reproductive choice

African American Ministers on Hobby Lobby: Employers Shouldn’t Be Able to Dictate Women’s Health Decisions

WASHINGTON – In response to today’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the female clergy members of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Ministers Leadership Council released the following statement:

“In today’s Hobby Lobby decision, the men of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority took special pains to argue that companies can’t dictate all of their employees’ health decisions, just those about women’s health.

“This is a full-scale attack on women, and it’s unacceptable. Today’s ruling threatens to prevent countless women from accessing the reproductive health services they need. Women’s health decisions should be between them and their doctors, not them and their employers.

“As faith leaders, we are deeply concerned about the distortion of the concept of religious liberty in today’s decision. Allowing corporations to infringe on the rights of their employees in the name of religious freedom is not what our Constitution’s framers had in mind, and it’s not in line with our values as Americans.”

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PFAW Report Exposes Deceptive New Religious Right Strategy

WASHINGTON –  Right-wing groups that oppose advances in marriage equality and reproductive justice have increasingly embraced a new tactic to push their agenda: the claim that opposition to them on policy amounts to oppression of their religious beliefs. A new report from People For the American Way exposes how the anti-gay, anti-choice Religious Right uses false and misleading stories to portray itself as a victim of religious persecution and intolerance. 

The report, “The Persecution Complex: The Religious Right’s Deceptive Rallying Cry,” illustrates how Religious Right activists and elected officials have attempted to portray the increasing unpopularity of their stances on a number of cultural issues as evidence of oppression of their religious faith and represent themselves as the only holdouts in a society that is turning its back on moral values.

“Religious Right leaders hold themselves up as the victims,” stated People For the American Way’s President Michael B. Keegan. “This is a powerful talking point, even if not true. We need to expose these distortions for what they really are—an attempt to protect the Right’s ability to discriminate and push its policy preferences on the rest of us.”

The report explores a number of myths that have become widespread on the Religious Right, despite having little or no basis in reality:

  • Two middle school girls are forced into a lesbian kiss as part of an anti-bullying program
  • An Air Force sergeant is fired because he opposes same-sex marriage
  • A high school track team is disqualified from a meet after an athlete thanks God for the team’s victory
  • A Veterans Affairs hospital bans Christmas cards with religious messages
  • A man fixing the lights in a Christmas tree falls victim to a wave of War-on-Christmas violence
  • An elementary school student is punished for praying over his school lunch
  • A little boy is forced to take a psychological evaluation after drawing a picture of Jesus

None of these stories is true.

These unfounded stories feed into a narrative that portrays conservative Christians as the victims of LGBT rights, reproductive justice, religious pluralism and secular government. This narrative, in turn, has fueled the legislative and legal efforts to turn back any progressive advances.   

“Using the resonant rhetoric of religious persecution, bolstered by often-bogus stories of purported anti-Christian activities, the Religious Right has attempted to tip the balance away from pluralism and accommodation to a legal system that allows individuals and businesses to broadly exempt themselves from policies they disagree with,” the report states. “Even when that means trampling on the religious rights of others.”

Read the full report here.

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Supreme Court Won't Hear Abortion Rights Challenge

The Court won't review an Oklahoma court's ruling striking down limitations on how women can use medications to terminate early pregnancies.
PFAW Foundation

Survey Finds Choice Is Make-or-Break Issue for Virginia Women Voters

Reproductive choice is a central issue for women who otherwise might not vote in the Virginia gubernatorial election, a new NARAL survey finds.  This is not good news for Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli, who once described himself as “the most aggressive pro-life leader in the Virginia Senate.”

In a survey of 600 largely Democratic “drop-off” women in the state – those who have voted in presidential years but not in other years – choice was a make-or-break issue among pro-choice women, with 57% saying they “would never vote for anyone running for president who opposes a woman's right to have a legal abortion, no matter how much I agree with them on other issues.” It was such an important issue, in fact, that after hearing choice-based messaging about the race between Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli, pro-choice drop-off women became significantly more interested in turning out to cast a vote in the election.

Politico reports:

“They found that statements about Cuccinelli’s position on abortion had a bigger effect among this group than any other issue in generating both the level of support and intensity for Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. ‘Protecting a woman’s right to choose’ trumped health care, guns, transportation, spending and college affordability.”

And Cuccinelli’s track record on abortion rights is indeed bleak.  He pressured the Virginia Board of Health to pass a set of unnecessarily burdensome building regulations that threaten to close the majority of the state’s abortion clinics.  He supports the passage of radical “personhood” legislation giving fertilized eggs rights.  He attempted to defund Planned Parenthood in Virginia.  He has stated that his “ultimate goal” is to “make abortion disappear in America.”

Although Cuccinelli has tried to convince voters this year that his focus as governor would not be on social issues, he cannot hide his regressive, anti-choice beliefs from Virginia women who, according to the new data, will take their concern for protecting reproductive choice to the ballot box.
 

PFAW

Wendy Davis and the People’s Filibuster in Texas

Guest post from Robin Lane, alumni board member of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young People For program.

                Tuesday afternoon in Austin, I arrived at the Capitol and was swallowed in a sea of orange, ready to support Senator Wendy Davis and her filibuster of Senate Bill 5. Sen. Davis began by reading the testimonies of women who would be affected by SB5, limiting abortion rights in Texas, getting so emotional reading one woman’s story that she struggled to continue speaking through her tears. Senators Watson, Van de Putte, and West helped her buy time. We cheered every time we heard someone say, “Parliamentary inquiry, Mr. President.” The filibuster continued late into the evening.

                At 11:30, Sen. Watson had the floor. Sen. West requested that the motion to close the previous question be put into writing, “in as large a font as possible.” I couldn’t breathe. And then, Sen. Van de Putte made the comment that erupted the entire Capitol: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?”

                Sen. Duncan announced over the noise, “We will have to suspend the vote until the gallery is in order.” The clock ran out. At midnight, the auditorium erupted in cheers. But when all of the Senators remained in front of the podium, the cheers faded. Several news outlets reported that SB5 passed. Conflicting outcomes were coming in droves.

                A large crowd from the auditorium raced upstairs into the rotunda and the sight took my breath away – every inch was packed with people chanting. At around 2:15 AM, we heard a text message sent from Sen. Davis to an ally in the rotunda: Senate Bill 5 was officially dead. There was a request to sing, “The Eyes of Texas,” and the Capitol sang together. Someone raised a Texas flag on the rotunda floor. People were crying.

                I have never been so proud to call myself a Texan.

                Although I didn’t grow up in the Lone Star state, my mother did – and so did my grandmother, and my great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandfather. Texas is in my blood. I came to Texas after leaving the University of Pittsburgh, where I had been organizing for reproductive justice since 2007. I came because I saw so clearly how my issue intersected with the struggles of communities of color, low-income communities, immigrant communities, education justice, LGBTQ rights, environmental justice, and food justice – and I saw Texas as ground-zero for many of these battles. We won the battle, for now, on SB5 – but with Section 4 of the Voting Rights struck down, Texas immediately began advancing a discriminatory redistricting plan. A woman in San Antonio is in deportation proceedings after she took her sick child to the hospital. Senators Cornyn and Cruz continue to fight us on truly inclusive immigration reform. And on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry called another special session of the Texas legislature, set for July 1, to act on the sweeping anti-choice proposals.  Yes, we won this battle – but the war continues.

                Still, the victory at the Capitol this week inspired me to keep up the difficult work of organizing in the state of Texas – from now until the next election, and beyond.

PFAW

After Heroic All-Day Filibuster Foils Anti-Choice Bill, TX Gov. Rick Perry Calls ANOTHER Special Session to Continue Attack on Women

It’s been a chaotic week for the Texas legislature, but the drama isn’t over. Following state Senator Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster of a bill that would limit Texas women’s access to abortion, Governor Rick Perry has called yet another special session to push the legislation through.

The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy – with no exceptions – and would place burdensome requirements on abortion providers, effectively shutting down all but five clinics in the state.

Sen. Davis filibustered the legislation for more than twelve hours and, with the aid of hundreds of protesters, effectively blocked Senate Bill 5 from passing the Senate and reaching the governor’s desk before midnight. Davis was championed around the country as a political celebrity standing, quite literally, for women’s rights. People For the American Way recognized Davis’ efforts, encouraging members to sign a note of appreciation and support.

However, her victory may be short lived.

Perry called the first special session to give the legislature more time to consider anti-choice legislation that failed to advance during the regular legislative period. A special session follows different rules than the normal session, as the governor has sole discretion over what the legislature can work on. Perry said that the legislature also failed to pass bills on infrastructure funding and mandatory life sentences for 17 year-olds committing capital felonies, providing convenient additional justifications for the necessity of a second session. Perry said,

"Texans value life and want to protect women and the unborn. Texans want a transportation system that keeps them moving. Texans want a court system that is fair and just. We will not allow the breakdown of decorum and decency to prevent us from doing what the people of this state hired us to do."

Davis refused to let Perry’s affront go unanswered, firing back that it was Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst who had “led the charge” in the breakdown of decorum and “made a mockery of all of the rules we run by in this state.”

As the New York Times reported yesterday, it is unlikely that the Democrats will manage to block the bill for another 30-day session. It will probably pass. But as the governor can call as many special sessions as he likes, even a successful second filibuster may not be enough to stop the Republicans’ anti-choice agenda.

The second session begins July 1st. The war on women rages on.

PFAW

Susan B. Anthony List Inaugurates Pro-Cuccinelli Campaign With a Blatant Lie

The anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List made headlines in Virginia last week when it released the first paid advertisement in the gubernatorial battle between Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The problem is that the centerpiece of the ad, the first in what SBA List promises will be a $1.5 million campaign to support Cuccinelli, is a blatant lie.

The SBA List ad discusses new “TRAP” regulations passed by the Virginia Department of Health and aggressively pushed by Cuccinelli, which burden abortion clinics with unneccessary restrictions in order to shut them down. The ad claims that McAuliffe, by opposing the new regulations, “refuses to require women’s health clinics to provide the same sanitary environment we expect of dental offices and hospitals.”

Politifact Virginia discovers that not only is this claim blatantly false, but Susan B. Anthony List doesn’t even try to back it up with evidence:

We asked Mallory Quigley, a spokeswoman for the PAC and the Susan B. Anthony List, for proof of the ad’s claim. She provided no facts. “We — meaning Virginia women — expect a safe, sanitary environment inside abortion clinics, places that should be regulated at least as strict as dental offices and in fact, even stricter — like hospitals — which are mentioned immediately after that,” she wrote in an email.

The ad implies that prior to the new regulations, abortion clinics were allowed to operate at lower sanitary standards than dental offices. There’s no evidence to support that. They were treated pretty much the same.

Not that this is a huge surprise coming from the Susan B. Anthony list, which has never bothered itself too much with the truth. After all, even the organization’s name is based on a gross distortion of American history.

Wisconsin Senator Who Introduced Anti-Single Parent Bill Says Women 'Trained' To Lie About Planned Pregnancies

Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman went on the Alan Colmes show on Friday to discuss a controversial new bill he authored that would require the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to officially label single parenthood as “a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”

The bill was seen as a slap in the face to single parents in Wisconsin, who are raising 31 percent of children in the state.

Grothman told Colmes that the country’s out-of-wedlock birth rate is the “choice of the women,” who should be “educated that this is a mistake.” When Colmes countered with statistics about the high number of pregnancies that are unintended, Grothman said that many women are “trained” to lie and say that their planned pregnancies are actually unintended:


Grothman: There’s been a huge change over the last 30 years and a lot of that change has been the choice of the women. There’s a reason why in the 50s and the 60s you had less than ten percent of the births illegitimate, and now we’re over 40 percent. It’s not that there weren’t abusive men in the 40s or there was a problem with child support. It is the popular culture, led by the social service professions, who are saying…

Colmes: Well tell me what you would change.

Grothman: I think the first thing we do is that we should educate women that this is a mistake.

Colmes: You think women need to be educated, are they not smart enough on their own?

Grothman: They do have to be educated, because right now the culture encourages a single motherhood lifestyle.

Colmes: You think women choose to be single moms…

Grothman: Oh absolutely

Colmes: You think women want to have homes without fathers? You think women look to the opportunity to have to raise kids and not be able to get work because they have to stay home and take care of the kids. Women want to do this?

Grothman: I think a lot of women are adopting the single motherhood lifestyle because the government creates a situation in which it is almost preferred.

….

Colmes: According to data published in USA Today, at least four in ten pregnancies in every state are unwanted or mistimed. According to the analysis that was released last May, more than half of pregnancies in 29 states and the District of Columbia were unintended, 38 to 50 percent were unintended in the remaining states. This mitigates against the argument that women are purposefully wanting to have kids. Their unintended for the most part. They’re unintended pregnancies, which is the argument for health care services and birth control for women.

Grothman: I think you undersell these women.

Colmes: Undersell them?

Grothman: Undersell them. I think when you have an epidemic of this great proportion, people are not so dumb that it’s surprising when they get pregnant. I think people are trained to say that ‘this is a surprise to me,’ because there’s still enough of a stigma that they’re supposed to say this.

PFAW Condemns House Republicans’ Ban on Local Support for Women’s Health

In the budget deal reached last week, the GOP didn’t only win huge tax cuts for their corporate supporters and the super-rich; they also used the impending government shutdown as leverage to ban local support for women’s health in Washington, DC.

Preposterous Smear Against Planned Parenthood Follows Right-Wing Playbook

An anti-choice activist has released a heavily-edited video purporting to show a single Planned Parenthood employee offering advice to an activist masquerading as a child sex trafficker. In fact, after the activist’s visit, Planned Parenthood properly alerted the FBI about possible child sex trafficking violations.
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