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The Personhood Movement: Undermining Roe In The Courts: Part 3

This is the third post in a RWW series on the reemergence of the fetal personhood movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights in the U.S.

Part 1: The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From And What It Means For The Future Of Choice
Part 2: The Personhood Movement: Internal Battles Go Public
Part 4: The Personhood Movement: Regrouping After Defeat

As we have detailed in previous posts in this series, ever since the anti-choice movement rose to prominence in the wake of Roe v. Wade, it has been divided over how to go about repealing Roe and recriminalizing abortion in the U.S.

Groups like Americans United for Life (AUL) and the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) have achieved great success in pushing states to adopt incremental measures targeting abortion providers in the name of protecting women’s health and in advocating for national policies — such as the 2003 “partial-birth” abortion ban and the 20-week abortion ban currently being considered by Congress — that attempt to undermine the legal reasoning in Roe by targeting a small segment of abortion procedures.

But the anti-choice personhood movement believes that the incremental strategy is doing too little to end legal abortion. They believe they have a better plan.

The personhood movement argues that small, incremental legal victories cutting off access to abortion will never achieve the ultimate goal of completely criminalizing the procedure — in part because those measures fail to make a moral argument on behalf of the humanity of the fertilized egg and fetus.

At the founding convention of the Personhood Alliance late last year, the chief of staff to Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, notorious for his legal fight over a Ten Commandment monument he placed in the courthouse rotunda, discussed an alternate legal strategy to end abortion rights. As Nina Martin has outlined in The New Republic, Moore’s protégé and colleague Justice Tom Parker has been carefully laying out a legal framework to overturn Roe, not by constitutional amendment, but by the legal redefinition of what it means to be a person protected by the law.

Parker, with Moore’s backing, has been building a body of jurisprudence that offers a blueprint for a personhood victory in the courts. In doing so, he’s drawn the attention and praise of anti-choice activists; Liberty Counsel, a right-wing legal group, has called him a “modern-day Wilberforce.”

Since efforts to overturn Roe by passing a Human Life Amendment or a legislative alternative faltered in Congress in the 1970s and 1980s, personhood advocates have focused on the states, passing legislation giving limited rights to fetuses as separate entities from pregnant women. Since 1986, 38 states have passed “fetal homicide” laws identifying fetuses at some or all stages of development as separate victims of crime and in 2004 Congress passed a similar law covering federal crimes. Similarly, in 18 states substance abuse during pregnancy is legally considered child abuse. In Alabama last year, Republicans passed a law allowing judges to appoint lawyers for fetuses. As Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, put it in an interview, “all of that is about trying to build up a legal case that personhood starts at fertilization.”

Personhood USA’s 2014 attempt to insert personhood language into Colorado law drew on this legal history, specifically limiting its new definition of personhood to the Colorado criminal code and Colorado Wrongful Death Act. But the proposal was nonetheless widely recognized as an attempt to ban abortion, or at least to set up a legal battle challenging Roe. In fact, Colorado had already passed laws imposing extra penalties for crimes against pregnant women, the purported purpose of the personhood amendment. “They are changing the tone, they are changing the language, they are changing the messaging to try to win,” Nash said.

Parker has chronicled laws treating fetuses as full-fledged humans in certain cases to argue that “[t]oday, the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion, and that denial is only because of Roe.” He has urged the Supreme Court to address the issue at the next chance it gets.

Parker and Moore’s strategy relies on what the personhood movement’s proponents believe is a loophole in Roe v. Wade that would allow anti-abortion advocates to effectively undo the decision without a constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court friendlier to their cause. In Roe, the Justices rejected the idea of fetal personhood. Justice Blackmun wrote in his majority opinion that “no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment,” noting, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses...for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”

A federal bill that currently has 132 cosponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate takes aim at this supposed loophole in Roe, simply declaring that “the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being," which includes “each member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.”

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the chief sponsor of the Senate bill, signed a fundraising email for the pro-personhood National Pro-Life Alliance in November, arguing that his was the strategy that would work:

The Supreme Court itself admitted  if Congress declares unborn children 'persons' under the law, the constitutional case for abortion-on-demand 'collapses.'

Alabama’s Supreme Court is the most prominent court to give a serious hearing to the personhood strategy, long considered by even some in the anti-choice movement to be a crackpot theory and a potential political and legal disaster. As recently as 2009, Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, wrote in the National Review that the so-called “personhood loophole” was an “urban legend” and those pursuing it were “heading toward a brick wall.” Forsythe argued that in 1992 Casey decision, the Supreme Court had shifted the abortion debate from the personhood of fetuses to the rights of women, and that that was therefore the ground that the anti-choice movement should be playing on. “The real challenge for pro-lifers in 2009 is to effectively address the assumption that abortion is good for women,” he wrote, presaging AUL’s revamped woman-focused messaging.

Even more alarming to the personhood strategy’s detractors in the anti-choice movement is the possibility that a personhood challenge to Roe could create the opportunity for a Supreme Court ruling that would actually strengthen constitutional protections for abortion rights. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for instance, has said that she believes abortion rights should be secured under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, making the issue more clearly about the rights of women. In 2010, Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) wrote, “If a personhood amendment comes before this court, a new and terrifying decision may put the pro-life movement back a quarter century or more.”

In 2007, as the anti-choice movement’s schism over a ban on so-called “partial-birth” abortion was gaining national attention, Georgia Right to Life, which was at the the state affiliate of NRLC, worked with legislators to introduce a state constitutional amendment defining a “person” under state law as “including unborn children at every state of their biological development, including fertilization.”

Although the Georgia amendment was based on language originally drafted as a federal constitutional amendment by NRLC, NRLC’s chief counsel James Bopp, Jr. tried to shut it down. In a lengthy and frank memo to his fellow anti-choice activists, Bopp contended that such an amendment would be immediately struck down in federal courts and, if it made it to the Supreme Court, could give the court’s majority the opportunity to rewrite Roe in the way favored by Ginsburg. The state-level personhood strategy, he cautioned, was “presently doomed to expansive failure.”

Instead, Bopp said, the anti-choice movement should continue its incremental strategy, which was succeeding in curtailing access to abortion while keeping the issue in the public eye. He wrote that the “partial-birth” abortion law had been a successful example of this strategy because it “forced the pro-abortion camp to publicly defend a particularly visible and gruesome practice.” Acknowledging that “most pro-lifers” believe that abortion should only be available to save the life of a pregnant woman, he warned that absolutist, no-exceptions approaches like personhood were both legally unwise and poor public relations:

By contrast, the pro-life movement must at present avoid fighting on the more difficult terrain of its own position, namely arguing that abortion should not be available in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and harm to the mother. While restricting abortion in these situations is morally defensible, public opinion polls show that popular support for the pro-life side drops off dramatically when these “hard” cases are the topic. And while most pro-lifers believe that a consistent pro-life position requires permitting abortion in only the rare circumstances where it is necessary to save the life of the mother, some pro-lifers believe that there should not even be an exception to preserve the life of the mother. Other pro-lifers advocate exceptions for rape or incest. This is an important debate to have, and we should be ready to convince the public of the need for few, if any, exceptions to laws prohibiting abortion when such laws can be upheld. However, since that is currently not the case, such a debate is premature and would undermine public support for the pro-life position.

Responding to Bopp’s memo, the conservative Thomas More Law Center, which drafted the Georgia amendment, argued that the incremental strategy had taken too long and done too little and that “after 34 years of abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy, it is time to rethink pro-life strategy.”

“[T]he central holding of Roe v. Wade remains the primary obstacle to any meaningful pro-life initiative that seeks to end abortion,” wrote Thomas More attorney Robert J. Muise. “To remove this obstacle, a case must be presented to the United States Supreme Court that challenges the central premise of Roe — that the unborn is not a person within the meaning of the law.”

If personhood laws were to succeed in the courts, the legal implications would be immense and unpredictable.

The ambiguous wording of personhood measures has led to concerns that they could be interpreted to outlaw oral contraception, IUDs and in-vitro fertilization. But birth control is not the only issue. As the National Advocates for Pregnant Women’s Lynn Paltrow and Fordham sociologist Jeanne Flavin have documented, laws granting legal rights to fetuses outside the context of abortion have led to hundreds of cases of pregnant women being arrested or otherwise apprehended after suffering miscarriages or for alleged drug and alcohol use deemed to be harmful to the fetus.

In countries that completely criminalize abortion — the goal of the “pro-life” movement in the U.S. — pregnant woman can find themselves in terrifying situations: recently in El Salvador, a woman was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder after suffering a miscarriage.

As Paltrow told Newsweek in 2012, “There’s no way to give embryos constitutional personhood without subtracting women from the community of constitutional persons.”

By redefining what it means to be a person under the law, personhood measures could also have a broad legal impact on issues unrelated to reproductive rights, threatening to upend everything from inheritance law to census results. In 2014, the Colorado Bar Association opposed the state’s personhood ballot measure, warning that the vaguely worded measure would have “potentially serious, unintended and unknown consequences for Colorado lawyers…From areas of Family Law to Probate Law to Real Estate Law, as well as the explicit effect on Criminal Law and Wrongful Death statutes, this Amendment could create uncertainty and endless litigation.”

Daniel Becker, the former leader of Georgia Right to Life and founder of the Personhood Alliance, also sees the personhood issue as extending beyond abortion rights, but in a different direction. The final chapter of Becker's 2011 manifesto, "Personhood," is written in the form of a science fiction story set in a "post-human future" in which computers have gained consciousness, procreation has been moved to laboratories, and a "specialized sub-class of human-animal hybrids" has been developed to perform menial labor. The anti-abortion rights movement, he argues, will cease to be relevant in coming battles over biotechnology if it remains "at its heart, anti-abortion as opposed to pro-sanctity of human life." He argues that only by embracing full "personhood" rights for zygotes and fetuses will the movement remain viable in the future.

The personhood movement, while it has hope in the legal system, also recognizes that it won’t get far without winning hearts and minds. In the final post in this series, we’ll look at the movement’s efforts to reorganize in the wake of electoral defeats.

Mike Huckabee: Chapel Services In Public Schools Will End School Shootings

During a speech earlier this month at televangelist Morris Cerullo’s annual conference, Mike Huckabee said that school shootings wouldn’t take place if public schools organized daily prayers, religious assemblies, Bible readings and “chapel services.”

“Because we were bringing Bibles to school people weren’t bringing guns to school, except for the deer hunters who left them in their trucks,” Huckabee said. “What has happened to our culture? What’s happened is we have lost our landmarks. When we reject the Bible as the objective word of truth, when we say that the Bible is no longer the standard by which we live and we make it whatever we feel, what we think, what we believe, then we have no landmark at all because that landmark is always being moved to accommodate our lifestyle rather than make our lifestyle accommodate the word of the living God and the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Back in 2012, Huckabee reacted to the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by blaming those who “systematically removed God from our schools,” turning schools into “a place of carnage” and “violence.”

Phyllis Schlafly: Obama Is 'Sweet On The Muslims'

Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, who once worried that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel might be a secret Muslim, told far-right talk show host Stan Solomon earlier this month that President Obama is “sweet on the Muslims.”

While speaking with Solomon about Obama’s absence from a demonstration of world leaders in Paris following the Charlie Hebdo attack, Schlafly said Obama “does not want to admit there is Muslim terrorism, he pretends that it isn’t” and is “unwilling anytime to say there is Muslim terrorism.”

Schlafly told Solomon that extremists will only learn to “respect” the U.S. if the country makes its military “the biggest and strongest” in the world.

It’s a Radical Right Red Meat Feast as 2016 GOP Primary Kicks Off with a Bang

Over the weekend, likely Republican 2016 presidential candidates stepped up to the microphone at two extremist events to throw red meat at their Radical Right base and prove their ultraconservative bona fides in the run up to primary season.

Here’s a taste of what went down at Iowa’s so-called Freedom Summit, hosted by Rep. Steve King – who is most famous for his radical and dehumanizing anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won the day with the most well-received speech, in which his biggest applause came when he bragged about his party’s attempts at voter suppression in his state, saying, “we required in our state, by law, a photo ID to vote.”

Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee said states should ignore Supreme Court rulings favorable to marriage equality.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie played up how staunchly anti-choice he is.

Senator Ted Cruz made the case for caucus voters to weed out anyone but extreme right-wing candidates. “Every candidate is going to come to you and say they are the most conservative person that ever lived,” Cruz said. “Talk is cheap.”

And at a separate Religious Right event, hosted by SPLC-designated hate group the American Family Association, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal discussed the need to enshrine discrimination against same-sex couples in the Constitution, promoted Islamophobic conspiracy theories and closed his speech with the statement “our god wins.” That event, titled The Response, perfectly embodied the dangers of mixing religion with politics in the way that the Right so loves to do.

By making political issues – even incredibly important ones, and even ones that are historically divisive – litmus tests for their followers’ religious conviction, they cast their opponents not only as wrong, but as evil and satanic, allowing for no possibility of compromise and making even civil coexistence difficult.  

It was a lot of what you’d expect – unfortunately – but that doesn’t make it any less terrifying. These are the people who are setting the agenda for one of America’s two major parties – and the one that right now controls both houses of Congress.

Read more and check out video from both events at RightWingWatch.org.

UPDATE: Jon Stewart's can't-miss segment on the Freedom Summit from the Daily Show (video courtesy of Comedy Central):

PFAW

The Nativist Strategy Behind World Congress of Families' Anti-LGBT, Anti-Choice Work In Russia

Last year, a slew of American Religious Right activists traveled to Moscow to take part in an international conference called “Large Families and the Future of Mankind.” The conference was funded by top allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was organized by the Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF ended its official role in the event after the U.S. placed sanctions on some of its funders, but was still clearly the main organizing force behind it.)

The fact that the conference was dedicated to “large families” is important. In a new report for Political Research Associates, Cole Parke exposes how WCF has worked with Russia’s government to exploit fears of a European “demographic winter” and push for policies restricting abortion and LGBT rights. Parke illustrates that behind the “demographic winter” warning is a “cynical manipulation of racial resentments” — not the fear that the country’s population is dropping but that Russian identity might be “redefined as something other than White and Orthodox.”

WCF’s influence at the U.N. relies heavily on its longstanding ties with Russia, one of the five permanent members on the U.N. Security Council. Carlson’s work on the ”demographic winter”—the idea that abortion, birth control, homosexuality, feminism and other ”unnatural” deviations have led to dangerous population decline and a crisis for the ”natural family”—has proven to be particularly effective in garnering favor with Russia’s conservative leadership.

Carlson argues that declining birth rates threaten the decline of civilization—Western civilization. As researcher and journalist Kathryn Joyce puts it, “The concern is not a general lack of babies, but the cultural shifts that come when some populations, particularly immigrant communities, are feared to be out-procreating others.” Put another way, the demographic winter thesis cultivates racism and xenophobia in support of exclusionary “natural family” policies. A main objective of the WCF’s demographic scare tactics is to convert nationalism into natalism, and thereby mobilize a larger anti-abortion, “natural family” base. (Natalism prioritizes human procreation, including public policies that reward birthing children.)

This perspective is commonplace among WCF and its affiliates. Following WCF’s 1997 congress in Prague, Cathy Ramey, associate director of the U.S. anti-abortion organization Advocates for Life Ministries, explained what she’d learned: “As native citizens reject marriage and child-bearing, other non-native groups will simply move in and replace the historic population.” Speaking at WCF V, John Mueller, a researcher at the Ethics and Public Policy Center—a neoconservative think tank in Washington, DC, argued that “fertility would rise and remain above the replacement rate, not only in the United States but also most other countries, by ending legal abortion.”

In Russia and other parts of Europe, a combination of population anxiety and growing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiment has offered WCF a favorable political context in which to advance its anti-abortion, “natural family” agenda. Carlson and his network have fanned the flames of “demographic winter” anxieties throughout the region.

In June 2011, WCF hosted the Moscow Demographic Summit, describing it as the “world’s first summit to address the international crisis of rapidly declining birthrates.” More than 500 people attended, including Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church; Russian First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva; members of the Russian Duma; and a host of right-wing American scholars and activists.

Within two weeks of the event, President Medvedev—whose wife, Medvedeva, had recently teamed up with the Russian Orthodox Church on a new anti-abortion campaign—signed a law requiring abortion providers to devote 10 percent of any advertising to describing the dangers of abortion to a woman’s health, and making it illegal to describe abortion as a safe medical procedure. This was the first new legislative restriction placed on abortions in the country since the fall of Communism.

Four months later, in October 2011, the Russian Duma passed a law further restricting abortions to within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for cases up to 22 weeks in instances of rape or medical necessity. The new law also tacked on a mandatory waiting period of two to seven days before an abortion can be performed, a common tactic used by anti-abortion activists in the U.S.

Parke explores how WCF exploits nativist and nationalist fears in order to push restrictions on reproductive rights and LGBT equality in its work in Africa and at the United Nations as well. You can read the full report here.

Sarah Palin: Defeat Hillary Clinton By Calling Liberals The Real Racists And Sexists

Sarah Palin delivered something that some might call a speech at today’s Iowa Freedom Summit, in which she gave advice on how Republicans can defeat Hillary Clinton if the former secretary of state runs for president.

“It’s going to take more than a village to beat Hillary,” she said. “We the people, we realize that this is war, it is war for the solvency, the sovereignty of the United States of America.”

Palin said that Republicans need to prepare for attacks from the liberal media, which seeks to “crucify” conservatives, warning that liberals use Saul Alinsky-inspired political tactics, such as charges of “racism” and “sexism.”

Republicans should reject these “Orwellian” and “disgusting charges from the left,” Palin said, before calling on conservatives to label liberals as the real racists and sexists: “Reverse them, for it is they who point a finger not realizing that they have triple that amount of fingers pointing right back at them revealing that they are the ones who really discriminate and divide on color and class and sex. We call them out. We don’t let them get away with it.”

She urged conservatives to expose the “real war on women with truth because we can handle the truth,” explaining: “It is they who defeat women, they shackle them to the good old boys running Washington, pimping this promise that they have to provide for these little ladies’ every need, because ‘there, there, a woman is just not capable.’”

Sarah Palin: Media 'Crucified' Me Over Dog Photo

In her speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit today, Sarah Palin addressed the major issues facing the country, such as a photo she posted on Facebook of her son standing on a dog.

Palin, never one to shy away from self-victimization, said that the controversy that ensued was proof that the media “crucified” her and is filled with hypocrites who didn’t care about what “the president admitted to doing to those Indonesian puppies,” a reference to a passage in “Dreams from My Father” about eating dog meat as a young boy in Indonesia.

Donald Trump: 'I Am Seriously Thinking Of Running For President' Because 'We Can’t Have Bush'

Donald Trump is still trying to convince people that he might actually run for president this time, telling today’s Iowa Freedom Summit that he is “seriously thinking of running for president” because Romney “choked” and we “can’t have Bush.”

After claiming that he was the first person to say that it wouldn’t be smart to nominate Jeb Bush because of George W. Bush’s legacy, Trump laid into Jeb Bush, criticizing him for his support for Common Core and his softening position on immigration.

“He’s very, very weak on immigration,” Trump said of Bush. “Don’t forget, remember his statement, ‘they come for love’? Say what? ‘Come for love’? You’ve got these people coming, half of them are criminals. I mean, they’re coming for ‘love’? They’re coming for a lot of other reasons, and it’s not love.”

“I am seriously thinking of running for president because I can do the job,” he told the crowd.

Donald Trump Says He Will Personally Build A Border Fence To Stop 'Islamic Terrorists'

Perennial maybe-presidential-candidate Donald Trump dedicated a good portion of his speech at today’s Iowa Freedom Summit to immigration, which was fitting since the summit is hosted by one of the GOP’s most dogmatic anti-immigrant voices, Rep. Steve King.

Trump told the audience that immigrants, including terrorists, are walking across the border in front of U.S. guards, and no one will stop them … except, of course, for Trump, who pledged that if and when he is elected president, he will take advantage of his extensive construction experience to build the border fence, and it’s going to “be a beauty.”

“Who can build better than Trump?” he asked.

We have to build a fence and it’s gotta be a beauty. Who can build better than Trump? I build. It’s what I do. I build. I build nice fences but I build great buildings. Fences are easy, believe me. I saw the other day on television, people are just walking across the border, they’re walking, the military is standing there, holding guns and people are just walking right in front, coming into our country. It is so terrible, it is so unfair, it is so incompetent and we don’t have the best coming in, we have people that are criminals, we have people that are crooks, you can certainly have terrorists, you can certainly have Islamic terrorists, you can have anything coming across the border. We don’t do anything about it. So I would say that if I run and if I win, I would certainly start by building a very, very powerful border.

Rachel Maddow Takes On 'Questionable Characters' At Jindal Prayer Rally

As we have been reporting, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has decided to hitch his apparent presidential hopes to a collection of Christian-nation extremists, teaming with the American Family Association, influential activist David Lane, and a collection of self-proclaimed prophets and apostles to host a prayer rally in Baton Rouge today meant to turn America “back to God.”

On her show last night, Rachel Maddow took a look at the array of “questionable characters” working with Jindal on his supposedly nonpolitical prayer rally:

Chuck Grassley: Democrats Will Abolish Bill Of Rights By Overturning Citizens United Ruling

Sen. Chuck Grassley addressed the Iowa Freedom Summit today about his opposition to overturning the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, criticizing the four justices who dissented in the case for having “an upside-down understanding of the Constitution.”

The right-wing group Citizens United, which brought the Supreme Court challenge that ultimately allowed for unlimited, undisclosed corporate spending is the summit’s principal sponsor.

The Iowa Republican added that “liberal elements in the United States Senate” who support a constitutional amendment overturning the court’s decision will put the country on a “slippery slope” that “could lead us to the abolishment of the Bill of Rights as we’ve known it for 230 years.”

How odd that a ruling that is only five years old has apparently been around for 230 years!

Steve King: DREAMers Come From Another Planet

Rep. Steve King got a little mixed up in his remarks at the Iowa Freedom Summit this morning, accidentally remarking that Americans “come from every possible planet.”

The Iowa Republican quickly caught himself and said that the DREAMers protesting the right-wing event are the ones who really come from outer space.

“We’re a great people, we have a vitality that’s unequaled on the planet, we come from every possible planet — every possible continent. There across the street [are] those people that come from the other planet,” he joked. King then returned to criticizing President Obama, alleging that the president is “eroding” America’s foundations of liberty and freedom.

King has previously compared immigrants to dogs and suggested that the majority of DREAMers are drug smugglers with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

Steve King Summit Kicks Off With Attacks On DREAMers

Jan Mickelson, the conservative Iowa-based radio talk show host, is the emcee of today’s Iowa Freedom Summit, where several GOP presidential candidates have joined Rep. Steve King to appeal to voters in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

Mickelson boasted of King’s anti-immigrant extremism, and made fun of DREAMers, who organized a protest across from the summit, by likening them to people trying to crash a hotel breakfast.

“Nobody from Iowa cares a sliver about immigration. All of us came from somewhere, but what we do care about is illegal gate-crashers, as Steve would say,” Mickelson said. “This is about rule of law.”

“‘We’ve borrowed the keys and we’re not happy about the maid service, the TV doesn’t work and we can’t eat at the continental breakfast,’” he said while imitating DREAMers. “‘That’s unfair, we’re dreamers, we’re dreaming about that breakfast. That’s pretty much the same argument the protesters outside are using. They haven’t checked in, they’re using property not of their own, they’re demanding room service and they say they can’t be evicted now because their kids have been born in that room they busted into.” 

Pamela Geller: Fox Apology 'Egregious,' 'There Are Absolutely No-Go Zones'

Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller joined Florida conservative radio host Joyce Kaufman earlier this week to discuss the controversy over Fox commentator Steve Emerson’s statement that Birmingham, England, had become a “no-go zone” controlled by Islamic law. Emerson retracted his statement and Fox issued a series of apologies for his remark and for other statements on the network about the myth of “no-go zones” in Europe.

Geller, who has been warning of European “no-go zones” for years, acknowledged that Emerson’s statement about Birmingham was wrong but was outraged that Fox had taken its retractions even further, agreeing with Kaufman that their opponents are winning “the propaganda war” and that Fox’s apologies were “egregious,” the result of a liberal ideology in which "Islam trumps gay."

“Look, any time anybody approaches this subject — you know and I know because we have suffered it for a decade —we are demonized, smeared and libeled,” she said.

“To be clear, there are absolutely no-go zones,” she said. “In parts of London, there are absolutely religious police that beat and wound and seriously attack anyone that doesn’t dress according to Islam.”

Geller went on to site a Daily Mail story about a small fringe group that had put up posters in a London neighborhood declaring it a “Sharia Controlled Zone” — not an actual designation observed by actual authorities. She also cited a Guardian story about a self-proclaimed “Muslim patrol gang” that harassed a number of people, including a gay man, in east London. Contrary to the “no-go zone” myth, the perpetrators were not given control of the area, but were arrested by actual British law enforcement officers. These stories illustrate the fact that, as a number of fact-checkers have noted, the supposed European Sharia zones are simply high-crime areas.

But Geller smelled a double-standard in the media: “Here we have the media, which is so pro-gay-issue it’s blinding, that you can’t turn on a television show or series or movie where there’s not some advancement of the gay agenda…and yet, Islam trumps gay.”

Kaufman, for her part, cited the killing of 13 people by ISIS in Syria as evidence of the existence of these no-go zones in Europe: “They killed 13 teenagers for watching a soccer match in Syria, obviously that’s a no-go zone.”

Rick Santorum: Liberal Media Using Pope Francis To Divide Catholics

Rick Santorum is still reeling from Pope Francis’ remarks about how people shouldn’t procreate “like rabbits” and appeared on Newsmax TV today to speak with host Steve Malzberg about the pope’s comments.

Santorum told Malzberg that the pope is just the latest victim of the liberal media, alleging that reporters want to goad Pope Francis into making statements that will divide Roman Catholics.

“No doubt the pope is as solid as the pope, that’s not the issue, it’s what the media will do with some phrases that are out there like the use of ‘trickledown economics’ and the use of ‘breeding like rabbits,’ these are phrases out there that I think can be just taken out of context,” Santorum said, adding:

The casualness of the conversation [with reporters] leads many who would love to see division leads them to take those and run with them in a direction that the pope certainly didn’t attend. It’s hard because I know the pope’s heart. I read his encyclicals, I read his statements and they’re brilliant, they’re perfect, they’re right, and then he will say something which allows people to twist them and that is why it is hard to listen to because I know his heart and yet he will say things that I know he means innocently and I know they’re innocent but it can be taken by those, let’s just say not so innocent, to try to twist what his meanings really is.

Malzberg replied: “You’re talking about the liberal media with their agenda.”

“Yeah,” Santorum said. “It is. They want nothing more than to drive a real division between the church, not just here but around the world.”

“It hurts me to see him throw up softballs to the media to twist, I know he’s not doing it deliberately,” he said.

Paranoia-Rama: Islamists Take Over The White House, Minneapolis Through Subliminal Messages And No-Go Zones

After spending a week denouncing non-existent “no-go zones,” it was no surprise that conservatives steered their anti-Islam anger into attacks on President Obama, especially after his State of the Union address.

Benghazi Truthers Turn On House Special Committee, Accuse Trey Gowdy Of Aiding 'Continued Cover-Up'

After every official committee and panel investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack, including ones led by Republicans, debunked the many right-wing conspiracy theories surrounding the incident, conservative activists demanded that the House GOP establish a new special committee to look into the attack, hoping that the group, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., would finally confirm their suspicions of foul play by the Obama administration.

Now, it seems, even the House Special Committee on Benghazi is part of the cover-up! At least that is what the ultraconservative outlet WorldNetDaily, a source of many false Benghazi claimsincluding one picked up by Sen. Rand Paul, is reporting. WND spoke to members of the far-right Citizens Committee on Benghazi, who expressed anger with the way Gowdy is handling the proceedings, including one who said that Gowdy is part of the “continued cover-up”:

The military commanders on the Citizens Committee on Benghazi reacted with skepticism to the announcement Thursday afternoon that the House Select Committee on Benghazi has scheduled a hearing, contending the congressional panel led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., is not uncovering the truth behind the deadly episode that resulted in the death of an American ambassador.



Retired U.S Navy Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, a founding member of the citizens’ commission – which WND reported has been conducting its own investigation for the past year and a half to ensure Congress uncovers the truth – said the “idea that government agency stonewalling continuing now for over two years is the reason Gowdy’s committee can’t make progress is pure nonsense.”

Lyons, a former four-star admiral who served as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said he was speaking for himself, not on behalf of the commission.

“Let’s say it clearly,” he told WND. “This is a continued cover-up. You have to take the wraps off and you have to go for the jugular. Is Gowdy so incapable and ineffective that he can’t boss these agency heads to comply with Congress’ mandate? Is he that ineffective?”



Lyons, meanwhile, compared the situation to a subordinate military commander coming to him during a military engagement with the enemy and complaining that an important objective could not be taken because enemy resistance was too stiff.

“I’d tell that subordinate commander to make sure the door didn’t hit him in the rear on the way out,” Lyons said. “The conclusion I’d come to is that I’d say, ‘You’re relieved,’ and I would find somebody that could break through.”

He said that if Gowdy “isn’t the man for the job because he’s being thwarted by some government bureaucrat that stonewalls Congress, then maybe we were wrong to be enthusiastic about Gowdy in the first place.”



Roger Aronoff, editor of Accuracy in Media and another CCB founding member, expressed similar concerns.

“Gowdy has subpoena powers,” Aronoff noted. “So, why doesn’t Gowdy subpoena Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice to testify before the select committee in person? I guess it’s a positive sign that we learn Gowdy and the select committee staff have been meeting with State Department recently, but if nothing comes of it, then it’s obviously for naught.

“Gowdy needs to be aggressive and the select committee needs to get this job done,” he said.

The Personhood Movement: Internal Battles Go Public: Part 2

This is the second post in a RWW series on the reemergence of the fetal personhood movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights in the U.S.

Part 1: The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From And What It Means For The Future Of Choice
Part 3: The Personhood Movement: Undermining Roe In The Courts
Part 4: The Personhood Movement: Regrouping After Defeat

As proponents of the “personhood” strategy to end legal abortion like to remind those who will listen, the original goal of the anti-abortion rights movement after Roe v. Wade was to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the decision. And one possible amendment — along with a dubious statutory alternative  — would have done so by defining “personhood” as starting at conception.

In the 1970s and 1980s, dozens of anti-Roe “Human Life Amendments” were introduced in Congress, containing a variety of language. Only one made it to an up-or-down vote in Congress: the “Hatch-Eagleton Amendment,” which would have simply gutted Roe by stating, “A right to abortion is not secured by this Constitution.” In June of 1983, the amendment fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional amendment, garnering just 49 yes votes.

But there was another strategy for amending the Constitution to reverse Roe, one that rather than just returning to the states the power to regulate abortion would have overturned Roe by declaring that fetuses are "persons" protected under the Constitution. In 1976, one such amendment was put up for a test vote in the Senate, garnering only 40 votes in support.

The language of these amendments was a matter of bitter internal debate among anti-abortion rights groups. One draft amendment formulated by the National Right to Life Committee in 1974, known as the NRLC Amendment, would have declared that the word "person" in the 14th and 5th Amendments "applies to all human beings irrespective of age, health, function, or condition of dependency, including their unborn offspring at every stage of their biological development," but included a specific exemption for "medical procedures required to prevent the death of the mother."  

Some members of NRLC’s budding coalition thought the amendment didn’t go far enough to prohibit abortion, arguing that the “life of the mother” exception was too broad. Two founding members of NRLC, Judie and Paul Brown, had left the group because they perceived it as too willing to compromise and founded their own anti-choice group, the American Life League (ALL) and helped to establish the radical abortion “rescue” movement. In 1979, ALL wrote its own amendment, nicknamed the “Paramount Amendment,” which would have erased all abortion exceptions by declaring, “The paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, health, or condition of dependency.”

Faced with a splintering movement, NRLC held months of talks with its fellow anti-abortion groups, hoping to hammer out a Human Life Amendment that they could unify behind. In October of 1981, NRLC announced that “with tears of joy and happiness” it had “solved what formerly appeared to be an irreconcilable difference over a fundamental question: how to allow for just those abortions truly needed to prevent the death of the mother without at the same time making her right to life superior to that of her unborn child.”

NRLC’s new “Unity Amendment,” which was introduced by Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina that December (and which ALL still refused to support), tightened the “life of the mother” exception by adding the stipulation that abortion would be allowed only to “prevent the death of either the pregnant woman or her unborn offspring, as long as such law requires every reasonable effort be made to preserve the life of each.”

All of these amendments failed to get off the ground, as did a novel and controversial legislative approach to achieve the same goal. In 1981, Helms and Sen. Henry Hyde introduced a bill that they claimed could overturn Roe without a constitutional amendment or a new Supreme Court majority, by simply declaring that life begins “at conception.” The effect of the law, the New York Times reported at the time, would be to once again allow “states, if they choose, to prosecute abortion as murder.” President Reagan got behind the strategy, but legal scholars called the bill unconstitutional. NRLC and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops continued to favor the constitutional amendment strategy, doubting that the Helms-Hyde bill would hold up in the courts.

By that time, however, it became clear that a constitutional amendment and the Helms-Hyde personhood bill weren’t going anywhere in Congress, and proponents had already started focusing on other strategies to turn back the tide on abortion rights.

In 1975, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops had developed a plan to turn every diocese into an anti-choice political machine and to use its existing infrastructure to set up an office in every congressional district. The bishops’ plan included a four-pronged legislative strategy, which continues to guide the anti-choice movement today:

(a) Passage of a constitutional amendment providing protection for the unborn child to the maximum degree possible.

(b) Passage of federal and state laws and adoption of administrative policies that will restrict the practice of abortion as much as possible.

(c) Continual research into and refinement and precise interpretation of Roe and Doe and subsequent court decisions.

(d) Support for legislation that provides alternatives to abortion.

In other words: fight for an amendment to undo Roe, but at the same time work through the courts and legislatures to make it harder for women to access legal abortion. While Roe would remain the law of the land, women would not be able to actually exercise their rights.

Part of this strategy involved targeting public funding for abortions. Frederick Jaffe, Barbara Lindheim and Philip Lee explained in their 1981 book "Abortion Politics":

The new strategy was outlined by RTL [Right to Life] leader Randy Engel, who urged restrictive riders on “any and all federal legislation related directly or indirectly to health,” in order to keep the abortion issue visible and build support. She argued that the efforts to win interim legislation would provide antiabortion workers with political experience, would educate the public, and would force members of Congress to go on record one way or the other. Not least important, she added, this strategy would require the forces supporting abortion rights to expend time, effort and resources in opposing riders.

One of the early victories of this strategy was the 1976 passage of the Hyde Amendment, a rider to the health and human services spending bill that prohibited Medicaid from funding abortions for low-income women. The Hyde Amendment was a victory, but it provoked yet more squabbling within the anti-abortion rights movement.

When it was first passed, the Hyde Amendment contained one exception: for abortions that could save the life of a “clearly endangered” pregnant woman. But because it was attached to a spending bill, the Hyde Amendment had to be renewed annually. The next year, after a lengthy legislative deadlock, Congress kept the exception for saving a woman’s life and added additional exceptions for ensuring a woman’s long-term health and for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The 1977 compromise allowing abortion funding for rape and incest survivors — which has been modified several times since then — was a setback for anti-choice hardliners, but the anti-abortion rights movmement's leaders continue to celebrate the Hyde Amendment’s repeated renewal. In 2013, on the amendment’s anniversary, National Right to Life crowed that “over one million people are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment.”

But Daniel Becker, a longtime personhood activist and founder of the new Personhood Alliance, sees it differently. “The Hyde Amendment,” Becker wrote in his 2011 book on the personhood concept, “damaged the very fabric of our mission. No longer would the lofty rhetoric of ‘sanctity of all human life’ and ‘the personhood of the unborn’ be embodied in a strategy to achieve those protections. The prolife movement had a seat at the political table, but contented itself with crumbs.”

In 2007, the anti-choice movement achieved another seeming victory that was divisive in its own ranks. The Supreme Court, which now included George W. Bush appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito, reversed a previous decision and upheld the 2003 ban on a specific procedure that the anti-choice movement had labeled “partial birth abortion.”

Linda Greenhouse wrote in the New York Times that the decision, Gonzales v. Carhart, was a “vindication” of the anti-choice movement’s strategy of pursuing a “partial birth” ban after the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey made a more sweeping victory look unfeasible: “By identifying the… procedure and giving it the provocative label ‘partial-birth abortion,’ the movement turned the public focus of the abortion debate from the rights of women to the fate of fetuses.”

As with the congressional fight over abortion coverage in Medicaid, abortion rights opponents hoped to use the debate over so-called “partial birth” abortion, an exceedingly rare procedure, to keep attention on their efforts to end legal abortion entirely.

But not everybody in the anti-choice movement was thrilled. In fact, the decision that was widely seen as a victory for the anti-choice movement brought into the public eye a long-simmering split in the movement.

Six weeks after Gonzales was handed down, a coalition of anti-abortion groups, including the Colorado chapter of National Right to Life, took out a full-page ad in newspapers around the country attacking Focus on the Family founder James Dobson for supporting the ruling.

One Denver pastor in the group, Bob Enyart, accused mainstream pro-life groups of fundraising off a strategy that “has no authority to prevent a single abortion” because other procedures could be used in place of the banned operation. Colorado Right to Life President Brian Rohrbough told the Washington Post, “What happened in the abortion world is that groups like National Right to Life, they're really a wing of the Republican Party, and they're not geared to push for personhood for an unborn child — they're geared to getting Republicans elected. So we're seeing these ridiculous laws like the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban put forward, and then we're deceived about what they really do."

As the Post noted, NRLC’s detractors started referring to the group as the “pro-life industry” — a term intentionally reminiscent of the anti-choice movement’s “abortion industry” epithet for abortion providers, implying that those groups had sold out and cared more about their fundraising than their mission. (Several years later, Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia was using similar rhetoric to question the group’s motives.)

A week later, leaders of Colorado Right to Life confronted the board of NRLC at its annual meeting, attacking its “immoral and failed anti-abortion strategy.” Enyart told the board, in a speech secretly recorded by Colorado Right to Life:

We’ve provided cover to pro-choice politicians, even Democrats, who would say, ‘I’m not an extremist, I supported the partial-birth abortion ban.’ We wasted 15 years while 20 million kids — 20 million kids — have died. We’ve spent a quarter of a billion dollars as an industry for a ban that does not have the authority to save one life. You guys are worried about what’s growing in Colorado. I’ll tell you what’s growing in Washington, D.C. It’s called the abortion weed. Child-killing regulations — that’s what National Right to Life is really good at — child-killing regulations prune the abortion weed and sanction its root.

National Right to Life promptly voted to kick the Colorado group out of the organization. Colorado Right to Life then hired an Abraham Lincoln impersonator to accost conference-goers with a revised version of the Gettysburg Address: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...no exceptions!"

It was around this time that the “personhood” strategy began to see a national reemergence in the public eye, and along with it a legal theory that had long been dismissed even by leaders in the anti-choice movement.

The next post in this series will look at the debate within the anti-choice movement on how to best confront Roe v. Wade in the courts.

Jindal: Liberals Want Us To Pretend 'It's A Good Thing To Kill Journalists'

During his Wednesday interview on “The Steve Deace Show,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal repeated his criticisms of Muslim faith leaders who denounced the recent attacks in Paris, insisting that their condemnations didn’t go far enough because they didn’t specifically say that the perpetrators are going to Hell. Maybe he missed the statements saying just that, or he is simply moving the goalposts so he can continue to score political points at the expense of a frequently demonized minority.

Nonetheless, Jindal made clear that as president, he plans to “hunt down, exterminate and kill” Islamists, which he, unlike President Obama, will apparently do by ignoring political correctness.

“He can’t seem to find the words ‘terrorism’ or ‘radical Islam’ in his vocabulary; he continues to think of this as a criminal act, that is not what this is,” Jindal said. “Other people want to tiptoe around the truth, they can do that if they want but I’m not going to do it anymore. We cannot be intimidated by the left or all of these liberals who don’t want us to speak about this. The reality is, we can pretend like it’s not happening, we can pretend that it’s a good thing to kill journalists, to kill teenagers for watching soccer, to kill over 150 schoolchildren, to treat women as second class citizens, but it’s not.”

Jindal said extreme Islam “sees weakness in the West and is trying to attack that weakness. According to Jindal, the radicals “use our freedoms to undermine our freedoms,” and liberals are letting them do it with political correctness and multiculturalism: “that’s not immigration, that’s invasion.”

GOP Rep: Ban Abortion To Lift God's Curse Off Of America

On Wednesday, Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., called into conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio show to promote the House GOP’s 20-week abortion ban, a bill which was supposed to be brought up for a vote on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade but was scuttled after several members raised concerns about the bill’s language regarding rape.

The congressman told the “InfoWars” host that abortions after 20 weeks are “partial birth abortions,” which is actually a specific procedure banned by a 2003 law, and called on Republicans to rally around the bill.

Alex Jones was positively thrilled: “If we get rid of this abortion industry, I think the curse that is on this country, and who can deny that we are under a curse, will be lifted. Who can kill 55 million babies and get away with it? It’s just unbelievable.”

“I agree,” Rep. Jones replied.

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