Miranda Blue's blog

Anti-Abortion Groups Argue That Restrictive Texas Law 'Prevents Discrimination' Against Women

In an amicus brief filed at the Supreme Court yesterday, the anti-abortion-rights groups Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America argue that a restrictive Texas law that threatens to shut almost all of the state’s abortion clinics is actually meant to prevent discrimination against women seeking abortions.

In the brief, written by former Family Research Council official Ken Klukowski on behalf of the American Civil Rights Union, the groups argue that HB2, the Texas law being considered in the case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in fact “prevents discrimination” against women seeking abortions by “ensuring that women seeking an abortion receive medical care that is equal in quality to the medical care provided to men”:

By ensuring that women seeking an abortion receive medical care that is equal in quality to the medical care provided to men, HB2 prevents discrimination against those women. To the extent challengers to HB2 might suggest HB2 is a form of sex discrimination, it is actually a statute that prevents discrimination. As such, invalidating HB2 would carry the opposite consequence of effectuating discrimination against women.

HB2’s ASC [ambulatory surgical center] provision commands that “the minimum standards for an abortion facility must be equivalent to the minimum standards . . . for ambulatory surgical centers.” … Only women are patients at abortion facilities, but ASCs treat both women and men. This provision thus ensures that the women at one facility are entitled to the same quality of care that men at the other facility receive.

The groups conclude that “invalidating HB2 would subject women to second-class medical treatment, thus effectuating discrimination against women seeking an abortion.”

As we’ve noted, HB2 is one of a spate of state laws that have been passed in recent years by anti-choice lawmakers seeking to cut off access to abortion under the guise of protecting women’s health.

Among other restrictions, the Texas law requires that facilities providing abortions meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) even, as Think Progress has noted, at facilities that provide only medication abortion and don’t perform surgeries. The Guttmacher Institute explains that ambulatory surgical centers are subject to more restrictive regulations because they generally perform riskier and more invasive procedures than surgical abortion.

Anti-Abortion Group Furious At Christie & Bush Campaigns For Mentioning Rape Exceptions

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the anti-choice campaign group the Susan B. Anthony List, sent a letter yesterday to all of the remaining Republican presidential candidates, except for Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, warning them against criticizing Cruz and Rubio for their extreme, no-exceptions stances on abortion rights.

Although Dannenfelser didn’t name names, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who endorsed Jeb Bush after dropping out of the presidential race himself, and Gov. Chris Christie both attacked Cruz and Rubio over their opposition to rape exceptions in separate Morning Joe interviews this week.

Graham said on the program that although he’s “pro-life,” he thinks Ted Cruz’s stance on exceptions would be “a hard sell with young women.”

"I may be wrong, and I hope I'm wrong, but I think it’s going to be very hard to grow the party among women if you’re gonna tell young women, ‘If you get raped, you’re gotta carry the child of the rapist,’” he said. “Most pro-life people don't go there.”

Christie, meanwhile, said that Rubio’s no-exceptions policy is “the kind of position that New Hampshire voters would be really concerned about.”

The spat gets to the heart of the anti-choice movement’s long-running debate about whether to tolerate the inclusion of certain exceptions in legislation aimed at curtailing abortion rights in an attempt to broaden their appeal and give political cover to vulnerable lawmakers.

Dannenfelser has called rape exceptions “abominable,” “regrettable” and “intellectually dishonest,” but has made it clear that her group will back bills that include exceptions if they deem it necessary for those bills to pass. Graham takes a similarly pragmatic approach to the issue, pleading after a 20-week abortion ban he sponsored got caught up in a debate about the wording of its rape exception that the movement needed to “find a way out of this definitional problem with rape.”

But what Dannefelser seems to be most upset about is the fact that Christie and Graham talked about rape at all, which she says plays right into “Planned Parenthood’s talking points.” Indeed, after Republican Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock made disastrous comments about pregnancy from rape in 2012, Dannenfelser held trainings for Republicans to teach them how to avoid the subject.

In her letter to the candidates, Dannefelser notes that her organization, along with Rubio and Cruz, have supported legislation that includes exceptions, but purely as a political compromise. Attacking those candidates for their no-exceptions ideology, she says, is “incredibly damaging to the prolife movement at a point in which momentum is on our side.”

“Let me be clear: An attack on this aspect of these candidates’ pro-life positions is an attack on the pro-life movement as a whole,” she warned.

Dear Candidates:

On behalf of the Susan B. Anthony List and our 465,000 members across the country, I am writing to you today to urge a swift and decisive end to the attacks other candidates and their surrogates are making concerning the courageous pro-life positions of Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. These attacks ill-serve a party that has pledged, in one form or another, since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 “to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.”

While Senators Cruz and Rubio have supported SBA List-backed legislation that includes certain exceptions, they personally believe – as do we – that unborn children conceived in even the most difficult circumstances deserve the same legal protections that every other unborn child deserves. They know that you do not correct one tragedy with a second tragedy.

Let me be clear: An attack on this aspect of these candidates’ pro-life positions is an attack on the pro-life movement as a whole.

These tactical broadsides for perceived short-term advantage are incredibly damaging to the prolife movement at a point in which momentum is on our side. Our movement has worked diligently, especially in the wake of the 2012 elections, to put pro-life candidates on offense and pro-abortion candidates on defense.

As a movement, we have put forward legislative proposals that not only save lives, but also have the strong backing of the American public, such as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would protect babies after 20 weeks, or five months of pregnancy. During the 2014 election cycle this legislation dramatized the extreme position of abortion advocates, and it will have the same effect once again this cycle – largely thanks to the public support it enjoys from every single one of you.

To conclude, I urge you and your campaigns to reject Planned Parenthood’s talking points and instead keep the pro-life movement on offense by focusing on exposing the extreme position held by the other side: Abortion on-demand, up until the moment of birth, for any reason, paid for by the taxpayer. This is the winning message that will result in a pro-life president who will sign into law life-saving protections for the most vulnerable in our society.

The Great Planned Parenthood Plot

The anti-abortion movement’s fixation on Planned Parenthood stems in part from a long-running effort to paint legal abortion providers, and Planned Parenthood in particular, as a predatory “abortion industry” out to profit off the women they serve. This has led a number of activists to claim, in various ways, that Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion health care offerings — like affordable contraception and STI testing — are all part of a plot to eventually lure women into having abortions in order to line the pockets of the “abortion industry.”

Kristan Hawkins, the head of Students for Life, has been repeating this line for years and has recently taken to calling Planned Parenthood “the Walmart of abortion” in an effort to appeal to millennials who are wary of the influence of big corporations.

Hawkins laid out this argument in detail at a Students for Life conference in California last month, claiming that Planned Parenthood’s sex education, birth control and STI testing services are all part of their effort to get women hooked on Planned Parenthood so that they will eventually come back for abortions.

According to Hawkins’ theory, Planned Parenthood convinces teens to have premarital sex but provides them with ineffective condoms and bad advice about birth control, causing them to eventually get pregnant and need an abortion.

“We talk about their cycle,” she said of Planned Parenthood, “how they come to our schools, they won’t talk about abortion mills to our high schools, but they say, ‘Hey, when you’re ready to have sex, you know, you can try the whole abstinence thing, but when you’re ready to have sex, you don’t want to talk to your parents about it, just come to us, everything is confidential, we’ll give you condoms and birth control.”

“Tell your friends, do not use Planned Parenthood condoms,” she added, claiming that they are “the lowest ranked by Consumer Reports.” (A 2005 Consumer Reports review ranked one of the brands of condom distributed by Planned Parenthood lowest among a number of competitors, but said they were still safe to use; Planned Parenthood quickly redesigned the product.)

“They know if they get you coming to the clinics, they get you on this birth control, they give you these bad condoms, the sooner you will have sex,” she said. “Here’s a little hint if you don’t realize that, you start having sex early on, you’re going to have some heartbreak, right? So they know she’s going to fall in love with this guy, they’ll have sex, they’ll break up, then she’ll find another partner, another guy she’ll want to have sex with, but guess what? She’ll need to go get tested. So Planned Parenthood will be back there for her again for an STD test.”

She claimed that “Planned Parenthood doesn’t tell you” the importance of taking birth control pills at the same time of day and keeping them at a certain temperature “because they don’t care, because their plan is to get you coming back and back and back and back again until that day you’re facing an unplanned crisis, you think you’re pregnant. Who are you going to go to? Planned Parenthood, because they built a relationship with you.”

She said that this is why Students for Life promotes anti-abortion “pregnancy resource centers” so that they can “build that relationship with young people first before Planned Parenthood does.”

Anti-Choice Groups Are Trying To Claim The Term 'Back Alley' To Oppose Legal Abortion

Next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a challenge to a restrictive Texas abortion law and a key test of the anti-choice movement’s long-term strategy of eliminating abortion access by regulating abortion providers out of existence.

Central to the case is the claim that laws like the one in Texas, which could close three quarters of the state’s abortion clinics if it’s fully enacted, impose tough regulations on abortion providers in order to protect the health of the women who take advantage of their services.

Now, in an effort to claim that they are the ones who are really concerned about women’s health, anti-choice groups are appropriating the term “back-alley abortion,” using the phrase that has long described dangerous illegal procedures in the years before Roe to claim that it is in fact legal abortion that forces women into the “back alley.”

In an article for the Federalist yesterday, Americans United for Life (AUL) attorney Mailee Smith wrote that the Texas case has “prompted a discussion about what is more important: ‘access’ to the current back alley of abortion now offered by an industry that puts profits over people, or commonsense health and safety standards the Court has historically supported.”

It’s a line that AUL has been repeating in the past few years, encouraged in part by the case of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion provider who was convicted of several gruesome crimes after the lax enforcement of regulations allowed him to stay in business.

Speaking at a Heritage Foundation event in 2013 after Gosnell’s conviction, AUL’s president, Chairmaine Yoest, declared, “Gosnell is sadly not an aberration. Ladies and gentlemen, we already have the back alley of abortion in this country and the back alley of abortion in this country is legal abortion.” A 2012 law review article by AUL attorney Clarke Forsythe in favor of clinic regulations was titled “A Road Map Through The Supreme Court’s Back Alley.” A 2013 AUL guide to regulating abortion clinics declared, “abortion clinics across the nation have become the true ‘back alleys’ of abortion mythology.”

Other groups have caught on to the messaging too. Speaking of Gosnell’s conviction in 2013, the Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser claimed that “the result of the current law is that we’re living back-alley abortions right now.” 

In a set of talking points posted on its website in 2014, the National Right to Life Committee recommended countering pro-choice arguments about the risk of back-alley abortions by saying, “The only thing that legalizing abortion did was to give abortionists the ability to hang their shingle on the front door and stop using the back alley!”

Few would disagree that Gosnell — who was convicted of killing a patient and three infants who were born alive at his squalid clinic — was offering the functional equivalent of back-alley abortions. But the anti-choice movement is instead attempting to exploit the Gosnell case to claim that legal abortion is back-alley abortion, and to use it to justify unnecessary regulations meant to cut shut down safe providers.

Abortion rights opponents often attempt to downplay the real danger of illegal abortions women faced before the liberalization of abortion laws and Roe. Although women with money and connections could often obtain a safe hospital abortion (whether or not it was technically legal) in the years leading up to Roe, the burden of unsafe abortion fell disproportionately on poor women and women of color.

Guttmacher reports that although rates of death from unsafe abortion fell as medical care improved on all levels, 200 women died from unsafe abortion in 1965, making up 17 percent of all pregancy-related deaths that year. Even as states began to liberalize their abortion laws, many women without access to safe procedures still obtained illegal abortions.

As a number of commentators pointed out when Gosnell’s crimes came to light, forcing safe clinics to close would only force more women to predatory providers like Gosnell.

From the beginning, anti-choice activists have acknowledged that clinic regulations like those in Texas are meant not to protect women but to challenge legal abortion. In a 2007 memo arguing against “personhood” laws that attempt to ban all abortions in one fell swoop, influential anti-abortion attorney James Bopp listed clinic regulations like Texas’ as one way to “improve the legal situation” of the anti-abortion movement without fully taking on the constitutional right to abortion. In its annual package of model legislation for state legislators, AUL touts clinic-regulation measures as part of the effort to “unravel” Roe and facilitate its “demise.”

Texas’ law, which AUL says it helped write, requires abortion clinics to remodel if they don’t meet the stringent standards of ambulatory surgical clinics, which in general perform more complicated and riskier procedures than abortion. It also mandates that abortion providers have admitting privileges at a local hospital, an unnecessary requirement that it is sometimes difficult or impossible for abortion providers to meet. (This is in part because anti-abortion activists pressure hospitals not to offer such admitting privileges, again showing that their goal is closing clinics, not improving safety standards.)

The law behind the Whole Women's Health case isn’t meant to eliminate “back-alley” abortions, as its backers are now claiming. It’s meant to cut off access for the women who can least afford it and to chip away at the legal framework of Roe, which would, ironically, mostly likely lead to more true back-alley abortions. 

Cruz And Rubio Sign Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court To Weaken Roe

Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida are among the 174 members of Congress who have submitted an amicus brief yesterday urging the Supreme Court to uphold a Texas anti-abortion law that threatens to close most of the abortion providers in the state.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (previously called Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole) on March 2, considering whether sweeping abortion restrictions in Texas present an unconstitutional “undue burden” on women seeking abortions or whether they are merely meant to protect women’s health, as their backers claim. The case is a critical test of the anti-choice movement’s long-term strategy to weaken Roe by gradually chipping away at abortion access in the states, often by claiming that burdensome regulations are meant to protect the health of women seeking abortions.

Texas’ law was written in consultation with Americans United for Life, the national group that is leading the charge to eliminate abortion access via restrictive state laws. The regulations imposed by the law included specifications on things like hallway width and even on water fountains, along with unnecessary and sometimes untenable hospital “admitting privileges” requirements for abortion providers. If upheld by the court, the law would likely close all but a handful of Texas’ abortion clinics, creating a model for other conservative states to follow. Texas’ lieutenant governor at the time the law was passed, David Dewhurst, boasted that it would “essentially ban abortion statewide.”

Yet Texas lawmakers and their attorneys are sticking with the story that the law is a reasonable regulation meant to protect patients’ health, allowable under the framework laid out in the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And that is the argument that the brief by Cruz, Rubio and their fellow members of Congress makes too, claiming that doctors “disagree” on the necessity of the regulations and so Texas legislators merely “decided to strike a balance that gives first priority to women’s health and safety, choosing to risk erring on the side of safety rather than on the side of danger.”

As an example of the supposed necessity of such regulations, the brief cites Kermit Gosnell, the Pennsylvania abortion provider who was convicted of a number of appalling crimes related to his shoddy practice. Gosnell was not only operating in an entirely different state, it was clear that his crimes were the result of insufficient enforcement of existing regulations on clinics rather than insufficient regulation.

In a statement about the amicus brief, Rubio started off with the Gosnell case, claiming that the Texas law “best protects the safety and well-being of women who choose to have abortions, and serves as a model for other states to follow,” adding that such measures are stop-gap until “we can put an end to abortion and protect life once and for all.” Cruz also raised the specter of Gosnell, claiming that “the most zealous abortion advocates, nothing—not even women’s health—can be allowed to stand in the way of abortion-on-demand.”

Rubio and Cruz, like the law they are defending, are deliberately skirting around the point. Rubio supports banning abortion in all circumstances, while Cruz has backed a radical “personhood” laws that would ban all abortion and could even risk outlawing some types of birth control. At the same time, Cruz backed then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s refusal to accept federal Medicaid expansion that would have insured more than one million people while Rubio has tried repeatedly to take away insurance coverage for contraception from some women. It’s hard to believe that Rubio and Cruz’s position in Whole Woman’s Health stems from a sudden interest in women’s health rather than a concerted strategy to eliminate abortion rights.

Diana West Decries 'Hispanization' Of US, 'Demographic Invasion' From Southern Border

Conservative columnist Diana West, a frequent guest on Frank Gaffney’s “Secure Freedom Radio” program, appeared on Gaffney’s program yesterday to discuss with guest host Jim Hanson the struggle that many European countries are having in accommodating millions of refugees and migrants from North Africa and the Mideast.

West warned that the U.S. is “deep into the same exact transition” as Europe and “we are being replaced also and our culture is being absolutely taken over in similar ways,” not only by relatively small numbers of refugees, whom she called “non-assimilable,” but by the “Hispanization” of U.S. culture through immigrants from Latin America.

“We are experiencing the exact same forces and movement here,” she said. “We’re much bigger, obviously, and the conditions are somewhat different. However, we have no border, we have massive invasions by demographic invasion coming up on the southern border in particular. This would be an effort that we are watching, my father used to use the phrase, the United States becoming the northern tip of South America. I mean, this is a sense of the Hispanization of the country.”

“And meanwhile we’re watching refugee resettlement and the Syrian quote ‘refugee’ project also coming in with population blocks, non-assimilable population blocks coming out of the Islamic world and elsewhere being imposed on communities across the country,” she added.

Pamela Geller: Olympic Fencer Competing In Hijab Is 'Islamic Supremacism'

On Saturday, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad qualified for the U.S. Olympic team, making news for becoming the first U.S. athlete who will compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab.

As far as we know, Muhammad’s choice to wear a head covering during the competition isn’t going to affect anybody else on the U.S. Olympic team, but anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller is up in arms, saying in an interview with “Breitbart News Daily” this morning that the one athlete wearing a hijab amounts to “Islamic supremacism” and “imposing Islam on the secular marketplace.”

“The Olympic team now, they’re wearing hijabs, aren’t they?” the program’s host, Stephen K. Bannon, asked Geller.

Geller confirmed that “they’ve designed special outfits for them."

“It’s more of imposing Islam on the secular marketplace,” she added, “whether it’s in the workplace, whether it’s in the school. It’s Islamic supremacism is what it is. You have even in Canada, the Mounties, they’re designing a police officer’s uniform with a hijab. This is Islamic supremacism. You know, Jewish law pertains only to Jews, canon law pertains only to Christians, but Sharia, Islamic law, asserts it’s authority over non-Muslims. This is the problem and this is something that is never discussed.”

Cruz Endorser Connects East Coast Blizzard With North Dakota Abortion Ruling

Mike Bickle, the far-right pastor whose endorsement was recently embraced by Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, joined a group of anti-abortion activists today in linking a blizzard that hit the East Coast last month to a Supreme Court decision on abortion rights in North Dakota.

Bickle joined anti-abortion activists including Priests for Life’s Alveda King, the Family Research Council’s Pierre Bynum and Mark Gonzalez of the United States Hispanic Prayer and Action Network in signing a statement distributed by the Texas based Justice Foundation calling for a month of “national prayers and repentance” leading up to the Supreme Court arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, the Texas abortion laws case.

“We fear that the judgment of Almighty God, which is designed to be merciful, and the wrath of God, will come upon the United States of America,” the statement warns, noting that a blizzard hit Washington on the same day that the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling striking down North Dakota’s restrictive anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill.

These leaders agree with the statement: "We tremble for our country when we remember that God is just and that His justice never sleeps. We fear that the judgment of Almighty God, which is designed to be merciful, and the wrath of God, will come upon the United States of America. God hates the shedding of innocent blood." But there is hope for our nation if Christians will pray! "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." II Chronicles 7:13-14. We believe that the role of the SCOTUS is to affirm God given rights to every individual throughout ALL stages of LIFE.

We are calling for national prayers of repentance from February 3 to March 4. On January 22, the Jonas storm, which also means Jonah, hit Washington, D.C. That same day the Supreme Court denied North Dakota the right to ban abortion and help women with child care. We urge everyone to pray every day for the Supreme Court and America to repent. From February 3 to March 4, we are urging prayer groups to cooperate in mobilizing the Body of Christ to 24/7 non-stop prayer for the SCOTUS.

On March 2, the Supreme Court will hear the Texas case which calls for ambulatory surgical centers and hospital admitting privileges. We all will have another opportunity to repent for the sin of abortion through this case.

Ted Cruz Blames Media For Ben Carson Flap, Says He's Running 'A High-Road Campaign With Integrity'

Ted Cruz blamed the media this morning for the controversy over whether his campaign falsely hinted to Iowa caucus-goers before voting commenced that his rival Ben Carson was dropping out of the race.

Cruz sort of apologized to Carson yesterday, saying that his political team had simply passed along a CNN report about Carson’s status to supporters in Iowa and that it was a “mistake” that the campaign had not sent a follow-up email clarifying that Carson was actually staying in the race.

In reality, the CNN report in question merely said that Carson was going home to Florida before heading on to New Hampshire and South Carolina for those state’s primaries, not that he was dropping out of the race. The Cruz campaign, meanwhile, told supporters to inform any Carson backers at their caucuses that Carson was “taking time off from the campaign trail after Iowa and making a big announcement next week.” Rep. Steve King, one of Cruz’s most prominent Iowa endorsers, tweeted that Carson was likely dropping out and that his supporters should switch to Cruz.

Cruz pushed back against criticism in an interview today with talk radio host Mike Gallagher, insisting that “from the beginning, we’ve resolved to run a high-road campaign with integrity.”

The Texas senator repeated his story about the CNN report and said of Carson, “I’m sorry if our passing on that CNN news story caused him and his campaign discomfort.”

When Gallagher asked Cruz if he was angry about his campaign officials’ actions, the Texas senator replied, “Well, look, I was disappointed that an impression had been left that was incomplete. It was based on public news reports, and so some of the media folks who want to use it to impugn integrity are deliberately using it in a misleading way.”

Cruz dropped briefly off the line, but when he returned, Gallagher asked him if he would discipline any staffers for their actions.

“Well, I don’t make it a practice to discipline people for passing on public news reports,” he said. “And the news turned out to be accurate, he did indeed return to Florida, and that was news that the voters were interested in.”

Donald Trump's A 'Big Fan' Of The 'Amazing' Ann Coulter

It’s no secret that Donald Trump likes the work of anti-immigrant extremist Ann Coulter, but he had a chance to tell her so publicly in a radio interview shortly before Coulter took the stage at a Trump campaign rally in New Hampshire last night.

Boston talk radio host Howie Carr, who was broadcasting from the Trump event in Milford, New Hampshire, put Coulter on the line with Trump as she prepared to speak and Trump prepared to head over to the event. Coutler told Trump that he is “doing a fantastic job” and that he would “love” her speech.

“Ann’s been amazing,” Trump responded, adding, “I’m a big fan and you know that.”

Trump also took the opportunity to go after his “low-energy” opponent Jeb Bush, joking that “he probably paid $5 million” for a recent crowd at a campaign event.

“I don’t know, Jeb is out there, he’s spent $100 million, it’s sad actually what’s going on with Jeb, he’s got no votes, he’s down around two [percent] and I think it’s a pretty sad situation,” he said.

Trump added that “most” of his Republican rivals will probably soon drop out of the race.

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