Americans United for Life

Right Wing Round-Up - 12/2/14

Why Tennessee's Anti-Choice Measure Won, While Colorado's And North Dakota's Went Down In Flames

Yesterday, voters in Tennessee approved a ballot measure amending the state constitution to remove all legal protections for abortion rights, paving the way for state lawmakers to pass broad abortion restrictions. At the same time, voters in Colorado and North Dakota overwhelmingly rejected “personhood” measures that would have given the full rights of citizenship to zygotes, thereby criminalizing all abortion along with some forms of birth control. In Colorado, where the nation’s foremost personhood advocacy group is based, it was the third time such a measure had been rejected by voters.

Yesterday’s results are the product of a split among the anti-choice movement about how to achieve the goal of criminalizing all abortions. While most of the movement shares this end-game, its leaders are bitterly divided over the best strategy to achieve it.

The nation’s largest and best-funded anti-choice groups, including National Right to Life, Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List, favor an incremental approach to chipping away at the protections guaranteed in Roe v. Wade. The incremental strategy has had tremendous success in recent years as measures on the state level have forced scores of abortion clinics to shut their doors. Women in Cincinnati, for instance, still have a legal right to an abortion. But thanks to a recent law aimed at shutting down abortion providers, they may soon lose access to the city’s only clinic that provides the service.

And even in North Dakota, although zygotes won’t be given the legal rights of people (at least for the time being), anti-choice activists are targeting the state’s sole abortion provider, which was struggling to keep its doors open and was recently banned from administering medical abortions.

The personhood movement is angry at mainstream anti-choice leaders for being willing to accept “compromise” legislation that includes exceptions for survivors of rape and incest. But it also thinks that the incremental strategy won’t work. Instead, personhood advocates seek to take advantage of a loophole in Roe v. Wade by which, they believe, if a zygote or a fetus is defined by law as a legal person, Roe’s abortion protections will fall. Groups pushing the so-far unsuccessful personhood ballot measures have allies in this strategy in some far-right judges, most notably on the Alabama Supreme Court, who are trying to build a legal framework for undermining Roe.

On the electoral level, the personhood strategy’s biggest flaw may be it is just too honest about the goals of the anti-choice movement. While Americans are fairly evenly split between those who call themselves pro-choice and those who choose the label pro-life, 70 percent want to keep Roe v. Wade and only 24 percent want to overturn it. Americans have muddled views about circumstances under which they think abortion should be legal, but know that they don’t want it to be completely criminalized.

Groups like Americans United for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List know this and have stayed far away from personhood measures. When a Mother Jones reporter asked AUL for a comment on North Dakota’s measure, a spokeswoman replied, “AUL does not handle personhood issues.”

But other national groups have supported these measures. While National Right to Life’s affiliate in Colorado opposed that state’s measure , saying it would be “immediately overturned in court,” the national group’s North Dakota affiliate backed its state’s even more extreme measure. And while Colorado Republican senator-elect Cory Gardner ran away from the personhood issue, both of North Dakota’s senators supported the ballot measure in their state. The Family Research Council’s North Dakota affiliate also got behind the measure in its state, along with the state chapter of Concerned Women for America and the North Dakota Catholic Conference.

And despite the unpopularity of their bills at the ballot box, personhood advocates still have a strong hold in Congress, where “life at conception” bills have 22 sponsors in the Senate and 133 in the House.

But in the end, even as anti-choice Republicans won handily in Colorado and North Dakota, the personhood measures went down in flames, leading the proponents of the Colorado proposal to rejoice that they at least lost less badly than they had in the past.

The victory of the measure in Tennessee — which will allow legislators to broadly cut off access to abortion rights without explicitly criminalizing abortion — shows that, for now, the incrementalists’ strategy is winning. Even voters in dark-red states like North Dakota can’t stomach a bill that outright criminalizes all abortions. But the anti-choice movement’s strategy to approach the same goal through different means is, so far, working.

Americans United For Life Takes Credit For One-Third Of New Anti-Choice Laws

Americans United for Life — which acts as sort of the ALEC of the anti-choice movement — sent an email to supporters today taking credit for a full one-third of the spate of state-level restrictions on abortion access that have been passed around the country since 2010.

AUL President Charmaine Yoest writes:

I just received a greatly encouraging report for our Americans United for Life (AUL) legal experts. As you may know, there has been a surge in pro-life laws since 2010. Our legal experts tell me that one third of these laws were enacted as a result of AUL’s legislative work—work we were able to do thanks to you!

Can you believe that? One Third! This equates to 74 life-affirming laws we were able to enact because of you.

You know as well as I do that we don’t have nearly the budget, staff or resources of the multi-billion dollar Big Abortion Industry. But Big Abortion is running scared. And they should be. At AUL, we have the best strategy, the best legal minds, and the truth on our side! We are already seeing the life-saving results.

Rest assured, we will win this country back for Life… and we are winning even now…but we need your help today to keep advancing.

The Guttmacher Institute reported in January that more state-level abortion restrictions were enacted in 2011-2013 than in the entire previous decade. This is in a large part due to the incredible success of the anti-choice movement’s incremental approach to pushing restrictions that it claims protect women’s health, but which are in fact meant to close abortion providers and cut off access.

AUL has been at the center of this effort, offering “model legislation” to legislators, much of it aimed at slowly chipping away at abortion access.

Another Anti-Choicer Admits Real Purpose Of TRAP Laws

The latest issue of Rolling Stone has a great article by Janet Reitman about the anti-choice movement’s new embrace of incremental measures to “chip away at reproductive rights in a way that will render Roe's protections virtually irrelevant.” We also covered this strategy in depth last year in our report, “ Chipping Away at Choice.”

Reitman discusses how anti-choice groups, most prominently Americans United For Life, are pushing incremental state-level measures that are billed as “health and safety” protections for women, but are really meant to carve away at the legal foundations of Roe in the long term and close abortion clinics and reduce access in the short term. Just this week, AUL released its annual handbook for lawmakers, which is full of legislative proposals for “TRAP” -- targeted regulation of abortion providers -- laws that limit access to abortion without directly challenging Roe.

One flaw in this strategy is that it relies on the anti-choice movement to radically change its talking points on abortion. AUL, for instance, rarely talks about outright criminalizing abortion. Instead, they talk about “ protecting women” from the “abortion industry” by over-regulating abortion clinics and forcing women to jump through hoops before terminating a pregnancy.

But not everyone in the movement has such message discipline. Troy Newman of Operation Rescue, a radical anti-choice group, told Reitman that he had changed his tactics to embrace TRAP laws because “ I want to win.” Last year, Phil Burress, a main proponent of an Ohio bill that required abortion providers to have “admitting privileges” to a local hospital, admitted that the goal of the bill was to put abortion clinics “out of business.” Last month, a pastor who said he was behind a similar admitting privileges bill in South Carolina, said the purpose was to regulate clinics so much that it makes abortion unaffordable to the average woman.

Now we can count Phyllis Schlafly among the anti-choice activists who haven't fully digested AUL’s new talking points. Last week Schlafly discussed the anniversary of Roe v. Wade with AUL’s Clark Forsythe, who deftly deployed his group’s messaging about “helping women to understand the short-term and long-term risks of abortion.” But Schlafly was having none of it. Instead, she announced that she recommends states pass “admitting privileges” bills because such laws  had closed clinics in Missouri and Texas and are “one of the most effective means of reducing abortion."

Forsythe: I think the way forward is, it has to be multi-faceted. We have to continue to press in politics and elect the right Senate, elect the right president. We have to continue to work through public policy in the states. We have to continue to educate about the impact on the unborn child from abortion, but as well the impact on women. And I think moving forward, getting the public to understand, helping women to understand the short-term and long-term risks of abortion based upon a growing body of international data, international medical data, is key toward turning around public opinion and influencing the Supreme Court.

Schlafly: And we do recommend the state law that says nobody can do an abortion unless he has hospital privileges within 30 miles – that’s about an hour’s drive. And that’s closed the biggest abortion clinic in Missouri and it’s closed about 30 in Texas, and it’s one of the most effective means of reducing abortion.

Anti-Choice Columnist Calls Out Fellow Religious Right Activists For Israel Hypocrisy

Religious Right activists often claim that they will never be silent about “Nazi” abortion rights …that is, unless those rights exist in Israel. We noted last week that Israel’s decision to expand public funding for abortion coverage was met with crickets from many American anti-choice groups that also embrace Christian Zionism and accuse President Obama of being unfriendly to Israel.

These organizations, of course, would have erupted with rage if the Obama administration had even contemplated implementing a similar policy.

In a column today, a writer at the conservative Catholic website Aleteia calls out U.S abortion rights opponents for responding to Israel’s new policy “with little comment or condemnation,” wondering if they either “missed the story” or think “abortion in Israel just doesn’t matter.”

Aleteia’s Mark Gordon writes that in order to be consistent, the same anti-choice movement that demands a ban on government funds for abortion coverage and groups like Planned Parenthood in the U.S. should also call for the end of U.S. aid to Israel: “American taxpayers should not be put in the position of underwriting the culture of death. But if that’s true of Obamacare – and it is – then shouldn’t it be true for American foreign aid?”

American pro-life and pro-family groups responded to the December announcement with little comment or condemnation. Lifesitenews.com chose to run an anodyne report on the policy change, but not editorialize. The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), whose mission is to “defend life and family at international institutions and to publicize the debate,” had nothing to say. The same was true for National Right to Life, Priests for Life, the American Life League and most others.

Dr. Charmaine Yoest, head of Americans United for Life, did note in a statement that “Unborn lives are rich with possibilities and worth saving and government should never be used to harm life and harm women.” The Family Research Council’s Arina Grossu agreed, saying, “No government should invest its money into killing its own citizens.” She also predicted that Israeli government funding would only result in more abortions in that country.” On the other hand, Liberty Counsel, “an international nonprofit litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family,” told its members on January 9, “there has never been a more critical time for you to show your support to Israel and its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu!” Either someone at Liberty Counsel missed the story or abortion in Israel just doesn’t matter.

Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, declined to comment, but perhaps that’s understandable. In addition to his pro-life work, Smith is a charter member of the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF). Formed in 2006, IAF is a kind of institutional link between the US Congress and the Israeli Knesset. Smith, a Catholic, is also the House sponsor of a wonderful bill titled “The Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2013.” The measure is intended introduce much-needed transparency to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. If passed, Smith’s bill would force insurers to notify their insured whether abortion is or isn’t covered, and whether any surcharges or other fees are used to pay for abortions. In presenting his bill, Smith wrote, “Obamacare’s abortion mandate violates federal law and makes taxpayers complicit in the culture of death.”

Smith is right, of course. American taxpayers should not be put in the position of underwriting the culture of death. But if that’s true of Obamacare – and it is – then shouldn’t it be true for American foreign aid? Israel receives about $3 billion each year from American taxpayers. About 74% of that is returned to the United States in the form of contracts with American weapons manufacturers. But given the fungible nature of money, and since Israel would buy weapons with money from its own treasury in the absence of aid, the current arrangement amounts to American funding of Israeli abortions.

Yoest: Royal Baby Coverage Proves Media's Pro-Choice Bias

Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest visited the Mike Huckabee Show today to discuss yesterday’s “March on the Media,” an event organized by the anti-choice group Live Action to protest a perceived pro-choice bias in the media.  Yoest told Huckabee that the media displayed a pro-choice bias in its coverage of the birth of Kate Middleton’s pregnancy, because they referred to the future prince as “the royal baby” rather than “the royal fetus.”

AUL Report Highlights Rift in Anti-Choice Movement

The anti-choice movement has for several years been experiencing a quiet rift over extreme state-level measures would ban all abortions – and in some cases, in vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control – in a head-on challenge to Roe v. Wade. As Personhood USA and Janet Porter gain more and more success in pushing “personhood” and “heartbeat” bills at the state level, national pro-life groups who oppose the laws for strategic reasons find themselves in a bind.

In March, when North Dakota passed a “heartbeat” bill which would ban nearly all abortions in the state and strike directly at Roe v. Wade, it also passed two narrower measures banning abortion based on genetic abnormalities or the sex of the fetus. The national anti-choice group Concerned Women for America praised heartbeat the bill,  while Americans United For Life issued press releases that ignored the bill and praised the narrower measures. National Right to Life went even further, actively speaking out against the North Dakota bill and similar “heartbeat” measures in other states.

In an article for the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly this week, Americans United For Life’s senior counsel, William Saunders, lays out his fears of what would happen if the Supreme Court were given the opportunity to reconsider Roe v. Wade. While he praises the “admirable and inspiring” efforts behind the trio of new abortion restrictions in North Dakota, Saunders warns that a direct challenge to Roe will give the Supreme Court a chance to rewrite their 1973 decision on more solid “equal protection” footing.

Instead, he argues, anti-choice activists should target incremental measures at wearing away the opposition of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to uphold the so-called “partial birth” abortion ban in Gonzales v. Carhart. “Can the statute be fashioned so as to make it as easy as possible for him (and the others) to go the one step (or two or ten) further than Gonzales in restricting abortion?,” he asks.

Taken together, these three laws provide significant food for thought.

While the persistent efforts of pro-life Americans at the state level are admirable and inspiring and must be encouraged, how does one evaluate the wisdom of any particular proposed (or enacted) law? First, I suggest, one must recognize the legal realities—what kinds of statutes will the courts certainly overturn? Of course, this is not to say that the courts should govern this matter. In fact, the usurpation of the political process by courts is, in my view, unconstitutional itself and should be resisted. However, if we know a law will be overturned by a court, we should consider the risk of such a decision. At least one significant risk is that the Supreme Court, in overturning a law, will entrench “abortion rights” more firmly in constitutional jurisprudence, perhaps under an “equal-protection”-based right, as Justice Ginsburg and three colleagues wanted to do in the Gonzales dissent.

Sad as it is to consider, Gonzales was decided by only one vote, that of Justice Anthony Kennedy. The opinion he wrote for the majority, while speaking of the right of the legislature to choose among divided experts in fashioning law and while recognizing that abortion harms at least some women, did no more than uphold the outlawing of one abortion procedure when others were available. Is such a person likely to uphold a ban on all abortions at any point in pregnancy? If so, what rationale for doing so (what basis) is likely to appeal to him? Can the statute be fashioned so as to make it as easy as possible for him (and the others) to go the one step (or two or ten) further than Gonzales in restricting abortion? Might a statute with a ban (or limit) early in pregnancy lead him to “protect” the “abortion right” and vote with Ginsburg and her colleagues in favor of a firm affirmation of a “constitutional” right to abortion? Is it better to move the ball gently, seeking to build momentum for the ultimate reversal of Roe/Doe, or to force the issue with a broad and early ban? While reasonable people can differ on the answers to these questions, the consequences of a possible forty more years of unlimited abortion due to another Casey-like decision by the Supreme Court counsels for very careful consideration of what prudence requires.

Anti-Choice Group Using Gosnell Trial to Push TRAP Laws

The anti-choice group Americans United for Life is using the trial of Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell – accused of infanticide and causing the injury and death of several women in his care – to push for “TRAP” laws meant to shut down safe abortion clinics.

TRAP – “targeted restrictions on abortion providers”—laws are a favorite tool of anti-choice activists trying to work their way around Roe v. Wade. Passed under the guise of improving care for women, they are in fact aimed at shutting down abortions providers by burdening them with onerous and unnecessary regulations. A TRAP law in Virginia forced a respected 40-year-old abortion clinic to close this month. Last year, Mississippi passed a TRAP law aimed at shutting down the state’s only abortion clinic.

And this is exactly what Americans United for Life wants more of. In a press release today, AUL president Charmaine Yoest presents two model state-level TRAP measures, falsely claiming that her group “has led the nationwide effort to combat the reality of legalized ‘back-alley’ abortions”:

"For more than a decade, Americans United for Life has led the nationwide effort to combat the reality of legalized 'back-alley' abortions, advocating for meaningful and comprehensive regulation and oversight of abortion clinics.  And legislators across the country are responding to AUL's call to protect women from substandard abortion clinics and providers.  Over just the last three years, eight states have enacted new comprehensive abortion clinic regulations or made significant improvements to existing regulations.

"Commonsense regulations must be a national priority. Enacting medically appropriate and comprehensive abortion clinic regulations is a critical and sensible solution to the on-going problem of unsafe, legal 'back-alley' abortions, which is now better understood as a result of the horrific revelations in the Gosnell trial.  These regulations are designed to safeguard against unsanitary conditions, inferior equipment, and the employment of unsuitable and untrained personnel.  They are also intended to put an end to substandard medical practices that injure and kill untold numbers of women each year."

Of course, these laws do nothing to prevent back-alley abortions or “safeguard” women’s health. Instead, they serve to force safe clinics out of business, forcing women into unsafe practices like Gosnell’s. Gosnell’s squalid and dangerous clinic was the last refuge for many low-income women in Philadelphia. Yet AUL and its allies are trying to exploit the Gosnell story to make it even harder for women to access safe abortion care.

Komen Crisis Reveals Breathtaking Hypocrisy of Anti-Choice Activists

Komen Crisis Reveals Breathtaking Hypocrisy of Anti-Choice Activists On Friday, we reported on how Religious Right groups reacted furiously to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation’s move to roll back their decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood under the excuse that they won’t work with groups under federal investigation — as Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) opened a politically charged investigation into the women’s health organization.

Many Americans were perplexed by a move that would terminate potentially life-saving healthcare for tens of thousands of women in order to cater to the “pro-life” movement and few knew that for years the anti-choice community has campaigned and criticized the Komen foundation for its partnership with Planned Parenthood. So-called “pro-lifers” regularly attacked Komen for giving grants to Planned Parenthood to provide clinical breast cancer screenings and mammogram referrals for women who may otherwise not be able to obtain them since they are uninsured or underinsured and may not have a primary care provider.

However, while anti-choice activists congratulated themselves for pushing Komen to end their partnership with Planned Parenthood, they attacked people who criticized Komen’s decision for their “bullying,” “mafia shakedown” and “gangsterism.”

Two major groups that claimed credit for having Komen cut its ties with Planned Parenthood are now attacking supporters of Planned Parenthood for doing similar advocacy work.

Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Young Nance called Komen’s initial decision a “major victory for the pro-life movement” and boasted that “CWA helped usher in” the investigation which Komen used as an excuse to end its work with Planned Parenthood. But on Friday, Nance denounced the “mafia-style shakedown of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.”

Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest also released a blistering statement on the “ugly and disgraceful shakedown” of Komen and Planned Parenthood’s “scorched-earth strategy”:

As a breast cancer survivor, I am troubled that the Komen Foundation has come under such heavy fire for their recent decision to tighten and focus their funding guidelines. This week we have all been witness to highly partisan attacks from pro-abortion advocates and an ugly and disgraceful shakedown that highlights Planned Parenthood’s willingness to pursue a scorched-earth strategy to force compliance with their pro-abortion agenda.

Contrast that with what Yoest said in support of Komen’s initial decision to defund Planned Parenthood:

As a breast cancer survivor, I applaud the decision made by the Komen Foundation to discontinue their partnership with the billion-dollar, abortion mega-provider, Planned Parenthood. The work of the Komen Foundation has life-saving potential and should not be intertwined with an industry dealing in death. When I learned that the foundation was using donated funds to support abortion providers, I stopped running in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. In the future, I’ll be racing with them to support this courageous decision.

Komen says it is halting its funding of Planned Parenthood due to public pressure from pro-life groups and the impending Congressional investigation of the abortion giant. According to a report from the Associated Press, “Many of the allegations [which sparked the Congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood] were outlined in a report presented to Stearns last year by Americans United for Life, a national anti-abortion group, which urged him to investigate.” [emphasis mine]

See that? The “public pressure from pro-life groups” on Komen and the AUL-inspired Stearns investigation was a great achievement, but advocacy to convince Komen to reverse their decision is “scorched earth” politics.

For Yoest, dubbed “the woman who got Komen to defund Planned Parenthood,” and other anti-choice zealots, the only acceptable advocacy work allowed is their own. AUL has now shut down and scrubbed their Team Life group for an upcoming Komen-sponsored marathon. But when opponents of Komen’s move to cutoff Planned Parenthood dollars did the same, AUL derided their “ugly and disgraceful” tactics.

Share this page: Facebook Twitter Digg SU Digg Delicious