Health Care

Issues ››› Health Care
  • A Media Guide To The Hyde Amendment And Its Anti-Choice Legacy

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    September 25 marked the start of a week of action by reproductive rights advocates to raise awareness about the Hyde amendment, its anti-choice legacy, and recent efforts to catalyze support for its repeal.

    The United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action, led by All* Above All’s coalition of reproductive rights activists, not only demarcates the 40th anniversary of the oppressive anti-choice measure’s adoption, but also comes at a significant time politically. Despite the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt -- which struck down medically unnecessary anti-choice restrictions on abortion access in Texas -- right-wing media and anti-choice politicians have continued to push misinformation about abortion and have doubled down on their support for the Hyde amendment.

    During this week of action -- and beyond -- here’s what the media needs to know about the Hyde amendment, its legacy, and the efforts of reproductive rights activists to eliminate the anti-choice funding restriction once and for all.

    What Is The Hyde Amendment?

    If It’s Been Around For 40 Years, Why Is It Just Now Becoming A Campaign Issue?

    What Are Right-Wing Media Saying About Funding For Abortion And Reproductive Health Services?

    Who Does The Hyde Amendment Most Impact?

    What Can Be Done About The Hyde Amendment?

    What Is The Hyde Amendment?

    The Hyde amendment is a restriction on federal funding for abortion services. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this restriction -- commonly called the Hyde amendment after its first sponsor, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) -- was first passed as a budgetary rider “to the fiscal 1977 Medicaid appropriation.” Every year since, “the Hyde Amendment has been reenacted” to prevent the use of federal Medicaid funds from covering abortion services, except in case of rape or incest or to protect the life of the mother.

    Because of its restrictions, the Hyde amendment has created a significant barrier for low-income patients attempting to access safe and legal abortion care. Considering the number of financial and logistical barriers women already face in trying to access abortion, the Hyde amendment adds an additional and unnecessary complication.

    If It’s Been Around For 40 Years, Why Is It Just Now Becoming A Campaign Issue?

    In January, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton decided to “publicly do battle against Hyde,” by making the repeal of the anti-choice restriction a top priority, Rebecca Traister wrote in New York magazine. Beyond being the first presidential nominee to publicly speak against the Hyde amendment, Clinton “dropped a bomb on the political conversation about abortion” by drawing attention to “the relationship between reproductive-health-care access and economic inequality,” Traister argued. 

    The Democratic Party also formally adopted repealing the Hyde amendment as a priority in its platform -- marking the first time a major political party has targeted the anti-choice restriction on this scale.

    Although Clinton and the Democratic Party are drawing much-needed attention to the problematic Hyde amendment, the renewed focus on its impact did not originate with them. Instead, as All* Above All co-chair Jessica González-Rojas explained to The Guardian, the credit belongs with “Women of color leaders” who “have been calling for the repeal of Hyde for decades when most mainstream reproductive rights groups did not prioritize this issue.”

    Similarly, ThinkProgress reported in early September, although Hillary Clinton’s commitment to repealing the Hyde amendment “ quickly shot the controversial idea into mainstream political conversations,” it has been the “end goal of dozens of resilient reproductive justice organizations that have been pushing to repeal the Hyde Amendment for decades.”

    Now, during this week of action, All* Above All has mobilized a grass-roots coalition involving “68 organizations in 38 states" working "to show support for lifting bans on abortion coverage for low-income women.” Reproductive rights advocates are not the only ones drawing attention to the Hyde amendment during the election, however.

    More recently, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a letter announcing that he has a new “pro-life coalition,” led by known anti-choice extremist Marjorie Dannenfelser. As part of the announcement, Trump committed himself to making the Hyde amendment “permanent law” in order to prevent “taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.” Trump also promised to defund Planned Parenthood and ban abortion after 20 weeks on the faulty premise that a fetus can feel pain by that point in gestation.

    What Are Right-Wing Media Saying About Funding For Abortion And Reproductive Health Services?

    Right-wing media have a history of not only attacking Planned Parenthood, but also spreading misinformation about the Hyde amendment and federal funding for other reproductive health care services.

    For example, during the December 22 edition of Fox News’ The Five, co-host Eric Bolling reacted to co-host Dana Perino’s statement that “defunding Planned Parenthood” is problematic politically by arguing that funding for abortion services should be “separate” from funding for “women’s services.” Although Bolling did not explicitly name the Hyde amendment, he pushed for Republicans to "defund the abortion part of Planned Parenthood” and set up a “Chinese wall” between abortions and Planned Parenthood’s other services.

    Right-wing media have also misled the public about how much of Planned Parenthood’s resources are strictly devoted to abortion, dismissing the many other types of health care the organization provides to both women and men. In July 2015, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros advocated for defunding Planned Parenthood because, as O’Reilly argued, he did not want “tax dollars going” to abortion providers. Tantaros supported this statement and repeated the myth that because Americans have ample alternatives to Planned Parenthood, “taxpayer dollars should not have to go” to abortion providers.

    Beyond the Hyde amendment, right-wing media have also spread misinformation about the nature of Title X family planning funds that are used by providers like Planned Parenthood to supply necessary reproductive health care such as contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and cancer screenings. Right-wing media have argued that Planned Parenthood is an inappropriate recipient of Title X funds, because the organization is incapable of providing wider reproductive health care. In reality, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are an essential resource for reproductive health care in many communities.

    As a result, in September 2016, the Obama administration proposed a rule that would stop anti-choice lawmakers from diverting federal family planning money -- distributed to states through Title X of the Public Health Service Act -- away from Planned Parenthood. As The New York Times explained, “The rule would make clear that state governments must apportion Title X funds based on a provider’s ability to perform family planning services effectively -- not on other factors like whether a provider also offers abortions.” In April, the Obama administration had “warned officials in all 50 states” that blocking Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funding is likely “out of compliance with federal law,” according to The Washington Post.

    Nevertheless, right-wing media alleged that the proposed rule would ensure that there are “millions more in taxpayer dollars for the nation’s abortion market leader at the expense of women’s health.”

    Even when not discussing the Hyde amendment or abortion funding, right-wing media have frequently misrepresented the severity of anti-choice restrictions and downplayed the ways these requirements have made abortion and other reproductive health services less accessible.

    This is an issue that has spread beyond just right-wing media. In a recent study, Media Matters analyzed 14 months of evening cable news discussion about reproductive rights and found that media frequently ignore or underestimate the impact of economic barriers when talking about abortion access. In this study we found that only eight news segments even briefly mentioned the economic barriers women face to accessing abortion.

    Who Does The Hyde Amendment Most Impact?

    1. Low-Income Patients

    Low-income patients and their families are one of the primary groups affected by the Hyde amendment’s restriction on funding for abortion services.

    The Guttmacher Institute found in a July 2016 study that the “number of women potentially affected by the Hyde Amendment is substantial” given the significant number of women dependent on federally subsidized medical services. According to Guttmacher’s director of public policy, Heather Boonstra, for women between 15 and 33 who depend on Medicaid, 60 percent live in places (35 states and D.C.) “that do not cover abortion, except in limited circumstances.” As a result, approximately 7 million women are potentially impacted by Hyde’s restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

    In January, Slate’s Christina Cauterucci highlighted Clinton’s focus on repealing the Hyde amendment because of its disproportionate impact on low-income patients. According to Clinton, abortion is not accessible enough “'as long as we have laws on the book like the Hyde Amendment making it harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.'” Cauterucci concluded that if Clinton succeeded in making the repeal of Hyde a central issue in the campaign, it would be “a long-overdue step toward addressing the intersection between economic insecurity and reproductive health.”

    The National Women’s Law Center explained in 2015 that “because of the high cost of the procedure, low-income women are often forced to delay obtaining an abortion,” which increases the out-of-pocket costs. Thus the Hyde amendment exacerbates the substantial financial disadvantage low-income persons already face in obtaining abortion care.

    2. Women Of Color

    Women of color -- especially black women, Latinas, and Native Americans -- suffer a particularly disparate impact from the Hyde amendment’s ban on federal abortion coverage.

    According to a September 2016 research brief from Ibis Reproductive Health and All* Above All on the impact of out-of-pocket costs on abortion access, “Because low-income women and women of color are disproportionately covered by public health insurance programs, restrictions in coverage increase their socioeconomic disadvantage.”

    This assessment matched the findings of the National Women’s Law Center’s study, which noted that women of color were not only “more likely than White women to face financial barriers when seeking abortions” but also “more likely to experience unintended pregnancy, due to racial, ethnic, gender, and economic healthcare inequalities.”

    Black Women

    In 2015 the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda reported that “black women have more than double the unintended pregnancy rate of white women,” which is particularly concerning given that “the risk of death from pregnancy complications was nearly three and a half times higher for Black women than for white women.”

    According to a recent Guttmacher Institute fact sheet, black women do experience higher rates of unintended pregnancy and more frequently elect to abort. Think Progress’ Kira Lerner explained these numbers simply reflect “the difficulties that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services and in using their chosen method of birth control consistently and effectively.” Lerner noted black women also experience a “racial disparity … for other health measures including rates of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.”

    Latinas

    Latinas’ access to reproductive care is significantly impacted not just by the Hyde amendment but also by the financial and logistical barriers created by anti-choice restrictions in states, like Texas, that have a high percentage of Latinos.

    According to a joint op-ed from the executive directors of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and Voto Latino, “The first woman known to die of an unsafe illegal abortion after the Hyde Amendment was a Latina” named Rosie Jimenez, who “died from septic shock in October 1977” months after the Hyde amendment first went into effect. Since then, the op-ed explained, the Hyde amendment has continued to have “an especially devastating effect” on Latina communities, due to their high national rates of Medicaid enrollment.

    In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health, NLIRH explained the material consequences of barriers created by state anti-choice restrictions, like Texas’ HB 2. NLIRH argued that due to the "significant geographic, transportation, infrastructure, and cost challenges" Latinas already face when seeking medical care, clinic closures caused by Texas’ anti-choice law would create "severe burdens in accessing reproductive healthcare."

    Native Americans

    Native Americans are disparately impacted not only by restrictions on federal funding for abortion, but also by a lack of public awareness about the unique barriers to reproductive health care faced by their communities.

    As Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center executive director Charon Asetoyer explained to Salon, despite the disparate impact anti-choice restrictions have on Native American communities, Native people are often a “silent population” in national conversations about reproductive rights. For example, she noted that although Native Americans are entitled to receive care through the federally funded Indian Health Service (IHS), “We are still struggling to aspire to the Hyde Amendment while others work to get rid of it.”

    Indeed, as a 2002 survey of Native American women’s reproductive health care access found, 85 percent of IHS offices “often refuse to provide Native American women even the limited access to abortion services to which they are legally entitled under the Hyde Amendment.”

    As a result, Asetoyer continued, many Native Americans who wish to access abortion services are forced to incur higher out-of-pocket costs in order to travel to the nearest abortion provider when “A lot of the time women in these situations don’t even have an automobile to drive to the nearest Planned Parenthood, let alone the money to pay for the procedure.”

    3. LGBT Persons

    In an op-ed for Advocate, National LGBTQ Task Force representative Candace Bond-Theriault affirmed that the LGBTQ and reproductive justice movements are “inseparable” because “many of the same people who propose policies that discriminate against LGBTQ people also [are] actively working to deny access to reproductive health care.”

    While the Hyde amendment makes abortion care inaccessible for many, Bond-Theriault highlighted how anti-choice restrictions additionally perpetuate structural inequalities wherein individuals are “stigmatized because of the personal bodily choices that [they] make.”

    Lambda Legal’s Camilla Taylor, Caroline Sacerdote, and Kara Ingelhart previously explained the pervasive and negative forms of stigma that both movements address, noting that, “People who have an abortion -- whether members of the LGBT community or not -- experience something familiar to all LGBT people: stigma.” They emphasized the importance of combating abortion stigma because, “As the LGBT community knows all too well, it is hard to fight against efforts to roll back your civil rights when you have to remain in the closet.”

    In an op-ed titled “Abortion Access and Trans Health Care Are Bound Together in Texas,” Texas Equal Access Fund president Nan Little Kirkpatrick wrote that “the Hyde amendment is discrimination in health care” faced by those attempting to “exercise their reproductive rights as granted by the Supreme Court.” She argued that the effort to take down structurally oppressive measures like the Hyde amendment “expressly highlights the ways that the movements for trans and reproductive justice intersect” because both involve “bodily autonomy.”

    4. Service Members And Veterans

    Because the Hyde amendment is a restriction on federal abortion funding, its impact is felt by anyone dependent on federally subsidized medical care, including service members or veterans.

    After the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision against Texas’ anti-choice law HB 2, Salon’s Amanda Marcotte named the repeal of the Hyde amendment one of the next major goals for pro-choice advocates. According to Marcotte, “The effects of the Hyde Amendment have been devastating” for both low-income families and service members because it means “no federal employees, service women, veterans or women on Medicaid have access to coverage for abortion.”

    What Can Be Done About The Hyde Amendment?

    As Steph Herold, managing director of the Sea Change Program, wrote in an op-ed for Rewire, All* Above All “is playing a pivotal role by introducing pro-active abortion access legislation and encouraging elected officials to come out against the Hyde Amendment.”

    The organization represents a coalition of reproductive justice advocates and women of color whose goals are to catalyze action to “restore public insurance coverage so that every woman, however much she makes, can get affordable, safe abortion care when she needs it.”

    From September 25 to October 1, All* Above All is leading a week of action, which includes “130 activities hosted by 68 organizations in 38 states to show support for lifting bans on abortion coverage for low-income women.” The United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action also includes “a multi-city ad campaign amplifying the voices of Catholics [for choice] across the county” as well as a “celebration of local victories” to earn recognition for the need to repeal oppressive anti-choice restrictions like the Hyde amendment.

    In addition, All* Above All has mobilized support for the EACH Woman Act, proposed legislation that would repeal the Hyde amendment and guarantee “coverage for abortion for every woman, however much she earns or however she is insured.” According to All* Above All, the bill now has over 120 co-sponsors who have committed themselves to affirming that people have the right to make the best reproductive health care decision for themselves and their families.

    To mark 40 years of the Hyde amendment’s dangerous anti-choice legacy, NARAL Pro-Choice America shared the stories of several individuals “from diverse backgrounds and experiences [who] came together to support repeal of Hyde.” Although their stories represent a variety of experiences in trying to gain access to necessary abortion care, the common refrain and message to the media was clear. As one of the individuals, Mary Tobin, wrote: “If equality is truly a pillar that our country represents and embraces, then the repeal of the Hyde Amendment is crucial to upholding our country’s identity.”

  • Pro-Choice Groups Call On NBC’s Lester Holt To Ask Candidates About Abortion During First Presidential Debate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    On September 22, a coalition of reproductive rights groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, UltraViolet, All* Above All Action Fund, National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, and CREDO, issued a joint letter encouraging NBC News’ Lester Holt, moderator of the first presidential debate on Monday, September 26, to “press the candidates on their plans to address the crisis in abortion access in our country.”

    The letter proposes three potential questions asking the presidential nominees, if elected president, how would they “ensure that the constitutional right to abortion is guaranteed to all Americans,” would they allow or restrict a pregnant woman infected with Zika to access abortion, and “what steps would [the candidates] take to reverse maternal mortality in this country?”

    During the Democratic primary, critics called out debate moderators for failing to ask either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders questions about abortion, including starting a Twitter hashtag #AskAboutAbortion. Eventually, Clinton and Sanders were asked abortion-related questions during Fox News’ March 7 Town Hall. Pro-choice group have revived the hashtag campaign prior to Monday’s presidential debate.

    From the September 22 joint letter:

    While many topics deserve the candidates’ consideration—from job creation to immigration to national security—safe and reliable access to abortion is fundamental to all Americans’ ability to determine our own destinies. One in three women in this country has had an abortion, and the majority (over 60%) are mothers who are trying to take care of the families they already have. Despite the fact that seven in 10 Americans support legal abortion, many in government are actively trying and succeeding in blocking access to what is, at its core, a constitutionally protected right. Consider the following facts, which paint a picture of dwindling access to abortion across the country:

    • 261 anti-choice laws have passed through state legislatures since 2010
    • 27 states have anti-choice legislatures where both chambers are anti-choice
    • 87% of counties in this country have no abortion provider at all

    Throughout this presidential campaign, we’ve heard Hillary Clinton outline her plan to expand abortion access by repealing the discriminatory Hyde Amendment, and we’ve heard Donald Trump say that a woman should be punished for her decision to have an abortion. These starkly different approaches to such important issues deserve to be contested on the national debate stage. Voters deserve a fulsome debate on how to expand access to abortion so they can decide for themselves which candidate will do right by their family.

    In presidential debates since at least 1984, moderators have typically posed questions on abortion that border on entirely theoretical because they focus on extreme outlier cases. We hope that your questions capture the true needs of women and the lived experiences surrounding abortion access.

  • Las Vegas Review-Journal Smears Planned Parenthood Over Birth Control Access

    ››› ››› RACHEL LARRIS & SHARON KANN

    During a recent appearance on The Dr. Oz Show, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said birth control “should not be done by prescription.” A subsequent editorial by the Las Vegas Review-Journal used Trump’s remarks to falsely claim that Planned Parenthood is “the biggest obstacle” to “the availability of and access to birth control for women,” ignoring both media and medical groups’ concern that selling birth control over the counter could make it less affordable and accessible if health insurance does not continue to cover the cost.

  • Trump’s Extreme New Anti-Choice Agenda Is Full Of Right-Wing Media’s Favorite Misinformation

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On September 16, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a letter announcing a new “pro-life coalition,” led by a known anti-choice extremist. As part of the announcement, Trump also pledged a commitment to four anti-choice policy priorities that have been long promoted by right-wing media, involving defunding Planned Parenthood, banning abortion, and entrenching the Hyde amendment as federal law.

  • Wash. Post Berates GOP-Led States Still “Irrationally Holding Out” On Medicaid Expansion

    Latest Census Data Reveal Lingering Impact Of Right-Wing Media’s Obstructionist Campaign Against Obamacare

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    The Washington Post editorial board used the latest Census data showing that the rate of U.S. residents without health insurance continues to drop as proof that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- commonly referred to as Obamacare -- is working. The paper also argued that Obamacare would help millions more Americans if Republican-led states accepted federal subsidies to expand Medicaid. Right-wing media outlets have spent years encouraging the ongoing obstruction of this key provision of health care reform.

    In a September 17 editorial, the Post highlighted the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual report on health insurance coverage, which showed that the percentage of people with health insurance had risen to 90.9 percent nationwide in 2015. The editorial board noted that the same report showed room for even more improvement in expanded health insurance coverage if the law were fully implemented at the state level. According to the Census data, the uninsured rate in states that did not accept Medicaid expansion under the ACA is still 12.3 percent, far above the national average and even further still from the 7.2 percent uninsured rate in states that have accepted the law’s allocation of funds for low-income Americans. In the Post’s view, the 19 states that continue to refuse Medicaid expansion are “irrationally holding out,” not only because their refusal of “huge amounts of federal money” has denied 4 to 5 million more Americans access to health care, but also because studies have shown that each state would receive vastly more money from the government than it would spend on expansion. From The Washington Post:

    But the overall number could be cut much lower, and quickly, if Obamacare were working as it was meant to. We are not referring to the recent, much-discussed exit of some major health insurers from the marketplaces the law created. We are talking about Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for the poor and near-poor. The Supreme Court in 2012 made the expansion optional for states, and a large chunk, including Virginia, have refused. The Census Bureau found that the uninsured rate was 7.2 percent in expansion states last year and 12.3 percent in non-expansion states. Five states have expanded since, but that still leaves 19, representing 4 million to 5 million people who would otherwise get coverage, irrationally holding out.

    Why irrationally? In their effort to hobble Obamacare, state Republican leaders have left huge amounts of federal money on the table. The federal government has offered to pay nearly the whole cost of the expansion, forever. Though states must pitch in a bit, they get a much lower uninsured rate, lower uncompensated care costs and other savings in return. The Urban Institute found last month that the 19 holdout states would get an average of $7.48 from the federal government for every dollar they spent on Medicaid expansion. Even those costs, meanwhile, would likely be further offset by savings elsewhere. States that have already expanded, in fact, have generally seen net revenue gains.

    The Post dinged “state Republican leaders” for “their effort to hobble Obamacare,” but continued obstruction to the law remains a feature of right-wing media coverage as well. For years, Fox News fueled obstructionist politicians by promoting myths that expanding Medicaid was costly for states; in reality, states that expanded Medicaid saw slower health care cost increases than non-expansion states, and August 2016 research from the Urban Institute shows that the remaining holdouts stand to benefit enormously from Medicaid expansion. After discouraging states from taking part in the law, Fox absolved itself (and Republicans) of responsibility for the resulting coverage gap, which it framed as as “another problem growing out of Obamacare.”

    Right-wing media have smeared Obamacare for years with baseless catastrophic predictions and falsehoods, and while their fearmongering has been stunningly wrong, it has continued unabated. Positive news about Obamacare -- like its role in reducing medical debt and increasing public health, or the record low uninsured rates driven by the law -- goes unmentioned by conservative outlets while they hype isolated program stumbles as the onset of a looming “death spiral” that will destroy the health care system.

  • NY Magazine Explains Why “Donald Trump’s New Anti-Abortion Letter Should Terrify You”

    Rebecca Traister: New Letter Proves “Donald Trump Would Like To Return Us To A Nation Of Forced Births, With Women’s Bodies As The Vessels.”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On September 16, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a letter announcing a new “pro-life coalition” meant to appeal to anti-choice voters. In response, New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister explained that Trump’s “promises about what he’ll do on abortion” as outlined in his “anti-abortion letter should terrify you.”

    In her article, Traister warned that Trump’s announcement was troubling not only for the extreme policies he endorsed, but also because of the news that he has begun recruiting well-known anti-abortion activists to rally voters.

    Trump’s letter set out four anti-choice policy priorities: a commitment to uphold the Hyde Amendment, a ban on the allocation of taxpayer funds to abortion services; an assurance that he would nominate “pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court”; a promise to sign “the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” which means a ban on abortion after 20 weeks; and a pledge of “defunding Planned Parenthood as long as they continue to perform abortions.” 

    Trump’s announcement also included the news that he had appointed Marjorie Dannenfelser, a longtime anti-abortion leader and president of the anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), to lead the recruitment efforts for his new coalition. As Traister noted, SBA List is an extreme anti-abortion group that “not only opposes abortion in all circumstances, but also several forms of contraception.”

    In a press release, NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue repeated these concerns about Dannenfelser and SBA List: “Let’s be clear: just like Donald Trump, Susan B. Anthony List hasn’t done a thing to empower women and everything to advance an extreme agenda that aims to entirely end women’s access to abortion in America, often even for survivors of rape, incest, and women whose health is endangered.”

    Traister warned that Trump’s commitments to anti-abortion policy could not “safely be considered electoral posturing” because if elected, Trump would likely have “a Republican congress and Supreme Court seats to fill.” She concluded: Trump “could do every single one of the things he’s promising anti-abortion activists,” and that would make it impossible for women to make decisions “about whether or when to bear children based on their health, their economic, or familial status, or the condition of the fetuses they carry.”

    From New York magazine:

    Today’s news has been dominated by the story of the man who spent years hyping racist lies to delegitimize this country’s first black president now betting that a pliable press will congratulate him on distancing himself from himself.

    But while this moronic sideshow is going down, a report in the Hill today brings a much more important story: Donald Trump took time out of his busy schedule of conspiracy promotion and disavowal to write a letter to America’s anti-abortion leaders, making some new firm promises about what he’ll do on abortion should he be elected president in 53 days. The missive, dated “September 2016,” was released by the anti-abortion nonprofit Susan B. Anthony List, an organization that not only opposes abortion in all circumstances, but also several forms of contraception, including emergency contraception and copper IUDs (which it has described as causing “early abortions”). The letter begins with Trump’s announcement that he has enlisted longtime anti-abortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List president, as the leader of his campaign’s “Pro-Life Coalition.”

    [...]

    So this is what he is promising if he becomes president: a court stacked with “pro-life justices” that will make abortion — and judging by the direction of his party, possibly several forms of contraception — illegal; the concretization of a law that makes full access to health care and control over reproduction unavailable to poor Americans; a 20-week rule that would make abortion illegal before the point in gestation at which many fetal abnormalities are diagnosed.

    This cannot safely be considered electoral posturing or some wacky new skirmish in a culture war. If Donald Trump is elected president, it will likely be with a Republican congress and Supreme Court seats to fill. He could do every single one of the things he’s promising anti-abortion activists he will do. And those things would return women, in a very real way — in a way that is already happening in state and local jurisdictions around the country — to their secondary status: unable to exert full control over their bodies; barred from making choices about whether or when to bear children based on their health, their economic, or familial status, or the condition of the fetuses they carry.

    Donald Trump would like to return us to a nation of forced births, with women’s bodies as the vessels. But by all means, let’s keep yukking it up over his funny orange hair.

  • Tampa Bay Times Calls For Conservatives To Quit “Self-Serving” Politicking And Approve Zika Funding

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In a September 14 editorial, the Tampa Bay Times called out congressional inaction on funding a federal response to the Zika virus and argued that it was time for conservatives to quit politicking and “get [the job] done.”

    The fight to pass Zika funding in Congress has been fraught with political arguments. On September 6, Congress failed for the third time to pass a Zika funding bill after Republicans included a legislative “poison pill” designed to exclude Planned Parenthood. Despite the crucial role Planned Parenthood has already played, and would continue to play, in responding to Zika, Republicans have attempted to score political points by cutting the provider out of the federal response.

    For Florida communities, a federal Zika response cannot come soon enough: NBC News recently reported that the state has already confirmed 70 cases of the Zika virus.

    As the multiple funding attempts have failed, Florida’s editorial boards have called on lawmakers to put politics aside, quit attacking Planned Parenthood, and authorize an increasingly necessary federal Zika response. The Tampa Bay Times reprised this argument and explicitly called on conservatives to approve the latest deal on the table, which reportedly would drop the language excluding Planned Parenthood from Zika prevention funding.

    According to the Times, the initial funding plan “should have been easy to pass, but Congress never misses a chance to inject partisanship into governing” as evidenced by “House Republicans attach[ing] provisions to the funding bill that were deal breakers for Democrats -- namely cutting off money to Planned Parenthood." The Times additionally criticized Republican Gov. Rick Scott for turning a nonpartisan opportunity to lobby for a federal Zika response into a platform to attack Florida’s Democratic senator, Bill Nelson, “for voting against earlier Zika bills that cut money to Planned Parenthood” claiming he had “turned the back on Floridians.” The editorial concluded that this “the governor's self-serving tour isn't helping Floridians, and his shot at the Democrat he may run against in 2018 was unnecessary.”

    In a September 13 article, the Times’ Alex Leary reported that despite calls for bipartisanship, Scott’s attack on Nelson and other Democrats revealed that “politics were on display … overshadowing the possibility of a breakthrough on funding.” Leary called the “political jab” a “bold move for Scott,” who made the remark on the same day that “frustrated Florida lawmakers attempted a more cohesive approach to the issue” by gathering together at a bipartisan press conference.

    Anti-choice lawmakers and right-wing media have frequently blamed Democrats for stalling Zika funding over the anti-Planned Parenthood rider. In reality, the reproductive health organization is an essential resource in addressing the spread of the virus.

    In an August statement to ABC News, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) president and CEO Dr. Hal Lawrence explained Planned Parenthood’s significant role in helping communities respond to Zika. According to Lawrence, Planned Parenthood has long “provided ongoing well-woman services and contraceptives to millions … and has been oftentimes the best access for some underprivileged women to get access to contraception.” Given the sexually transmitted nature of Zika and its impact on pregnant persons, ACOG further determined that “full access to the most complete range of reproductive options,” which includes contraception and abortion, is essential to address its spread.

    Beyond providing necessary health services, Planned Parenthood has already launched a public education campaign to raise awareness about the Zika virus and ways to mitigate its spread. As Alex Harris reported for the Miami Herald, Planned Parenthood staff have been going “door-to-door in areas where large groups of reproductive-age women live … [who] may not have been reached by state or federal Zika education efforts.”

    In a September 8 article, Salon’s Daniel Denvir wrote that despite right-wing media’s insistence otherwise, “It is Republicans who have made Zika funding the latest hostage to their crusade to defund Planned Parenthood.” Going into the next phase of negotiations over a federal Zika response, Republicans have another chance. As the Tampa Bay Times editorial board concluded: “The deal in the works now will not make up for months of lawmakers' willful inaction, but it will provide the crucial ingredient for fighting Zika: money.”

  • What The Media Should Know About A Proposed Title X Funding Rule And Planned Parenthood

    Planned Parenthood Is An Essential Health Care Provider -- And A New Rule Could Help Protect Its Funding From Political Attacks

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In September 2016, the Obama administration proposed a rule that would stop anti-choice lawmakers from diverting federal family planning money -- distributed to states through Title X -- away from Planned Parenthood. With support from right-wing media, several states have attempted to defund Planned Parenthood based on the misinformation that there are ample replacements already available at the local level.

  • What Media Are Missing About Planned Parenthood And The Controversy Over Zika Funding

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On September 6, Congress again failed to approve a federal response to the Zika virus after Republicans included a legislative “poison pill” designed to exclude Planned Parenthood from receiving funding. In spite of the essential role Planned Parenthood plays in Zika response and prevention, media framed the controversy as an example of Democratic obstruction. Here’s what the media are missing about the Zika funding controversy.

  • Conservative Media Push Myth That Planned Parenthood Isn't Essential For Zika Response

    The Daily Signal: Planned Parenthood Is Inessential Because Its Clinics “Are Limited In The Services They Can Provide In The Fight Against Zika”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On September 6, Congress again failed to approve a federal response to the Zika virus after Republicans included a legislative “poison pill” designed to exclude Planned Parenthood from funding -- echoing the false right-wing media argument that the reproductive health organization is not an essential health care provider.

    The bogus assertion that Planned Parenthood is inessential has been a right-wing media staple, frequently adopted by anti-choice legislators attempting to defund the organization. In particular, since the release of deceptively edited videos from the discredited Center for Medical Progress, anti-choice legislators have repeated the inaccurate right-wing media talking point that federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) or community health centers can effectively fill the gap left by denying Planned Parenthood access to funding and resources.

    After the failed Zika vote, The Daily Signal justified the anti-Planned Parenthood rider, arguing that Democrats were needlessly obstructing funding because, “In reality, clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood … are limited in the services they can provide in the fight against Zika” while many community health centers are “ready [and able] to ramp up efforts against Zika.”

    To support this position, The Daily Signal cited evidence from a number of anti-abortion organizations such as the Susan B. Anthony List and the Charlotte Lozier Institute. It also included numerous comments from Casey Mattox, a lawyer for the right-wing legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) -- which not only openly opposes abortion but also has a history of smearing the LGBT community and working to criminalize homosexuality.

    According to Mattox, only FQHCs are “equipped” to handle Zika response because they have “medical professionals on staff … to diagnose and treat illness” while “Planned Parenthood does not.” In reality, Planned Parenthood health centers offer a “wide range of services” including “general health care” that is covered by Medicaid or other state safety net programs. To underscore Mattox’s argument, The Daily Signal included an ADF graphic claiming to compare the seeming differences between Planned Parenthood and FQHCs.

    However, as Emma Grey Ellis noted in an August 2 article for Wired, to “actually combat Zika, you need to gain control of its vectors.” Given the sexually transmitted nature of the Zika virus and its impact on pregnant persons, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) determined that “full access to the most complete range of reproductive options,” which includes contraception and abortion, is essential to address its spread.

    In an August statement to ABC News, ACOG president and CEO Dr. Hal Lawrence explained the significant role Planned Parenthood plays in Zika response. According to Lawrence, Planned Parenthood has long “provided ongoing well-woman services and contraceptives to millions … and has been oftentimes the best access for some underprivileged women to get access to contraception.”

    Lawrence’s argument is further supported by previous research from the Guttmacher Institute, which found that in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only “safety-net health center” accessible for those seeking contraception. Guttmacher noted that Planned Parenthood is not only a leading provider of publicly subsidized contraceptive services, but also that it can typically see more patients annually for these services than "other types of safety-net providers" can.

    Planned Parenthood has played an essential role in educating the public about the the virus, including discussing how it spreads and methods of prevention. As Alex Harris reported for the Miami Herald, Planned Parenthood has launched a campaign “to spread the word about Zika prevention.” Harris continued that Planned Parenthood staff have been going “door-to-door in areas where large groups of reproductive-age women live … [who] may not have been reached by state or federal Zika education efforts.”

    Furthermore, as Florida’s last attempt to defund Planned Parenthood demonstrated, classification as a FQHC doesn’t necessarily qualify a health care provider to respond to reproductive health issues like the Zika virus.

    When Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that barred Planned Parenthood from accessing state Medicaid funds -- a measure that has since been temporarily blocked by a federal judge -- the list of replacement FQHCs provided by supporters was called “laughable” by Slate’s Christina Cauterucci because it was "filled with dozens of elementary and middle schools, several dental practices, and at least one optometry center.” This disparity is partly explained by the caption to ADF’s own graphic, which explains, “While every FQHC provides these services, not every FQHC delivery site offers every service listed.” In other words, although some providers may have staff and resources to address a reproductive health issue like Zika, not every FQHC will be adapted to that purpose.

    Experts have confirmed that even when FQHCs and community clinics do provide reproductive health services, they are not well-positioned to fill the gap when Planned Parenthood is forced out of communities. As Sara Rosenbaum, a professor at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, wrote in an article for the Health Affairs Blog, the "claim that community health centers readily can absorb the loss of Planned Parenthood clinics amounts to a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do."

    While anti-choice lawmakers recycle right-wing media misinformation to score political points by attacking Planned Parenthood, the director of the Centers for Disease Control has issued an ominous warning to Congress: “Basically, we are out of money [to respond to Zika] and we need Congress to act. The cupboard is bare.”

  • Media Highlight New Study Showing That Ohio’s Abortion Restriction Runs Counter To Best Medical Practice

    Anti-Choice Restrictions Were Based On Politics, Not Science -- With Consequences For Women’s Health Care

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In March 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) updated its dosage guidelines for medication abortion -- invalidating an anti-choice Ohio law requiring providers to administer the medications according to the label, but in a way that ran counter to best medical practices. In late August, media highlighted the results of a new study that found Ohio’s requirement not only made abortion less accessible, but also “harmed women who were forced to comply.”

  • National Review Attacks Science Behind Abortion Laws, Calls For Fetal Personhood Standard

    National Review’s David French: Pro-Choice Advocates Rely On “Hocus Pocus” To Deny “Humanity Of The Fetus”

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    In an August 31 article, National Review’s David French claimed pro-choice advocates support a “selective application of science” and suggested that science actually warrants recognition and protection of a so-called fetal personhood standard.

    French’s argument has been a favorite of right-wing media. But taking the ideological stance that the concept of fetal personhood is based on credible science -- while pro-choice arguments aren’t -- ignores medical experts, legal precedents, and the material consequences such a measure would have.

    To establish this argument, the National Review criticized a recent New York Times op-ed by a medical professional that called for laws that regulate abortion to be “based on the best available science.” The op-ed was authored by Ushma D. Upadhyay, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. Upadhyay also co-authored a recent study of the effects of a 2011 Ohio law that required patients to use an outdated protocol for medication abortions. In her August 30 op-ed, Upadhyay called for those pushing abortion restrictions to quit claiming such laws “protect women’s health and safety” without any “scientific research that evaluates these laws’ actual effects on women and their health.”

    According to the National Review, however, Upadhyay’s argument that any abortion restrictions should be science-based is actually part of the left's “hocus pocus” that ignores the point that “from the moment of conception, a separate human being exists.” The article argued that the pro-choice community “can’t handle the reality of a human fetus, so it waves a magic wand and says that the child may be ‘human,’ but it’s not a ‘person.’” Furthermore, French accused Upadhyay and other medical professionals who support abortion access of engaging in “garbage thinking” by “refusing to grapple even for a moment with the single-most important scientific issue in the entire abortion debate, the humanity of the fetus.”

    But pro-choice advocates and doctors like Upadhyay do not deny, or refuse to “grapple” with, the science of human fetuses. What’s really at issue are the cultural and, more importantly, legal ramifications of characterizing a fetus as a “person,” a reality the National Review ignored.

    Fetal personhood refers to an extreme anti-choice position that posits an equivalency between fetuses and persons in order to accuse abortion providers or women of committing murder. In a 2015 fact sheet, NARAL defined personhood laws as measures that “typically change a state’s definition of the word ‘person’ to include a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus, with the intent of outlawing abortion.” Beyond criminalizing abortion, an expanded definition of personhood could also serve to outlaw stem cell research, fertility treatments, and certain forms of contraception.

    In his National Review article, French called for a recognition of “the humanity of the fetus” -- promoting the anti-choice argument for redefining personhood to begin at conception. For example, French wrote:

    And how does a fetus become a person, pray tell? By applying nothing more and nothing less than the first three rules of real estate: location, location, location. A baby isn’t a real baby, the reality-based community [pro-choice supporters] says, when it’s inside the mother. It’s only when it moves about 18 inches that it actually becomes a person. In other words, take the identical human organism, move it less than two feet outside of the mother, and voilà! A real-live person exists.

    Calling this thinking “hocus-pocus” is too charitable. It’s murderous metaphysical mumbo jumbo. There is nothing scientific about it. It’s philosophically incoherent. It’s garbage thinking.

    Medical institutions and experts have rejected the arguments promoted to support fetal personhood claims. For example, in 2012, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) denounced personhood measures on the basis that they “substitute ideology for science and represent a grave threat to women’s health and reproductive rights”:

    ACOG firmly believes that science must be at the core of public health policies and medical decision-making that affect the health and life of women.

    Like Mississippi's failed "Personhood Amendment" Proposition 26, these misleading and ambiguously worded "personhood" measures substitute ideology for science and represent a grave threat to women's health and reproductive rights that, if passed, would have long-term negative outcomes for our patients, their families, and society. Although the individual wording in these proposed measures varies from state to state, they all attempt to give full legal rights to a fertilized egg by defining "personhood" from the moment of fertilization, before conception (ie, pregnancy/ implantation) has occurred. This would have wide-reaching harmful implications for the practice of medicine and on women's access to contraception, fertility treatments, pregnancy termination, and other essential medical procedures.

    Legal precedent has also established that the concept of fetal personhood is unconstitutional. As Rewire’s Imani Gandy noted, “At the outset, states cannot grant fetuses rights that infringe women’s constitutional privacy rights. That’s Supremacy Clause 101.” The Supreme Court also explicitly rejected fetal personhood when in Roe v. Wade the court found that “the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.”

    Expanding the legal definition of personhood to begin at conception, or even fertilization, could have wide-reaching and negative consequences.

    In a briefing paper, the Center for Reproductive Rights explained that “because so many laws use the terms ‘persons’ or ‘people,’ a prenatal personhood measure could affect large numbers of a state’s laws, changing the application of thousands of laws and resulting in unforeseeable, unintended, and absurd consequences.” Already, women have been prosecuted for having miscarriages and stillbirths and for attempting to self-abort.

    For example, in December 2015, Anna Yocca was arrested in Tennessee for attempted first-degree murder after she tried to self-induce an abortion. According to Rewire, Yocca’s legal battle “opens the constitutional question of whether or not general homicide laws" are applicable in the case of self-induced abortions, and it will likely serve as “a test case for anti-choice prosecutors who want to find a legal hook to charge women who abort with murder.” Vox added that Yocca’s case had "horrifying implications for all pregnant women, even those who don't want an abortion" by giving the government too much control over women's individual pregnancies.

    In July, an Indiana court overturned the conviction of Purvi Patel, who was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison for “feticide and felony neglect” after a self-induced abortion. According to NBC’s Irin Carmon, the judges rebuked the basis for Patel’s conviction as improper, writing that “the legislature did not intend for the feticide statute to apply to illegal abortions or to be used to prosecute women for their own abortions.”

    These cases demonstrate merely a fraction of the potential consequences of an expanded definition of personhood. The National Review claimed that pro-choice advocates haven’t grappled with the implications of their support for abortion access, but it is the National Review that has failed to acknowledge the effects of their claims. The sheer number of medical and legal objections to fetal personhood underscores the importance of what Upadhyay wrote: that without sound scientific evidence, “Claims that abortion laws will protect women’s health and safety are just that -- claims. … When policy is not based on science, American women pay the price.”

  • Meet The Anti-Abortion Activist Who Now Controls Texas Women’s Access To Reproductive Care

    A Media Guide To Carol Everett’s Most Misinformed Claims About Abortion, Contraception, Reproductive Health Care, And Sex Education

    ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    Texas awarded anti-abortion activist Carol Everett, who runs a network of crisis pregnancy centers, the second largest contract in the state’s restructured reproductive safety net program. Everett has frequently appeared on a local Fox affiliate in Austin, as well as on a number of conservative media outlets, to push misinformation about abortion, contraception, and general reproductive health care. Here’s what the media should know about the anti-choice activist who now controls Texas women’s access to reproductive health care.