Reproductive Health

Lindsey Graham Tells Anti-Choice Activists: Need To Find 'Way Out Of This Definitional Problem With Rape'

Sen. Lindsey Graham, chief Senate sponsor of the GOP’s effort to undermine Roe by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, spoke this morning to the Family Research Council’s “ProLifeCon,” about the House GOP’s decision to cancel a vote on its version of the bill that had been planned for today. The House leadership pulled the plug on the vote in response to protests from some Republican women who objected to a provision that exempted rape survivors from the ban only if they report the rape to police. Some anti-choice groups have objected to including a rape exception in the bill at all, a last-minute addition after the bill’s previous House sponsor, Trent Franks, implied that women who are raped rarely get pregnant.

Graham acknowledged that opponents of rape exceptions are being “intellectually consistent and honest about ‘the baby is the baby’” but argued that banning rape survivors from accessing abortion is a political impossibility: “Some of us who have these exceptions do so in a democratic society believing that there are some places we will not go.”

“I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,” he told the audience, saying that his plan was to hold a Senate vote on a Democratic bill aimed at pushing back on state-level abortion clinic “TRAP” laws in order to show that it’s Democrats who are “extreme” on abortion rights.

“The rape exception will be part of the bill…We just need to find a way definitionally to not get us in a spot where we’re debating about what a legitimate rape is, that’s not the cause that we’re in,” he said.

This post has been updated with additional details of Graham's speech. 

Anti-Choice Activists Furious About GOP's Reversal On 20-Week Abortion Ban

Yesterday, Republican leaders in the House decided to pull a plan to vote on a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy after Republican women balked at a provision that would have exempted rape survivors only if they reported their assault to the police. The vote had been planned to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the anti-choice March for Life on the National Mall.

Anti-choice activists are, predictably, furious. After all, many saw the rape and incest exception as an unacceptable compromise in the first place. The bill, originally proposed by Rep. Trent Franks last year, included only an exception for abortions that could save the life of the pregnant woman. After Franks claimed in a hearing that “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” GOP leaders quietly added a rape exception to the bill and picked a Republican woman, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, to handle the vote on the House floor.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa told the National Journal yesterday that he would fix the problem by eliminating the rape exception entirely: "I would not make exceptions for rape and incest, and then the reporting requirement would not be necessary.”

After House leaders decided to pull the bill yesterday, prominent anti-choice blogger Jill Stanek and the group Students for Life announced that they were putting together a last-minute protest at the offices of two Republican women, Reps. Renee Ellmers and Jackie Walorski, who reportedly led the fight against the rape reporting provision:

Conservative pundit Erik Erickson, in a late-night blog post, attacked Ellmers for her “two-faced ploy” and shot off a series of tweets giving her the “abortion Barbie” label he had previously bestowed on Wendy Davis:

 

Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm, responded with a press release saying he was “disgusted” by the House leadership’s “act of moral cowardice” and urged his supporters to call their members of Congress to protest the “breach of trust.”

“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice. If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?

“The Republicans in Congress should come and explain this atrocity to the hundreds of thousands of people gathering here in the nation’s capital to march for life. The congressional Republicans seem to think that pro-lifers will be satisfied with Ronald Reagan rhetoric and Nancy Pelosi results. They are quite wrong.”

House Republicans are now scheduled to vote on a bill Thursday that would prohibit federal funding for abortions. This scheduled vote coincides with the annual March for Life event, held in Washington, D.C., on or around the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion in the case Roe v. Wade.

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat seemed to capture the feelings of many abortion rights opponents:

 

Americans United for Life Official: State Anti-Choice Laws Stopping 'Abortion Mentality' From 'Corroding' US

Former New Hampshire gubernatorial and senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne, who now serves as the general counsel of Americans United for Life, stopped by the “Janet Meffered Show” last week to discuss his group’s recent success in pushing scores of incremental state-level measures that are chipping away at abortion rights across the country.

Lamontange boasted about AUL’s guidance to anti-choice state legislators, and touted the Guttmacher Institute’s data showing that more abortion restrictions were enacted between 2011 and 2013 than in the entire previous decade.

He credited this success not just to his group’s lobbying efforts but to an “awakening” about “what this abortion mentality is doing to us, it’s eroding, corroding who we are as a country and as a people.”

The good news is the momentum is in our favor, more pro-life laws were passed in the last three years in this country at the state level than had been passed the prior 10 years. So we’re really in a good place. And prayer, I think, has been the most important fuel to this success. People are praying and the 40 Days for Life movement and other groups are helping people to have an awakening about what it means to preserve and protect life. And what this abortion mentality is doing to us, it’s eroding, corroding who we are as a country and as a people.

The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From And What It Means For The Future Of Choice: Part 1

This is the first post in a RWW series on the reemergence of the anti-choice “personhood” movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights in the U.S.

Part 2: The Personhood Movement: Internal Battles Go Public
Part 3: The Personhood Movement: Undermining Roe In The Courts
Part 4: The Personhood Movement: Regrouping After Defeat

“Welcome to the future of the pro-life movement.”

As a few dozen activists walked into a conference hall in an Atlanta suburb in October 2014, they were met with an optimistic greeting from an impromptu welcoming committee.

It was the founding convention of the Personhood Alliance, an association of anti-abortion groups from 15 states who are determined to wrest back an anti-choice movement that they fear has gone dangerously astray.

The members of the Personhood Alliance felt betrayed.

The largest and best-funded groups opposing abortion rights have, over the past several years, achieved astounding success in chipping away at women’s access to legal abortion in the United States. But these successes, Personhood Alliance’s founders maintain, are too small and have come at a grave cost.

In seeking mainstream approval for anti-choice politics, personhood advocates believe, groups like the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and Americans United for Life (AUL) have adopted a secular tone and downplayed their Christian origins. In focusing on drawing attention to issues like late-term abortion, they may have won some support for the cause but have done little to end the procedures they targeted. In seeking incremental successes, personhood advocates argue, the movement has given up on making a moral argument for the humanity of fertilized eggs and fetuses and lost sight of its larger goal of eliminating legal abortion entirely.

But the greatest betrayal in the eyes of these personhood advocates is the willingness of major anti-choice groups to endorse legislation that includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. The personhood movement’s leaders contend that these political concessions are not only immoral and intellectually inconsistent, but also threaten to undermine the movement’s goals in the long term. In fact, the Personhood Alliance grew out of a feud between Georgia Right to Life leader Daniel Becker and NRLC centered around a rape exception inserted into a national 20-week abortion ban. Becker and his allies believe that they have a better plan, one that does not require compromise.

Joining the activists at the founding conference was Ben DuPré, the chief of staff for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who, along with his colleague Justice Tom Parker, has outlined an alternate strategy for eliminating legal protections for abortions in the United States: building a body of laws that define fertilized zygotes and fetuses as citizens with full rights under the law.

On the first night of the Personhood Alliance’s founding convention in October, Paul Broun, then a Republican congressman from Georgia, captured the activists’ anger at the leaders of the anti-choice movement, charging that they had betrayed the movement's core principles to such a degree that it had provoked the wrath of God — and implied that they were doing so for personal gain.

Broun told the activists of a meeting he had had with two leaders of NRLC when he was running for U.S. Congress in 1996. He told them that were he elected, the first bill he would introduce would be a Sanctity of Human Life Act giving personhood rights to fertilized eggs, because [that’s] "how we’re going to overturn Roe v. Wade is by giving the right of personhood to that one-celled human being.” The NRLC leaders, Broun said, told him they wouldn’t support it and he “walked away very disillusioned.”

When an audience member asked Broun why he thought NRLC and other major anti-choice groups weren’t putting their energy behind personhood bills, including one that he helped write, Broun responded that he wasn’t “making any accusations here,” but implied that “pro-life” leaders have a financial incentive to never achieve their declared goal.

Harkening back to that 1996 meeting, he drew a historical parallel:

They never told me [why they wouldn’t back the Sanctity of Human Life Act]. I asked them, and they just said, well, we won’t. And I walked away from that meeting in 1996 very, very disappointed, very disillusioned. And shortly after, actually as I was riding away in a taxi cab, it came to mind, back when I was a kid – looking around the room, I’m not sure anybody’s old enough to remember polio – but when I was a kid I had classmates who got polio who were in iron lungs, and I had patients as a doctor, people who when I was in medical school, were people who had polio.

The biggest charity in this country was an organization called March of Dimes. And they were, their executives were, I guess, I’m not sure, but they were making lots of money, March of Dimes was probably the biggest charity in the country. And a doctor by the name of Jonas Salk developed a vaccine. And suddenly, March of Dimes went broke.

And I went away from that meeting with National Right to Life and I was wondering, I still wonder, I’m not making any accusations here: If we were to stop abortion, what would happen to the jobs of all those people who are getting paid every day to be in the pro-life movement? What would happen? I don’t know if that’s what it is or not, I’m not making any accusations, I’m just telling you what my thought was when I left that meeting.

He told the Personhood Alliance that every day that legal abortion continues, America risks God’s wrath. Discussing his 2013 refusal to vote for a 20-week ban to which the House GOP had added a rape exception at the last minute, Broun said:

If we can save some, let's do it, but let's not make exceptions and that some babies are worth killing and some are not. They're all worth saving.

And then it goes back to 'my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,' as we hear [from] Hosea 4:6, and that's the reason education is so important. Because we've got to educate the grassroots.

...

You see, God is a holy, righteous God. He cannot continue to bless America while we’re killing over a million babies every single day. Abortion must stop.

(Broun's estimate of one million abortions taking place every day is, to say the least, wildly exaggerated.)

Broun argued that groups like the NRLC are selling the movement short by accepting political compromise bills containing rape and incest exceptions and then pressuring anti-choice lawmakers to vote for those bills.

"The reason a lot of pro-life people are willing to compromise is because of that outside pressure," he said. "Whether it's an endorsement from Concerned Women [for America] or the Family Research Council or another group, or it could be an endorsement of the U.S. Chamber [of Commerce] or it could be the endorsement of any group. Politicians, the major principle that they will not budge from is their reelection. So they will do whatever it takes to get the endorsements, the money that they need to raise.”

Barry Loudermilk, a former Georgia Republican state senator who had recently been elected to the U.S. House, also spoke to the convention, comparing the fight against abortion rights to the struggle of America’s founders, who he said also witnessed “a decline in the moral sensitivity of our nation.” Loudermilk, who while serving in the state senate introduced a personhood amendment that was backed by Georgia Right to Life and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, said, “When you look at our movement, we have the exact same things against us that they had against them,” he said. “They had the government against them, the laws, the judges. We don’t have the people who are totally with us, it’s growing. But we have the truth with us. We have Providence with us.”

The congressmen echoed a founding tenet of the Personhood Alliance: that in a movement that was increasingly struggling to appear secular, the organization would be unabashedly “Christ-centered” and “biblically informed.”

As personhood's proponents like to remind their fellow activists, both sides of the movement share the same goal: to completely criminalize abortion. The question is just how to do it.

The largest and best-funded anti-choice groups, deploying a strategy of chipping away at abortion access in the name of “women’s health,” have pushed state legislatures to pass over 200 new restrictions on abortion rights since 2011, many based on model legislation from AUL and NRLC. This strategy has managed to shut down abortion providers (especially in rural areas), make it harder for low-income women to pay for abortion, and erect unnecessary logistical hurdles for even those women who could access and afford abortion care.

The movement also won a pivotal court case with the Supreme Court's ruled that private corporations could deny their employees legally mandated health insurance coverage for contraceptives that the corporations’ owners believe cause abortion. And they did this all while stemming the loss in public opinion that had hindered other “culture war” issues, in part by lifting up female leaders and adopting woman-centered empowerment rhetoric.

But at the same time, another side of the anti-choice movement, those eschewing compromise and incrementalism and pursuing the goal of establishing legal “personhood” from the moment of conception, have suffered a series of embarrassing electoral blows. In 2014, Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have defined zygotes and fetuses as persons in the state’s criminal code. It was the third time in six years that voters in the state had rejected a “personhood” measure, although its proponents noted that their margin of defeat got smaller each time. Perhaps even more galling for the movement, voters in reliably conservative North Dakota rejected an amendment to provide constitutional protections for “every being at every stage of development” by a whopping 28-point margin. And this all came three years after a personhood initiative was soundly defeated in deep-red Mississippi.

These personhood measures, while sharing the same ultimate goal as the incremental strategy, have become widely seen as politically toxic, in large part because they could threaten access to common forms of birth control. The no-compromise strategy has also become tied to a series of ham-handed comments made by male politicians, most infamously former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, which further hurt the personhood movement, while providing political cover to those pursuing a more incremental approach.

But despite its spectacular losses at the ballot box, personhood movement strategists maintain that not only is their strategy the morally sound and intellectually consistent one — they believe their strategy is the one that will ultimately swing public opinion and overturn Roe v. Wade.

This series, marking the anniversary of Roe, will explore the recent resurgence of the personhood movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights. Upcoming posts will examine the history of the split in the anti-choice movement and its debates over legal strategy, and the organizations that are currently leading the movement.

Anti-Choice Groups Hope To End Legal Abortion Through National Strike

An Albuquerque anti-choice group that failed last year to pass municipal ordinance banning abortion after 20 weeks has come up with a new way to convince Albuquerque and all of America to criminalize abortion: a national strike!

Earlier this year, Project Defending Life, the group behind the Albuquerque ballot measure, launched a new project called Protest ABQ, aimed at recruiting anti-choice activists from around the country to converge on Albuquerque, the home of one of a very few late-term abortion clinics in the nation. Project ABQ is now announcing that, along with the anti-choice group Operation Rescue, it will launch a general strike to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the March for Life.

The groups are calling for supporters to “stay home from work, avoid buying anything unnecessary and basically be on strike” for two days later this month.

Protest ABQ’s Father Stephen Imbarrato explains in a YouTube video that this will finally be the strategy to end legal abortion:

It’s our hope that these protests will culminate in a national strike to end pre-born baby killing in the United States. While we’re marching in protest in Washington D.C. and San Francisco and Santa Fe and throughout our country on January 22, let us pray and fast and protest. Stay home from work, avoid buying anything unnecessary and basically be on strike to end this national pre-born baby killing. Let us extend this protest, this strike beyond Roe v. Wade day on January 22 to Friday, January 32. No work, no school, no spending, just prayer and fasting to end pre-born child killing.

An announcement for the strike calls on protesters to emulate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a supporter of reproductive rights) and warns that protesters could be “beaten, screamed at or abused”:

The yearly anniversary of Roe vs. Wade continues to be a day of mourning across the pro-life community. Each year thousands gather in Washington D.C. to protest against this evil.

However, to step up our call to end abortion, we are encouraging all like-minded people throughout the country not to go to work or school nor spend money on Thursday, January 22nd and Friday, January 23rd, 2015, but instead to join together for prayer, fasting and PROTEST in their localities.


All participants must commit to following the model of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in their protests.

"Even if we were to be beaten, screamed at, or abused, we will not respond in kind," stated Fr. Imbarrato.

Protests will be held in front of state capitol buildings, busy intersections, and abortion facilities. No place is off limits and no one who profits from, supports, or condones pre-born child killing is immune from these protests.

Together, we are calling on national religious and pro-life leaders to join us and encourage all like-minded people to participate in a national strike.

Troy Newman: Replace Satanic Abortion Providers With Anti-Choice Crisis Pregnancy Centers

In an interview with Adam McManus of Generations Radio last week, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman described his group’s work targeting abortion providers as a “remove and replace” operation to shut down abortion clinics, which he equated with Satan, and replace them with anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers.

“We’re saving over 600,000 babies a year by removing these horrible death centers and replacing them with Christ-centered pregnancy help centers,” Newman boasted to McManus. Operation Rescue, which keeps thorough records of abortion providers in its efforts to shut them down, recently reported a 23 percent drop in surgical abortion providers over the past five years, the result of a variety of forces.

He cited a passage from John comparing Jesus — the crisis pregnancy centers — to “the thief,” or Satan — the abortion providers: “This is the ‘remove and replace.’ Remember, John 10:10 says that ‘the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I’ve come to give life, and it to the fullest.’ So, who’s the abortionist? He steals the women’s money, he kills their baby and destroys their life, but as a Christian, we’re going to give you life and it to the fullest. It’s the ultimate remove and replace operation.”

Anti-Choice Group Reports 23% Drop In Abortion Providers Over Five Years

In the past few years, even as voters have rejected so-called “personhood” measures and scorned politicians who make insensitive remarks about rape, the anti-choice movement has quietly and steadily made it more difficult for women to access abortion care. They have done this in part by pushing through “targeted regulation of abortion providers” (TRAP) laws aimed at shutting down abortion providers, as well as laws requiring unnecessary waiting periods for women seeking abortions or restricting the safe use of medication abortion. The Guttmacher Institute found that more state-level abortion restrictions were enacted from 2011 through 2013 than in the entire previous decade, a trend that has continued at a slower pace in 2014.

Now, the anti-choice group Operation Rescue — which keeps thorough records of U.S. abortion providers in its effort to shut them down — is reporting that 73 abortion providers closed their doors in 2014, 60 of which were surgical abortion providers. Of those, 47 were closed permanently, making a net decrease of 31 facilities and contributing to what Operation Rescue reports is a “23% decline in surgical abortion facilities over the past five years.”

Although some of these closures were unrelated to new abortion restrictions, Operation Rescue credits the wave of state laws for many of the closures.

The group’s statistics include the 13 Texas abortion clinics closed in response to new restrictions — leaving only eight clinics serving the state of 26 million people —which were later allowed to reopen by court order, and two Alabama clinics that were also closed and then reopened.

But it also includes closures that the anti-choice movement would like to take credit for, but are less easy to track. For instance, this summer Planned Parenthood closed two small rural clinics in Iowa, for which anti-choice activists credited their prayers but Planned Parenthood attributed to a need to shift resources. Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, has been fighting to keep its ability to dispense medication for early-term abortions through teleconferencing to women living in rural areas in Iowa.

Barber And Staver Think Abortion Causes Breast Cancer Because 'The Wages Of Sin Is Death'

On today's "Faith and Freedom" radio program, Liberty Counsel's Mat Staver and Matt Barber were discussing what they contend is a link between abortion and breast cancer. While this claim is a favorite of the anti-choice movement, it is disputed by the likes of the American Cancer Society, which says that "scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer."

Nonetheless, Barber and Staver are quite sure that such a link exists because it is only natural for a "sin" like abortion to carry with it deadly consequences.

"Scripture talks about the wages of sin is death," Barber said. "It strikes me that abortion is a sin, abortion is absolutely a sin, so the natural consequence of an unnatural behavior of going in an killing an unborn baby in the mother's womb therefore wreaking havoc, killing the child, that is a sin and the wages of sin there, the natural consequence of that havoc that has been wreaked here is an increased risk of breast cancer."

When Barber sought to clarify that he was not saying that breast cancer is God's way of punishing women who have had abortions, Staver stepped in to say that having an abortion was no different than ingesting poison.

"You take strychnine or you take some kind of poison into your body, you have to expect that there's going to be consequences," Staver said. "It's an obvious natural consequence to an act, a choice that someone makes":

The Anti-Choice Movement's Big Tobacco Strategy

Abortion increases the risk of breast cancer. Abortion causes depression. Abortion isn't safe.

These claims, repeated ad nauseam by the anti-choice movement, have found their way into legislative debates and even into court decisions.

But they aren’t true. In fact, they’ve been created and spread by a small, tightly knit group of doctors and scientists who have set up nonprofits, cite each other’s false research and provide “expert” testimony to bolster the cases of lawmakers trying to restrict abortion access.

In a new investigation, RH Reality Check’s Sofia Resnick and Sharon Coutts have uncovered the small network of “false witnesses” who are providing a sheen of respectability to the anti-choice movement’s unproven claims.

“What we’re seeing here is the same strategy that was used by big tobacco and by climate denialists,” Coutts said in a conference call unveiling the research this morning. Like in the efforts to deny climate change or cover up the risks of tobacco use, this small circle of activists “create the artifice that there is genuine disagreement” among doctors and scientists about the safety of abortion care, she added.

In the end, she said, “we are making decisions as a society that are based on literally fictional ideas about the dangers of abortion.”

From RH Reality Check’s report:

They create nonprofits, staffed with die-hard ideologues, and set about producing and promoting bogus science, to build the illusion of dissent or doubt over conclusions drawn by peer-reviewed scientific or medical research. They develop their own “research findings” to suit their ideological views. Then they deploy scare tactics, all with the goal of passing laws that suit their agenda.

In this case, the agenda is to promote the theory that abortion harms women’s health—physically and mentally. It’s a strategy anti-choice activists have been working on for decades, but in recent years, sympathetic state attorneys general have been increasingly relying on a cadre of so-called experts who will defend and promote anti-choice laws.

Our investigation reveals the close connections between many of the ostensibly independent “research” groups that feature prominently in the anti-choice movement. Several groups, such as the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the Reproductive Research Audit, and the World Expert Consortium for Abortion Research and Education, share many of the same officers and experts.

Our work details how the scientific and medical claims of these groups and individuals have been publicly discredited in episodes ranging from lying to the public, presenting false data in scientific journals, and being forced to retract articles that proved to be works of fiction presented as fact. Other doctors and professors catalogued in this gallery carry impressive credentials, appear to be apt in their fields, and are technically qualified to testify on reproductive-health issues. However, fueled by their religious or political beliefs (or both), many of these professionals have testified in support of unproven or discredited theories.

RH Reality Check's profiles of the 14 key "false witnesses" are here.

Personhood Leader: 'The Statewide Personhood Ballot Measure Is Dead For Now'

Gualberto Garcia Jones, the prominent anti-choice activist who drafted all three losing “fetal personhood” ballot measures in Colorado, is calling on his movement to abandon state-level ballot initiatives in favor of local initiatives that might have a better chance at passing.

Jones’ post-election analysis is likely to exacerbate an already bitter split within the personhood movement. Jones, who previously worked for the Colorado-based Personhood USA — which is dedicated to pushing state-level initiatives — recently defected to the newly created Personhood Alliance, a network of “personhood” groups that announced before the election that it would be pursuing a local-level strategy. Although Personhood USA at first supported Personhood Alliance, it soon distanced itself, accusing the new group of infringing on its territory.

In an article on Friday for LifeSiteNews, Jones followed up on his prediction that last week’s elections would “either collapse or ignite” the personhood movement. Huge losses on personhood amendments in Colorado and North Dakota, he wrote, mean that statewide ballot initiatives “dead for now.” Rather than fighting for personhood at the state level, Jones wrote, the movement should start “engaging the enemy in municipalities and counties that we know we control.”

The rest of conservative America may be celebrating, but for the Personhood movement, it is time for some sober analysis.

Tuesday’s election results were certainly not good for pro-abortion Democrats, but they were even worse for the Personhood movement. I have to admit that my own predictions were off and I am sorely disappointed.

After the defeat of Measure 1 in North Dakota by an unexpectedly wide vote of 64-36 and of the Brady Amendment in Colorado by an almost identical margin of 65-35, it isn’t an overstatement to say that the statewide personhood ballot measure is dead for now.

Had the Brady Amendment performed just a little better and the North Dakota amendment passed or been close to passing, then the claim could be made that the movement was growing and that there was a realistic chance of passing a personhood amendment in another state in the near future. As it is, the crushing defeat of the North Dakota amendment and the lackluster improvement in Colorado should make Personhood supporters stop to think about the strategy going forward.

Thoughtful reconsideration of the strategy of the Personhood movement is what the movement needs right now.

It should be noted that the same goes for the entire pro-life movement. The narrow victory of the Tennessee amendment that safeguards the right to legislatively address abortion, is a victory, but the bar is set painfully low.

These initial years of the personhood movement have taught us a lot. I believe that we now know how to fight to win against Planned Parenthood. And the key is being able to control the battleground.

When you look at electoral maps of the country, it is readily evident that majorities in almost every metropolitan area of the country are opposed to our worldview. These metropolitan areas are also the major media centers and accumulate large percentages of the voting population in every state.

Right now, fighting the abortion industry at the state level is akin to having lined up a battalion of colonists against the well-trained and well armed redcoats. We need to start engaging in more asymmetrical tactics, and this means engaging the enemy in municipalities and counties that we know we control.

This can be done at the legislative and political level, as Georgia Right to Life and other groups have done by the endorsement of state officials, or it can be done by engaging in municipal ballot measures.

Local laws deal with many powers that touch upon the personhood of the preborn, from local health and building codes to local law enforcement such as child abuse prevention. It is time to establish the recognition of universal human personhood into these laws.

Anti-Choice Group Moving Into Planned Parenthood Clinic Closed By Texas Abortion Restrictions

Last year, hours after Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law a sweeping anti-choice bill designed to shut down abortion providers in the state, Planned Parenthood announced that it would be closing three of its Texas clinics that provide abortion services, all of them in rural areas, leaving women seeking an abortion far from other providers.

Now, the anti-choice group 40 Days for Life, which organizes protests outside of abortion clinics throughout the country, is announcing that it is moving its national headquarters into one of the shuttered Planned Parenthood facilities in Texas. Where Planned Parenthood used to provide medical care, 40 Days for Life is also planning to house an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center.

40 Days for Life credits its members’ prayers for giving it its new headquarters:

BRYAN/COLLEGE STATION, Texas /Christian Newswire/ -- The worldwide 40 Days for Life movement is moving its headquarters into a former Planned Parenthood abortion center in Bryan/College Station, Texas. The pro-life initiative began outside that same facility ten years ago.

"This news shows what God can accomplish when His people pray," said Shawn Carney, campaign director of 40 Days for Life. "More than 6,400 children lost their lives in this building, but God is making 'all things new.' What was once a place of death and despair is now going to be a place of life and hope. We are excited to start using this location to aid the rapid worldwide growth of 40 Days for Life, and to help other cities become abortion-free."



Short-term plans include a memorial service for the children lost to abortion inside the building, and tearing down the tall, black iron fence surrounding the property as part of renovations.

The new 40 Days for Life headquarters will be used to help many more communities end abortion. The building will also house Hope Pregnancy Center, an affiliate of CareNet, as they expand their local medical services to include free STD testing. "The partnership between the two organizations demonstrates the close relationship between 40 Days for Life and life-saving pregnancy resource centers," Carney said.

Planned Parenthood, however, had a different explanation for the clinic’s closing: drastic cuts to family planning aid in Texas, aimed directly at Planned Parenthood:

Rochelle Tafolla with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast said they’re closing the center because of continued and targeted cuts to family planning.

She said it started when the budget for the Family Planning Network was drastically cut. Soon after, Tafolla said they were further hindered when the Women’s Health Program in Texas came to an end.

And those two programs provided the vast majority of access for women in east Texas to get basic health care, said Tafolla. Well-Woman exams, birth control and cervical cancer screenings.

Tafolla said it’s the City of Bryan and surrounding communities that will suffer from the closing.

The big deal is that women have relied on Planned Parenthood. They’ve come to trust us, said Tafolla. They know that they can get nonjudgmental, unbiased information from us. They know that we are affordable, and they know that they can get into us whenever they need to.

Tafolla said it will be much more difficult for women to get access to their kind of help.

Susan B. Anthony List 'Defamed' Its Namesake With Controversial Mailer, Says Susan B. Anthony Expert

A top Susan B. Anthony expert is once again taking to task the anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List for using the name of the women’s rights pioneer to push its anti-abortion political agenda.

What drew the latest criticism from Deborah L. Hughes, president of the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House in Rochester, New York, was a pre-election Iowa mailer from the Susan B. Anthony List that looked like an official “public health alert” but that was in fact a slam on pro-choice Senate candidate Bruce Braley. SBA List vowed to spend $3 million in the 2014 election cycle to support Senate candidates who oppose abortion rights.

In an October 31 statement, Hughes said that SBA Lists’s “tactics repeatedly cross a line that is outrageous and inconsistent with who Susan B. Anthony was” and that Anthony’s “good character is being defamed by their actions.”

The recent activities of the Susan B. Anthony List, a 501(c)(4) organization, and its affiliated political action committee, the SBA List Candidate Fund, have raised concerns for the Anthony Museum & those dedicated to protecting the legacy of the great reformer.

The List’s assertions about Susan B. Anthony’s position on abortion are historically inaccurate. “We can make room for a different interpretation of history, and we certainly support political engagement,” says Hughes, “but their tactics repeatedly cross a line that is outrageous and inconsistent with who Susan B. Anthony was. Her good character is being defamed by their actions. People are outraged by their actions, causing harm to Anthony’s name and the mission of our Museum.”

The most recent example is an election mailer that voters in Iowa received this week. The outside of the mailer looks like an official announcement of a disease outbreak, “PUBLIC HEALTH ALERT: CHILDREN IN YOUR AREA ARE VULNERABLE TO A PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT THAT CONTINUES UNCONTROLLED. . .” Inside, it diagnoses that public health threat as the Democratic Senatorial candidate.

“Depending on how you feel about the political issue, you might say The List and this mailer are ‘brilliant’ or ‘horrific.’ That isn’t our issue,” says Hughes. “Our concern is that a national political lobbying group is using Susan B. Anthony’s good name for their benefit, and they are damaging her reputation in the process.”

This isn’t the first time Hughes has tussled with the anti-choice political group. Two years ago, she issued a statement clarifying that her museum was not related to the Susan B. Anthony List, saying that while she was “delighted that the once-reviled radical feminist has earned such a high place of honor and authority that everyone seems to want her for their champion” that people should “not be confused by political parties, caucuses, or groups that claim they know what Susan B. Anthony would say about a contemporary issue.”

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Hughes went into more depth about why she disagrees with SBA List’s insistence that Susan B. Anthony was an opponent of abortion rights. Other Susan B. Anthony experts have also disputed SBA List’s historical claims.

h/t The New York History Blog

Personhood Group Thanks Joni Ernst For Sticking With Them On Toxic Issue

Personhood USA is not used to electoral victories.

On Tuesday, the Colorado-based group failed for the third time to pass a ballot measure granting legal rights to zygotes in its home state. It consoled itself that at least the measure — whose scope had been somewhat narrowed in an effort to attract voters — lost less badly than it had in the past.

Adding insult to injury, Colorado’s successful Republican Senate candidate, Cory Gardner, had renounced his support for the amendment and started lying about the fact that he was still supporting a similar measure in the U.S. House, causing Personhood USA’s head, Keith Mason, to joke about dressing up as someone stabbed in the back by Gardner for Halloween.

But the group did find one thing to be very happy about this week. In a press release that serves as a barely veiled dig at Gardner, Personhood USA congratulates successful Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst “for defending personhood during [a] principled Senate victory.” After falsely claiming in a debate that a state-level personhood bill she supported wouldn’t actually do anything but instead was just a symbolic “statement,” Ernst later confirmed that she would in fact support a federal-level personhood bill.

Personhood USA cites Ernst’s support for their cause to encourage Republican presidential candidates vying to win the Iowa caucuses to embrace similarly radical anti-choice stands:

"Joni Ernst didn't just say she was pro-life, she actually had the courage to act pro-life," said Keith Mason, President of Personhood USA. "After all, supporting personhood rights for the unborn is what it means to be pro-life. By doubling down on her support for personhood and energizing her pro-life base, she was able to win her race by a wide margin."

Ernst's victory sends a clear message to potential Republican presidential candidates who want to win the Iowa caucuses. In June, a personhood resolution on the South Carolina GOP ballot won by a landslide with 79% support from voters.

"Republican presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa and South Carolina should pay attention to the grassroots majority who want a candidate that acts pro-life," Mason continued. "Ernst's margin of victory is further confirmation that courageous integrity and fidelity to core pro-life values are a winning combination. While some other candidates narrowly eked by after turning their backs on their pro-life constituencies, Ernst's unapologetic strategy reaped major dividends."

Ernst will hardly be alone as a personhood champion in Congress. A personhood bill sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul currently has 21 cosponsors in the Senate and a House bill has 132 cosponsors…including Gardner.

Laurie Higgins: GOP Establishment Is Like Tolkein's Gollum

In a blog post today, Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute (state affiliate of the American Family Association) turns to a colorful analogy to describe the Republican Party’s internal conflicts.

Higgins contends that the establishment GOP, which worked this year to stamp out some of the more vocally extreme candidates in its ranks this year, is like Tolkein’s Gollum, so captivated by a shiny object that it ends up destroying itself and those it loves. (In The Lord of the Rings, the shiny object is the One Ring. In contemporary politics, it’s presumably voters who support LGBT equality and abortion rights.)

Just to be clear, Higgins also compares the party establishment to Cain, who in the Bible kills his brother Abel.

The GOP is slowly transmogrifying into the political incarnation of Tolkien's Gollum:

Gollum, dancing like a mad thing, held aloft the ring, a finger still thrust within its circle. "Precious, precious, precious!" Gollum cried. "My Precious! O my Precious!" And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail precious, and he was gone.

Illinoisans should fully expect to hear immoderates and perhaps even dispirited conservatives say, "See, Bruce Rauner/Mark Kirk-type of Republican is the only kind of Republican who can get elected in Illinois." But soon, they won't be tacking on "in Illinois."

Four years ago, the U.S. Senator-elect from Colorado, Cory Gardner, supported the Personhood Amendment and even circulated petitions to gather signatures for it. Then this year, the GOP establishment got to him. Just weeks before Gardner announced his candidacy, pro-life activists in Colorado got wind of the news that he would be renouncing his support for the Personhood Amendment.

Karl Rove deceitfully wrote this last May: "in Colorado, tea-party favorite and front-runner Ken Buck stepped aside when Mr. Gardner entered the race, recognizing he was better able to enthuse all the party." So, in May Rove implied that Buck just freely stepped aside because of his own uncoerced epiphany that Gardner would be the best candidate for "enthusing" the party.

That's interesting, because late last night on FOX News election coverage, Karl Rove boasted that his Super PAC told the Colorado GOP that no Super Pac money would got to support Ken Buck for U.S. Senate. I'm speculating here, but I suspect that Rove et al told Gardner they would support him as long as he retreated from the Personhood Amendment.

Immoderate Republicans accuse conservatives who agree with Robert George of turning on their Republican brethren and "forming a circular firing squad." But who really is Cain in this contemporary narrative? Who is Sméagol and who is Déagol?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personhood Leader's Halloween Costume: Stabbed In The Back By Cory Gardner

When he launched his bid for U.S. Senate, Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner dropped his previous support for his state’s radical anti-choice “personhood” amendment like a hot potato and has since been attempting to deny that he is sponsoring a similar bill at the federal level, saying that the bill does not exist.

This flip-flopping and evasion has brought Garner criticism from abortion rights advocates, but has also alienated his former allies in the “personhood” movement.

Jennifer Mason, the communications director for the Colorado-based Personhood USA, chalked up Gardner’s inconsistent stand on personhood to “bad political advice”: “Obviously [Gardner's] a victim of some bad political advice, there’s no reason for him to pull local support while he’s still 100 percent behind the federal amendment. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Then, Colorado reporter Jason Salzman wrote yesterday about a Halloween Twitter exchange he had with Keith Mason, the head of Personhood USA and Jennifer's husband, in which Mason declared that his “costume this year is a knife in my back” inscribed with Gardner’s initials:

 

Sadly, there are no pictures.

Arizona School Board Votes To Remove Pages Of Biology Textbook That Aren't Anti-Abortion Enough

In response to a complaint from the Religious Right group Alliance Defending Freedom, a school board in Arizona has voted to remove pages of an honors high school biology book that ADF contends don’t show “an affirmative preference to childbirth and adoption as options to abortion” in describing various forms of contraception.

ADF based its complaint to the Gilbert, Arizona, school board on a 2012 state law that bans schools from providing instruction “that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion.” Although the school board’s lawyers and the state department of education both argued that the pages in question — one of which you can view here — didn’t violate the law, conservatives on the board went ahead with the page removal.

The textbook states that “Complete abstinence (avoiding intercourse) is the only totally effective method of birth control,” before launching into a straight-forward explanation of the workings of several methods of birth control, including emergency contraception.

One board member told Phoenix's 12 News that “by redacting, we are not censoring”:

Board member Julie Smith said the school district was breaking state law by using the book " Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections ."

The 2-year-old state law, signed by Gov. Jan Brewer, bars school districts and charter schools from making presentations or providing instructional materials to pupils "that does not give preference, encouragement and support to childbirth and adoption as preferred options to elective abortion."

Smith said she raised questions about the text in January after a comment from a constituent. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based legal organization that recently defended Arizona's ban on same-sex marriage, raised the issue in a letter to Gilbert Superintendent Christina Kishimoto in August.

The focus is two pages in the book, titled "Contraception can prevent unwanted pregnancy."

The text says, "Complete abstinence (avoiding intercourse) is the only totally effective method of birth control." It also describes how the "morning after pill" works as a contraception method.

Board member Lily Tram said the board's decision to remove pages from the book, which has been used by the district since 2006, amounted to censorship.

Smith disagreed. "By redacting, we are not censoring," she said. "This school district does offer sexual education classes. If we were censoring we would not offer anything on this topic whatsoever."

Board President Stacy Burk said some parents had said they were ready to help remove or redact the pages in the textbook.

CitizenLink: Forcing Obama To Veto Anti-Abortion Legislation Helps Republicans In 2016

Yesterday, Tom Minnery and Stuart Shepard of Focus on the Family's CitizenLink were discussing the need for conservative Christians to vote in the upcoming election, with Minnery saying that it was important so that Republicans can control both the House and the Senate and then pass right-wing legislation that President Obama will then veto, which will help the Republicans in the 2016 presidential election.

"It's always important to highlight the difference between conservatives and liberals," Minnery said. "The issue of marriage, the issue of sanctity of human life, the issue of religious liberty more and more, are issues that highlight the differences."

If Republicans take control of Congress, Minnery hopes that they will then pass various pieces of anti-abortion legislation that Obama will inevitably veto, which will help Republican candidates who will be running for president in the next election.

"Highlighting it during these next two years will be a good thing," Minnery said, as Shepard reminded viewers that "it's always important to keep an eye on the long term, on the big picture ... because it's the long term movement we're looking for":

Barton: 'If You Choose Not To Vote, That's The Same As Casting Your Vote For Evil'

On a "Believer's Voice of Victory" program set to air on Wednesday, Kenneth Copeland and David Barton declared that it was immoral for any Christian not to vote for anti-abortion candidates because even refusing to vote "is that same as casting your vote for evil."

Copeland made the argument that Christians cannot ever vote for a pro-choice candidate because when you cast your vote for a candidate, you are endorsing every position that candidate holds. As such, Christians cannot support a candidate that is "on the death side," Copeland said, warning that anyone who does will be held accountable by God as an accomplice to murder.

"This is serious business, man," Copeland declared and Barton was entirely in agreement, adding his own warning that those who do not vote candidates who oppose abortion rights will be held just as accountable as those who vote for pro-choice ones.

Not voting for anti-abortion candidates "keeps you from being on the life platform," Barton said. "There is only one place of life, any place else except that is not life. There's not a third choice. If you do nothing, you have not chosen life ... If you choose not to vote, that's the same as casting your vote for evil":

Family Research Council, Anti-Gay and Anti-Choice Activists, Pitch In For Montana Supreme Court Race

Last week, we reported on the quiet effort of national right-wing groups to, in the words of the Family Research Council, “flip” the Supreme Court of Montana by electing former state solicitor general Lawrence VanDyke, who has indicated that he will be friendly to business interests and social conservative causes.

We first heard of VanDyke’s campaign for the officially nonpartisan office at last month’s Values Voter Summit, where the Family Research Council’s political action committee had decided to highlight the race at a $100-a-head fundraiser featuring Rick Santorum, Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and a number of Republican members of Congress.

Yesterday, VanDyke’s campaign issued its fundraising report for the period that included the FRC fundraiser. In the period, the campaign brought in $48,000, nearly doubling its supply of cash. It’s impossible to tell how much of that came from the FRC’s fundraiser — much of it came from Montana residents and out-of-state attorneys  but  FRC’s impact is shown in a few notable contributions.

The FRC Action PAC itself contributed $320 to VanDyke’s campaign, the maximum contribution allowed so far. William Saunders, the top lawyer at the anti-choice group Americans United for Life, also contributed $320, while Gary McCaleb, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom contributed $200. An organizer for the Koch group Americans for Prosperity also kicked in $200.

Although we can’t know the impact of the FRC’s fundraiser — and we can't know for sure that these contributions stemmed from the event   these numbers illustrate the fact that in VanDyke, Corporate Right and Religious Right activists throughout the country have found common cause in a little-noticed but pivotal state court race.

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