Reproductive Rights

Virginia Senate passes less terrible, but still terrible, mandatory ultrasound bill

Last week, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell buckled under nationwide pressure and forced his allies in the state’s legislature to revise a bill they had passed mandating forced, medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. That the bill was tweaked to no longer require women to be vaginally penetrated without their consent – a requirement that McDonnell, until he was met with a national outcry, was all set to sign into law -- was an important victory for pro-choice and common-decency activists.

But we need to remember just how far anti-choice politicians are willing to go. Just a few years ago, before the War on Women kicked into full swing, we wouldn’t have known that we’d have to be fighting state-mandated vaginal probes. In fact, just a few years ago, the amended bill passed by the Virginia Senate today would have been seen as extreme in itself.

The bill that the Virginia Senate passed in a 21-19 vote today requires all women seeking an abortion to first undergo a medically unnecessary external ultrasound – unless they can prove they are pregnant as a result of rape or incest.

It’s important to remember just how extreme the bill still is. Virginia Republicans are mandating that doctors perform a medically unnecessary procedure whether or not their patient requests it, unless that patient can produce a police report to prevent it. It creates a situation that’s ethically difficult for doctors and absolutely demeaning for women.

If Gov. McDonnell signs the bill, which he is expected to do, Virginia will join seven other states that currently require pre-abortion ultrasounds.
 

PFAW

Santorum Says He Doesn’t Want to Impose His Values on the Rest of Us

On Meet the Press yesterday, David Gregory questioned GOP presidential frontrunner Rick Santorum about the social issues – opposition to reproductive choice and gay rights – on which he has built his career. Stunningly, Santorum denied that he has focused on social issues and claimed, “There’s no evidence at all that I, that I want to impose those values on anybody else.”

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FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: It's so funny. I get the question all the time. Why are you talking so much about these social issues, as they, as, as people ask about me about the social issues.
MR. GREGORY: Senator, no, wait a minute.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Look, the...
MR. GREGORY: You talk about this stuff every week. And by the way, it's not just in this campaign.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: No, I talk about, I talk...
MR. GREGORY: Sir, in this campaign you talk about it. And I've gone back years when you've been in public life and you have made this a centerpiece of your public life. So the notion that these are not deeply held views worthy of question and scrutiny, it's not just about the press.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Yeah, they, they are deeply held views, but they're not what I dominantly talk about, David. You're taking things that over a course of a 20-year career and pulling out quotes from difference speeches on, on issues that are fairly tangential, not what people care about mostly in America, and saying, "Oh, he wants to impose those values." Look at my record. I've never wanted to impose any of the things that you've just talked about. These are, these are my personal held religious beliefs, and in many forums that I, that, that are, in fact, religious, because I do speak in front of church groups and I do speak in these areas, I do talk about them. But there's no evidence at all that I, that I want to impose those values on anybody else.


This is, of course, a bunch of baloney. While Santorum has spent a lot of time in his presidential campaign talking up regressive tax policies, irresponsible deregulation and anti-environmentalism, the core of his brand has always been social conservatism. His campaign has consistently and explicitly distinguished his anti-choice, anti-gay record with Mitt Romney’s in order to successfully appeal to culture-warring voters.

Santorum has also never shied away from wanting to “impose” his far-right values on the rest of the country. In a 2005 interview with NPR, for instance, he railed against the libertarian wing of the Republican party, saying, “They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do. Government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulation low and that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues, you know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world.”

And here he is at a Republican debate in November discussing how our civil laws must “comport with God’s law”:

The former senator has said that states should be allowed to outlaw birth control and gay relationships, but supports the federal law banning recognition of legal same-sex marriages. He supports so-called “personhood” laws, which would not only outlaw all abortions regardless of circumstances, but would jeopardize legal access to contraception. He says that as president, he would reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, putting the careers of openly gay members of the military at risk. Yet he says he doesn’t want to “impose” his far-right values on the rest of us.

Santorum’s interview on Meet the Press is far from the first time he’s claimed that he’s not overly interested in social issues. PFAW’s Right Wing Watch found a speech he gave in 2008 in which he claimed that it’s liberals who have made sex an issue on the campaign trail. For liberals, he said, politics “comes down to sex” and that the Democratic Party has become “the party of Woodstock.”:

And it’s just insidious. And it’s most of the time focused on the sexual issues. If you’re a hard-core free-market guy, they’re not going to call you “zealous”. They’re not going to call you “ultra-conservative”. They’re not going to do that to you.
It comes down to sex. That’s what it’s all about. It comes down to freedom, and it comes down to sex. If you have anything to with any of the sexual issues, and if you are on the wrong side of being able to do all of the sexual freedoms you want, you are a bad guy. And you’re dangerous because you are going to limit my freedom in an area that’s the most central to me. And that’s the way it’s looked at.
...
Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become the party of Woodstock. The prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom. That’s what it’s about. Homosexuality. It’s about sexual freedom.
All of the things are about sexual freedom, and they hate to be called on them. They try to somehow or other tie this to the Founding Father’s vision of liberty, which is bizarre. It’s ridiculous.
 

 

PFAW

Republicans Debate Who is Least in Favor of Emergency Care for Rape Victims

In case we needed any more evidence that the former mainstream of the GOP has gone completely off the deep end, Republican presidential candidates spent several minutes at last night’s CNN debate discussing which of them is least in favor of allowing rape victims to have access to emergency contraception. Watch:

The exchange came at the heels of a week that was chock-full of shockingly regressive Republican attacks on women. PFAW’s Marge Baker summed last week up in the Huffington Post:

Just this week, we have seen not just the stunning spectacle of major presidential candidates coming out against birth control coverage, but Republicans in the Senate holding up domestic violence protections because they protect too many people; a potential vice presidential candidate pick poised to sign a law requiring women to receive medically unnecessary vaginal probes without their consent; a leading presidential candidate claiming that "emotions" will get in the way of women serving in combat; and a House committee holding a hearing on birth control access -- with a panel consisting entirely of men.

And that’s not to mention billionaire Santorum supporter Foster Friess’s saying he didn’t see why birth control was expensive because, “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly."

The GOP candidates’ exchange over emergency contraception for rape victims took this tone-deafness to a new level of insensitivity. Does Mitt Romney really think he’ll appeal to female voters by attacking not just contraception but emergency care for rape victims?

It looks like not. TPM reports that since Romney started attacking birth control, he’s “suffered a precipitous drop in support among women voters.”

You don’t say.
 

PFAW

Kuhner Claims Obama is 'Our Lenin'; Mefferd Afraid He’s More Like Stalin

Right-wing columnist Jeffrey Kuhner visited the Janet Mefferd show earlier this week to discuss a recent column he wrote for the Washington Times, positing that “Obama is America’s Lenin.” In the column, Kuhner attacks the Obama administration’s recent birth control regulations, claiming that "like many secular leftists, [Obama] seeks to destroy Judeo-Christian civilization,” that he is “in the pocket of the pro-abortion feminist lobby,” and that “Mr. Obama is our first non-Christian president.”

Kuhner went into more detail in his interview with Mefferd, saying “I never thought I would see the day in America, that I would see the ugly specter of Leninism, the ugly specter of Marxism” and claiming that while the president is not a practicing Muslim he is “clearly a cultural Muslim.”

Mefferd not only agreed with Kuhner’s analysis, she was willing to go even farther, warning, “We know what Stalin ended up doing to millions and millions of people who would not bow the knee to him.”


Kuhner: This is a violation of the First Amendment. This is a violation of separation of church and state. This is a blatant war on Christianity. It is a war on our conscience rights. It is a war on our basic human freedoms. And I never thought I would see the day in America, that I would see the ugly specter of Leninism, the ugly specter of Marxism, where you now have state coercion of religion, where you have a blatant, flagrant attempt to purge Christianity from the public square, being so openly and blatantly embraced by the president of the United States.

Janet, if this mandate goes through, if Obamacare is not repealed, I believe it will break the back of our constitutional republic, I believe it will be the end of the First Amendment as we’ve known it, and I believe we are on a path towards radical, secular liberalism, which in many ways is just a form of cultural Marxism.

Obama is our Lenin. He is embarking on a cultural, social, political transformation of this nation, and that is why Christians of all denominations, of all faiths, must stand up and vote this man out of office in November.

 Kuhner: So I believe he is somebody who’s the product of the multicultural, neo-Marxist left. He despises Christianity. He despises our biblical principles. He despises the civilizational roots of American society. And he’s also, I believe –and there’s no getting around this – not that he’s a practicing Muslim or a believing Muslim, but he’s clearly a cultural Muslim.

...

And Janet, I have to say this, many people don’t understand this aspect of communism. Communism never sought to completely eradicate religion. Even they knew that was impossible. What they said was this: ‘We don’t want it in public. If you want to worship, that’s fine, do it in your own home, do it in your own head, do it in your own bedroom. But don’t take your faith outside the home, it doesn’t belong here.’

Mefferd: Well, I tell you, that sounds awfully familiar, and we know what Stalin ended up doing to millions and millions of people who would not bow the knee to him.
 

McDonnell Does a 180 on Mandatory Transvaginal Ultrasounds

Virginia governor Bob McDonnell announced this afternoon that he has, in fact, changed his mind on a newly-passed state bill that would require women seeking abortions to first undergo a vaginal probe without their consent. McDonnell had spoken in support of the bill before it sparked a national outcry. He then remained conspicuously silent for several days before coming out with recommended amendments to the bill to make it slightly less repulsive.

The governor said in a statement this afternoon:

For this reason, I have recommended to the General Assembly a series of amendments to this bill. I am requesting that the General Assembly amend this bill to explicitly state that no woman in Virginia will have to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound involuntarily. I am asking the General Assembly to state in this legislation that only a transabdominal, or external, ultrasound will be required to satisfy the requirements to determine gestational age. Should a doctor determine that another form of ultrasound may be necessary to provide the necessary images and information that will be an issue for the doctor and the patient. The government will have no role in that medical decision.

McDonnell’s backtracking on this component of the mandatory ultrasound bill is a partial but important victory for reproductive rights advocates who explained clearly in Virginia and around the nation what an atrocity the bill would have been.

But it’s also important to remember how far anti-choice politicians will go if they aren’t called out on their activities. Just last week, Virginia's House passed not only the invasive ultrasound bill, but also an extreme “personhood” bill that could endanger legal birth control. Last year, Gov. McDonnell signed unnecessary regulations meant to shut down most of the state’s abortion clinics.

At the same time as Virginia was considering its new assaults on choice, the House held a hearing on President Obama’s requirement that insurance cover contraception, and invited only men. Both major GOP presidential candidates came out for an anti-contraception policy that’s to the right of most Catholics.

McDonnell claims he didn’t know the details of the atrocious ultrasound bill when he previously supported it. But the truth is probably a lot more cynical – he wants to be the GOP vice presidential nominee, and he knew he couldn’t get away with something this extreme. When it came to mandatory invasive ultrasounds, McDonnell got caught between the anti-choice base and everybody else. Every anti-choice politician with national ambitions should face the same pressure.
 

PFAW

Is McDonnell Backing Off Invasive Ultrasound Bill?

Last week, we wondered if Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a possible GOP vice presidential contender, would reconsider his position on a shocking anti-choice bill passed by the state’s legislature after it provoked a national outcry. The bill would require women seeking abortions to first undergo a medically unnecessary, highly invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound without their consent – a process which, under any other circumstances, would be considered rape under state law.

Gov. McDonnell had spoken in support of the bill before it was passed, but once the outcry against it began, fell oddly silent. Now, the Washington Post reports, he may be backing away from his support for the bill and looking for a compromise that will allow him to keep his anti-choice cred, while disassociating himself from one of the most egregious instances of the War on Women to come out of last week:

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is backing off his unconditional support for a bill requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, focusing new attention on one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in Virginia’s General Assembly this year.

Until this weekend, McDonnell (R) and his aides had said the governor would sign the measure if it made it to his desk. McDonnell, who strongly opposes abortion, will no longer make that commitment.

But delegates and governor’s staff were scheduled to meet Tuesday night to strike a compromise after learning that some ultrasounds could be more invasive than first thought, according to two officials who were aware of the meeting but not authorized to speak about it publicly. Many of the bill’s supporters were apparently unaware of how invasive the procedure could be, one of the officials added.

I doubt that McDonnell didn’t know the details of the bill before he spoke in favor of it. But after last week, he knows that signing it will hurt him among all but the most extreme anti-choice voters.
 

PFAW

What the Anti-Birth Control Movement is Really About

99 percent of American women who have ever been sexually active have used birth control.

65 percent of Americans think that insurance plans should have to cover contraception.

Yet the leaders of the GOP, in an effort to make it harder for women to obtain birth control, have sided with a splinter faction of the Right that wants to allow any employer to prevent any employee from privately obtaining contraception coverage from their insurance provider.

Why are they so out of touch? Why have the leaders of a major party staked out a position on contraception to the right of 57 percent of American Catholics and an even greater percentage of the population as a whole?

Here’s a picture of a panel gathered by the House GOP for a hearing about the issue:

And here’s major Rick Santorum supporter Foster Friess explaining today why he just doesn’t understand why women need birth control:

 

In Virginia yesterday, the state House GOP pushed through a bill mandating that women seeking abortions undergo a medically unnecessary vaginal probe without their consent. The governor, a top contender for the GOP vice presidential nomination, has said he will sign it.

This is no longer about religious liberty for institutions that preach against contraception. This isn’t about women’s safety. This is about who gets to make the decisions controlling women’s bodies.

And for the GOP right now, that isn’t women.

Photo: Planned Parenthood

PFAW

What the Anti-Birth Control Movement is Really About

99 percent of American women who have ever been sexually active have used birth control.

65 percent of Americans think that insurance plans should have to cover contraception.

Yet the leaders of the GOP, in an effort to make it harder for women to obtain birth control, have sided with a splinter faction of the Right that wants to allow any employer to prevent any employee from privately obtaining contraception coverage from their insurance provider.

Why are they so out of touch? Why have the leaders of a major party staked out a position on contraception to the right of 57 percent of American Catholics and an even greater percentage of the population as a whole?

Here’s a picture of a panel gathered by the House GOP for a hearing about the issue:

And here’s major Rick Santorum supporter Foster Friess explaining today why he just doesn’t understand why women need birth control:

 

In Virginia yesterday, the state House GOP pushed through a bill mandating that women seeking abortions undergo a medically unnecessary vaginal probe without their consent. The governor, a top contender for the GOP vice presidential nomination, has said he will sign it.

This is no longer about religious liberty for institutions that preach against contraception. This isn’t about women’s safety. This is about who gets to make the decisions controlling women’s bodies.

And for the GOP right now, that isn’t women.

Photo: Planned Parenthood

PFAW

Virginia House Takes the War on Women to a New Level

The Virginia House yesterday passed two anti-choice measures that would be among the most extreme in the nation, including one that could put birth control at risk and another that requires that women seeking an abortion undergo an extremely invasive procedure without their consent.

The Republican-dominated House passed a “personhood” bill, similar to the one overwhelmingly rejected by Mississippi voters last year, that could put the most common types of birth control at risk. It also passed a requirement that all women seeking an abortion first be subjected to an ultrasound, even if medically unnecessary. Women who are too early in their term for an external ultrasound to be effective – roughly 88 percent of those seeking abortions -- would be required to undergo an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound.

When a Democratic lawmaker proposed an amendment requiring a woman’s consent for these procedures, it was voted down.

The Virginia bills take the War on Women to a new level. Requiring women to undergo an unnecessary and invasive procedure to please politicians is oppressive and regressive. One Houston Chronicle columnist found that a similar bill in Texas meets the state’s definition of sexual assault: “an offense in which a person intentionally or knowingly causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person's consent.”

And Texas and Virginia aren’t the only ones – Iowa’s legislature is also considering a similar mandatory ultrasound bill.

These states aren’t just violating women’s rights – they’re violating women. The fact that this is happening in the U.S. in the 21st century is mind-boggling.


 

PFAW

Victory for American Women, But the Fight’s Not Over

In a big victory for American women, the White House today ensured that  women will have access to free contraception in their insurance plans while it continued to protect religious liberty interests.

While today’s news is welcome, what’s stunning is that the importance of contraception for women’s health is still up for debate.

Last month, Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry told a conservative talk show host that contraception is “unrelated to the basic needs of health care” – probably news to the 99 percent of American women who use or have used birth control.

While Fortenberry put it more bluntly than most, his point is not unusual on the Right. Today at the Conservative Political Action Conference, presidential candidate Rick Santorum claimed that insurance shouldn’t pay for contraception at all, saying contraceptives are “things that are not really things you need insurance for.”

Even Mitt Romney, trying to burnish his right-wing credentials, claimed that efforts to make sure all American women have access to affordable contraception constituted an effort by “liberals across the country ... to impose their will on religious organizations and on the population at large.”

But this war on contraception is nothing new. As PFAW president Michael Keegan pointed out last week, both Romney and Santorum supported a House measure last year that would have eliminated federal funding to Planned Parenthood’s efforts to bring affordable contraception and reproductive health services to a million and a half American women. What’s more, the bill that the Planned Parenthood provision was added to would have eliminated the federal government’s entire reproductive health program.

Pundits are already rushing to score political winners and losers in the decision, but the real accomplishment in policy announced today is that it does right by two important values: protecting women’s health and respecting religious freedom.

As long as we’re still having a national conversation about whether women should have the same access to preventative care as men, the fight is far from over.
 

PFAW

Republicans Set to Deny Preventative Healthcare to Women

This week, the House and Senate plan to vote on the Pence Amendment, which would end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, putting the health and safety of millions of Americans at stake.

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.

House-Passes Devastating Amendment in Latest Attack in the GOP's War on Women

Moments ago, the House passed an amendment from Rep. Mike Pence that would eliminate all federal funding to Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide critical health services to millions of women each year.

Backlash Against SD Anti-Choice Bill Proves Voters Want Jobs, Not Attacks on Women

A proposed bill in South Dakota that would have classified murders of abortion doctors as “justifiable homicide” has been shelved after a national outcry, according to news reports. The bill, the latest in a series of attacks on women from state and federal lawmakers, drew outrage from pro-choice groups, including People For the American Way.

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.

PFAW Condemns Abortion Provider Murder Bill

South Dakota’s House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on a bill that would legalize the killing of abortion providers. The bill would expand the state’s definition of “justifiable homicide” to include killings meant to protect the life of a fetus.

House GOP Playing Politics With Women’s Health

In a shameless attempt to stir up a Right Wing “culture war,” House Republicans are drafting a continuing resolution that would include the removal of all Title X family planning funds from the federal budget.

Deceptive Video ‘Sting’ Attacking Planned Parenthood: Dishonest Hit Job is Part of Religious Right’s Campaign to Deny Women Access to Reproductive Health Care

The current wave of political attacks on Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of reproductive health care for women, is the latest example of a now-familiar kind of coordinated propaganda campaign waged by right-wing activist groups, far-right pundits and media outlets, and politicians willing to collaborate in promoting false information for political purposes.
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