Archive for the ‘abortion’ Category

A War on Modern Medical Care?

February 20, 2012

Does the religious right want to limit pregnant women’s access to modern medical care? It’s beginning to look that way.

This past weekend Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum — endorsed by religious-right leaders meeting at a Texas ranch in January — came out in opposition to requiring that health insurance cover prenatal testing at no cost to the patient:

Earlier in the day on Saturday, Santorum had also said that health insurance plans shouldn’t be required to cover prenatal testing, because that testing results in more abortions….

“Free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society,” Santorum told the Ohio Christian Alliance conference.

Asked by [CBS News’ Bob] Schieffer about his claims that prenatal testing leads to more abortions, Santorum insisted that this was “a fact.”

“We’re talking about specifically prenatal testing, and specifically amniocentesis, which is a procedure that actually creates a risk of having a miscarriage when you have it, and is done for the purposes of identifying maladies of a child in the womb. And in many cases — and in fact in most cases — most physicians recommend, if there is a problem, they recommend abortion,” Santorum said.

Santorum had said that because of this trend, health insurance providers should not be forced to make the procedures available free of charge.

Here’s how the U.S. Department of Health and Human services describes the importance of prenatal testing, which is a standard part of modern medical care:

“Medical checkups and screening tests help keep you and your baby healthy during pregnancy. This is called prenatal care. It also involves education and counseling about how to handle different aspects of your pregnancy.”

But Santorum argues that President Obama simply wants to see more disabled fetuses aborted:

“That, too, is part of Obamacare, another hidden message as to what President Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country,” Santorum said.

As repellent as such statements are, they’re hardly surprising anymore coming from Santorum.

We have noted the religious right’s hostility to women controlling their own reproductive health. One Texas lawmaker, for example, openly acknowledged last year that he and his right-wing colleagues in the state Legislature were engaged in a “war on birth control.” Santorum, who thinks birth control is a “license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” has said that states should be able to ban access to contraception altogether. He also opposes a requirement that health insurance cover birth control.

We think religious-right leaders backing Santorum should now explain whether they also support limiting access by pregnant women to modern medical care like prenatal testing.

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Texas RR Groups Push War on Contraception

February 14, 2012

UPDATE: A CBS News/New York Times poll released yesterday shows that a large majority of Americans — including 61 percent of Catholics — appear to support the new rule requiring insurance plans to cover contraception even for women working at religiously affiliated institutions.

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Some religious-right groups in Texas are eagerly entering the war on women’s access to contraception and reproductive health care. As usual, truth is an early casualty.

Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, goes so far as to claim that the Obama administration is “mandating that Catholic institutions and other religious organizations must provide abortifacents and birth control in violation of their own teachings and consciences.” Of course, that’s not true. The policy would require that insurance companies provide, if religious institutions do not, coverage for contraceptive services for women.

Texans for Life Coalition, an anti-abortion and anti-sex education group based in Irving near Dallas, is also denouncing the new federal policy. The organization’s blog even argues that birth control is bad for women’s health:

“I am so sick of people lumping abortion and birth control together and calling it ‘women’s health.’ Neither one of these two things are necessary for women to be healthy. In fact, you can make a pretty solid argument that both of these things are damaging to women’s health, emotionally and physically.”

This new eruption in the culture wars follows a 2011 legislative session in which Texas lawmakers passed a number of measures limiting women’s access to contraceptive and health services. One legislator even acknowledged that he and his political allies were engaged in a “war on birth control.”

Hypocrisy and Women’s Health Care

February 7, 2012

The hypocrisy is pretty clear to see.

Last week religious-right groups expressed outrage that the Austin City Council passed an ordinance requiring so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” to post signs telling visitors if they have no licensed healthcare professionals on site. Such facilities are typically not medical clinics and exist primarily to persuade pregnant women not to have an abortion. The ordinance would let a pregnant woman know upfront that she will not receive medical care at the facility.

But such a requirement is government-mandated speech, religious-right groups say, and thus a violation of the First Amendment. Samuel B. Casey of the Law of Life Project said the First Amendment protects the right of free speech as well as the right not to speak:

The government cannot “make a private citizen speak the government’s message. It doesn’t matter what the message is. What matters is that it’s the government’s message.”

Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, similarly charged that the new Austin ordinance suffers from the same legal defects it claimed in an earlier, broader ordinance that the City Council repealed. The group said it opposes measures “requiring pregnancy centers, under the threat of criminal penalties, to disclose government-mandated information about their services at their front entrances.”

But Liberty Institute’s opposition to “government-mandated information” is rather selective. Consider the new Texas law — passed by the Legislature in 2011 — requiring a doctor to perform a sonogram on a woman 24 hours (in most cases) before proceeding with an abortion the woman has requested. The new law mandates that the doctor show the sonogram image and describe the fetus in detail to the woman, “including a medical description of the dimensions of the embryo or fetus, the presence of cardiac activity, and the presence of external members and internal organs.” The doctor must also make the heartbeat audible and describe it to the woman. Liberty Institute says this government-mandated message is just fine:

“Liberty Institute argues that HB 15 is consistent with Supreme Court and only requires the disclosure of truthful and accurate information to allow women to make informed decisions regarding their pregnancies.”

So let’s recap. According to religious-right groups, it’s a violation of the First Amendment if government requires a “crisis pregnancy center” to post a sign simply stating, truthfully, that it does not have a licensed healthcare professional on site. But they claim it’s not a violation of the First Amendment if government requires a physician to subject a woman to a detailed description of her fetus if she has requested an abortion.

This isn’t really about just the First Amendment. It’s about hypocrisy and using government to intrude in one of the most private, intimate and difficult decisions a woman can make. Some folks are for “limited government,” except when they’re not.

Calculated to Inflame and Offend

February 2, 2012

In language clearly calculated to inflame and offend, anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry has issued a provocative press release suggesting that Catholic voters are “the ‘new Negro’ of the Democratic Party.” Terry lays out various court cases — including the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court’s Smith v. Allwright case that struck down the Texas Democratic Party’s all-white primaries — in arguing that “reporters will understand the glaring comparison of ‘Negro’ voters and candidates in Democratic Primaries in the 1940s, and Catholic voters of today.”

What in the world is he talking about?

The issue involves Terry’s desire to air very graphic anti-abortion commercials during the Super Bowl. Terry, who has described himself as a “lifelong Republican,” says election law requires broadcasters to air his ads because he is a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. The Democratic National Committee argues that Terry’s presidential “campaign” is just a stunt to get his ads aired, and broadcasters are refusing the ads. (And we can understand why they wouldn’t want to broadcast images of aborted fetuses to millions of viewers and their children watching a football game.)

So now Terry is suggesting that the refusal of the Democratic Party (he calls it the “Democrat Party”) to accept as true the fiction that he is a Democrat means the party also wants to disenfranchise anti-abortion Catholics. And he likens that to the refusal to allow African Americans in Texas to vote in Democratic primaries during segregation. We wonder if even a very conservative court will buy all that. Regardless, Terry is doing what we’ve seen the religious right do for a long time now: he’s using faith as a political weapon to divide Americans, and he’s doing so in the most inflammatory and offensive way he can.

To refresh your memory, MediaMatters explains just how extreme Terry is: He justified the murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller in 2009 by claiming that the physician “reaped what he sowed.” He has warned that Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will burn in hell. He said refusing to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 “is to bow in abject obedience to the Angel of Death.” He burned in effigy a Republican senator who voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. He warned of “violence” if Congress passed health care reform two years ago. And he led a protest outside the White House to destroy a copy of the Koran.

Abortion=Evolution=Holocaust?

January 18, 2012

It’s a cold and stunning effort to use the Nazis’ systematic murder of millions of Jews before and during World War II to promote a political agenda today.  We just saw a press release in which a Texas-based right-wing litigation group peddles the argument that the Holocaust, abortion and evolution are all connected. Check out this excerpt from the press release from The Justice Foundation in San Antonio and other anti-abortion groups:

Millions of innocent unborn children have died and women have been hurt throughout the world through abortion. Millions of men, woman and children died in the Holocaust. Is there a connection between these evils and evolution? … We will examine today the pictures, the stories, the evidence, and the horrors in the concentration camps and abortion clinics.

The release goes on to announce a Friday press conference in the nation’s capital to promote a DVD about “the relationship between Evolution — Auschwitz — Abortion.”

2011 in Quotes: Women’s Health

December 29, 2011

The right in 2011 continued to pursue a dangerous political agenda that undermines women’s health and reproductive rights. Even access to contraception has become a political battleground. Read more quotes from the far right in 2011 here.

“Of course it’s a war on birth control, abortion, everything — that’s what family planning is supposed to be about.””

– Texas state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, discussing his support for a raft of legislation in Texas this year limiting access by women to reproductive health services. TFN Insider, May 29, 2011 (Video clip from Texas Tribune; full video here)

“We’ve had a lot of input from our constituents about the budget this time, about the number of cuts that we’re doing. So I’m going to have to draw the line at this point and say no more cuts.”

– Texas state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, making a joke in his argument against an amendment to a bill requiring women seeking an abortion to undergo a sonogram and a doctor to describe the image of the  fetus to the woman.  The amendment would have allowed a woman who decided against an abortion, after getting the required sonogram, to seek a court order mandating a vasectomy on the unmarried man who got her pregnant. El Paso Times, March 4, 2011

“Well, I’m not so sure. Here I am in the middle of the debate and I’m not so sure. I’ve been told that 98 percent of the services they offer to pregnant women are abortion-related services. I’m not sure, but I think we ought to find out.

[…]

I actually went on Planned Parenthood’s website yesterday to try and see if I could get some good info, and I came up empty.”

— Texas Senator John Cornyn, doubling down on a Senate colleague’s absurd exaggeration of how much of Planned Parenthood’s work is abortion-related. American Independent, April 18, 2011

“The good news is through the blood of Jesus Christ he forgives, and women who have aborted children need to know that message … I believe this can be the beginning of the end of 75,000 abortions we have every year in Texas.”

— Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, at the signing of the abortion sonogram bill, responding to remarks by someone in the audience talking about women who have abortions being guilty of killing their children. Texas Tribune, May 24, 2011

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

— Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, on his pledge to repeal all federal funding for contraception were he elected president. Think Progress, October 19, 2011

Allen Parker Pwnd

August 25, 2011

Federal District Judge Sam Sparks has had just about enough of attorney Allen Parker’s attempts to grandstand on the pending sonogram lawsuit (courtesy of BurkaBlog):

However, the Court is forced to conclude that Allen E. Parker, Jr., the attorney whose signature appears on this motion, is anything but competent. A competent attorney would not have filed this motion in the first place; if he did, he certainly would not have attached exhibits that are both highly prejudicial and legally irrelevant; and if he foolishly did both things, he surely would not be so prejudicial as to file such exhibits unsealed. A competent attorney who did these things would be deliberately disrespecting this Court and knowingly shirking his professional responsibilities, offenses for which he would be lucky to retain his bar card, much less an intact bank balance.

For Mr. Parker’s sake, and because the Court has not time to hold a sanctions hearing–in part because it must take time out of deciding the actual legal issues in this case to address the self-serving entreaties of attention-seekers like Mr. Parker–the Court assumes Mr. Parker is as incompetent as he appears. Rather than sanction him, the Court simply does what Mr. Parker would have done if he was a competent professional, and seals attachment 7 to his motion.

Ouch.

Parker runs the San Antonio-based Justice Foundation, a spin-off of the Texas Public Policy Foundation that litigates on behalf of far-right causes — especially abortion.  He’s also been a prominent supporter of Gov. Rick Perry over the years and made news last month with his strident defense of Perry’s decision to limit his prayer rally to Christians only (h/t Right Wing Watch):

This is an explicitly Christian event because we are going to be praying to the one true God through His son, Jesus Christ. It would be idolatry of the worst sort for Christians to gather and invite false gods like Allah and Buddha and their false prophets to be with us at that time. Because we have religious liberty in this country, they are free to have events and pray to Buddha and Allah on their own. But this is time of prayer to the One True God through His son, Jesus Christ, who is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

‘Of Course It’s a War on Birth Control’

May 29, 2011

Wayne Christian lets the truth slip in an interview with the Texas Tribune:

Of course it’s a war on birth control, abortion, everything — that’s what family planning is supposed to be about.

This wasn’t a momentary slip of the tongue. Christian is just saying out loud what many Texas lawmakers believe — and many more supported with their votes this session. The ideology underlying all the attacks on abortion and Planned Parenthood is fundamentally anti-birth control and anti-family planning. And as so many others have pointed out, it is ultimately self-defeating, as depriving Texas women of birth control is one sure-fire way to increase the number of abortions in this state.

Dan Patrick on Abortion: ‘It’s a God Issue’

May 24, 2011

State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, had the following to say today as Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law his bill requiring women seeking an abortion to have a sonogram of the fetus at least 24 hours before the procedure. Sen. Patrick was responding to remarks by someone in the audience talking about women who have abortions being guilty of killing their children. Patrick said:

“The good news is through the blood of Jesus Christ he forgives, and women who have aborted children need to know that message … I believe this can be the beginning of the end of 75,000 abortions we have every year in Texas.”

Here’s video from the Texas Tribune:

Sen. Patrick also told listeners just before that comment:

“Standing for life isn’t a partisan issue. It’s a God issue.”

The Dallas Morning News has more here about Sen. Patrick’s comments.

Patrick made similar comments earlier in the legislative session when the sonogram bill was debated on the Senate floor.

Here’s video from earlier in the session:

From Burning Bushes to Crying Babies

February 23, 2011

For everyone who thought the culture warriors on the religious right would take a back seat at the Texas Legislature during this once-a-generation budget crisis, ladies and gentlemen, we give you exhibit A:

During last week’s debate in the Texas Senate over the “sonogram bill” — legislation that would require a doctor show a sonogram and play the heartbeat of the fetus to women seeking an abortion — Senator Dan Patrick, R-Houston, offered a little nugget that makes it clear that his bill has less to do with “empowering women” with information (as he has claimed) than imposing his personal religious beliefs on women in the state.

While responding to a question from another senator, Patrick was briefly interrupted by a crying baby in the audience. Here’s what he said:

You know, so often in life we try to do things on our timing — there’s the hand of God right there, with the cry of a baby who says, ‘vote for this bill, let’s get it moving. Let’s get the 24 suspended, 21 votes suspended. But life is about God’s timing not our timing. This bill wasn’t right in 2007 and it obviously wasn’t right in 2009. This is God’s time to pass this bill.

You can also watch the video below.

TFN takes no position on this bill; we do not advocate on issues of reproductive rights. But we do have a position on politicians who see faith primarily as a weapon to attack those who disagree with them. We believe the cynical use of faith to advance a political agenda is both corrosive to democracy and shows profound disrespect toward the diversity of religious opinions in this state.

As with many self-righteous Texas politicians before him, Sen. Patrick has decided that appropriating God to score political points and smear his opponents is good politics. And maybe it will work in the short term. But we should all be nervous when the power of government is used to privilege the personal religious opinions of one person or group. That’s precisely why the Founders separated religion and government in this country in the first place.

What’s the Emergency?

January 25, 2011

Both the Texas House and Senate have now released initial budgets intended to cover a massive state fiscal deficit that experts have placed as high as $27 billion. Cuts outlined in those budgets could mean the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in education — one lawmaker describes the effect on public schools as “Armageddon.” The budgets also include drastic cuts in critical state services, such as health care, public safety and criminal justice. And that’s only part of the terrible fiscal bloodbath facing the state.

But Gov. Rick Perry has spent the last few weeks declaring as “emergencies” a long list of divisive issues that appeal to his base of hard-right supporters. Legislators will be able to take those issues up quickly because of the “emergency” declaration. And what are those supposed “emergencies”? Voter ID. Outlawing “sanctuary” cities. Passing a symbolic resolution calling for a federal balanced budget amendment. And forcing women seeking an abortion to have a sonogram first.

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Chilling Times

January 8, 2011

The shooting this morning of an Arizona congresswoman (who at this writing is in critical condition) is a chilling moment in American history. It appears that six people were killed, including a young child and a federal judge.

Some have already noted that Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was featured last year in a map created by Sarah Palin’s Political Action Committee. The map used crosshairs to identify 20 members of Congress who supported health care reform legislation.

Just as stunning is the language we continue to hear and see from extremist right-wing groups, including in Texas. This morning, in fact, the Houston-based Life & Liberty Political Action Committee sent out an e-mail accusing the Obama administration and congressional supporters of “death-dealing” health care reform of using tax dollars to murder babies through abortion and subject the sick and elderly to “death panels.” Then we read this passage:

“Politicians’ home offices are staffed by locals… locals who do not want to look their neighbors in the face and lie. These Congress Critters LIVE in these areas and when they come home on breaks and to campaign (continuously) they are no longer sheltered by taxpayer-paid Capitol Hill staffers who shield the Members from We the People.”

Let’s be clear: the Life and Liberty PAC’s e-mail does not — thanks goodness — call for assassinating elected officials. It explicitly calls for recipients to sign petitions, fax elected officials and vote out anyone who supported health care reform. But we wonder what message the PAC’s leaders really think they are sending with outrageous and incendiary claims that the government — with the support of President Obama and members of Congress — was murdering babies over Christmas:

“Not only has the government attempted to eradicate Christ from His own birthday celebration; but like Herod, our government was murdering babies throughout the holiday season… with your tax money.”

The e-mail goes on to charge that “ObamaCare Death Panels have already begun” and are essentially condemning seriously ill people to death. And then this:

“Since the unborn, elderly and the infirm and vulnerable were not afforded respite from government death-dealing even during the Holy Season of Christmas, there can be no respite for the politicians who fund their deaths in the New Year!”

As we said, chilling.

Elections Open Door to Radical Agendas

November 27, 2010

The Associated Press notes that the religious right is preparing to use the November elections to push a radical legislative agenda in states across the country starting in January. The religious right’s hit list includes women’s reproductive rights, embryonic stem cell research, divorce laws and equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. The Texas Freedom Network has already identified other likely battles coming when the legislative session opens in Austin in January, including reform of the State Board of Education and responsible sex education in public schools.

You can help stop the religious right’s radical agenda in Texas by signing up for a TFN Rapid Response Team. TFN will keep Rapid Response Team members updated on critical legislation as it moves through the state House and Senate. We will also provide the tools you need to take action to top attacks on religious freedom, equal rights and public education.

But how does the Associated Press see the religious right’s legislative agenda shaping up across the country? Read on.

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Not about Politics? Don’t Believe It

September 9, 2010

Experience has taught us this: when someone from the religious right insists that a provocative event he has scheduled isn’t really about politics, you can be pretty certain that politics is exactly what it’s about. Today’s example: a far-right group called Operation Save America plans on Saturday “to present a prophetic message” about 9/11 at an event in New York.

Says the group’s assistant director, Rev. Rusty Less Thomas, in a press release today:

“We are going to New York City at this hallowed time not to politicize September 11th, but to present a prophetic message, that if heeded, may prevent future attacks and restore God’s hand of blessing upon our beleaguered nation.”

Uh-huh. And what is that prophetic message? Read on:

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Bill Ames on Abortion and the SBOE

March 1, 2010

Bill Ames, appointed by Texas State Board of Education member Don McLeroy to a social studies curriculum writing team, has commented on our post about the relevance of abortion politics to the state board. We are reposting Mr. Ames’ comment here in its entirety:

I will explain exactly what abortion politics have to do with the SBOE.

In 2004, the SBOE adopted an abstinence-based sex education curriculum, in accordinance with the state education code.

Planned Parenthood was a substantial lobbyist for the anti-abstinence sex education curriculum demanded by TFN and other members of the education political lobby.

Planned Parenthood requires thousands of sexually active teens in Texas in order to keep its abortion mills profitably humming along.

Thus it supported the curriculum proposal that encourages teen sexual activity.

Abortion politics has lots to do with the SBOE………

So there you have it. According to Mr. Ames, people who oppose abstinence-only programs that keep students ignorant about how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are simply trying to drum up profits for Planned Parenthood’s “abortion mills.”

The importance of rescuing the education of Texas schoolchildren from that kind of political hysteria and extremism could hardly be clearer.