“It shocks the conscience that this administration sees young immigrants’ lives as simply another battlefield upon which to wage its ideological war against reproductive health care.”

Congressional Democrats have joined the call for Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) Director Scott Lloyd to resign after a new report revealed that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency that oversees ORR, instructed attorneys working with immigrant minors in ORR custody not to inform teens of their right to abortion care.

The Washington Post first reported that the the legal services group, the Vera Institute of Justice, which receives $57 million a year under a five-year contract with the federal government, was instructed via a phone call from a government analyst working within ORR “to ensure that Vera’s legal services providers are not talking to children in HHS custody about abortion.”

Leaders of the congressional Pro-Choice Caucus said Lloyd has shown an “ongoing, blatant disregard for women’s constitutional rights,” asserting that Lloyd has abused his powers, bullied young, immigrant women, and denied them their rights. The congressional leaders are demanding Lloyd’s ouster.

“It was not enough for Scott Lloyd to block young women from making their own medical decisions, or to unlawfully notify guardians who had threatened their physical safety. Now, Lloyd is gagging their lawyers from even discussing their legal right to safe, legal abortion,” Dana Singiser, vice president for public policy and government affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in an email to Rewire.

Vera works with 38 organizations in six regions to provide legal help to immigrant minors who migrate to the United States alone. An estimated 50,000 minors in federal custody benefit from Vera’s legal services program and in most instances, it is their only chance to consult an attorney and access legal guidance. Immigrants—including children—are not entitled to government-appointed lawyers. In the United States, toddlers are forced to represent themselves in immigration court.

Vera official Anne Marie Mulcahy this month instructed attorneys “to immediately strip references to abortion from ‘Know Your Rights’ legal pamphlets,” according to the Washington Post. Many of the girls and young women in ORR’s care are pregnant as a result of being raped on their journey to the United States. Eighty percent of Central American women crossing Mexico en route to the United States are raped along the way, according to a 2014 report from Splinter.

Thirty-percent of the approximately 7,700 minors in ORR custody are girls, often fleeing gender-based violence and coming from countries where abortion is illegal. Many may not know that abortion is a right in the United States, especially if their attorney fails to inform them of this fact. Mulcahy instructed attorneys that children with abortion-related questions could be referred to attorneys not funded by the government, creating another obstacle for those seeking abortion services.

“By barring organizations that provide counsel to young immigrant women in the custody of HHS from even discussing abortion, this administration is directly interfering with the personal medical decisions these women have a constitutional right to,” Singiser said. “This exemplifies how the Trump-Pence administration is imposing its extreme anti-women and anti-abortion agenda at every turn—especially on women already facing discrimination.”

Conditions for pregnant people in ORR custody have only worsened under President Trump.

In March 2017, the Trump administration implemented a revised policy “that allows [shelters] to wield an unconstitutional veto power over unaccompanied immigrant minors’ access to abortion,” according to court documents. This directive explicitly prevents unaccompanied immigrant minors in their care from obtaining abortions by prohibiting all federally funded shelters from taking “‘any action that facilitates’ abortion access to unaccompanied minors in their care without ‘direction and approval’” from Lloyd.

This wave of “anti-choice fanaticism” working its way into the immigration system was first illustrated by the case of Jane Doe, a pregnant unaccompanied immigrant teen in ORR custody who was essentially “held hostage” for wanting to access abortion care. After a lengthy legal battle, the Salvadoran minor was able to have receive abortion care, but similar cases have emerged in the months since.

Much of what is happening to teen girls in ORR custody can be traced to Lloyd, who advocates see as having an “obsession” with pregnant immigrant minors, one that is shaping federal policy. Lloyd has weaponized his religious beliefs to deny care to immigrant girls, and his published writings mirror the talking points of anti-choice extremists and men’s rights activists.

Emails released by the ACLU as part of Jane Doe’s court proceedings also revealed how entrenched anti-choice extremism has really become within ORR. Lloyd is an anti-choice radical, and nothing in his background indicates he is qualified or equipped to lead ORR or to “counsel” pregnant people in ORR custody against seeking abortion care, which he admitted to doing when speaking to the Christian Broadcasting Network.

It appears as if HHS’ new secretary, Alex Azar, will support Lloyd’s unconstitutional and unlawful actions. During a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing yesterday, Azar was pressed by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) about whether he would crack down on Lloyd. In his response, Azar said his agency has a “very important … obligation, which is to look out for the health and welfare of [immigrant teens] and their unborn children.”

In December, after previously-sealed court documents revealed that Lloyd seemed to assert there should be a rape exception beyond the scope of federal law, advocates called for the director to be fired. That call is getting louder.

This week, NARAL Pro-Choice America released a statement that said Lloyd and Trump’s “anti-choice administration” are imposing “extreme, fringe ideology” upon women, and that “Scott Lloyd has got to go immediately.”

“We have known for some time that Scott Lloyd freely abuses his power in the most egregious way: denying those in his care their rights in order to advance his own extreme ideology,” Kaylie Hanson Long, NARAL Pro-Choice America national communications director, told Rewire in a statement. “From trying to intimidate young women—including an undocumented rape survivor—in an effort to restrict their constitutional right to abortion care, and reportedly telling organizations they can’t mention abortion to minors in his custody, his insidious attacks on women are relentless.”

In a statement to Rewire, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) also called for “the immediate removal” of Lloyd.

“Lloyd is woefully unqualified to protect those who come to our country fleeing violence and persecution, and has used his position as ORR director to advance his own personal religious agenda to prevent young people from accessing abortion care. ORR has a legal obligation to provide prompt access to safe medical care to those within its charge, and thus we demand that ORR immediately restore access to comprehensive reproductive health care services and information, including abortion, for the thousands of young immigrants in their custody,” the statement read.

There is a growing understanding by the public that immigrant rights are a reproductive justice issue, in part because of the unprecedented attacks the Trump administration has made on immigrant girls and women in federal immigration custody.

Under Trump, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stopped following its own policy for quickly releasing pregnant people in detention. Fine print in the administration’s proposed 2019 budget also revealed the possibility that ICE agents could dictate whether immigrants paying for abortion care out-of-pocket make it to their doctor’s appointments.

“It shocks the conscience that this administration sees young immigrants’ lives as simply another battlefield upon which to wage its ideological war against reproductive health care,” a spokesperson with NLIRH said.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2018/02/16/call-gets-louder-fire-trump-official-denying-abortion-care-immigrants/

Teodora Vásquez was convicted of aggravated homicide in 2008 after she experienced labor pains while at work in a school cafeteria.

[Photo: Teodora del Carmen Vasquez with her father and mother as she leaves the prison.]

Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, one of the dozens of Salvadoran women who have been arrested after experiencing stillbirths or other obstetric complications, was freed from prison on February 15 after originally being sentenced to 30 years behind bars.

“Of course this is an occasion for great joy for her family and great satisfaction for us and the many organizations and individuals who have worked for her release,” said Sara Garcia, coordinator of the feminist group Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto. “But it is not enough.” Garcia noted that although Vásquez’s sentencing was commuted to 10 years and seven months, “She is still considered guilty. We will continue exploring legal avenues to make sure that she is found innocent.”

In El Salvador, abortion is banned in all circumstances, which means those who experience obstetric emergencies may be at risk of arrest. Vásquez was convicted of aggravated homicide in 2008 after she experienced labor pains while at work in a school cafeteria. As Vásquez tells it, she attempted to call 911 several times for a ride to the hospital, but medical help did not respond. She used the bathroom, where she fainted as she gave birth and began to hemorrhage. When the police eventually arrived, they accused her of murdering her newborn, which was found in the bathroom. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

She and her attorneys requested a new trial, which was held in December 2017, as reported in Rewire. The trial included new witnesses, including forensic experts who detailed how the death of the newborn, though tragic, may have been the result of natural causes before, during, or after childbirth. However, the three-judge panel—the same individuals who convicted her in 2008—declared that no new evidence had been presented. They reaffirmed their original decision and sent her back to prison.

In 2015, Vásquez’s attorneys filed for a commutation of her sentence by the Salvadoran Supreme Court of Justice. That commutation was signed on January 31, 2018.

“The Supreme Court of Justice and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security commuted the sentence of 30 years in prison because ‘there are powerful reasons based on justice, equity, and legal concepts that justify favoring her with the grace of commutation,’” said a press release from the Agrupación, which has been working to free Vásquez and the other women behind bars in El Salvador.

Specifically, the press release continued:

The Supreme Court of Justice determined that there were significant errors in the original court’s [2008] decision, particularly that the Court did not take into account the conflicting causes of death listed in the autopsy report. In one section it said that the death was a result of perinatal asphyxia, a tragic, but naturally occurring event.  In another section it declared that the asphyxia was mechanically caused, but provided no evidence that any person had taken any action to cause the death.

The Court also pointed out, according to the release, that Vásquez stated that she had made calls to 911 requesting help, and proof of those calls was provided to the Court. In addition, the Supreme Court observed, Vásquez had asked her employer for a $20 salary advance to take a taxi to the hospital, but the employer denied her request.

With the commutation, Vásquez is still considered guilty, but she is no longer imprisoned and can begin the process of restarting her life with her family.

Rewire met with her extended family recently during a visit to their remote rural community, a three-hour drive from the capital city. Her sister, Cecilia Vásquez de Ramos, who visited her sister regularly in prison, expressed her relief and joy that she was about to be released: “She will be free, and we will be united.”

“Her conviction was a great injustice. They convicted her without trying to find out the truth. We were condemned, too, because we don’t have her with us. We’ve been affected by the discrimination and the comments that we hear about our sister. It kills your self-esteem because, even though we know she is not guilty, it’s really hard to hear,” Ramos continued.

“Then when she was not freed in December, it just about destroyed all of us.”

The Agrupación is celebrating Vásquez’s release, but also notes that 27 more women are currently serving similar prison terms. According to Garcia, the Agrupación is campaigning to release those women. It is also fighting, she said, to “reform the law, which bans all abortions,” and sets in place the discriminatory mechanisms that led to convictions such as Vásquez’s.


Anti-choice protest tactics are on trial in New York amid a marked uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics.

A couple walked toward Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens, New York,when they were approached by an anti-choice protester who held out leaflets and said, “You don’t need to murder your baby.”

“My baby died. Why are you doing this?” the distraught man said to the protester.

When the abortion rights foe didn’t stop, the man picked up some rocks and chased away the protester.

The woman coming in wasn’t there for abortion care; she had had a miscarriage and was there for miscarriage management, said Pearl Brady, choking up on the second day of her testimony in the N.Y. v. Griepp hearing at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn.

“That just broke my heart,” she said, pausing to collect herself.

A former volunteer and escort leader at the Choices Women’s Medical Center, Brady has been stoic throughout the preliminary injunction hearing held this week. But she lost her composure Tuesday evening when she described the incident. Inside the clinic, she said, the patient was leaning on the wall and sobbing as her companion looked up with bloodshot eyes. The situation distressed her so much that she had to find a quiet place to sit and cry for a bit, she said, something she rarely did in the two-plus years she worked at Choices.

This was one of several incidents brought up in court to describe protester behavior at the clinic in the Jamaica neighborhood in Queens. Photos, videos, and written observations from escorts showed much more. Large posters depicted bloodied fetuses or dismembered body parts pictured beside a quarter with slogans like, “Killing a baby is no way to plan parenthood” and “The body inside your body is not your body.” Protesters preaching loudly, accosting patients, calling the volunteers “death escorts,” using signs to block access, and telling children, “Don’t let your mother go in there, they kill children in there.”

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman brought the lawsuit this year and described the situationat Choices as a five-year “barrage of unwanted physical contact, as well as verbal abuse, threats of harm, and lies about the clinic’s hours and its services.”

The two sides have tussled from the get-go, arguing about what constitutes harassment versus what is protected speech, as the Courthouse News Service reported. And that’s what the defense attorney Steve Crampton focused on when he cross examined Brady on Wednesday.

Special counsel to the Thomas More Society, which is known for backing anti-abortion causes, Crampton questioned Brady’s decision to maintain a dossier on the aggressive protesters, outlining their affiliations, family members, social media accounts, and license plates.

Brady testified that it was her idea to gather and maintain an internal Google document since early 2016. She noted where they studied or worked; took photos of them, their cars, and license plates; and created a fake Facebook account to befriend them and other anti-choice groups “to see what was going on.”

Besides asking her if she would’ve been OK with the protesters gathering such personal information on the escorts, neither delved into the real reason Brady went to such lengths to maintain a detailed dossier. Brady began volunteering at the clinic in the spring of 2015, a few months before a mass shootingkilled three and injured nine at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Admitted killer Robert Lewis Dear Jr. has so far been found not competent to stand trial.

Dear proclaimed himself a “warrior” for “babies” and reportedly shouted “no more baby parts” when he was arrested, echoing the deceptively edited videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials selling fetal tissue for profit. Those videos were part of a propaganda campaign carried out by an anti-choice front group called the Center for Medical Progress, which has worked closely with Republican lawmakers on the state and federal levels.

Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortion counseling and other health-care services have long dealt with anti-abortion activist activity that has ranged from smear campaigns to bomb threats. In 2015, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) first documented statistics showing a marked uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics. Eleven murders, 26 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 185 arsons, and thousands more incidents of criminal behavior were directed at abortion providers between 1977 and 2015. NAF officials recorded 94 threats of direct harm in 2015 as compared to one in 2014.

Its online monitoring work led NAF to identify an anti-choice radical who advocated setting clinics on fire: “One person setting fire to an abortion clinic will not do anything but thousands setting fire to an abortion clinic will speak volumes.” Within three months of that post, clinics in Washington stateLouisianaCalifornia, and Illinois were victims of arson.

NAF found 2016 saw an increase in intimidation tactics at abortion clinics, including vandalism, burglary, and bomb threats. The escalation in hate speech and internet harassment intensified after the November 2016 election. In 2016, clinics across the United States reported nearly 43,000 incidents of hate mail and internet harassment compared to nearly 26,000 incidents in 2015, according to another NAF report. Clinics reported around 62,000 instances of picketing, compared to 22,000 instances the year prior, and reported nine bomb threats in 2016, compared to four in 2015.

Increasing anti-choice protests led to evacuations in late April at a Falls Church clinic in Virginia. Protesters had gathered outside the facility for years, clinic staff noted.

As the hearing continues in Brooklyn, advocates are watching to see what happens.

“Our greatest hope is that this suit will lead to greater enforcement of city, state, and federal clinic access laws,” Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW-NYC and executive director of Women’s Justice NOW, said in a statement. “All women have a basic right to be able to get to the door of their doctor’s office without being subjected to hostile taunts and harassment.”

The federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act of 1994 and the New York State Clinic Access Act give patients and staff the right to be free from force, threats, or physical obstruction when trying to access or provide reproductive health care. Yet neither of these laws have kept the anti-choice protesters from blocking the door and sidewalk or from harassing patients coming into Choices, as photos and videos displayed in the courtroom have shown.

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2018/02/15/anti-choice-violence-erupted-us-abortion-clinic-escort-maintained-records-protesters/

“If Capital Care closes, patients would be forced to travel out-of-state or to cities like Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland,” said Kristin Hady, a Capital Care volunteer clinic escort coordinator.

The last abortion clinic in Toledo, Ohio, may be able to continue providing surgical abortion care after a local hospital approved a patient-transfer agreement that would allow the clinic to comply with medically unnecessary regulations passed by state GOP lawmakers.

Capital Care Network has been engaged in a legal battle with Republican Gov. John Kasich’s administration over the enforcement of targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws that impose medically unnecessary regulations designed to erode access to abortion care. Anti-choice activists and legislators justify hospital transfer agreements by framing abortion as dangerous, though the common medical procedure is exceedingly safe.

The Ohio Supreme Court last week reversed rulings by lower state courts and upheld the Ohio Department of Health’s order that Capital Care Network cease providing surgical abortion care after it failed to meet the transfer agreement mandate.

Pro-choice activists organized a campaign to call on ProMedica Toledo Hospital or St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee to sign a transfer agreement with Capital Care Network.

The board of trustees at ProMedica Toledo Hospital announced the transfer agreement on Monday evening. Tedra White, a spokesperson for ProMedica, said in a statement that the agreement “formally puts in writing” the organization’s policy of providing emergency medical care, reported the Toledo Blade.

“Entering into this agreement aligns with ProMedica’s mission and values, including our focus on being a health system dedicated to the well-being of northwest Ohio and our belief that no one is beyond the reach of life-saving health care,” White wrote. “Furthermore, we believe that all individuals should have access to the best care in their neighborhoods.”

The hospital’s decision came just hours after pro-choice advocates staged protests in front of the hospital. Some feared that without the agreement, the clinic would be forced to close its doors.

“If Capital Care closes, patients would be forced to travel out-of-state or to cities like Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland,” said Kristin Hady, a Capital Care volunteer clinic escort coordinator, during the rally. “For patients already struggling to afford the initial procedure, they must factor in reliable transportation and the added cost of gas, reliable childcare, securing two days off work (most of the time unpaid and not factoring in any needed recovery time), and finding someone to be able to travel with them. These added costs and factors would put abortion care far out of reach for those who need it.”

Kasich in July 2013 signed the Republican-controlled state legislature’s budget, which included several TRAP provisions. The budget required that abortion clinics maintain transfer agreements with a local hospital while barring public hospitals from entering into agreements with facilities that provide “nontherapeutic abortions”—what the budget calls elective abortions.

Kasich and the GOP-controlled state legislature used the budget process to pass further restrictions on abortion providers in June 2015, this time requiring transfer agreements with local hospitals at least thirty miles away from the abortion clinic.

The Department of Health rejected Capital Care Network’s transfer agreement with University of Michigan Health Center, which is located about 50 miles away in Ann Arbor.

Jennifer Branch, an attorney representing Capital Care Network, told the Toledo Blade that the organization would file the transfer documents with the Ohio Department of Health to stop the department from revoking the clinic’s license.

“Thank you to ProMedica for stepping up and taking care of the women of northwest Ohio,” Branch said. “This is great news.”

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2018/02/13/ohio-abortion-clinic-meets-gops-unnecessary-requirement-hopes-staying-open/

Peggy Drexler is a research psychologist and the author of “Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family” and “Raising Boys Without Men.” She is currently at work on a book about the failings of feminism. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)In a piece last week for The New York Times, political columnist David Brooks made an argument that should disturb women and the men who love them: that Democrats are undermining their party’s entire political agenda in order to demand the continued availability of late-term abortions.

“How much is our position on late-term abortions hurting us?” he writes in “The Abortion Memo,” which he addresses to “Democratic Party Leaders” and signs “Your Imaginary Consultant.” “Do we want late-term abortion so much that we are willing to tolerate President Trump? Do we want it so much that we give up our chance at congressional majorities?”
What David Brooks doesn’t quite seem to understand is why a woman might undergo a late-term abortion at all. Indeed, his “argument” leaves the impression that he believes that women get late-term abortions simply because they can.
But Brooks was apparently misinformed. This is important, because what a man in his position of influence writes can have potential damaging consequences for real people.
The truth is that most families seeking abortions after 20 weeks do so under quite tragic circumstances. I know this because I serve on the board of directors for Planned Parenthood, an organization that takes the time to understand when and why women seek out abortions.
 One real reason for abortion after 20 weeks: a doctor determines that the development of the fetus will endanger the mother’s life. Another is that a doctor determines that the fetus will be unable to survive outside the womb. Several fetal abnormalities only become apparent after the second trimester, an important fact conveniently left unnoted by Brooks.
What’s more, families who opt to abort do so under the advisement of a qualified health care professional (which, it should be mentioned, David Brooks is not) and far more commonly at a hospital than at an abortion clinic.
For many, it is a last resort that weighs heavily. But even at that, later abortions are extremely rare: only slightly more than 1 percent of abortions are performed at 21 weeks or later, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
By making the issue purely political, however, and suggesting access to late-term abortion be sacrificed for “the greater good” of progressive goals, Brooks makes no mention at all of these very important and relevant factors.
He disregards the very humanity at the heart of the issue, the humanity that those against abortion claim they are fighting for — the very real emotions at the heart of any family’s decision to carry a baby to term, or not.
Beyond that, he makes a mockery of journalism. He does not bother to include mention of discussions he’s had with women who have had abortions at 20 weeks (because surely he has talked to some women, right?). In this omission, Brooks presents an irresponsibly one-sided view of a very serious topic, even as he frames the column as delivered through the voice of logical liberalism. Did he ask women why they had a late-term abortion, and how it made them feel?
Instead, he offers: “Do we want [late-term abortion] so much that we see our agendas on poverty, immigration, income equality and racial justice thwarted and defeated?” asks his imaginary Democratic consultant.
This is a ludicrously false choice. Brooks is apparently arguing that conservatives are able to draw off voters, particularly young ones, over the issue of abortion — that millennial voters indicated in a poll that they are becoming less accepting of late-term abortions. But why would he promote the mistaken idea — to millennials and others — that women should have to choose, as he proposes, between either bodily autonomy or income equality?
Both issues are important. Neither is dispensable. And this is no time to back down.
David Brooks has a vast audience and his words have the potential to influence many Americans, including those in the halls of power. He abuses this position when he cynically reduces this issue to politics, not people. In doing so, he is dishonest about the true nature of this abortion question: the fact that measures to prevent women from controlling their own bodies are, among other things, most hurtful to poor women, immigrant women and women of color; that women already have difficulty navigating the barriers politicians put between them and their right to safe and legal abortion.
Abortion is not a bargaining chip. A woman’s right to make the decisions that are best for her body is not something to be traded away for “a win” that David Brooks’s faux consultant would deem more worthwhile.
Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/02/06/opinions/who-david-brooks-leaves-out-of-his-abortion-argument-drexler/index.html?utm_content=buffer7880f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Anti-choice protesters used “graphic signs” to block the sidewalk outside Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens, New York, “screamed very loudly,” and often “walked in front of patients to slow them down.”

Colliding with clinic escorts, blocking access to the sidewalk, and shoving pamphlets at patients: These are some of the aggressive tactics of anti-choice protesters outside the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens, New York, as described by a former clinic escort in court Monday.

The protesters, many of whom come from an evangelical Christian congregation called the Church at the Rock in Brooklyn, used “graphic signs” depicting bloody fetuses to block the sidewalk, “screamed very loudly,” and often “walked in front of patients to slow them down,” Pearl Brady, a former volunteer and escort leader at the clinic, said during her testimony before U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman brought the lawsuit in June after a yearlong investigation into the protests that have become a weekly routine since the clinic moved to Jamaica, Queens, in 2012.

“The tactics used to harass and menace Choices’ patients, families, volunteers, and staff are not only horrifying–they’re illegal,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need, without obstruction. We’ll do what it takes to protect those rights for women across New York.”

An outpatient surgery center that provides a wide range of health services, Choices was founded in 1971, two years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade case, and is one of the first outpatient abortion centers in the United States, according to court documents.

Assistant Attorney General Nancy Trasande played videos Monday to demonstrate the harassment endured by clinic workers and patients outside Choices. Brady pointed out some of the 14 defendants named in the suit and outlined incidents involving Rev. Kenneth Griepp, Angela Braxton, Patricia Musco, Ronald George, Brian George, and others.

“I’ve seen Ron George collide with people about a half dozen times,” Brady said.

On July 2, 2016, for instance, a patient refused to take some anti-choice material George was trying to hand her. When Brady asked him to back up, he ignored her, she said.

Another time, George collided into a clinic escort and almost made her fall. “She said she felt the full force of him,” Brady said.

After Martin Cannon, an attorney for the defendants, said in January that he found the harassment charges unconstitutionally vague, Judge Amon expressed some concern about the dictionary definition of harassment as meaning to annoy. She noted that leafletting is a form of protected speech and that sidewalks are the “quintessential public forum,” according to a January article in Courthouse News Service.

Amon, who presided over a case 15 years ago involving a couple who pleaded guilty to aiding the killer of an abortion care provider, asked for several clarifications of the incidents and videos on Monday.

Defendants’ attorneys include Roger Gannam of the Liberty Counsel, a group that has been flagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its anti-LGBTQ extremism. Gannon made the same “religious freedom” argument that Liberty Counsel has used to defend anti-gay evangelist Scott Lively and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to sign same-sex marriage licenses—even though it lost both cases.

The defendants are also represented by Cannon, a lawyer with the conservative Thomas More Society—a group that has defended the Iowa Board of Medicine’s rule to ban telemedical abortions, represented a Missouri anti-abortion activist against Planned Parenthood trespassing charges, and represented anti-choice activist David Daleiden, the criminally indicted architect of a smear campaign targeting Planned Parenthood, according to news reports.

Schneiderman, who represented abortion clinics pro bono as a young lawyer, has a long record of defending women’s health care. In 2012, he successfully sued to secure an expanded buffer zone around Planned Parenthood in Utica, and he recently introduced legislation to ensure access to free contraception for New Yorkers even if congressional Republicans repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The preliminary injunction hearing continues Tuesday and is expected to last at least seven days.


Advocates say State Department officials misrepresented the consequences of the policy in presenting its six-month review.

[Photo: Protesters rally in D.C. with a sign that says

The U.S. Department of State’s six-month review of the anti-choice “global gag rule” elevates political ideology over evidence-based public health, according to advocates working in the arena.

Under the global gag rule, also known as the “Mexico City Policy,” foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that receive money from the United States can’t provide or even discuss abortion care. Past Republican administrations applied the rule to about $575 million in U.S. family planning aid, according to Human Rights Watch figures. President Donald Trump, however, expanded the policy to all U.S. foreign aid, to the tune of $8.8 billion. Trump’s version even extends to George W. Bush’s previously excluded President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), to the consternation of at least one former Bush-era official who surmised that the overall expansion was a backlash to the Women’s March.

Five Trump administration officials presented the six-month review of the policy, called “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” on Wednesday afternoon to Foreign Affairs Committee staffers in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a congressional aide in attendance at the closed-door bipartisan briefing. Staffers were not given copies of the review, and the aide did not see it until the State Department posted it online that evening.

The administration officials claimed to have not seen or received reports of disruptions in services—”a little surprising,” the aide told Rewire, given that such reports exist. The Associated Press recently documented the escalating fallout in African countries, including Zimbabwe, where NGO Marie Stopes International halved its outreach sites that had formerly reached 150,000 women per year. Planned Parenthood Global, the international arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, released figures the day after the review similarly demonstrating what it deemed the “far reaching” consequences of the anti-choice policy.

“In Botswana, the only health NGO working across the country will have to close clinics in three of the eight districts it serves. More than 30 percent of the population of Botswana is HIV-positive,” said a Planned Parenthood Global press release. “In Lesotho, about 10,000 young people in one district will go without HIV, family planning and sex education services. Almost a quarter of people in Lesotho have tested HIV positive, giving the country the third-highest prevalence rate in the world.”

The administration’s review stressed that only four prime partners out of 733 awards up for renewal declined to accept the terms of the expanded global gag rule. But that rundown ignores key context, according to the Planned Parenthood press release. Two of the four prime partners are International Planned Parenthood Federation, “which delivers more than 300 services every minute of every day,” and Marie Stopes, which provides “contraceptive services to millions of women, girls and communities across Africa and Asia,” per the release.

The rest of the nearly 1,300 awardees have yet to face the impending decision, according to a background call with reporters.

In omitting and misrepresenting the consequences of the policy, the Trump officials at Wednesday’s briefing projected a false sense of confidence. Even the Trump administration’s review acknowledged that “with less than six months of policy implementation, it is too early to assess the full range of benefits and challenges” that the policy will have on global health assistance, and promised to deliver another look by December 15.

“Health outcomes aren’t going to be evident at this moment. It’s just too early,” the congressional aide said. “It’s impossible to say, ‘Oh, this isn’t impacting maternal mortality or rates of unintended pregnancies or people’s access to a range of contraceptive options.’”

“I had the impression that they were trying to say, ‘We are taking this seriously, but we’re not seeing evidence of problems.’ I think that’s the impression we were meant to leave with.”

The officials ignored key evidence, such as a 2011 World Health Organization report that found a “strong” association between the pre-Trump global gag rule and increased abortion rates in sub-Saharan African countries. Nor did they take into account how severing existing relationships and funding new partners “could impact folks on the ground.”

“To me, that says they’re less worried about folks’ quality of life and health and more worried about making sure these programs are implemented in a way that fits a certain ideology,” the aide said.

“Even if you find a new partner to fill in the gaps, someone might have lost a provider that they trust, and a provider that has been working on this for a while. And so, it’s a very narrow lens of saying we’re not seeing disruption.”

Catholics for Choice President Jon O’Brien was also concerned about potential replacements for trusted providers.

“This rule diminishes America’s moral leadership. It decimates local partners. And it rewards faith-based special interests at the expense of compassionate and comprehensive care for the most vulnerable people worldwide,” O’Brien said in a statement.

Trump’s version of the global gag rule could result in at least 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 21 million unsafe abortions, and 21,700 maternal deaths, according to a recently updated fact sheet from the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE).

“The absurdity of the report is cruel considering we’re experimenting with the health and lives of millions,” Serra Sippel, the group’s president, told Rewire.

Together, CHANGE, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Civil Liberties Union, and two dozen other groups submitted formal comments urging the Trump administration to immediately end the expanded global gag rule.

“We are beginning to see the policy’s harmful effects, and based on our experience with the previous version of the Mexico City Policy, which applied to far fewer funds and programs, we anticipate seeing significant impacts over the coming months and years,” they wrote. “We urge you to consider the impact of the policy on the health, wellbeing, and rights of women and girls worldwide as you conduct your review.”

The six-month review didn’t mention reproductive health experts’ assessments, only that several “stakeholder groups,” including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. political arm of the Vatican, voiced support for the policy.

Trump-era officials from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which administer the global gag rule along with the U.S. Department of Defense, largely appeared to share the same attitude in Wednesday’s briefing with congressional staffers.

State Department Ambassador-at-Large Deborah Birx and USAID Chief of Staff Bill Steiger did most of the talking, according to the congressional aide who spoke with Rewire. Birx is an Obama-era holdover who oversees PEPFAR. Steiger, a George W. Bush-era HHS official, reportedly suppressed science-based findings that countered the former Republican president’s policies.

Maggie Wynne, a top HHS official whom The New Yorker described as “the point person for any policy issue before it reaches the head of the entire department” in her role as counselor for human services policy, was also in the room.

Wynne began her career as a House Pro-Life Caucus staffer. Under George W. Bush, she moved over to HHS, but unlike most other political appointees, she “burrowed” into the agency for most of the Obama yearsaccording to an in-depth report by The Intercept that called her a “foot-soldier in the anti-abortion movement.” She joined the Trump transition team, and her allegiance paid off in the form of more power at HHS than she had held under Bush or Obama. Both The Intercept and The New Yorker reported that Wynne is aligned with Scott Lloyd, another HHS official who weaponized his religious beliefs to deny abortion care to undocumented immigrant teenagers, including a teen who had become pregnant by rape.

Another Trump administration official, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Alma Crumm Golden, attended the briefing but didn’t participate in the panel, per the congressional aide. From 2002 to 2006, Golden ran the Office of Population Affairs, the HHS division responsible for family planning funding for people with low incomes. In 2005, she was forced to revise a government website promoting teen abstinence while characterizing sexual orientation as an “alternative lifestyle.” Her update—”lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender lifestyle”—still characterized sexual orientation and gender identity as a “lifestyle.”

Congressional Democrats in January introduced the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act to permanently repeal the global gag rule, but the bill hasn’t advanced in the GOP-held U.S. Congress.

“I’m not surprised the Administration is trying to hide the ball when it comes to their medieval approach to health policy—which they have the nerve to call ‘protecting life in global health assistance.’ But I won’t stand for it,” Rep. Eliot Engel (NY), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement on the review’s release.

“Until this policy is permanently repealed with the passage of the Global HER Act, I’m going to demand transparency about the global gag rule. The harm this Administration is causing with this policy must be brought into the light.”

Source: https://rewire.news/article/2018/02/08/trump-administrations-global-gag-rule-review-ignoring-evidence-policys-danger/