways in which men are involved in some decisions around contraceptives.” That won’t necessarily apply to single women, women with multiple partners, or women who want to make these decisions on their own, but often men just aren’t expected to be part of the conversation. It also means a change in structure, whether that means birth control pills being available over the counter so men can take on the work of refilling them, contraceptive conversations being part of men’s doctor’s visits, or more options for male birth control being researched. “If the structure can be more welcoming, that’s a systemic way of encouraging a shared burden for fertility work.”

Source: Elle

http://www.elle.com/life-love/sex-relationships/news/a44660/study-analyzes-the-emotional-work-of-preventing-pregnancy/

Democrats must learn the right lessons from the recent kerfuffle over supporting anti-abortion candidates

Democrat Heath Mello, who has sponsored and voted for anti-choice legislation, is running for mayor of Omaha. Charlie Neibergall/AP

Since we’re apparently doomed to repeat 2016 until the heat death of the universe, Democrats are fighting again about Bernie Sanders and women’s rights. Sanders, along with Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, took some heat last week for making a stop on the DNC’s “unity tour” to support Heath Mello – the Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska, who turns out to have either sponsored or voted for a long list of anti-abortion bills during his time in the state legislature.

Mello is within striking distance of unseating the Republican incumbent mayor of Omaha, so he may have seemed to the DNC like a good poster boy for how Democrats can reclaim political power in red states. But in light of his voting record, many advocates argued that Democrats were treating women’s basic reproductive freedom as an acceptable bargaining chip to try to win elections in Republican-leaning areas. Again.

They wondered why it was OK for Sanders, that self-styled champion of progressivism, to shrug off Mello’s abortion record by saying, “I am 100 percent pro-choice, but not every candidate out there has my views 100 percent of the time” – while blasting Georgia Democratic congressional candidate Jon Ossoff as “not progressive” because he didn’t use the words “income inequality” on his website.

They wondered when Democrats, beyond Sanders, will live up to their own 2016 platform – which, by calling for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment and the restoration of federal funding for abortion, implicitly recognized abortion as an economic justice issue for poor women in particular. They wondered if Democrats will ever stop automatically treating reproductive freedom like a mere “social issue,” and start recognizing it as critical to women’s economic and social equality.

A number of commentators said these concerns were not just overblown, but also impractical for a party that wants to win elections. Panelists on Morning Joe argued that Democrats have “forgotten how to win,” and that they’ll shrink their tent unnecessarily if they insist on ideological “purity tests” for abortion. On Meet the Press Sunday, Chuck Todd challenged Nancy Pelosi on whether it’s possible to be both pro-life and a Democrat. “Of course,” she said – predictably, given that she has plenty of self-identified pro-life Democratic colleagues in the House.

But the idea that the Democratic Party is somehow “excluding” pro-life Democrats if it takes a hard line against abortion restrictions misses something incredibly important. And if Democrats want to win in 2018, and make good on their commitment to protect reproductive rights, and avoid having the same circular fights over and over again, they need to learn the right lessons from this mini-debacle.

For many Americans and politicians alike, “being pro-life” is an identity. It’s a moral worldview. That moral worldview often – but, crucially, not always – includes a commitment to outlawing or restricting abortion.

Believe it or not, while about 44 percent of Americans tell Gallup pollsters that they’re “pro-life,” only 28 percent of Americans actually want to overturn Roe v. Wade and end legal abortion. When you give people the option to say whether they’re pro-choice, pro-life, both or neither, more Americans say “both” or “neither” than either “pro-choice” or “pro-life.”

We get such conflicted and wide-ranging responses to abortion polling because many Americans feel morally ambivalent about abortion. But for the vast majority of Americans, that moral ambivalence doesn’t translate into a desire to outlaw abortion, or to put medically unnecessary legal barriers in a woman’s way to try to stop her from getting one.

According to a Vox/PerryUndem abortion poll I reported on last year, most Americans have no idea that states are proposing or passing hundreds of new anti-abortion laws every year. But when they learn about those laws – like the admitting privileges or ambulatory surgical center requirements that closed about half of all Texas abortion clinics – and what they actually do to restrict abortion, solid majorities oppose virtually all of the major abortion restrictions pollsters asked about. (The one exception was parental notification requirements.)

But for the modern pro-life movement, and for most Republicans in office, erecting these legal barriers is pretty much the whole point of being a pro-life lawmaker. Their ultimate goal is to outlaw all abortion. The intermediate goal is not to reduce abortions through better birth control access, but to make life more difficult for doctors who perform abortions, and women who seek them, in the hopes that more women who have unintended pregnancies will just decide to carry them to term – despite clear research showing that once a woman has decided to get an abortion, she very rarely changes her mind.

But not every lawmaker who calls themselves “pro-life” shares these goals, especially when it comes to Democrats. Heath Mello now insists that while his faith guides his “personal views,” as mayor he “would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health care.” If Mello is true to his word, he’d be a “pro-life Democrat” like Joe Biden and Tim Kaine – one who has personal moral qualms about abortion, but still firmly believes that the government has no business telling women and doctors what to do about it.

Still, pro-choice advocates have good reason to be skeptical of Mello from a pure policy perspective. It’s not clear why Mello voted for multiple abortion restrictions from 2009 to 2011 in the state legislature, but now vocally defends Planned Parenthood on the campaign trail. Sure, the same can’t be said for Mello’s Republican opponent – incumbent mayor Jean Stothert, who opposes abortion rights – but that doesn’t mean pro-choice advocates can expect Mello to actively defend their position.

And right now, given the constant barrage of hostile state lawmaking and court battles, active defense is the minimum requirement to protect reproductive rights in America. That’s why many pro-choice groups have started going on the offense, from proposing laws that make it easier to access abortion to having women tell their personal abortion stories in public to fight stigma.

As Perez has now made abundantly clear, the Democratic Party supports abortion rights and opposes unnecessary restrictions, full stop. But to prevent this kind of kerfuffle in the future, the conversation should move away from bickering about who is a “pro-life Democrat” and whether they should be excommunicated from the party. Instead, it should focus very specifically on what those “pro-life Democrats” stand for. Every pro-life politician should be able to explain, in detail, exactly which restrictions – if any – they would ever find it acceptable for the government to impose on women seeking abortions or on doctors who perform them.

Source: Rolling Stone

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/whats-missing-from-the-debate-about-pro-life-democrats-w478484

Abortion providers have also seen a rise in intimidation and hate speech.

 
Abortion opponent Mary McLaurin, left, challenges clinic defenders who have blocked her sidewalk access from a car transporting a patient to the Jackson Women’s Health Organization Clinic in Jackson, Miss.

There was an increase in intimidation outside abortion clinics and obstruction of abortion providers in 2016, according to a National Abortion Federation report released on Wednesday.

Although incidents of extreme violence, such as murder, attempted bombings, and arson fell last year, incidents of hate speech and Internet harassment rose, and intensified after the election. Since the election, negative online commentary about abortion care and abortion providers has more than tripled from the pre-election monthly average in 2016.

The reported number of picketing incidents increased sharply and incidents of obstructed access to health care families more than doubled.

Extreme anti-abortion activists can shut down facilities and delay abortion care. For instance, last July a Virginia clinic received a bomb threat, which closed the clinic for the day. Police searched the facility and didn’t find any explosives on the premises. The closure delayed care for 36 patients, according to the report.

There is a long history of anti-abortion activists picketing outside of clinics and intimidating patients walking inside, but the reported number of picketing incidents in 2016 — 61,562 — exceeded those in every year since NAF began tracking incidents in 1977. Last year, there were 21,175 picketing incidents.

Given all of these trends, NAF said it’s important that law enforcement take threats against abortion providers seriously. Although police reacted swiftly to some of the incidents cited in the report, volunteers whose role it is to shield patients from activists’ aggressive tactics say that they wish the police would do more.

Ashley Gray, a clinic volunteer based in New Jersey, told ThinkProgress in 2015, “They’ve pretty much asked us not to call. To deal with it on our own.”

In its report, NAF said it is concerned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “will not adequately enforce the laws that protect abortion providers and their patients from violence.”

Sessions could dial down enforcement of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), which prohibits the use of physical force, threat of physical force, or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate and interfere with accessing reproductive health care — as well as the intentional damage or destruction of a health care facility.

Sessions has the ability to use discretion in the prosecution of people who violate FACE. President Bill Clinton’s Department of Justice prosecuted 10 people a year on average under FACE, but those prosecutions dropped 75 percent under the Bush administration, according to Salon. As a United States senator, Sessions also voted against an amendment intended to stop anti-abortion activists from using bankruptcy laws to get out of paying fines for destruction of property.

Source: Think Progress

https://thinkprogress.org/abortion-provider-harassment-86548774a500