Susan B. Anthony List

Anti-Abortion Activists Begin To Fall In Line Behind Donald Trump

UPDATED

In January, as Iowans prepared to cast their votes in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, several women leaders in the anti-abortion movement wrote an open letter urging Republicans in the state to “support anyone but Donald Trump.”

The activists, including Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser and Concerned Women for America CEO Penny Nance, wrote that Trump “cannot be trusted” to advance their anti-abortion policy goals or to nominate Supreme Court justices who would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade. They went on to describe his record of “disparaging” remarks about women:

Moreover, as women, we are disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women, in particular. He has impugned the dignity of women, most notably Megyn Kelly, he mocked and bullied Carly Fiorina, and has through the years made disparaging public comments to and about many women. Further, Mr. Trump has profited from the exploitation of women in his Atlantic City casino hotel which boasted of the first strip club casino in the country.

America will only be a great nation when we have leaders of strong character who will defend both unborn children and the dignity of women. We cannot trust Donald Trump to do either. Therefore we urge our fellow citizens to support an alternative candidate.

Trump further angered anti-choice leaders when he strayed far from the movement’s carefully scripted talking points and suggested that if abortion is outlawed, there would have to be “some sort of punishment” for women who seek the procedure illegally. It didn’t help when Trump proceeded to change his position on the matter several times over the following few days, including at one point saying that he doesn’t want to change abortion laws, and then declared a few weeks later that he wanted the GOP to change its platform to support abortion rights for women who have been raped or whose life is at risk.

Now, as Trump becomes the presumptive Republican nominee, the anti-choice movement has to decide whether to take its chances with him.

Nance, sounding distraught, told a radio interviewer this morning that a third party presidential candidacy was out of the question and that the choice was between Trump and a “devastating” Hillary Clinton presidency.

Dannenfelser, who once said that Trump “disqualified himself as the GOP nominee” when he said that the abortion laws “are set” and “we have to leave it that way,” signaled that she was ready to pivot her message yesterday when she wrote a blog post praising Trump for making “a huge pro-life hire” in John Mashburn, a former staffer to North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis and someone whom Dannenfelser described as an ally to the anti-abortion movement.

“Congratulations on your new hire, Mr. Trump,” Dannenfelser wrote. “If elected, no doubt John Mashburn will serve you well as you fulfill your campaign promises to defund Planned Parenthood, advance and sign into law the popular Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and appoint Justices to the bench who will protect and defend the Constitution.”

Mashburn previously worked for right-wing groups such as the American Civil Rights Union and the Carleson Center for Public Policy.

In the end, the game for anti-choice groups comes down to the Supreme Court. A coalition of leading groups have unified behind a campaign pressuring Republican senators to keep up their blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Just yesterday, the Susan B. Anthony List, CWA and Iowa Right to Life delivered a petition to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, urging him to continue to refuse to hold hearings on a Supreme Court nominee until the next president is sworn in.

Their hope, it seems, is that a candidate they are “disgusted” by and “cannot trust” will win the presidency and at least give them a Supreme Court pick who will advance their agenda.

And while Trump is the candidate whom they have repeatedly painted as a worst-case scenario, these activists must be relieved that he has outsourced the duty of selecting future Supreme Court justices to the anti-choice Heritage Foundation.

UPDATE 5/5/16: The Washington Times reports that the Susan B. Anthony List and Priests for Life will both be supporting Trump. Priests for Life's Frank Pavone explained that when it comes to the Supreme Court, "the difference here is between doubt and certainty.”

Between Mr. Trump and likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — the only presidential candidate ever endorsed by Planned Parenthood — Father Frank Pavone says the decision is easy.

Fr. Pavone said his group will work to convince pro-life activists to support Mr. Trump in the general election.

“Withholding support [from Mr. Trump] at this point is in effect support for Hillary,” he said. “Sometimes people might feel like, ‘I feel better in my conscience because I didn’t cast a vote for him and I didn’t cast a vote for Hillary either.’ [But] you can influence the election by not voting.”

Mallory Quigley, director of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, said her group will also support Mr. Trump, citing his campaign promise to defund Planned Parenthood and support for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of fertilization.

“I think achieving these goals would be a huge accomplishment, bigger than any pro-life advancement that we’ve seen in our lifetime,” Ms. Quigley said, adding, “We’re expecting Trump to be a man of his word and follow through, just as he would on any issue.”

Clarke Forsythe, acting president and senior counsel for Americans United for Life, would not commit to supporting Mr. Trump in the general election, but said supporting Mrs. Clinton — whose position on abortion he compared to the North Korea regime’s — is untenable.

Mr. Forsythe said in a statement that AUL “will be carefully and closely watching Donald Trump between now and election day, to see whether he lays out pro-life policies as well as to learn what his recommendations will be for the GOP party platform.”

...

But following the death of former Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Fr. Pavone said Mr. Trump is now the pro-life movement’s last, best hope of retaining a majority on the bench.

When it comes to the Supreme Court, Donald Trump has mentioned Scalia as a model,” he said. “Well, that’s music to our ears, naturally. We know what we’re going to get with Hillary. Even if people have doubts about what kind of people Donald Trump would nominate, the difference here is between doubt and certainty.”

Fr. Pavone said Mr. Trump is not the ideal pro-life candidate, but added that a healthy dose of pragmatism is necessary in any election.

“You don’t compromise on your goals or your principles,” he said. “At the same time, you look at the situation and you say, ‘How far can we go in these circumstances?’ Well, either one or the other is going to be president, so we want the better of the two.”

“We know 100 percent where Hillary Clinton stands,” Ms. Quigley noted. “She supports abortion up until the moment of birth for any reason. She has yet to name a single instance in which she would stand in and protect the life of the child, even sex-selection abortions, abortions for disability, up until the very moment of birth.

“We’ve made the judgment that this is what we need to do.”

Grassley Promises Anti-Choice Activists He'll Hold The Line Against Garland

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined a conference call of anti-abortion activists hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List last night to assure them that he would continue to hold the line and refuse to hold a Judiciary Committee hearing on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland.

Also joining the call were Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, who delivered an opening prayer.

Grassley told the activists that when someone asked him for an update on the nomination last week, he said that “an update would suggest that something has changed” and that he still intends to block any nominee until the next president takes office.

He said that preventing “another liberal” from joining the Supreme Court was necessary to keep “even the reasonable restrictions on abortion that have been enacted into law through the democratic process” from being “swept away.”

Grassley cited a recent National Right to Life poll which he said found that “about 80 percent of Americans don’t believe that abortions should be available after the first trimester.” (It was more complicated than that.)

“But we know that justices who embrace the view that the Constitution is a living document don’t share that view that you and I share,” he said. “The American people, through their elected representatives, should be making these policy decisions, not unelected judges. These are life-and-death issues that we’re fighting for. They show just how important this fight over who’s going to fill Scalia’s seat is.”

In response to a question from SBA List president Marjorie Dannefelser, Grassley suggested that news reports characterizing Garland as moderate are a misleading ploy by the media (one that, if he was correct, he himself and some of his Republican colleagues would be in on).

When Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were nominated, he said, “always in these headlines at the time they were nominated, that adjective was the word ‘moderate,’ just like Garland. Well, we know how those four have turned out. So don’t believe what you read in the press about people’s basic philosophy, because they got it all wrong and probably intentionally all wrong.”

When Dannenfelser asked Grassley to respond to the argument that the Senate is neglecting its job by refusing to even consider Garland’s nomination, Grassley repeated his claim that it would actually be a waste of taxpayer money to give Garland a hearing.

“Well, we could have a hearing, we aren’t going to have a hearing, but let’s just suppose we could have a hearing,” he said. “And I know 52 people, at least 52 in the Senate, aren’t going to approve it. So you have a hearing and you spend a lot of taxpayers’ money gearing up for it, you spend a lot of time of members, a lot of research that has to be done by staff, and then it ain’t going to go anyplace.”

“It’s like getting dressed up for the prom but you don’t get to go,” Dannenfelser said.

Trump's 'Punishment' Comments Have Caught Anti-Choice Leaders Flat-Footed

Donald Trump’s recent comments — since walked back — about the need to have “some form of punishment” for women who have abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned, even though those women would be forced to “illegal places” for the procedure, caused the anti-choice movement to go into damage control as all of its carefully honed talking points were dismantled by the man who may be their presidential candidate.

And it turned out that anti-choice leaders are so used to deflecting tough questions about the results of recriminalizing abortion that, when forced to face those questions head-on, they don’t really have any good answers.

Yesterday, Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the Susan B. Anthony List, attempted to deflect concerns about women seeking illegal abortions if Roe is overturned by claiming, unbelievably, that illegal abortion wouldn’t be a problem because desperate women would be won over by anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers instead.

Then, today, Clarke Forsythe, a longtime attorney for Americans United for Life who is now apparently serving as the organization's acting president, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times explaining that women need not worry because, if Roe is overturned, abortion will still be legal in many states. Those states that then want to enact abortion bans, he writes, will probably do it in a way that exempts women from prosecution:

The claim that women will be jailed for abortion when Roe is overturned rests on a second myth: that the Supreme Court's change of heart will result in the immediate re-criminalization of abortion.

But if Roe were overturned today, abortion would be legal well into the second trimester in at least 42 to 43 states tomorrow (and likely all 50 states) for the simple reason that nearly all of the state abortion prohibitions have been either repealed or are blocked by state court versions of Roe.

Extensive practical law enforcement experience in many states, over many years, is what led prosecutors not to target women. After Roe is overturned, that experience will certainly be influential with state policymakers who wish to effectively enforce abortion law.

Because we recognize that abortion is bad for both mother and child, pro-life leaders do not support the prosecution of women and will not push for such a policy when Roe is overturned. (Obviously, like Trump, any single legislator can spout their idiosyncratic ideas.)

Forsythe also argues that in states that did recriminalize abortion after the overturning of Roe, any criminal penalties on women would probably not be enforced because women who have abortions have traditionally been seen as a “victim” of “male coercion”:

Before the Supreme Court's 1973 decision in Roe vs. Wade — which legalized abortion for any reason, at any time of pregnancy — state abortion laws targeted abortionists (those who performed abortions), not women.

The states understood that the point of abortion law is effective enforcement against abortionists; that the woman is the second victim of the abortionist; and that prosecuting women is counterproductive to the goal of effective enforcement of the law against abortionists.

Since time immemorial, the law has recognized that male coercion, abandonment or indifference has been at the center of most abortions.

Granted, as many as 20 state statutes technically made it a crime for the woman to participate in her own abortion. But these were not enforced.

Forsythe is one of the most thoughtful legal strategists working in the anti-abortion movement today. And the best answer he can come up with to the question of what would happen to women if Roe were to be overturned tomorrow is that abortion wouldn’t actually be recriminalized in many places and even in places where it was, lawmakers would probably spare women.

Of course, the anti-choice movement’s entire goal is to ban the procedure nationwide.

Donald Trump’s comments on abortion were terrifying. But the GOP frontrunner did a public service by exposing that, when it comes to the tough questions about banning abortion, anti-choice groups are completely unprepared.

Anti-Choice Leader Offers Dubious Strategy For Preventing Back-Alley Abortions

Leaders of the anti-abortion movement were not pleased with Donald Trump’s comment yesterday that if abortion is recriminalized, there would have to be “some form of punishment” for women who illegally seek the procedure. The movement has spent years building a narrative that restrictions on abortion are meant to protect women, something that Trump managed to blow up with one comment.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the leader of the anti-abortion campaign group Susan B. Anthony List, went on NPR this morning in an effort to do damage control, telling “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep that “the pro-life movement has never, for very good reason, promoted the idea that we punish women.”

“The aims of the pro-life movement are focused on the woman and the child,” she said, “and to take them together as a goal, as an end, is to preserve both, is what it’s been from the beginning.”

When Inskeep asked Dannenfelser about Trump’s comment that this plan to ban abortion would send women back to “illegal places” for the procedure, Dannenfelser said that Trump doesn’t know “about what is ready and where we are prepared for rolling back abortion laws.”

If abortion were to be banned nationwide, Dannenfelser claimed, women in desperate situations would turn to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers rather than the back alley.

Such centers are typically staffed by volunteers, not medical professionals, and many have been found to give misinformation to women.

“As you know, abortion laws are nonexistent pretty much up to the birth of the child,” she claimed. “If those children are allowed to live and a woman is in need of help, there are hundreds of pregnancy care centers across the country, millions of people ready to come to her aid. So, no, I don’t believe that that’s necessary at all, and we’re far more ready now than we were before Roe to help women in situations like that.”

Inskeep asked if dangerous back alley abortions wouldn’t still be the “reality” in “some cases.”

“If a woman feels that that is where she’s been driven, she hasn’t been reached by someone who says, ‘I will help you,’” Dannenfelser insisted. “There’s always a dreadful possibility that something terrible would happen, no matter what a law is, but is incumbent upon the pro-life movement and Americans in general to help a woman who is in that type of need.”

Dannenfelser, who supports banning all abortion with no exceptions, can’t seriously believe that crisis pregnancy centers armed with anti-abortion activists would solve the problem of dangerous illegal abortions. Before Roe, when states had a patchwork of abortion laws, women with resources could often obtain a safe hospital abortion, while too many women without money and connections turned to self-induced abortions or illegal providers. According to a Guttmacher report:

While the problem of unintended pregnancy spanned all strata of society, the choices available to women varied before Roe. At best, these choices could be demeaning and humiliating, and at worst, they could lead to injury and death. Women with financial means had some, albeit very limited, recourse to a legal abortion; less affluent women, who disproportionately were young and members of minority groups, had few options aside from a dangerous illegal procedure.

Conservative Groups Double Down On SCOTUS Obstruction

After President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court today, conservative groups quickly doubled down on their calls for Senate Republicans to block any person the president nominates to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Although a handful of senators are now hinting that they may be willing to at least meet with Garland — who has won praise from Republicans in the past — conservative groups have reiterated their demands that the GOP block his nomination.

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice issued a statement repeating his call for “no confirmation proceedings until after the election.” Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver similarly repeated that there should be “no Senate hearing on any Obama nominee.” Concerned Women for America announced that “President Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court does not change the fact that the Senate needs to continue to do the proper thing by fulfilling its role of ‘advice and consent’” — by which CWA means blocking a nominee.

Alliance Defending Freedom’s Casey Mattox offered no criticism of Garland himself but claimed that the Obama administration is untrustworthy and so Garland’s nomination should be blocked: “The Obama administration has demonstrated it cannot be trusted to respect the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits of its own authority. So it should be no surprise that the American people would be highly skeptical that any nominee this president puts forth would be acceptable.”

Heritage Action, which was calling for an end to most judicial and executive branch confirmations even before Scalia’s death, declared that “nothing has changed” with the nomination of Garland and that we areone liberal Justice away from seeing gun rights restricted and partial birth abortion being considered a constitutional right.”

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council similarly tried to paint Garland as a liberal, saying he is “far from being a consensus nominee,” although he offered no specifics about the “serious questions” he said there were about Garland’s “ability to serve as a constitutionalist.” Kayla Moore, who heads the Foundation for Moral Law, the group founded by her husband Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, also opted for vague and dire warnings, saying that Americans “may very well lose our rights” if Garland is confirmed.

Anti-abortion groups also doubled down on their opposition to any confirmation proceedings, while at the same time struggling to find specific reasons to oppose Garland.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life didn’t bother to criticize Garland at all, writing instead that this is “no time for a lame duck President to push through a judge for a lifetime appointment.” (Never mind that Obama, with nearly a year left in his second term in office, is not a lame duck president.)

The Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser wrote:

This changes nothing. We do not know this nominee but we do know Barack Obama. Anyone he nominates will join the voting bloc on the Court that consistently upholds abortion on-demand. The President should not be permitted one last opportunity to stack the Court with pro-abortion Justices.

Meanwhile, Americans United for Life dug up this one unconvincing piece of opposition research:

Consider that Judge Garland spoke at a gathering celebrating Linda Greenhouse’s book on Justice Harry Blackmun, Becoming Justice Blackmun. He described the release of the papers of the late Justice Blackmun—the author of one of the Supreme Court’s worst decisions, Roe v. Wade—as a “great gift to the country.”

Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman said his group would oppose any nominee who does not publicly “renounce Roe v. Wade”:

"Millions of lives hang in the balance of each ruling on abortion put forth by the Supreme Court. I refuse to support any nominee - Republican or Democrat - that will not renounce Roe v. Wade and commit to restoring legal protections to the pre-born," said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue.



"I strongly urge the members of the Judiciary Committee to hold fast to their promise, for the sake of the future of our country and the future of our posterity," said Newman. "The Senate Republican leadership cannot afford to break this important promise to their conservative, pro-life base, if they expect us to vote for any of them ever again."

Gun groups also came out swinging against Garland, with the National Rifle Association claiming that he “ does not respect our fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms for self-defense” and Gun Owners of America colorfully calling on the Senate to “bury this nomination and write ‘Dead On Arrival’ as its epitaph.” Both groups based their objections on Garland’s vote, as a D.C. Circuit judge, simply to rehear an important gun rights case.

The Judicial Crisis Network’s Carrie Severino — who previously called Garland a “best case scenario” Obama nominee to the Supreme Court — has been relying on thesame flimsy criticism to attack Garland.

We’ll update this post with more reactions as they come in.

This post has been updated.

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.

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. 

Anti-Choice Movement Placing Its Hopes In 2016 Election

Anti-choice groups, which were unable to sneak any anti-Planned Parenthood measures into a spending bill this month, are placing all their hopes in the election of an anti-choice president in 2016.

Jackie Calmes at the New York Times explains how an upcoming House vote on stripping funding from Planned Parenthood, which President Obama is expected to veto, is designed to show that defunding Planned Parenthood could be achieved with a Republican president:

Carol Tobias, the president of the National Right to Life Committee, wrote in an email: “We won’t be able to remove federal funds from Planned Parenthood while this president is still in office. But we do have a pathway when(!) a pro-life president is elected.”

Showing that pathway is the purpose of the House vote, tentatively scheduled for next Wednesday, on a so-called budget reconciliation bill. The measure includes provisions to ban funds for Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act. House Republicans’ expected approval of the bill, which the Senate passed early this month, would send it to Mr. Obama.

The president has promised a veto. But congressional Republicans say the effort will show they can pass such conservative priorities over Democrats’ opposition — and get them signed into law once a Republican president is elected. They hope Mr. Obama’s veto will elevate the issues of Planned Parenthood and abortion rights more broadly in the 2016 election debate as the parties contend for control of the White House and the Senate. Yet for several vulnerable Senate Republicans from Democratic-leaning states, the less their party says about the issues, the better.

Susan B. Anthony List, the major anti-choice electoral group, has been pushing this messaging around the House vote. SBA List’s Jill Stanek wrote in a December 17 fundraising email:

As we learned from the reconciliation fight to defund Planned Parenthood, we CAN advance pro-life legislation through the Senate… but the veto pen of a pro-abortion president remains our biggest road block.

Only when we elect a pro-life president (and retain our pro-life majorities in Congress), can we get a bill defunding Planned Parenthood signed into law.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

President Obama is likely to veto the recent reconciliation bill defunding Planned Parenthood as soon as it gets to his desk.

Hillary Clinton would be no different, which is why we must work to advance pro-life candidates and ensure a pro-life candidate wins the White House.

Carly Fiorina Promises To Nominate Anti-Choice Supreme Court Justices

In a conference call with anti-abortion activists last night, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina promised that, if elected, she would “nominate pro-life justices” to the Supreme Court along with signing a budget defunding Planned Parenthood and pushing through a national 20-week abortion ban.

“Here’s what I will do and here’s what I want people to hold me accountable for,” she said on a conference call hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List's Marjorie Dannenfelser and Priests for Life's Frank Pavone. “If President Obama vetoes our attempts between now and the election — which, unfortunately, sadly, he may — I will deliver a budget that defunds Planned Parenthood. I will nominate pro-life justices. I will get the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protect Act passed.”

When she ran for Senate in California in 2010, Fiorina said that abortion rights would not be a litmus test for her votes on Supreme Court nominees.

Fiorina, who has come under fire for a series of falsehoods on the campaign trail, including repeatedly describing a video of Planned Parenthood that does not exist, also told participants that her main strategy for handling hostile questioning is to always “speak the truth.”

“You know, the truth shall set you free,” she said. “We all know this, we read it in the Bible. The truth shall set you free.”

“Don’t worry so much about finding exactly the right words, if that’s what you’re worried about,” she advised. “Worry about, concentrate on speaking the truth. Speak what you know to be the truth. that’s a powerful thing, it’s always a powerful thing, and that’s what I will keep doing. No one is going to frighten me into silence.”

Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List, has made no secret of her admiration for Fiorina, telling call participants that Fiorina is a model candidate for her organization, which largely endorses female candidates opposed to abortion rights.

Anti-Abortion Groups Target GOP Congresswoman For Expressing Concern About Rape Survivors

Anti-choice Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina became public enemy number one of the anti-abortion movement earlier this year when she helped sink a planned vote on a 20-week abortion ban — the top priority of many anti-choice groups — because she feared the legislation’s harsh treatment of rape survivors could turn off young voters.

Now, it appears that the anti-choice movement’s collective rage at Ellmers has kept her off of a House special committee investigating Planned Parenthood — which she had aggressively lobbied to join — and is fueling a number of primary challengers in her home state.

Ellmers was conspicuously absent from a list of Republican members of the Planned Parenthood investigative committee released today, after anti-choice groups — such as the Susan. B Anthony List, which had previously endorsed her lobbied to keep her off the committee.

On top of that, LifeSiteNews yesterday assembled an impressive collection of quotes from anti-choice leaders vowing to oppose Ellmers in a primary:

"Congresswoman Renee Ellmers has betrayed the pro-life community," said the North Carolina Values Coalition. The American Principles Project's founder shared, "I hope that Ellmers will be subjected to a strong primary challenge in the next election by someone who is genuinely pro-life and that our movement to protect the lives of unborn children at all stages and in all conditions will now move forward." National Right to Life said, "If you can't vote for such a humanitarian no-brainer of a law to protect the unborn, you can't be trusted to vote for any pro-life legislation."

"We need to send a message loud and clear to all 'pro-life' representatives who ask for our vote, but who betray the lives of vulnerable unborn babies when they get in office: If you vote or work behind the scenes to allow the slaughter of abortion to continue, you will hear from pro-life voters loudly and clearly at the polls," National Right to Life president Carol Tobias said.

Dr. James Dobson, author and founder of Focus on the Family, commented, "Conservatives will know Rep. Renee Ellmers best for her opposition to the Marriage Protection Amendment, her sponsorship of the radical Equal Rights Amendment, and for withdrawing her sponsorship of the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act."

Ambassador and former presidential candidate Alan Keyes released a statement about Ellmers, saying that she is "a faithless Representative, favored by political bosses, who must be removed from office if decent politics is to prevail."

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, which has been training Republican candidates to avoid talking about rape when talking about their opposition to abortion rights, was furious at Ellmers for “creating a firestorm on an issue that this was never about, that this was about rape” and said back in January that if Ellmers got a primary challenger, “she deserves it.”

Meanwhile, Ellmers is desperately trying to remind her constituents that despite having once expressed concern about rape survivors, she still very much opposes abortion rights.

Anti-Choice Leader To Planned Parenthood: 'What About Men’s Health?'

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the influential anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List, dismissed the women's health gap in an interview with a West Virginia radio show on Tuesday, saying that Planned Parenthood’s talk about women’s health care is just “gender-based, grievance-oriented politics” and that “real women who truly love what womanhood really is” want “equal rights” for men, including a focus on “men’s health.”

“It’s as if men or other people don’t even matter,” WVHU radio host Tom Roten told Dannenfelser in a discussion of Planned Parenthood. “It just seems like a way to get to people is to talk about ‘women’s health, women’s health, women’s health.’ What about the females who are being aborted? What about those women and their health?”

“Yeah, equal rights for unborn women,” Dannenfelser responded. “But, look, I’m with you, Tom. I love men! What about men’s health? I mean, do we have anything to say about men’s health and the particular health problems that men have? Do we ever talk about the ‘men’s gap’ when we’re moving into an election? I mean, real women who truly love what womanhood really is have enough confidence to go ahead and also really love men and truly see that, yeah, really, equal rights. So this gender-based, grievance-oriented politics is something that I hope the Republican Party will not fall into.”

“I’m not going to pretend that women’s health issues aren’t riveting, but so equally are men’s,” she added. “But the things that are so easily manipulated are the emotions that lead to feeding the lies, and we cannot buy into this lie that somehow Planned Parenthood is the central distributor of women’s health in general, they’re simply not. They are a population-limiting organization, that’s in their 990s, that’s their mission, that’s who they are. They’re not centrally positioned to do much beyond that.”

Planned Parenthood’s 990 tax filings, for the record, do state the organization’s mission as “ensuring the provision of reproductive and complementary health care services.”

Planned Parenthood Vote Shows The GOP Can't Sidestep It's 'Definitional Problem With Rape'

The House today approved a bill that would block federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood for one year, unless the organization certifies that it will no longer perform abortions, something that it does not currently use federal funds for.

The vote, driven by a smear campaign from anti-choice extremists, was divided mostly along party lines, with the notable exception of Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who voted “present.” In a video statement, King explained that he didn’t think the House bill went far enough in attacking the “diabolical” Planned Parenthood, taking particular issue with the fact that the bill would allow Planned Parenthood to continue offering abortions for women who have survived rape or incest:

Leading anti-choice groups have been trying desperately to stop anti-abortion lawmakers from talking about abortion rights for rape survivors after disastrous comments by Missouri’s Todd Akin and Indiana’s Richard Mourdock helped to sink their respective 2012 Senate bids.

The Susan B. Anthony List’s Marjorie Dannenfelser, one of the most influential leaders in the anti-choice movement, held trainings to teach Republican politicians how to change the subject when rape comes up. Dannenfelser has been very clear that she opposes rape exceptions in abortion bans, which she has called “abominable,” “regrettable” and “ intellectually dishonest,” but will urge lawmakers to support a bill that has to contain such exceptions for political reasons.

But hard as Dannenfelser and her allies might try to get anti-choice lawmakers to shut up about rape, they face an uphill battle. Although most anti-choice activists oppose rape exceptions, a vocal portion of the movement believes that lawmakers should automatically reject any bill that includes such exceptions.

A 20-week abortion ban that passed in the House earlier this year and will be coming up for a vote in the Senate next week has been mired for years in anti-choice infighting about rape exceptions. Before a version of the bill came up for a House vote in 2013, Republican leaders scrambled at the last minute to add a rape exception to neutralize controversial comments made by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks.

In January of this year, the House was planning to vote on the bill to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but scrapped the plan after a coalition led by female Republican lawmakers objected to a provision that would have required rape survivors to report the crime to law enforcement. An exasperated Sen. Lindsey Graham told anti-choice activists the next morning, “I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape.”

After extensive negotiations, the House finally settled on a bill that includes an exception for rape survivors if they first undergo a 48-hour waiting period.

But, as Steve King’s “present” vote shows, as long as they’re spending time attacking abortion rights, the GOP is going to be stuck with what Graham called “this definitional problem with rape.”

‘Replacing’ Planned Parenthood – Minus Birth Control

Republican legislators and governors have dramatically restricted women’s access to abortion in recent years. Those successes have emboldened the anti-choice movement to pursue ever-more extreme goals, which is why we now see Republican presidential candidates vowing to grant full constitutional rights to a fertilized egg, and pledging to use the power of the White House to legally ban abortion in all circumstancesincluding rape, incest, or to save a woman’s life. The Religious Right’s relentless campaign to destroy Planned Parenthood is part of this broader effort to eliminate women’s access to abortion altogether — and the push to control and restrict women’s sexual autonomy and health care extends even further, to undermining access to birth control.

The current campaign against Planned Parenthood relies not only on the deceptively edited videos purporting to show wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood staff, but also on the dubious claim that women’s access to health care will not suffer because women can get health care at other clinics. In this mix are not only federally funded community health clinics, but also religiously affiliated networks of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) and medical clinics whose business model is to intercept women seeking information about abortion and provide them with misleading or one-sided information intended to talk them out of it. Many of those clinics, purporting to “replace” the care that women receive from Planned Parenthood, do not provide contraception.

Earlier this month, the conservative National Catholic Register asked, “Can National Pro-Life Health Centers Become the Cure for Planned Parenthood?” It was a reprise of an article from last year in which anti-choice activist Abby Johnson explained that upgrading crisis pregnancy centers into medical clinics was a strategic way to hurt Planned Parenthood by taking away some of the business it does in providing testing for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer screenings. Asked whether she thinks “these modern pro-life centers” could threaten Planned Parenthood, she responded, “Yes, absolutely. I think they are the No. 1 threat to Planned Parenthood.”

In July, the right-wing National Review published a collection of responses it received when it “asked some distinguished experts what would become of women’s health in a post-Planned Parenthood era.”

One of National Review’s respondents was Erika Bachiochi, an anti-choice attorney who edited a book that defends Catholic teaching on sex and marriage, including the church’s opposition to contraception.  Among the groups that Bachiochi says are “working heroically to replace Planned Parenthood” are Obria Medical Clinics and the Guiding Star project.

Obria Medical Clinics offer what the National Catholic Register calls “comprehensive medical care,” but that depends on your definition of “comprehensive.” The article states, “The affiliate agreement stipulates no contraception or abortion referral or things of that nature will be allowed.”

But Obria’s website is far from clear on this point, offering women who come to the site a section entitled “Contraception: A Variety of Choices.”

Before taking any contraceptive, it is important to understand how contraception works and what it could mean to your health to practice various forms of birth control. Understanding the different types of birth control options that are available is critical in making the best decision for you. It’s also valuable to understand how your body works and to track your monthly cycles. At Obria, our medical professionals are happy to go over information about available contraception methods with you and help you feel empowered.

Knowing that Obria does not provide or refer women for contraception makes this language seem a thin cover for anti-contraception propaganda CPCs have been known to provide.

The Obria Foundation seeks to transform CPCs into “life-affirming medical clinics” and hopes to expand from its base in Orange County, California into a statewide, then national network. Its website says it also teaches abstinence education. Obria lists the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as one of its partner organizations; it is also partnering with churches in Orange County, Florida, to raise funds and steer teenagers away from abortion providers by presenting them “with a Christ-centered perspective.” Obria founder Kathleen Eaton Bravo received a Distinguished Leader Award from the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List this year.

Another group praised by Bachiochi that is hoping to build a national network to “replace” Planned Parenthood is Guiding Star. Guiding Star describes itself as “a group of people who uphold Natural Law through the promotion of New Feminism.”

Guiding Star’s website explains that “New Feminism” discards the bad idea of “old feminism” that men and women are “interchangeable”— and replaces it by “viewing femininity through a lens of hope and joy.” They are working to establish “a nationwide family of Guiding Star Centers” that they say will “provide support for natural means of family planning, fertility care, childbirth, breastfeeding, and family life.” One thing Guiding Star clinics will not do is provide women with contraception, because Guiding Star believes that contraception and abortion “interrupt natural, healthy, biological processes and are not in the best interest of women and their families.”

Obria and Guiding Star are joining existing networks of crisis pregnancy clinics (CPCs) with similar outlooks on contraception. In last year’s National Catholic Register story, Johnson cited both Heartbeat International and Care Net as having models for centers who want to upgrade their medical services in order to pull patients away from Planned Parenthood.

Heartbeat International has a video online specifically saying that if Planned Parenthood is defunded, women can get care through “life-affirming” centers and clinics. The group, which says it has “supported, strengthened and started” 1,800 “pregnancy help organizations” globally), describes itself as broadly Christian: “All Heartbeat International policies and materials are consistent with Biblical principles and with orthodox Christian (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) ethical principles and teaching on the dignity of the human person and sanctity of human life.” But Heartbeat International’s position on contraception goes well beyond opposition to methods that it believes act as abortifacients, and therefore well beyond the understanding of many Protestant and Orthodox churches, not to mention most American Catholics:

“Heartbeat International does not promote birth control (devices or medications) for family planning, population control, or health issues, including disease prevention.”

Among the standards that clinics are required to adhere to in order to join the 1,100+ affiliates of the evangelical Care Net is this one:

“The pregnancy center does not recommend, provide, or refer single women for contraceptives. (Married women seeking contraceptive information should be urged to seek counsel, along with their husbands, from their pastor and/or physician.)”

That makes it clear that one goal of those creating and funding these clinics is restricting women’s sexual autonomy. As this month’s National Catholic Register story notes, “Obria and Guiding Star’s providers do not prescribe or refer for contraception; both abide fully by Catholic teaching on sexual ethics and fertility.” Adds Abby Johnson, a board member of the Guiding Star Project, “One of the really important things about pro-life medical centers is they can help women change their behavior.”

 

Scott Walker’s False Claim That America Shares His Anti-Choice Extremism

Miranda reported this morning on Mike Huckabee’s radical and dangerous plan to give fertilized eggs full constitutional rights by declaring them to be human beings. But Huckabee wasn’t the only one at last night's GOP presidential debate making extreme statements when it comes to women’s health care.

Fox’s Megyn Kelly asked Walker about his position that all abortion should be illegal, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of a pregnant woman.

Walker did not answer Kelly’s direct question of whether he would really let a woman die rather than have an abortion. Instead he declared his “pro-life” credentials and said, “I’ve said many a time that the unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of the mother.”

Of course, those “alternatives” don’t always exist, and the experiences of some women in Catholic hospitals make it clear that women’s lives are at stake when no-exceptions abortion bans are in place.

Walker asserted, “I’ve got a position that’s in line with everyday America.”

That statement is utterly false. Fewer than one in five Americans believes, like Walker, that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. A recent poll for Vox found that more than two-thirds of Americans would NOT like to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade. Kelly noted in her question that 83 percent of Americans believe abortion should be allowed to save a woman’s life.

Gallup reported in May that more Americans describe themselves as pro-choice than pro-life (50 – 44 percent). And even that question understates the depth of Americans’ support for women having access to safe and legal abortion. Researcher Tresa Undem told ThinkProgress recently that people in focus groups are stunned when presented with data about the range of attacks and restrictions on women’s health care:

“When you get in a focus group with people and you show them the entirely of the restrictions and exactly what’s going on, there is total outrage — it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in fifteen years of doing public opinion research,” she said.

Of course, last night’s debate was not the first time Walker has lied about his position on women’s access to abortion. In a television ad last year he said that an anti-abortion bill he was pushing “leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor,” which is basically the definition of being pro-choice. But in May, Walker explained to social conservative leaders that he was using purposefully deceptive language — in the words of anti-abortion activist Marjorie Dannenfelser, “using the language of the other side to support our own position” — a strategy she found impressive. “It’s the whole style of communication and content that you want to see moving into a presidential cycle that will make it different from 2012.”

I’m guessing that Dannenfelser was delighted by Walker’s “everyday America” line.

Dannenfelser: Shutting Down Planned Parenthood Will 'Liberate' Its 'Calloused' Employees

Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, told the “Point of View” radio program yesterday that anti-choice activists must take advantage of a new series of videos smearing Planned Parenthood to “stop all abortion” and “shut this organization down whose hearts are so calloused over.” Planned Parenthood’s employees, she added, “need to be liberated from what they are doing in a very Christian way.”

“The promises of our Constitution, our founders, the promises that we make each other when we say our Pledge of Allegiance, they should take us to a place where we can say we are just better than this, we can stop this,” she said. “We can stop late-term abortion, we can stop all abortion, but we can at least stop late-term abortion that even makes this possible. And we can certainly shut this organization down whose hearts are so calloused over, they need, they need something other than what they are doing, they need to be liberated from what they are doing in a very Christian way. And it happens over and over again with Planned Parenthood clinicians. So we have a moment here to seize.”

Anti-Choice Leader: Abortion Ban's Rape Exception Is 'Abominable' but Politically Necessary

Sen. Lindsey Graham is pushing for a vote on a 20-week abortion ban, similar to one recently passed by the House. While he has the support of major anti-choice groups including the Susan B. Anthony List, Americans United for Life and the National Right to Life Committee, some in the anti-choice movement are balking at a provision that exempts rape survivors if they undergo a 48-hour waiting period.

At a press conference yesterday, LifeSiteNews confronted Graham and some of the bill’s supporters about the rape exception, which SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said she accepted for political purposes even though it is “abominable.”

“No one should give up or give over a rape exception unless there is simply no chance of saving those other children,” she told the anti-choice outlet, adding that in drawing the line at 20 weeks, they’ve “excepted…most children” from the ban, but that “it’s a place that we can actually get the legislation through”:

Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser, who moderated the press conference and whose organization has been a prominent backer of the 20-week ban in its current form, said that she believes that rape exceptions are "abominable."

"I agree. I agree that the rape exception is abominable," she told LifeSiteNews. "I also know that with it, we were able to move forward, and we have the potential of saving 15,000 to 18,000 children a year. No one should give up or give over a rape exception unless there is simply no chance of saving those other children. I really believe that."

I also think that -- look at this bill, it's a 20-week bill. We left out every other child. We've excluded, and excepted, most children from this. So by the same argument, I reject that, but I also know that we've found a sweet spot that we can get common ground on, and it's a place where the country is, and it's a place that we can actually get the legislation through."

Dannenfelser told a conservative radio program after the House passed its version of the bill that she found the rape exception “regrettable,” “just wrong” and “completely intellectually dishonest,” but that politicians sometimes require them for “political” reasons.

Scott Walker To Anti-Choice Leaders: I Didn't Mean What I Said About Abortion Being Between 'A Woman And Her Doctor'

Last night, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker met with a few dozen social conservative leaders in Washington, including representatives of the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and the National Organization for Marriage, attempting to win them to his side if he decides to run for president.

According to people who attended the meeting, one subject that came up was a TV ad Walker ran last year in which he promoted his efforts to chip away at abortion access in his state, which, he said, would still leave “the final decision to a woman and her doctor.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, head of the Susan B. Anthony List, told the Weekly Standard that Walker explained to her that in the ad he was “using the language of the other side to support our own position” and that people who said he was trying to paint himself as more pro-choice than he was were quoting him “out of context”:

Walker's pro-life credentials have been questioned by one Republican rival because of a 2014 Walker TV ad in which the governor defended laws regulating abortion as “legislation to increase safety and to provide more information for a woman considering her options. The bill leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor.”

According to Dannenfelser, Walker brought up the ad during Tuesday's meeting and "explained his perspective on that — that using the language of the other side to support our own position is a good thing, but you can only do it if people aren't trying to call you out and quoting you out of context. And I actually liked the way he formulated this in general."

In an interview with the Daily Beast, Dannenfelser said that it’s just this sort of evasiveness on abortion rights that she’d like to see from other anti-choice GOP candidates:

Dannenfelser said Walker brought up his 2014 abortion ad before being asked.

“He felt very quoted out of context, very misunderstood,” she said. “He said there was a snippet of the ad used that did not convey the full meaning, and his communication was using the other side’s language but with the idea of forging common ground on ultrasound, because he’s a true believer on that.”

Walker signed legislation in 2013 requiring both that women seeking abortions get ultrasounds first and that the doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Dannenfelser said he defended his use of the phrase “leaves the final decision to a woman and her doctor” as a way of co-opting pro-choice rhetoric for the pro-life cause.

“To the extent that we use the other side’s rhetoric to undermine their positions, we’re better off,” Dannenfelser added.

She said she was impressed with Walker’s way of talking about abortion.

“It’s the whole style of communication and content of communication that you want to see moving into a presidential cycle that will make it different from 2012,” she said.

Here's Walker's "Decision" ad:

Anti-Choice Leader Admits Rape Exceptions Are 'Political,' Goal Is To Outlaw All Abortion 'From Conception'

A long-simmering debate within the anti-choice movement about whether anti-choice bills should contain exceptions for survivors of rape and incest emerged yet again in the recent debate over a House bill that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, had been bogged down twice in the past two years with internal disputes over a rape exception, and finally passed last week with a limited rape exception that included a 48-hour waiting period.

The bill’s rape exception split the anti-choice movement, which has been divided between “incrementalists” who want to ban abortion by gradually chipping away at access and legal protections and “immediatists” who want to swiftly declare that fertilized eggs and fetuses have the full rights of “personhood” under the 14th Amendment.

While some personhood leaders opposed the bill because of the rape exception, the main incrementalist groups, which oppose rape exceptions in principle but not necessarily in practice, lobbied behind the scenes to limit the rape exception while publicly supporting the final bill.

One of those groups was the Susan B. Anthony List, whose president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, spoke candidly about the political calculations behind rape exceptions in an interview Saturday with the Iowa conservative radio program Caffeinated Thoughts.

“Regrettably, there is a rape and incest exception” in the bill, she said. “It is the only way it was going to be allowed onto the floor by the leadership. I mean, I say regrettable, I really mean it. Any child at any stage should be protected from conception, and certainly at 20 weeks excepting anyone is just wrong.”

Host Shane Vander Hart told her that while he’d “love to see abortion completely outlawed and see some sort of a personhood amendment or a human life amendment,” he thought the 20-week ban did “move the ball forward.”

“Well, that’s why this is big,” Dannenfelser responded, adding that the 20-week bill shifted the debate to “talking about the child and his or her rights.”

Later in the interview, the program’s cohost Brian Myers asked Dannenfelser what it would take to make the GOP leadership realize that rape exceptions are “intellectually…inconsistent with the pro-life position.”

“It’s going to take winning,” she responded, citing anti-choice victories in the 2014 elections where “we had unapologetic pro-life people who didn’t talk about rape and incest.”

“I believe that it’s going to take winning the presidency for there to be a little more injection of courage, which will be required to understand the consistency of life that you’re describing,” she said.

“Do you think that at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about for a lot of those politicians, that they realize [rape exceptions are] an inconsistent position to take but they take it because they think it’s a political reality?” Myers asked.

“Yes. I think that’s why,” Dannenfelser agreed. “I think that they think they can’t get, that they will lose if they don’t. Most of them don’t believe in it in principle. Some do, which, as you say, is completely intellectually dishonest, but most of them don’t. And I think that sometimes, especially when you’re in that insular world on Capitol Hill that’s not in touch with reality, you make sacrifices that you don’t need to make.”

“I think you’re right,” she added. “It’s a political judgement. It’s not a principled judgement. And I think they made the wrong judgement, but we would have no bill at all and no 15,000 children saved if we had not allowed it to move forward with the exception.”

Interestingly, Dannenfelser held up Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as an example of “a joyful warrior going in there and boldly arguing” on the issue. Graham has said he’s “always had exceptions for the life of the mother, rape and incest,” even while acknowledging that opponents of exceptions are being “intellectually consistent.” She also recently wrote a glowing profile of presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who favors such exceptions.

House GOP Schedules Vote On 20-Week Abortion Ban That Still Includes Hurdles For Rape Survivors

Back in January, House Republican leaders cancelled a vote on a 20-week abortion ban, the top legislative priority of anti-choice groups, shortly before it was scheduled to take place on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. A group of more moderate anti-choice Republicans, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers, had objected to language that exempted rape survivors from the ban only if they had reported the assault to law enforcement first, which Ellmers said “further victimized the victims of rape.”

Anti-choice groups were furious and have been holding protests outside the offices of House Republican leaders demanding a new vote on the bill. It seems that they have now gotten their wish.

A number of outlets are reporting that the House leadership has scheduled a vote next week on the 20-week ban after months of negotiations about the rape exception. According to news reports, while the requirement that rape survivors file a police report is no longer in the bill, they are now required to present evidence that they “have received either medical treatment or licensed counseling at least 48 hours prior to the late-term procedure.”

According to LifeNews, the bill also includes an “informed consent” requirement that notifies women “of the age of her baby and the requirements under the law” and includes language making it easier to sue abortion providers.

The Weekly Standard reports that National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List are both behind the new version of the bill:

In 2013, the House passed the bill, called the “Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which included exceptions in the cases of rape, incest, and when a physical health issue endangers the life of the mother. But an effort to pass identical legislation in the new Congress was scrapped in January on the eve of the annual March for Life because some GOP members, led publicly by Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, objected to the bill's reporting requirement for late-term abortions in the case of rape. The bill required the crime to be reported to law enforcement officials at any point prior to performing a late-term abortion.

According to House Republicans, that requirement has been removed from the bill. Instead, the legislation requires abortion doctors to ensure that victims have received either medical treatment or licensed counseling at least 48 hours prior to the late-term procedure. With that change, the bill has assuaged the concerns of those Republican members while still garnering strong support of national pro-life groups, including the National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List.

“I’m proud we’ve gotten to a point where we found a consensus between our members and the pro-life groups out there,” said Rep. Diane Black of Tennessee.

The fact that there was a rape exception in the bill at all was the result of last-minute negotiations on a previous version of the bill after its sponsor, Trent Franks, made a Todd Akin-like remark about pregnancy from rape being rare. As we explore in our recent report on the “personhood” movement, rape exceptions are extraordinarily divisive within the anti-choice community. The National Right to Life Committee’s decision to support the Franks bill even with the narrow rape exception caused a number of state anti-choice groups to form a rival organization that pushes for “no exceptions” anti-choice policies.

Blogger Jill Stanek reports that one person involved in the negotiations on the current version 20-week ban told her, “This is the most complicated bill I’ve ever worked on.”

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