Justice & Civil Liberties

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  • USA Today Lets Extremist Gun Group Distort Merrick Garland’s Judicial Record

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    USA Today gave a representative of extremist gun organization Gun Owners of America (GOA) a platform to smear Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. The group wrote a column distorting the facts on several U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit opinions to claim Garland “had 4 chances to vote against gun rights, and he took them all.”

    GOA is a far-right organization with past ties to anti-Semites and white supremacist groups and a leader, Larry Pratt, who has repeatedly suggested that politicians should fear being shot by a GOA supporter if they pass laws regulating firearms.

    In a May 1 column at USAToday.com, GOA general counsel Michael Hammond distorted Garland’s involvement in four cases decided before the D.C. Circuit, where Garland sits as chief judge, to claim Garland is “anti-gun.”

    In one case Hammond cited, Garland did not participate in the ruling, but rather took part in a vote to decide whether the entire D.C. Circuit should rehear the case, which would require the full panel of judges to consider it. According to legal experts, a judge’s vote to rehear or not rehear a case is not indicative of what the judge thinks the outcome of the case should be. Two of the cases Hammond cited were not actually decided on Second Amendment grounds and cannot be characterized as showing bias for or against gun rights. And in the fourth case he cited, Garland did not participate in the ruling and the case was not decided on Second Amendment grounds.

    Parker v. District of Columbia

    Hammond first attacked Garland for his participation in a vote related to Parker v. District of Columbia, a 2007 challenge to Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban. In a 2-1 panel decision -- which Garland did not participate in -- the D.C. Circuit reversed a lower court's decision upholding the ban, finding that D.C.'s law violated the Second Amendment.

    Following the ruling, Garland was one of four judges, including George H.W. Bush appointee Judge Raymond Randolph, to vote to have the entire D.C. Circuit rehear the case en banc. A majority of D.C. Circuit judges voted not to rehear the case, and it moved on to the Supreme Court, where it became the landmark Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller.

    The claim that Garland’s en banc vote in Parker means that he is "anti-gun" is a smear developed by the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), a discredited right-wing group that is spending millions to oppose Garland's nomination. Numerous legal experts, however, have debunked the claim that an en banc vote is representative of how a judge would rule on the merits if the case were reheard.

    According to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, an en banc rehearing “ordinarily will not be ordered unless” a full panel’s “consideration is necessary to secure or maintain uniformity of the court's decisions; or the proceeding involves a question of exceptional importance.” As PolitiFact noted, the Parker case satisfied both of those conditions.

    Seegars v. Gonzalez

    Hammond also attacked Garland for his involvement in a case preceding Parker that unsuccessfully challenged D.C.'s handgun ban. As in Parker, Garland did not participate in the decision in Seegars v. Gonzalez, but rather participated in a vote on whether to rehear the case en banc.

    The Seegars case was brought by a group of District of Columbia residents who argued that D.C.’s handgun ban and trigger lock laws violated their Second Amendment rights. In 2005, the D.C. Circuit ruled against the residents in an opinion authored by Reagan appointee Judge Stephen F. Williams.

    While the D.C. residents made a Second Amendment argument against D.C.’s gun law, the court never ruled on the merits of this argument. Instead, the court dismissed the case on procedural grounds, with the majority opinion finding that “under controlling circuit precedent no plaintiff has standing” to challenge D.C.’s handgun ban and trigger lock laws. The vote to rehear the case failed 7-3, with Garland voting against rehearing alongside D.C. Circuit judges appointed by Democrats and Republicans. Then-D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg, a Reagan appointee, filed a concurrence in the denial to rehear the case. As in Parker, Garland’s vote does not indicate how he would have ruled on the merits of the case.

    National Rifle Association v. Reno

    Hammond also cited Garland’s joining of the 2000 decision National Rifle Association v. Reno as supposed evidence of “anti-gun” bias. As with his citation of the Parker case, Hammond’s attacks concerning NRA v. Reno originate from debunked talking points pushed by JCN.

    In Reno, the NRA claimed that the way the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for gun purchases temporarily retained data on gun owners violated a federal prohibition on creating a registry of gun owners.

    On appeal, the NRA lost the decision, 2-1, with Garland joining Judge David S. Tatel's majority opinion, which ruled: “Finding nothing in the Brady Act that unambiguously prohibits temporary retention of information about lawful transactions, and finding that the Attorney General has reasonably interpreted the Act to permit retention of such information for audit purposes, we affirm the district court's dismissal of the complaint.”

    As with the Seegars case, the ruling was not decided on Second Amendment grounds. Rather, the case was one of statutory construction and interpretation, assessing whether the NICS system of temporary record retention was permissible under the language of the Brady Act and the Department of Justice’s interpretation of that act.

    Furthermore, no court accepted the NRA’s argument that the NICS system was tantamount to a gun registry. The NRA lost the case at the federal district court level, then again at the D.C. Circuit in the ruling Garland joined, before the then-conservative-leaning Supreme Court finally denied a request by the NRA to hear the case. In fact, Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft opposed the NRA’s request that the Supreme Court hear the case, writing that the D.C. Circuit decision Garland joined was “correct.”

    United States v. Burwell

    The last example Hammond cited as supposed evidence of Garland’s “anti-gun” bias was the 2012 decision United States v. Burwell, where the D.C. Circuit reheard a case involving a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence given to a man convicted of possessing a machine gun while committing a "crime of violence."

    At issue was whether the criminal defendant in that case, who had brandished a fully automatic AK-47 assault rifle during a series of bank robberies, knew that the firearm was capable of fully automatic fire (the gun in question was capable of both automatic and semi-automatic fire).

    A 2012 decision before the entire D.C. Circuit – after members of the court had voted to rehear the case en banc – affirmed the D.C. Circuit’s original decision in a majority opinion that upheld the defendant’s conviction.

    Garland joined the majority opinion authored by Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a George W. Bush appointee.

    Like with the Seegars and Reno cases, it is misleading to claim that the opinion here offers an indication of a judge’s view on gun rights because the case was not decided on Second Amendment grounds. Instead, the case was decided on statutory grounds: whether the sentencing minimum law required the prosecution to prove that the defendant knew whether the firearm used in a crime of violence was fully automatic.

    The ruling affirming the defendant’s conviction largely relied upon prior precedent within the D.C. Circuit -- a 1992 case called United States v. Harris. In that case, a panel of judges composed of Carter appointee Ruth Bader Ginsburg, George H.W. Bush appointee Clarence Thomas, and Reagan appointee Laurence H. Silberman issued a per curiam opinion that reached the same legal conclusion as the opinion Garland joined in the Burwell case.

  • Fox Business Pushes Four Lies About Smart Guns In 45 Seconds

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A brief segment on Fox Business Network about President Obama’s push to develop smart gun technology included falsehoods about Obama’s plan, the availability and reliability of smart guns, and law enforcement’s position on the issue.

    On April 29, President Obama announced a plan for the Defense Department (DOD), Homeland Security Department (DHS), and Justice Department (DOJ) to assist in the development of technology that allows only the authorized user of a firearm to fire it. As Obama explained, the purpose of the initiative is “identifying the requirements that smart guns would have to meet in order for law enforcement to purchase and use them effectively - and keep themselves and the public safer in the process.”

    During the May 3 broadcast of Fox Business’ Varney & Co., host Stuart Varney and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich offered a litany of falsehoods to attack the Obama administration’s announcement:

    1. Varney opened the segment by claiming Obama “might use executive orders to push for smart guns.”

      In fact, Obama’s announcement was an update on his administration’s January announcement of executive actions, not orders. Conservative media frequently mislabel executive actions -- where, in this case, federal agencies are operating within their respective purviews to help expedite the development of technology – by terming them executive orders in an attempt to make claims about supposed Obama administration overreach.

    2. Calling smart guns “actually very dumb,” Pavlich claimed that “there are a lot of federal law enforcement agencies, and local police departments, and sheriff’s departments that are pushing back.”

      First, several federal executive departments that administer law enforcement agencies – DOJ, DOD, and DHS -- are involved in carrying out the administration’s plan, not opposing it.

      There has been only one high-profile law enforcement group that has been outspoken on Obama’s plan, and that group has a major conflict of interest. The head of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), Jim Pasco, was quoted in several news outlets criticizing Obama’s plan, without the disclosure that the FOP’s charity has received large amounts of money from the National Shooting Sporting Foundation, a gun industry trade group that often attacks smart gun technology. A 2010 investigation by The Washington Post identified several instances where the interests of clients at Pasco’s lobbying business aligned with positions subsequently taken by FOP.

    3. Pavlich claimed that “smart gun technology has been on the market for years now.”

      While smart gun technology has been in development for years, smart guns are not yet available for purchase by the general public in America, except for in rare instances. This is because gun dealers largely refuse to stock the first market-ready smart gun, the Armatix iP1, a semi-automatic handgun that uses radio-frequency identification technology. In 2014, a Maryland gun dealer was the subject of death threats and harassment from gun rights activists after the dealer announced his intention to sell the iP1. He later canceled his plan to sell the firearm. A similar incident occurred in California when a gun store attempted to sell the iP1.

    4. Pavlich claimed smart gun technology is “not reliable” and “when you’re talking about a life-or-death self-defense situation, people just aren’t going to go there and risk it with the smart gun technology.”

      Pavlich’s claim echoes a frequent attack from the National Rifle Association, which often makes false claims about the reliability of smart gun technology. Smart guns have to meet certain reliability benchmarks to be sold. For example, to be sold in California, the iP1 had to be able to fire 600 rounds with a malfunction rate of less than 1 percent.

      Obama’s announcement on smart guns also said the DOD would continue to allow manufacturers to use a testing facility in Maryland to improve reliability.​ According to a leading developer of the technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the next generation of smart guns will have an operational failure rate “comparable to mechanical failure rate in many consumer side-arms.”

    From the May 3 broadcast of Varney & Co.:

    STUART VARNEY: President Obama, he might use executive orders to push for smart guns. What do you make of this?

    KATIE PAVLICH: Well, the problem with smart guns is they’re actually very dumb. And there are a lot of federal law enforcement agencies, and local police departments, and sheriff’s departments that are pushing back on President Obama’s idea that smart guns should be used, not only just in law enforcement, but across the country. The fact is that smart gun technology has been on the market for years now and people don’t buy them because they are not reliable. The president’s argument is that, look you have to be able to have guns that can only be fired by their owners, but when you’re talking about a life-or-death self-defense situation, people just aren’t going to go there and risk it with the smart gun technology.

  • What To Know About The NRA And Smart Guns

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    On April 29, the Obama administration released a report on what federal agencies can do to further develop smart gun technology that prevents anyone other than authorized users from discharging a firearm. With the gun industry already attacking Obama’s technology push, it is important to note that while the NRA claims it doesn’t oppose the technology’s development, its media and lobbying arms routinely make false claims about its reliability and promote conspiracy theories about the federal government wanting to use the technology to spy on gun owners.

  • Vox Explains How The House Panel Investigating Abortion Intimidates Scientists And Hurts Medical Research

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Vox’s Emily Crockett blasted the “Benghazi-style” House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which “rests on top of a giant powder keg of anti-abortion extremism,” for “recklessly intimidating scientists and researchers.” Crockett explained how the special committee, tasked with investigating fetal tissue donation by abortion providers, is targeting “anyone the committee can find who has a tangential connection to the issue” with subpoenas and putting them at risk of “violence from anti-abortion extremists.”

    Since July the anti-choice group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released a series of deceptively edited videos purporting to show that Planned Parenthood illicitly sells fetal tissue. Despite the fact that a growing number of states and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have found no wrongdoing on the part of the women’s health organization, right-wing media and lawmakers have used the videos to target Planned Parenthood. Additionally, since the release of the videos, at least four Planned Parenthood clinics have been attacked in what law enforcement authorities consider possible acts of domestic terrorism, and an anti-choice activist has admitted that “over-heated rhetoric” and smears could be partially to blame for anti-choice violence.

    The April 29 Vox article noted how researchers using fetal tissue research to try to cure disease are "being terrorized” as a result of the House panel investigating CMP’s claims, and explained that “Being dragged into the limelight by Congress to talk about fetuses, or being forced to have their name entered into a public record because they work with fetuses, could be legitimately dangerous for scientists and researchers”:

    House Republicans have made a public enemy out of Planned Parenthood, of course, but they're not stopping there. They also have their eye on companies that handle fetal tissue, medical researchers, and even medical students — essentially, anyone the committee can find who has a tangential connection to the issue, except those who brought the spurious allegations about "selling baby parts" in the first place.

    Meanwhile, the scrutiny is interfering with the jobs of scientists and medical providers. At best, they live in fear of a subpoena; at worst, there's a target on their back for violence from anti-abortion extremists.

    Doctors who provide safe, legal abortion already live this nightmare every day. Public witch hunts like this House panel certainly aren't helping that. But they are helping to make sure that scientists and researchers will get to experience the same treatment.

    This panel shouldn't exist in the first place

    How did we get here? Last summer, a series of anti-abortion videos, produced by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) and its founder David Daleiden, came out claiming that "Planned Parenthood sells baby parts."

    Since then, it's become clear that the videos are blatant propaganda. That's not just my conclusion, but the conclusion that most credible media organizations couldn't ignore after learning the facts.

    […]

    Fetal tissue research is incredibly important. It brought us the vaccines against polio and chicken pox, and it could one day bring us the cure to Alzheimer's or diabetes.

    But because of the videos, this entire field is now under attack. Some states have started passing or proposing laws against fetal tissue research, including Indiana's bizarre new "bury your miscarriage" law that effectively bans tissue donation. And now the attack has moved to the federal level.

     […]

    It's bad enough to risk intimidating scientists and young researchers out of entering an important field. But it gets even worse. The House's "Panel on Infant Lives" also rests on top of a giant powder keg of anti-abortion extremism, which has already exploded once in 2015's shocking escalation of violence against abortion providers.

    Whole books have been written about the systematic terrorism that abortion providers, clinic staff, and volunteers are threatened with every day — from stalking and threats, to "Wanted" posters that feature doctors' photos and addresses, to vandalism and firebombs at clinics.

    It's bad enough that the videos and the endless political outrage around them undoubtedly caused more of this violence. But now, the people who use fetal tissue research to try to cure disease are also being terrorized.

    One university researcher spoke to the New York Times on condition of anonymity because the threats he's received have led his institution to post a guard outside his laboratory.

    Congressional investigations aren't supposed to work like trials. They're supposed to work like investigations.

    Being dragged into the limelight by Congress to talk about fetuses, or being forced to have their name entered into a public record because they work with fetuses, could be legitimately dangerous for scientists and researchers like these.

    […]

    It doesn't matter how many times CMP's claims have been proven wrong, or how often Daleiden's years-long history with other dubious smear campaigns gets pointed out. To some anti-abortion Republicans in Congress, these videos will always be indisputable evidence that Planned Parenthood was caught on tape doing something both immoral and illegal, and that these claims deserve serious investigation.

    It doesn't matter how much time or money all of this costs lawmakers or taxpayers. It doesn't matter that violent threats against abortion providers skyrocketed in 2015, and that a gunman ranting about "baby parts" shot up a Planned Parenthood in November in the deadliest-ever attack on a US abortion clinic.

    It doesn't matter how many investigations there have already been, and it never will. For the anti-abortion movement and their supporters in Congress, there will always be more investigating to do. There's always the chance that this time, they'll finally expose Planned Parenthood's evil deeds for all the world to see.

     

  • Meet Troy Newman -- The Anti-Choice Extremist PBS Is Hosting To Talk About Guns

    Newman And His Associates Have A Long History Of Spouting Violent Rhetoric And Harassing Abortion Providers

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On May 10, PBS will air the documentary “The Armor of Light” and host an accompanying town hall encouraging audiences to examine “the relationship between guns and faith in America.” Notably, PBS’ town hall participants include Troy Newman, best known for harassing abortion providers and serving on Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s pro-life coalition.

    “The Armor of Light” is an anti-gun-violence documentary that “profiles the faith journeys of two Christians as they fight gun violence.” One of these Christians is the Rev.  Rob Schenck, an anti-choice minister trying to “preach about the growing toll of gun violence in America” to communities that largely favor gun ownership.

    Newman appears in a single scene of “The Armor of Light” as a contrast to Schenck’s pro-gun-safety views. In this scene, Newman parrots NRA talking points, such as leader Wayne LaPierre’s statement that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Despite this minor role in the film, PBS invited Newman to appear in a post-screening discussion.

    Membership in Cruz’s pro-life coalition is only Newman’s most recent credential. He has long served as the president of Operation Rescue -- an anti-choice group with a history of spouting violent rhetoric, and harassing abortion providers.

    For example, Operation Rescue vice president Cheryl Sullenger was sentenced to prison in 1987 for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic. Sullenger also communicated with Scott Roeder, the convicted assassin of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, providing him information about Tiller's schedule and location. A Rolling Stone profile of Operation Rescue described the organization’s strategy as a “smear campaign … to shut down abortion clinics by systematically harassing their employees into quitting.” The article said Operation Rescue members “rummage through employees’ garbage … tail them around town as they run errands … picket clinic staffers at restaurants while they’re inside having dinner and castigate them while they’re in line at Starbucks.” Newman’s explanation for this harassment was that he wanted providers and clinic employees to know that “they can’t live a normal life.”

    To further  this strategy, Newman has trained others and supported the development of spin-off groups that continue Operation Rescue’s work across the country. Newman previously served as a board member for the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), the organization responsible for propagating a smear campaign against Planned Parenthood so fraudulent that CMP earned the title of Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year. CMP’s  deceptively edited videos purporting to show the illegal sale of fetal tissue have been repeatedly discredited, while numerous state investigations have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing.

    Newman claims that Operation Rescue has never endorsed violence yet in his book Their Blood Cries Out, Newman wrote that U.S. government had “abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty,” which would involve “executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes.” Similarly, when Paul Jennings Hill was executed for the murder of an abortion provider and a clinic escort, Newman argued that Hill should have been able to mount the defense that it was “necessary” to kill the providers in order to save "the lives of pre-born babies."

    Beyond his work with Operation Rescue, Newman also has a personal history of harassing providers -- a reputation that caused Australia to deport him out of concern that his “presence would be ‘a threat to good order’” and that he would “compromise the safety and wellbeing” of abortion providers and those seeking care.

    Harassment, violence, and threats against abortion providers and clinics have all been increasing. According to the National Abortion Federation, in 2015 there was a “dramatic increase in hate speech and internet harassment, death threats, attempted murder, and murder” against abortion providers. In September 2015, the FBI released an intelligence assessment that warned of an uptick in violence against abortion providers and clinics. This prediction was borne out tragically in November 2015 when Robert Dear killed three people and injured several more at a Colorado Planned Parenthood health care center.

    Given this alarming trend of anti-choice violence, PBS’ decision to invite Newman’s participation while also failing to disclose his long history of harassment is as puzzling as it is troubling.

  • Politico Report On Obama’s Smart Gun Plan Doesn’t Disclose Smart Gun Critic Received Gun Industry Money

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    A Politico article on President Obama’s reported upcoming plan to “push” for smart gun technology quoted Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) executive director Jim Pasco attacking the technology without disclosing the FOP has received funding from the gun industry. Many of Pasco’s attacks on smart guns echoed the National Rifle Association and the gun industry.

    Politico’s article also credulously repeated the NRA’s misleading claim that it merely opposes laws that mandate the adoption of smart gun technology and not the development of smart gun technology in general.

    In an April 28 article, Politico reported President Obama “is opening a new front in the gun control debate, readying a big push for so-called smart gun technology -- an initiative that the gun lobby and law enforcement rank and file is already mobilizing against.” According to the report, “As early as Friday, Obama is set to formally release findings from the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security Departments on ways to spur the development of guns that can be fired only by their owner.”

    The article extensively quoted Pasco, who offered various attacks on smart gun technology, claiming that law enforcement officers would be used as “guinea pigs” to test the technology; that Obama’s move placed politics over officer safety; that police officers oppose the technology; and suggesting the technology could put officers in greater danger:

    “Police officers in general, federal officers in particular, shouldn’t be asked to be the guinea pigs in evaluating a firearm that nobody’s even seen yet,” said James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police. “We have some very, very serious questions.

    […]

    But at this point, the Obama administration already has frayed ties with rank-and-file cops, many of whom didn’t think the president took their side in his reactions to police violence and protests like those in Ferguson, Missouri. Pasco compared the push for smart guns to the decision to limit local departments’ access to surplus military equipment.

    “They sit down among themselves and decide what is best for law enforcement, but from a political standpoint, and then tell officers they’re doing it for their benefit,” Pasco said.

    Of the 330,000 officers in his union, Pasco said, “I have never heard a single member say what we need are guns that only we can fire,” noting that there might be moments in close combat when an officer would need to use a partner’s weapon or even the suspect’s.

    Politico did not disclose that FOP's charity has received money from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun industry’s trade group. According to a 2010 Washington Post investigation, NSSF gave FOP Foundation $100,000 in 2010. In 2015, NSSF announced a $25,000 contribution to FOP Foundation. NSSF senior vice president Larry Keane has attacked smart gun technology. In 2014 he published a factually inaccurate and unfounded column arguing that two Massachusetts political candidates lost their races because of support for the technology.

    The Politico article twice referenced FOP’s representation of “rank and file” police officers as explanation for FOP’s opposition to Obama’s reported proposal. But FOP has also been accused of representing corporate interests. The 2010 Washington Post profile -- which delved into Pasco’s other work as a lobbyist -- described him as “a product of the capital's revolving-door culture” with an “unusual” role as a lobbyist representing beer, cigarette, and entertainment companies that "raises questions about possible conflicts of interest," according to tax law specialists.

    According to the Post's reporting, under Pasco's leadership FOP has accepted donations from the gun industry lobby after taking positions favorable to that group, and the organization's positions have repeatedly aligned with the priorities of lobbying clients of Pasco and his wife.

    Washington Post pointed to several specific instances of apparent conflict:

    • In 2007, FOP "became pivotal to the" gun debate when it opposed the repeal of the Tiahrt amendment. The group backed other gun industry priorities in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, FOP's charity received $100,000 from NSSF.
    • In 1998, FOP opposed a bill giving the Food and Drug Administration the ability to regulate tobacco and raise the federal cigarette tax. In addition to leading FOP, Pasco at the time was a lobbyist for Philip Morris, which has paid his firm $600,000.
    • In 2005, while Pasco was receiving $200,000 from Sony to lobby on "Internet theft of intellectual property," FOP joined a legal brief backing the music industry in an intellectual-property case against a music-sharing website.

    The Politico article also repeated the NRA’s misleading claim about the gun organization’s position on smart guns, noting, “Gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, are not against funding research for smart guns or putting them on shelves. But the NRA does oppose any law that would prohibit people from buying a gun that doesn’t have personalized technology.”

    The NRA’s attacks on smart gun technology go far beyond the group’s opposition to laws that mandate the adoption of the technology. While purporting to not oppose research into smart guns in a statement on its website, the NRA’s media arm routinely attacks the technology, often pushing either falsehoods about the reliability smart guns or by connecting the developing technology to conspiracy theories about the federal government.

  • Missouri Legislators Cite Right-Wing Media Myth As They Defund Planned Parenthood

    Anti-Choice Legislators Reject $8.3 Million And Opt To Pay Out Of Pocket To Attack Planned Parenthood

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN

    On April 19, the Obama administration issued an unprecedented warning to officials in all 50 states that “actions to end Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood may be out of compliance with federal law,” following actions by 24 states against the women’s health provider since July. Missouri lawmakers responded by approving a new budget that rejects millions in federal Medicaid funds for family planning and reproductive health exams -- all in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood.

    The Missouri budget decision comes amid a larger battle in which anti-choice lawmakers have threatened Mary Kogut -- the president of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri -- with jail time for refusing to turn over records of patients who have received abortion care at a St. Louis Planned Parenthood clinic.

    The Associated Press wrote that the approved budget not only “rejected more than $8.3 million in federal Medicaid funding” -- money that was allocated for “family planning, sexually transmitted disease testing and pelvic exams” -- it also “replaced it with money from Missouri’s general revenues … and stipulated that none of it could go to organizations that provide abortions.” In other words, the budget will force Missouri taxpayers to foot the bill for approximately $10.8 million in necessary family planning and reproductive health resources, even though “budget staffers estimated less than $400,000 in Medicaid payments go to Missouri’s 13 Planned Parenthood clinics.”

    Since the release of deceptively edited videos from the discredited group Center for Medical Progress (CMP), Media Matters' 2015 Misinformer of the Year, anti-choice legislators have repeated right-wing media misinformation about Planned Parenthood in an ongoing attempt to defund the organization. They have often justified these efforts by falsely claiming that community health clinics can effectively fill the gap left by barring Planned Parenthood from state and federal health care programs, an allegation echoed in Missouri.

    According to the Associated Press, state Sen. Kurt Shaefer, the Republican chair of the legislature’s appropriations committee, commented that “Medicaid patients can still go to county health departments, rural health clinics and federally qualified centers.” He said: "'If someone wants to go to Planned Parenthood, they’re free to do that ... Taxpayers in Missouri just aren’t going to pay for it anymore.'”

    His claim echoes those made by right-wing media that community clinics can completely fulfill the needs served by state health care programs. In reality, there is ample evidence that removing Planned Parenthood from such programs has a detrimental impact. In fact, experts have explained that the idea of community health clinics filling in for Planned Parenthood is “a gross misrepresentation of what even the best community health centers in the country would be able to do."

    Recent studies show that defunding Planned Parenthood can lead to decreased access to contraception, particular for low-income women. In February, a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that when Texas similarly eliminated Planned Parenthood from its family planning program, there were “over 30 percent fewer claims for long-acting and injectable contraceptives among low-income patients using the Women’s Health Program.”

    According to earlier research from the Guttmacher Institute, in 103 U.S. counties, Planned Parenthood is the only "safety-net health center" accessible for women seeking contraceptive services. Guttmacher noted that Planned Parenthood is the only provider of publicly subsidized contraceptive services and typically can see more patients annually for these services than "other types of safety-net providers." Furthermore, access to contraception is critical for “women’s social and economic advancement” and “has a positive impact on their education and workforce participation, as well as on subsequent outcomes reality related to income, family stability, mental health and happiness, and children’s well-being.”

    Contraception is not the only service patients lose access to when states defund Planned Parenthood. For example, in 2011 Indiana cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which left one rural county without an HIV testing center as it experienced growth in HIV infections.

    Sarah Felts, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson in Missouri, told the Associated Press that in spite of the new state budget, their commitment to the community had not changed: “Planned Parenthood will continue accepting new Medicaid patients ‘no matter what.’”

     

    *Photo courtesy of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

  • Major News Outlets Fail To Identify The Hate Group Boycotting Target

    The American Family Association Has Been Designated An Anti-LGBT “Hate Group” By The SPLC

    ››› ››› RACHEL PERCELAY

    Major news outlets have largely failed to identify the American Family Association (AFA) -- the group organizing a boycott of Target over its transgender inclusive restroom policy -- as an anti-LGBT "hate group," often only referring to the group as a "Christian" or "conservative" organization.

  • Gun Industry And Conservative Media Team Up To Falsely Attack Clinton For​ Challenging Legal Immunity For Negligent Gun Dealers

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conservative media and Politico are citing new polling that purports to show voters oppose Democratic presidential front-runner​ Hillary Clinton’s call to repeal a federal immunity law which largely shields negligent gun sellers from legal liability when they sell guns to people they know or should know are dangerous. The poll question -- which was commissioned by the gun industry’s trade group and conducted by a Republican polling firm -- is dishonest because it misrepresents Clinton’s position on the law, suggesting that it was designed as a push poll rather than an accurate snapshot of public opinion.