Chris Smith

Trump Names 'Pro-Life Advisory Council' In Attempt To Reassure Anti-Choice Movement

Donald Trump’s campaign has given the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody a sneak peek at the members of a “pro-life advisory council” that the candidate is set to introduce today. Earlier this month, Trump sent a letter to “pro-life leaders” laying out a number of promises that he would make to their movement and announcing that Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the anti-choice electoral group Susan B. Anthony List, would spearhead the new anti-abortion coalition for his campaign.

Trump has given the anti-abortion movement some serious heartburn during his campaign as he’s continually reshaped his position on the issue and bungled their talking points, including at one point saying that women should face “some form of punishment” for abortion if the procedure is recriminalized. But since earning the Republican nomination, he’s started to win over many skeptical anti-abortion leaders with promises to appoint Supreme Court justices who share their views and to help them dismantle Planned Parenthood.

Brody writes that the full list released today “may indeed give comfort to those remaining evangelicals who are having a tough time making their way to the voting booth this Election Cycle.” Indeed, while Trump has attempted to say different things about abortion rights to different audiences, this new coalition shows that he is ready to go all-in with a movement that ultimately wants to ban the procedure without exception.

On the new list of Trump’s anti-choice allies are a number of legislators who have taken the lead on fighting abortion rights in Congress, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who led the House select committee investigating Planned Parenthood, Rep. Diane Black, Rep. Trent Franks and Rep. Chris Smith. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is on the list, as is Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.

Also joining the new coalition are Religious Right activists including Tony Perkins and Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council; Gary BauerRalph Reed; the American Principles Project’s Frank Cannon; Bill Dallas of United in Purpose; Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance; C-FAM’s Austin Ruse; and Ed Martin, head of the late Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, who is apparently sympathetic to many of Trump’s views.

The list also includes anti-abortion activists Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union, Kristan Hawkins of Students for LifeAlveda King and Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, and former Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest, who now works for Bauer’s American Values.

Dannenfelser has made no secret of the fact that she eventually wants to ban abortion without exception (except for a narrow exemption for saving a woman’s life) and her group opposes some common forms of birth control, claiming that they cause abortions. Many of the activists in Trump’s new coalition have similarly extreme views and are confident that Trump will let them have their way.

Ruse, who works at the United Nations to attempt to stop the adoption of language friendly to LGBT equality and reproductive rights, has declared, for instance, that “comprehensive sexuality education” is “a phrase created in the pits of hell by wicked individuals who wanted to undermine the family and ultimately destroy any institution that stands between the family and the state.” After meeting with Trump earlier this year, Ruse said that the GOP candidate “doesn’t care about” reproductive rights and therefore will “let our side do exactly what we want to do.”

Others have presented different reasons for supporting Trump. Priests for Life’s Pavone, who has said that legal abortion is worse than terrorism, has been somewhat lukewarm about Trump but has argued that Trump’s promises on abortion overcome any other faults he might have.

In response to a caller to a Catholic radio program who said that Trump’s stances on things like nuclear warfare and going after the families of suspected terrorists aren’t exactly pro-life, Pavone said that the potential of Trump dropping an atomic bomb is less dangerous than the certainty of Hillary Clinton continuing the “raging holocaust” of legal abortion. On another radio program, Pavone argued that it is more important that a candidate be “right on abortion” than on “poverty, immigration, war and peace, homelessness [and] health care.”

Pavone, after Trump said he supported punishing women who have abortions, floated the possibility of legal punishments for abortion “accomplices,” such as the person who brings a woman to a clinic.

Pavone’s Priests for Life colleague, Alveda King, also has some extreme views on reproductive rights, including alleging that “chemicals and things” in birth control make women infertile and that Planned Parenthood gives women contraception in order to give them breast cancer.

Other activists in Trump’s coalition have been leaders of the effort to chip away at abortion access by attempting to regulate abortion providers out of existence. When Yoest was at Americans United for Life, she was at the forefront of what she called this “stealth strategy” of “trench warfare and gaining ground under the radar.”

World Congress of Families Culture Warriors Battle Repro, LGBT Rights In Europe With Help From US Friends

This is one in a series of posts about the upcoming World Congress of Families gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah. Read our introduction to the World Congress of Families here.

Americans have long viewed Europe as a stronghold of progressive social policies. But as BuzzFeed’s Lester Feder reported last year, there is a resurgent Religious Right political movement in Europe whose advocates draw moral, strategic, and financial support from their allies in the United States, including the American Center for Law and Justice, Alliance Defending Freedom and Personhood USA.

In Europe the culture war is taking the form of attacks on sexual and reproductive health and rights — even sex education — or what conservative Catholics and their allies collectively deride as “gender ideology.” Right-wing groups are active at the European Union, Council of Europe, European Parliament and other international institutions. The ACLJ’s European branch led the signature drive for the “One of Us” campaign — an anti-abortion effort that used a new European Citizens Initiative process. The initiative was rejected but the organizing that went into it has energized anti-choice activists — the Knights of Columbus called it “the revitalization of Europe.”The World Congress of Families facilitates this reactionary cross-fertilization with conservative groups from around the world.

Earlier this year, the Croatia-based Center for Education, Counseling and Research (CESI) released a report on the growing threats to sexual and reproductive health and rights in the European Union which also documented global connections among conservative groups and activists.  Also this year, voters in Slovakia passed a referendum to put a ban on marriage by same-sex couples in the country’s constitution, an effort supported by American groups including the WCF, Alliance Defending Freedom, CitizenGo, Personhood USA, and the World Congress of Families. Several years ago, many of the same people signed a petition supporting Romania’s constitutional amendment on marriage, which stated that “equating same-sex couples with families can only weaken the natural family — which does society’s vital work of procreation and childrearing.”

The World Congress of Families meeting in Salt Lake City next week features a number of speakers who are intimately involved in this push to restrict access to abortion and prevent advances in LGBT equality.

As we noted in an earlier post, WCF will honor Luca Giuseppe Volonté of Italy’s Novae Terrae Foundation and Andrea Williams of UK’s Christian Concern. Williams, who allies with Alliance Defending Freedom, has encouraged Jamaica to continue criminalizing same-sex intimacy. Volonté, who is affiliated with a variety of right-wing groups, says conservatives in Europe are resisting marriage equality because they experience it as a “totalitarian” ideology.

Another speaker is Ignacio Arsuaga, the founder of CitizenGo and HazteOír, groups designed to bring online organizing techniques to European culture-war conservatives.  HazteOír made a name for itself mobilizing protesters against liberalized abortion legislation in Spain in 2010, and hosted the 2012 World Congress of Families in Madrid. In 2013 his group bused supporters into France to support anti-marriage-equality protests there.

Arsuaga’s CitizenGo is affiliated with ActRight, created by Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. Brown joined CitizenGo’s board in 2013.  Brown has backed anti-gay efforts in France and Russia and participated in events designed to strengthen ties between Europe’s right-wing and Putin’s Russia. As BuzzFeed’s Feder reported last year,

Arsuaga, Volontè, and La Manif Pour Tous President Ludovine de La Rochère were all in Washington on June 19 to support the National Organization for Marriage’s March for Marriage. Their more important business, however, might have been in a closed-door summit the next day, where representatives of around 70 countries met to discuss creation of an International Organization for Marriage, according to Volontè and another participant. 

Also participating in the Salt Lake City WCF will be Lech and Ewa Kowalewski, anti-abortion activists affiliated with Human Life International and the Polish Federation of Pro-Life Movements. They denounce the “contraceptive mentality” — for them even “natural contraception” is a contradiction because “contraception is never natural.” In 2014 they toured the U.S. as part of a worldwide “pro-life pilgrimage.”  They were on the International Planning Committee for World Congress of Families VI in Madrid.

Another participant is Maria Hildingsson, Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe, which the Catholic News Agency said last year is “the only independent organization clearly registered in the EU as Catholic.” It rejects “an individualistic conception” of human rights that is says are supported by “hegemonic powers which tend to impose their partial views on developing countries within the international economic and political arena.”

Hildingsson opposes promotion of “gender ideology” and opposed the marriage equality referendum in Ireland. Her group worked with a global coalition of conservative groups to oppose an inclusive definition of family in the United Nations during deliberations on sustainable development goals. This summer, she met with Orthodox Church leaders from Europe and Russia to strategize against efforts by the European Union that aim, in the words of a report on the meeting, “to destroy the traditional notions of marriage and family and to legalize surrogate motherhood and abortion.”

Another speaker, Silvio Dalla Valle, works with the Association for the Defense of Christian Values, which is “inspired by the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church” and works in Italy and Eastern Europe.  He was on the planning committee for Moscow meeting that took place last year without the formal sponsorship of WCF but with participation by WCF staff and allies,and spoke last year at a WCF regional event in Bolivia. Dalla Valle is a co-founder of and legal adviser to the Osservatorio della Cristianofobia (Observatory on “Christianphobia”) a project to lobby the United Nations and European institutions to take a strong stance against persecution and discrimination against Christians. He received a “Global Leadership Award” from the Howard Center, the World Congress of Families’ parent organization, in 2010.

Lola Volarde, director for UN affairs at the Institute for Family Policy, is also participating. Volarde’s group promotes “natural family” policies in Latin America in addition to its work at the European Union level, and it opened its delegation to the UN in 2013. You can see Velarde speaking in Mexico last year.

Arsuaga, Velarde and Brian Brown are all on board of the Political Network for Values, a group launched last year that brings together advocates and elected officials from around the world to work for legal protection for life “from its moment of conception” and advocate for policies the promote marriage as “an institution between a man and a woman.” The group also declares its opposition to “the tyranny of relativism” and euthanasia.

Last month, the Political Network for Values held a summit in Washington, D.C. which was sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Institute for Family Policy, CitizenGo and others. The network says the regional summit “brought together in Washington DC more than 70 policy makers from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guatemala, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, Spain, Hungary, Kenya and the United States.” The group was addressed by three members of the U.S. Congress, Jeff Fortenberry, Chris Smith and Vicky Hartzler, who talked about the “fight for religious freedom in the U.S.”

 

US Congressman Headlining Conference Defending Ireland's Abortion Ban

Rep. Chris Smith, the New Jersey Republican who is a leading proponent of U.S. engagement in international social conservative causes, is scheduled to headline a conference in Ireland tomorrow aimed at preserving the country’s laws criminalizing abortion.

The theme of the conference, organized by the Irish anti-abortion group Pro-Life Campaign, is the defense of Ireland’s Eighth Amendment, which introduced a constitutional ban on abortion. Abortion is outlawed in Ireland unless a pregnant woman’s life is in danger, but even in those cases, doctors can be hesitant to operate for fear of running afoul of the law. According to a recent Amnesty International report, at least 4,000 Irish women travel to other countries each year to obtain safe and legal abortion. Others have faced harrowing experiences where they are “essentially forced to wait until their condition deteriorates sufficiently in order for doctors to justify a medical intervention.”

A movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment has been growing since the 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar, a woman who was denied a life-saving abortion in an Irish hospital. Ireland’s recent vote to legalize marriage equality has encouraged those hoping to liberalize the country’s abortion laws.

Silencing Women, Threatening Their Rights: Attacks on Choice and Preventive Care

January 22, 2011 marked the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This landmark ruling, along with the earlier Griswold v. Connecticut, recognized a constitutional right to privacy and protected a woman's right to make reproductive decisions based on her own life, health, and conscience. Ensuring that women are trusted to make those decisions is a cause that stills needs our support all these years later. Choice and preventive care are once again under siege in Congress.

To Hell with Health Care Reform: Religious Right Leaders Attack Obama, Spout GOP Dogma about "Socialism" While Fanning Flames on Abortion

Much of the Religious Right's organizing energy has been devoted to incendiary and false claims about the administration's alleged stealth plan to force every health plan to cover - and force all doctors to provide - abortion services. None of these approaches are actually included in the plans working their way through Congress. In fact, anti-choice members of Congress are using health reform to institute a new nationwide abortion ban in private insurance plans taking away coverage women already have.
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