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Trump Brought the War on Women Mainstream in His First 100 Days

Mother Jones

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When a video of Donald Trump boasting about grabbing women “by the pussy” leaked a month before the 2016 presidential election and his party seemed on the cusp of rejecting him, onlookers wondered whether his apparent admission of sexual assault might have finally crossed a line with voters. But conservatives who were reassured by his promises to roll back reproductive rights turned a blind eye to the sexual-assault claims.

With those concerns about his electability far behind him, as president Trump has made good on his assurances. He may have discussed child care and other so-called family-friendly policies, but in the first 100 days of the Trump administration, the country has seen an unprecedented rollback of many hard-won reproductive rights. Trump has pushed to defund Planned Parenthood, appointed a Supreme Court justice who he promised would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, and cut off US aide for family-planning services globally. States have also ridden the Trump wave: 1,053 measures—both restrictive and proactive—have been introduced in state legislatures in 2017 alone.

Women have not been passive in the face of these setbacks. They came out in droves to protest Trump’s inauguration during the Women’s March the day after his inauguration. Eleven-thousand women have told Emily’s List, an organization that gets pro-choice women elected to office, that they want to run for something next year, compared with 900 last year. And women already in positions of power have taken Trump to task on his Cabinet nominees, his travel ban, and his environmental policies.

But if his first 100 days as president are any indication, the three-plus years ahead will be grueling for women in the United States and abroad. Here’s what’s happened so far.

Planned Parenthood

In the weeks following Trump’s January 2017 inauguration, his daughter Ivanka took the unexpected step of reaching out to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards to request a meeting. On the campaign trail, her father had promised to “defund” the women’s health care provider by prohibiting low-income patients from using their Medicaid coverage for care at Planned Parenthood clinics because the group also performs abortions.

Richards sought to explain to Ivanka Trump that Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood don’t fund abortions, but instead go to other forms of reproductive health care—cancer screenings, pap smears, contraception, and more—because of the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited the use of federal funds for almost all abortions for more than 40 years.

But in the months following the meeting, the Trump administration and the GOP-controlled Congress launched an offensive against Planned Parenthood. Bills proposing to prohibit the use of Medicaid by patients at Planned Parenthood were introduced in both the House and the Senate and are still awaiting a vote. A week after Trump’s inauguration, audio was leaked of a closed-door meeting where Republicans voiced concerns about the political repercussions of defunding a women’s health organization that’s popular even among Trump voters. A month later, Trump tried to cut an informal deal with Planned Parenthood: keep your funding, maybe even increase it, if you stop providing abortions. The women’s health organization rejected the idea. Soon after, the Trump administration’s Obamacare repeal bill was introduced, including a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. That bill failed, but the revised version of the repeal bill, introduced by Republicans this week, contains the same provision and is still awaiting a vote.

Another administration effort to kneecap Planned Parenthood’s funding, however, was more successful. A bill allowing states to withhold Title X family-planning funds from health care providers that offer abortion, like Planned Parenthood, passed both chambers of Congress in February and March. Title X grants help fund nonabortion services such as contraception for low-income women, and more than one-third of the 4 million patients who use Title X each year receive care at Planned Parenthood.

Vice President Mike Pence was essential to that bill’s passage. After two GOP senators voted against the bill, Republicans were forced to whisk in the vice president to cast a tie-breaking Senate vote to advance the legislation. In April, Trump signed the bill into law in a private ceremony, an uncharacteristically publicity-shy moment for a president who has seemed to relish in the public spectacle of his other signings.

State restrictions

Trump’s election greatly emboldened anti-abortion state legislatures to propose measures that restrict women’s access to the medical procedure. His win came months after the Supreme Court ruled last June on the biggest abortion rights case since Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, a ruling that made restricting access through TRAP laws—or Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers—a violation of a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

It was hailed as a massive win for reproductive rights advocates, but Trump’s victory and Republican-dominated statehouses reinvigorated both abortion opponents and abortion rights advocates who collectively have proposed 1,053 state-level provisions regarding women’s reproductive health in 2017. Thus far, 18 abortion restrictions have been enacted at the state level, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank. Twenty-two states have potential legislation on deck to ban abortion in most cases outright—four of these are bans known as “trigger laws,” meaning they would automatically become state law should Roe v. Wade be overturned in the Supreme Court. And despite the Supreme Court ruling just last year, 30 states have introduced TRAP legislation in the hopes that a new justice would tip the scales should another challenge to the constitutionality of those laws arise.

Also trending in anti-abortion state legislatures this year are fetal burial laws, which require tissue extracted from the uterus after an abortion to be buried rather than disposed of as medical waste, creating additional costs and burdens for providers; religious liberty protections for crisis pregnancy centers—in Oklahoma; counseling that relies on anti-scientific information to persuade women that medication abortion can be reversed—in Indiana; personhood bills that endow a fetus or an embryo as a person with full rights under the Constitution—in Iowa and North Carolina; and waiting periods between the initial medical evaluation and the actual abortion procedure—in Colorado. Ohio and Kentucky passed laws banning abortions after 20 weeks, and Pennsylvania and Montana are considering similar bills, as are others.

Weakening Roe v. Wade

Years before running for president, Trump said that, despite his personal dislike of abortion, he was “pro-choice in every respect” and that abortion “is a personal decision that should be left to women and their doctors.” But in recent years, the reality TV star turned politician has said he no longer supports abortion access. During his presidential campaign, Trump’s stance remained anti-abortion with the then-candidate saying that the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that women had a constitutional right to an abortion under the 14th Amendment, will happen, automatically,” should he be elected and have the chance to appoint justices to the nation’s highest court. In the months after his election, anti-abortion advocates have argued that he will make good on that promise.

But overturning Roe will be a complicated task and is likely one of the hardest goals for Trump to actually achieve. The Supreme Court recently affirmed women’s constitutional right to abortion without undue burden in its Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision last June, and it will likely take years before another challenge makes its way to the Supreme Court. For the court to decide to completely overturn Roe, it would need to reject more than four decades of settled precedent.

Still, there are ways that Trump can begin laying the groundwork for overturning the landmark ruling. He has consistently promised to place “pro-life justices on the US Supreme Court,” and while some anti-abortion advocates argued that his pool of potential picks weren’t sufficiently conservative, there is still plenty for them to like about Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment, Neil Gorsuch. Since being appointed to the circuit court by George W. Bush in 2006, Gorsuch has taken conservative stances on reproductive issues—recently he wrote the dissenting opinion in a ruling that blocked Utah from defunding Planned Parenthood.

During his time on the appellate court, Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s effort to fight against the Obamacare rule requiring companies to include contraception coverage in their health insurance plans. While Gorsuch is likely to be a strong voice in favor of pro-life advocates, as a successor to Antonin Scalia, he will not drastically shift the balance of the court. But if Anthony Kennedy, a frequent swing vote, or a more liberal justice like Ruth Bader Ginsburg vacates their seat in the next few years, Trump would have an opportunity to move the Supreme Court in a decidedly anti-Roe direction.

States also play a large role in determining what will happen. While the Supreme Court’s newest member adjusts to being on the bench, conservative-led legislatures have remained undaunted in their efforts to get another abortion rights case before the courts. Abortion restrictions, particularly the emergence of bans before fetal viability, have become some of the biggest sources of a potential court challenge. As Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, said in a recent interview with Mother Jones, some states “are thinking about being the state that overturns Roe v. Wade, and the way to do that is to adopt something like a 6-week abortion ban or a 20-week abortion ban and then send that up through the courts.”

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Trump Brought the War on Women Mainstream in His First 100 Days

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The Infuriating and Inspiring Story Behind the Opening of a Red-State Abortion Clinic

Mother Jones

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Julie Burkhart wondered if her impression of Catholic nuns as quiet, meek, shy women was all wrong.

Burkhart is opening an abortion clinic in Oklahoma City, and it’s located in the same neighborhood as St. James the Greater Catholic Church. A few months ago, members of the church began holding lunchtime protests at the construction site, and one bold nun entered the clinic to harass construction workers. Then the nun demanded a meeting with Burkhart.

I went out and I told her, ‘Well, you’re never to walk onto this property unless you’re invited, and I don’t think we really have a lot to talk about,'” Burkhart said firmly.

Angry nuns aren’t the only problem that the clinic operator has had to contend with when trying to open the first new abortion clinic in Oklahoma since 1974. It’s been a time-consuming, costly enterprise in a state that has, Burkhart notes, a number of “prohibitive anti-choice laws.” Gov. Mary Fallin has signed 20 anti-abortion bills over the course of her six-year tenure, including measures that tripled the waiting period from 24 to 72 hours and banned the use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion. Although this year she vetoed one that would have made it a felony to provide abortions except in cases of miscarriage or when a woman’s life is in danger, she did so because the language in the legislation was “vague.” (Removing fetal matter after a miscarriage does not medically qualify as abortion, despite the legislation’s definition of it as such.) Legal experts contend the bill could not have survived a constitutional challenge anyway.

Burkhart’s clinic, Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center Oklahoma City, will be the only one in the state’s largest city. Since late 2014, women in Oklahoma seeking an abortion have had only two options—in Norman and Tulsa—130 miles apart. Her clinic will provide general reproductive health care—birth control, pap smears, pregnancy care, transgender care—along with abortion services for up to 21.6 weeks. When we spoke, she was getting ready to receive the final sign-off from the state regulators before the clinic opens its doors in August.

“Just because we happen to live in a more traditional, conventional, conservative part of the country, it doesn’t mean that people don’t need reproductive health care,” Burkhart says. “I think sometimes that gets lost because of the political attitudes here, but abortion is equal opportunity, whether you’re conservative or liberal or a Democrat or a Republican or whatever.”

The four-decade lull between the last opening of a new clinic in Oklahoma is representative of a broader trend: Clinics are opening at a much slower rate in recent years, due to mounting costly restrictions. According to an investigation by Bloomberg, at least 162 abortion providers have closed since 2011 and only 21 new clinics have opened, three-quarters of them by Planned Parenthood rather than private operators like Burkhart.

Oklahoma has been challenging, but Burkhart is no newcomer to the struggle for abortion rights. An activist for reproductive justice and a political consultant in Washington state, she moved to Wichita, Kansas, in 2002 and became chair of the Witchita Choice Alliance, an abortion rights group. There she began working with Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider who also performed late-term abortions and was the target of violence by anti-abortion extremists for years. His clinic was bombed in 1986, and he survived being shot in both arms by anti-abortion activist Shelley Shannon in 1993.

Burkhart considers Tiller her “mentor” and remembers him as an encouraging, “solutions-oriented” man. She was the spokeswoman for his clinic in 2009, when the physician was murdered in the foyer of his Lutheran church while he handed out bulletins for the Sunday service. He was shot in the head by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion activist with ties to Operation Rescue, an extremist anti-abortion group with headquarters in Kansas that had long protested Tiller’s clinic.

A few weeks after his death, Burkhart told the Oklahoman, she sat in his living room and told his widow, “We have to reestablish services.”

It took four years and the creation of a reproductive rights organization—Trust Women, an advocacy group that also provides women’s health care in underserved areas—but in 2013, Burkhart opened a new clinic in Wichita, in the same space where Tiller had practiced. The following year, she set her sights on Oklahoma, and from the very beginning she faced challenges.

First was the question of financing. In 2014, she began her yearlong search for a bank that would give Trust Women a mortgage and a small line of credit to begin construction on the property she had chosen. After being turned down by banks for nearly a year, she started to fear they would have to pay cash for everything. Eventually, she found a bank and was able to move forward.

She also ran into trouble with the state Department of Health when she submitted Trust Women’s application for a license, including the blueprints of her plans to outfit the clinic in compliance with the state’s health code, which, she says, are “one step down” from an ambulatory surgical center. In June, the Supreme Court decreed that requiring clinics to be outfitted as ambulatory surgical centers constitutes undue burden, but for now at least, Oklahoma’s state regulations are still in place. “We have giant operating rooms, both here in Kansas and Oklahoma,” she said, noting that historically, most first- and early-second-trimester abortions have been safely performed in doctor’s offices. Nonetheless, the Department of Health “would not sign off on any of our applications, even though I submitted all the corrective actions time and again,” Burkhart said. “We really complied with everything that they had brought to our attention, so they kept saying, ‘No, no, no.’ My attitude was like, ‘No that’s not gonna work for us.'”

She summoned her attorneys, and in late 2015, they met with the state’s counsel to get “on the same page.” It’s been a much smoother relationship since. The Department of Health told Mother Jones that it could not comment on the licensing process.

Burkhart and her architect recruited a team of subcontractors to build their clinic to code. They vetted each one and made sure they understood the nature of the project and that it could involve some personal risk. They found a tan brick former eye clinic across from a 7-Eleven and down the road from St. James the Greater Catholic Church, and they began gutting it in December. Construction started in January.

In March, anti-abortion activist Alan Maricle from the Oklahoma-based group Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) began demonstrating at the clinic, harassing the workers and filming his arguments to upload to a YouTube page. Maricle even went so far as to find the churches where two of the contractors worshipped, calling the pastors at those churches to see if they were “cool with it.” Maricle said both pastors stood up for the contractors—he also visited both churches but said he left without speaking to anyone.

“One of the things that sets AHA apart from the pro-life movement as it appears in virtually every other part of the country is this growing understanding of the complicity of the church in what we think of as the Holocaust,” Maricle says. “We see the churches being silent—they’re playing political games with this matter…This kind of mentality leads to good, Christian people thinking it’s okay to build abortion mills.”

Burkhart quickly set up meetings with local law enforcement and erected a fence around the building. That didn’t deter the flood of more protesters, but construction continued.

Burkhart estimates construction expenses—which became more costly due to state requirements—will run up to $650,000. Add to that the cost of purchasing the building, and the final bill for the facility alone is nearly $1 million. That doesn’t include what she’ll pay for staffing, equipment, and medicine. This marks a radical change from the situation before Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (or TRAP) laws were enacted. She calls those requirements “an added layer of bureaucracy and cost, meant to be punitive for abortion providers and either prohibit them from opening or cause them to shut down, as we’ve seen in Texas.”

Even finding an OB-GYN in Oklahoma can be a challenge, although Burkhart already has physicians lined up to work. The state suffers from a severe shortage of practicing gynecologists. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reported that in 2014, 48 counties out of the state’s 77 didn’t have a single OB-GYN, and there are approximately 1.87 OB-GYNs for every 10,000 women in Oklahoma, which is below the national average of 2.65 per 10,000 women.

And she’s painfully aware of the potential danger that comes with running a clinic. As opening day nears, she can’t help but think of her former boss. She remembers his encouragement, his determination, and the way he insisted on hugs after every meeting.

“I’ve really been missing him this week,” she said. “He was just such a wonderful person to work for, and…I always just felt like we were doing such good work.”

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The Infuriating and Inspiring Story Behind the Opening of a Red-State Abortion Clinic

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Planned Parenthood Sting Videographer Cleared of Felony Charge

Mother Jones

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On Tuesday morning, Texas prosecutors dismissed the felony charge against David Daleiden, the founder of the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress, and Sandra Merritt, one of his associates, related to their work last year in creating sting videos targeting Planned Parenthood. They were facing charges of tampering with a government record over allegations that they had made and used fake drivers’ licenses to facilitate their meetings with Planned Parenthood staffers.

Under Daleiden’s leadership, the CMP last summer released a series of secretly-recorded, deceptively-edited videos which purported to show Planned Parenthood staffers negotiating the sale of fetal tissue, a practice which is illegal. Since then, 12 state-level and 4 congressional investigations have found no such wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. Despite these exonerations, the video series continued to reverberate, spawning state and federal efforts to defund the women’s health provider.

The charges dismissed today were issued in January by the Harris County District Attorney’s office. After the CMP videos, the office had assembled a grand jury to investigate Planned Parenthood but after an extensive investigation that spanned more than two months, the group cleared the women’s health provider and chose to indict Daleiden and Merritt instead. The grand jury also charged the pair with a class A misdemeanor: offering to buy human organs, namely fetal tissue. The pair was cleared of this charge in June.

After Tuesday morning’s dismissal, Daleiden touted the victory on Twitter:

But Daleiden’s legal troubles aren’t over yet. A lawsuit filed last summer against CMP by the National Abortion Federation is ongoing, as is a suit filed by Planned Parenthood in California in January, accusing the CMP of racketeering, illegally creating and using fake driver’s licenses, and invading the privacy of, and illegally recording, Planned Parenthood officials and staff.

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Planned Parenthood Sting Videographer Cleared of Felony Charge

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18 Great Trends of the Obama Administration—And 2 Terrible Ones

Mother Jones

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So how has the country been doing during President Obama’s term in office? Here’s a scattering of indicators and how they’ve changed from 2008 (the last year of the Bush presidency) to now:

  1. Unemployment rate (U3): DOWN from 5.8 percent to 4.7 percent.
  2. Underemployment rate (U6): DOWN from 10.6 percent to 9.6 percent.
  3. Violent crime rate (per 100,000 residents): DOWN from 459 to 366.
  4. Fear of crime: DOWN from 37 percent to 35 percent.
  5. Uninsured rate: DOWN from 19.7 percent to 10.3 percent.
  6. Number of illegal immigrants: DOWN from 11.8 million to 11.3 million.
  7. Illegal immigrants from Mexico: DOWN from 6.6 million to 5.6 million.
  8. Teen pregnancy rate (per thousand females): DOWN from 40 to 25.
  9. Current account balance (trade deficit): DOWN from 4.6 percent of GDP to 2.3 percent of GDP.
  10. American war deaths: DOWN from 469 to 28.
  11. Inflation rate: DOWN from 3.8 percent to 1.1 percent.
  12. Shootings of police officers: DOWN from 149 to 120.
  13. Abortion rate (per thousand women): DOWN from 19 to 16.9 (through 2011).
  14. Federal deficit: DOWN from 3.1 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent of GDP.
  15. Drug abuse: DOWN from 22.4 million to 21.6 million (through 2013).
  16. Drug abuse among teenagers: DOWN from 7.7 million to 5.2 million (through 2013).
  17. Household debt (as percent of disposable income): DOWN from 12.8 percent to 10 percent.
  18. Public high school graduation rate: UP from 74 percent to 82 percent (through 2013).

I’m not presenting this stuff because I think it will change anyone’s mind. Nor because Obama necessarily deserves credit for all of them. You can decide that for yourself. It’s mostly just to get it on the record. And it’s worth noting that none of this may matter in the face of two other statistics that might be more important than all the rest put together:

  1. Median household income: DOWN from $55,313 to $53,657 (through (2014).
  2. Americans killed in terror attacks: UP from 14 to 50+ (so far in 2016).

If you measure household income more broadly, it looks better than the raw Census figures. And household income has finally started increasing over the past couple of years. On the terror front, the absolute number of American fatalities from terrorist attacks is obviously very small. Still, the number of brutal attacks in the US and Europe (the only ones Americans care about) has obviously spiked considerably over the past year.

Are these two things enough to outweigh everything else? Maybe. Come back in November and I’ll tell you.


18 Great Trends of the Obama Administration—And 2 Terrible Ones

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This is What It’s Like to Be an Abortion Provider in the Bible Belt

Mother Jones

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In Dawn Porter’s latest documentary, Trapped, a 19-year-old sits in an Alabama abortion clinic, recovering from her procedure. A white blanket surrounds her slight frame, and her hair is pushed back with an olive head wrap. She speaks frankly, but her internal conflict is clear.

“I want to go to heaven,” she says to the camera. “It’s like, what if I never have a little girl? What if I don’t get married? What if this happens, what if that happens, all because I had an abortion and that’s my payback?”

This scene is only one of the powerful moments viewers witness as Porter navigates the grim reproductive rights landscape in the South, with its complex relationship between religion and abortion. For some who live there, religion dictates that abortion is wrong—an unforgivable sin. For others, including the documentary’s protagonists, providing abortion care is one expression of Jesus’ commandment to love one another.

Porter was first introduced to the region in 2010, while hanging out with a group of idealistic young public defenders working in the Deep South. Her interest in them eventually led to her debut film, Gideon’s Army. “I was like a lot of good Northerners—prejudiced,” Porter says with a laugh. “A lot of people there were very generous in not being suspicious, and a lot of people I’m interested in are misunderstood by people they live with. These characters have thought a lot about who they are, as people, as Southerners.”

After Gideon’s Army, while Porter began working on her second film, Spies of Mississippi, she stumbled upon some unexpected inspiration. Whenever she’s on location, Porter picks up the local newspapers, and when she was in Mississippi, the Jackson-based Clarion-Ledger featured an article about the last remaining abortion clinic in the state.

“I just felt like how could it be that a pro-choice woman who pays attention to politics and reads the paper doesn’t realize there’s only one clinic in Mississippi?” she asked.

So she did what any good documentarian would do—she called up the clinic and asked if she could stop by for a visit. After meeting Dr. Willie Parker—a Harvard-educated OB-GYN in his 50s who’s from Alabama and has been providing abortions full time since 2009—and seeing the conditions for staff members at the facility, she decided to work on a documentary that eventually became Trapped. The film’s name comes from insidious laws known as TRAP laws—Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers—that target abortion providers through unnecessary regulation.

“For better or worse, the right to have an abortion is a protected right by the Constitution. How could it possibly be that states could be intentionally, without any subterfuge, aiming to take away that right?” she asks. “I think a lot of people don’t like people to do things that are underhanded. And I think that these laws are underhanded. Straight up, come at me! You want to overturn Roe v. Wade? You should do it straight up.”

The heroes of her film are the women who run clinics in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, as well as Parker, who works with several clinics in the Southeast to provide the procedure. After nearly every legislative session, a new law threatens to close down these clinics, and all the owners struggle to remain open as they make their way through anti-choice protests and daunting piles of paperwork. It’s hardest of all to answer the phone calls from desperate women who must be denied services because the clinics are overbooked and, in some cases, have only one doctor.

“Women who have had abortions are so stigmatized, and so made into caricatures,” Porter says. “There’s the Jezebel and the irresponsible co-ed, so seeing the range of folks was a big deal.”

The film is steeped in religion, and Parker’s faith occupies a central role in his personal story. Parker is filmed singing hymns with his family at a Baptist church and praying at a meal with other clinic workers. He says he wants to talk to the church about abortion because he thinks the church is missing a ministry opportunity by condemning it. Callie Chatman, a recovery room assistant at Reproductive Health Services, agrees. “No woman has ever told me that she feels it’s alright to have an abortion, but they have told me that, ‘This is the only decision I can make at this time,'” she says. Chatman is later seen praying with a patient in recovery.

Porter says the issue of religion kept coming up organically. “The patients would say, ‘Dr. Parker, am I going to hell?'” she remembers. “It struck me how often he was counseling people, telling them they aren’t going to hell, and talking about his own beliefs.”

In another scene, the clinic workers say “The Lord’s Prayer” together as they prepare to endure an Operation Rescue anti-abortion demonstration in front of the Reproductive Health Services clinic in Montgomery, Alabama. The demonstration has all the hallmarks of abortion protests from small towns to the steps of the Supreme Court: children holding signs depicting fetuses with such messages as “I’m a child, not a choice,” and yelling, “Jesus Christ saves!” The clinic workers have erected signs—one says, “Jesus never shamed women”in front of the building.

While filming, Porter and her team experienced some of the safety concerns that many abortion providers must face on a daily basis. Protesters looked Porter up and began posting her name on their websites. They screamed at her as she visited the clinics. Trapped premiered at Sundance mere weeks after a man in Colorado brought a gun into a Planned Parenthood clinic and started shooting, killing three people and wounding nine others. Porter learned from Parker to not let fear dictate her life. In one of their final interviews, he tells her that he doesn’t wear a bulletproof vest. She later asks him if he had any concerns about her including that fact in the film.

“And he was like, ‘You can and you should. Because I don’t, I’m not going to, and that’s not going to keep me safe. Me being vigilant and responsible will keep me safe,'” she continues.He said, ‘I’m not foolhardy. I don’t want to die, but I’m also not going to live as if that’s around every corner.'”

Continued here:  

This is What It’s Like to Be an Abortion Provider in the Bible Belt

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Top Ten List of Things That Are Going Great in America

Mother Jones

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I get requests from time to time:

I can do better than that. How about a top ten list of all the things going well in America right now?

  1. Unemployment = 4.9 percent. By virtually every measure, more people are re-entering the labor force and more people are finding work.
  2. Inflation = 1.4 percent. The annual inflation rate for food is 0.8 percent.
  3. Economic growth = 2.4 percent. This could be better, but it’s not bad: the US economy is stronger than China, Japan, or Mexico. We’re not losing, we’re winning.
  4. The average price of a gallon of gas is $1.81, its lowest price in a decade.
  5. 20 million people have gained health insurance since 2013, and health care costs are rising at the most moderate rate in decades.
  6. The abortion rate has been declining for 30 years and is now lower than at any time since the early 70s.
  7. Among teens, alcohol use is down, crime is down, violent behavior is down, illicit drug use is down, sexual intercourse is down, condom use is up, pregnancy is down, and cigarette smoking is down.
  8. High school test scores and graduation rates are up.
  9. There were only 22 US military fatalities in the Middle East in 2015, the lowest number since 9/11.
  10. Net illegal immigration has been negative for seven straight years. Since 2008, the population of undocumented workers in the US has fallen from 12 million to 11 million.

Unfortunately, there is also one big thing that’s not going so well:

  1. Despite a reasonably strong economy, wages have declined since 2000 and have rebounded only slightly over the past couple of years.

It’s quite possible that this one thing is more important than all the others put together. And needless to say, anyone can put together their own list of ten things that are going badly: police shootings, ISIS, income inequality, etc. Nonetheless, when you look at the big picture, there’s an awful lot going right at the moment.


Top Ten List of Things That Are Going Great in America

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Abortion Rates Are Falling, But Conservatives Won’t Like the Reason Why

Mother Jones

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The abortion rate is declining, but that has nothing to do with the sharp increase in anti-abortion legislation over the past decade. Instead, you can give credit to effective contraception, according to a new study.

From 2008 to 2011, the abortion rate dropped 13 percent, but it did so at a similar pace as the overall decline in the national birth rate, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank that regularly releases data on sexual and reproductive health. A new study by Guttmacher, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, states that unplanned pregnancies are occurring less frequently, but the percentage of unplanned pregnancies that end in abortion remains statistically the same. In 2008, for example, 40 percent of unplanned pregnancies ended in abortion, and in 2011, 42 percent did. But, the overall rate of unintended pregnancies dropped 18 percent between 2008 and 2011—its lowest in 30 years, according to Guttmacher.

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

The study’s authors point out that the use of long-acting reversible contraception (or LARCs) such as IUDs or implants more than tripled between 2007 and 2012. Considered by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists as the most reliable and effective form of birth control, the use of LARCs contributed to the declining unintended pregnancy rate. But poor women and women of color are still disproportionately affected; while rates are falling everywhere, they are falling less for these women, most likely because LARCs are more difficult to obtain in these communities. A different study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that rates of unintended pregnancy for poor women were two to three times the national average. IUDs are very effective, but they can be costly—according to Planned Parenthood’s website, it’s possible to pay up to $1,000 for one that lasts 12 years.

A New England Journal of Medicine study last month found that when Texas eliminated Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid public family planning program for low-income women, fewer claims were filed for contraception, and more low-income women in Texas ultimately gave birth. A number of restrictions on abortion in Texas have already shut down more than half of the state’s 42 clinics and could close 8 more.

“Supporting and expanding women’s access to family planning services not only protects their health and rights; it also reduces abortion rates,” says Joerg Dreweke, a researcher at Guttmacher and the author of the study. “The clear implication for policymakers who wish to see fewer abortions occur is to focus on making contraceptive care more available by increasing funding and stopping attacks on all family planning providers.”

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Abortion Rates Are Falling, But Conservatives Won’t Like the Reason Why

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Are Young Women Complacent About Abortion Rights?

Mother Jones

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Here is DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

Do you notice a difference between young women and women our age in their excitement about Hillary Clinton? Is there a generational divide?

Here’s what I see: a complacency among the generation of young women whose entire lives have been lived after Roe v. Wade was decided.

I won’t even pretend that I understand this answer. Complacency about what? Abortion? Politics in general? And what does this have to do with Hillary Clinton?

Beats me. But it doesn’t really matter. Everyone assumes that DWS was talking about complacency toward abortion rights, and young feminists aren’t happy about her sweeping criticism of an entire generation. Generally speaking, though, the response has been that there are plenty of young women who work hard on abortion rights these days, which is certainly true. But DWS isn’t denying that. What she’s saying is that there are fewer young women today working hard on abortion rights. Or perhaps that they don’t have as much passion as they used to have.

That got me curious. Is this true? Is there any evidence for it? Unfortunately, I couldn’t really figure out how you might measure it. I doubt there’s any historical data on the number of abortion activists broken up by age and gender. There’s plenty of poll data on attitudes toward abortion, but that doesn’t help—and attitudes haven’t changed a lot anyway. Is there any kind of survey data (broken up by age and gender) that shows how strongly people feel about abortion rights? Or how often it’s a significant factor in voting? Not that I could find.

This isn’t really very important, and I suppose someone could just ask Wasserman Schultz to explain what she meant. But I’m still curious: is there any data at all that might point in one direction or another when it comes to generational attitudes toward abortion activism? Anyone have any ideas?

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Are Young Women Complacent About Abortion Rights?

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This Year, States Took the War on Uteruses to the Next Level

Mother Jones

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Reproductive rights took a beating in 2015. According to a year-end report released by the Center for Reproductive Rights, nearly 400 anti-abortion bills were introduced across the country in 2015, up from 335 provisions introduced in 2014. The bills ranged from regulation of medication abortions to all-out bans on the most common method of second-trimester abortions, and the Guttmacher Institute reports 57 of them were enacted. The few pieces of good news can be found in access to contraceptives: Oregon became the first state this year to expand access to birth control medication by offering it over the counter for up to a year’s supply, and California passed a law that allows women to get birth control directly from a pharmacist.

In the final days of 2015, Gov. Cuomo in New York signed legislation that permits pregnant women to enroll in the state’s health insurance exchange at any point during the year by making pregnancy a “qualifying life event.” For everyone without a qualifying life event, enrollment is only available from October through December. New York is the first state to pass such legislation.

But generally, the good news has been limited. Here are some of the most impactful state restrictions that became law this year—and that are likely to affect millions of women of reproductive age:

Medication abortion restrictions: Arkansas’ HB 1578 requires providers to tell patients that the effects of the “abortion pill“—a drug called mifepristone, or RU-486, which is used in conjunction with another pill that is taken at home—can be reversed. This claim has been refuted by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and in medical studies. In the same measure, abortion counselors are required to include in their sessions inaccurate information about fetal pain during the procedure and women’s mental health problems after it. Multiple studies have debunked the claim that most women regret their abortions after the fact.

The state Legislature in Arkansas, which was ranked the second-worst state for women’s and children’s well-being by the Center for Reproductive Rights for its mass of restrictions this year, also passed laws banning telemedicine when it’s used for medication abortion. The technology—involving video conferencing and an automated drawer that pops out and contains the medication—has allowed physicians to administer mifepristone remotely. This method is particularly beneficial for women who live in rural parts of the state and cannot afford the time or money to drive to a clinic in a metropolitan area.

Arkansas implemented an additional restriction on medication abortion that requires doctors prescribing mifepristone to adhere to the original FDA-approved dosage. This sounds reasonable, but it actually decreases the effectiveness of the drug and increases the likelihood of nasty side effects. (Molly Redden reported on increased restrictions around medication abortion in Mother Jones‘ September/October issue.) Idaho also passed laws banning telemedicine specifically when it’s used for medication abortions by requiring physicians to be physically present while administering mifepristone. Doctors who administer the medication must also have admitting privileges at local hospitals or a written transfer agreement with another doctor who does have those privileges. These requirements often disqualify physicians from being able to offer abortion services.

Unprecedented bans against the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions: In April, Kansas passed legislation that made it the first state to explicitly restrict the most common procedure for second-trimester abortions. The wording of the law is ambiguous and does not use medical language—for example, it refers to the fetus as an “unborn child”—and it bans what is referred to as “dismemberment abortion.” In the law, the procedure is defined as “knowingly dismembering a living unborn child and extracting such unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus.” The focus of the law appears to be on the use of the dilation and evacuation method, a method considered by medical professionals to be the safest way to terminate a pregnancy, and which is used in most abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy. A Kansas district court judge, Larry Hendricks, blocked the law less than a week before it was to take effect, and the Kansas Court of Appeals heard oral arguments regarding the law’s constitutionality in early December. However, because the case is being presented before all the appeals judges rather than the traditional three-judge panel, the timing for a final ruling is uncertain.

Oklahoma passed a similar law targeting dilation and evacuation abortions, using even more gruesome language. The law defines “dismemberment abortion”—a popular term among “right to life” advocates—as ” purposely dismembering a living unborn child and extracting him or her one piece at a time from the uterus through use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush, and/or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body to cut or rip it off.” A temporary injunction in October was also applied by a judge in this case, and the law is pending a final ruling.

Waiting periods: North Carolina extended the waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours, tripling the time between state-mandated abortion counseling and actually receiving an abortion. All 12 states in the Southeast have state laws that mandate a waiting period, with the exception of Florida, which tried to pass a 24-hour waiting period this year, but the law was blocked by a circuit court judge and is pending a final ruling. Oklahoma also passed a law that expanded the state’s 24-hour mandatory waiting period to 72 hours.

Tennessee Legislature scales back abortion access: Amendment One, which passed in late 2014, amended the Tennessee state constitution to declare that it does not protect a woman’s right to an abortion or funding for abortions (despite the well-known fact that state and federal dollars cannot legally be used to fund abortion, anyway). The amendment, which was one of the most expensive ballot measures in the state’s history, gave state lawmakers more power to control abortion access and opened the door to a number of restrictive measures in 2015. Twelve bills restricting abortion access were presented before the Legislature this year, including a mandatory 48-hour waiting period. Also in Tennessee, a woman who attempted to self-induce a miscarriage in her bathtub after 24 weeks of pregnancy now faces a first-degree attempted murder charge.

Less than six months after Amendment One was approved, Tennessee also passed a law requiring clinics performing more than 50 surgical abortion procedures per year to meet standards of ambulatory surgery center, which basically amount to hospital standards. This is an example of a TRAP law (short for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers), which focus not on women seeking abortions but on the practitioners who provide them. The additional construction, infrastructure, and maintenance costs can bankrupt these providers, as Mother Jones has previously reported.

Parental consent: By adding yet another requirement, Arkansas’ lawmakers tightened restrictions for women under the age of 18 who are seeking an abortion without parental consent. In order to waive the state’s parental-consent requirement, these young women must go through a judicial bypass procedure in which they appear before a judge to receive permission to have the procedure. But they now must also undergo an “evaluation and counseling session with a mental health professional” so that a judge can rule whether there is “clear and convincing evidence” that a minor is mature enough for the procedure and that an abortion is in her best interests. The law does not mandate any kind of time limit on the court proceedings, so it’s possible a slow-moving petition could delay a teen’s pregnancy until it is illegal for her to go through with the abortion. The law also requires that a minor file the petition in a court in the county where she resides, further compromising her privacy.

Ban after 20 weeks: This year, West Virginia became the 15th state to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Although the governor vetoed the legislation, the state Legislature overrode his veto and passed the bill into law. The law is especially restrictive, offering no exceptions for victims of rape or incest, and it only provides a highly limited exception for women whose lives are endangered by their pregnancy or for fetal abnormalities. Arkansas lawmakers passed a similar ban on abortions after 12 weeks, but the measure was struck down in the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. “By banning abortions after 12 weeks’ gestation, the act prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate a pregnancy at a point before viability,” the appeals court said.

Elizabeth Nash, a state policy analyst at the Guttmacher Institute, said that even though 2015 was a tough year, it could get worse in 2016. “In 2016, abortion restrictions are again expected to be on the front burner in many state legislatures,” Nash said. “It does not appear that the pending US Supreme Court case is slowing down abortion opponents. We expect to see a host of abortion restrictions in 2016, including restrictions related to medication abortion, bans on abortion in the second trimester and TRAP laws including the disposal of aborted tissue.”


This Year, States Took the War on Uteruses to the Next Level

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Louisiana: Women Don’t Need Planned Parenthood. They Have Dentists.

Mother Jones

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The task seems straightforward: Make a list of health care providers that would fill the void if Louisiana succeeded in defunding Planned Parenthood. But the state, which is fighting a court battle to strip the group of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Medicaid funds, is struggling to figure out who would provide poor women with family planning care if not Planned Parenthood.

Nowhere is this struggle more apparent than in a recent declaration by Louisiana’s attorneys that there are 2,000 family planning providers ready to accommodate new patients. A federal judge, reviewing the list in an early September court hearing, found hundreds of entries for specialists such as ophthalmologists; nursing homes caregivers; dentists; ear, nose, and throat doctors; and even cosmetic surgeons.

“It strikes me as extremely odd that you have a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist who are billing for family planning services,” said the judge, John deGravelles, who will determine in the next week whether it is legal for the state to end Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid contracts. “But that is what you’re representing to the court? You’re telling me that they can provide family planning and related services?”

His harsh questioning sent the state back to the drawing board. On Tuesday, the state’s attorneys acknowledged that the dentists and other specialists didn’t belong on the list. They filed a pared-down version that lists just 29 health care providers.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican contender for the presidency, moved to cut off $730,000 in Medicaid reimbursements to the state’s two Planned Parenthood clinics in late August in response to several heavily edited, widely circulated videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood employees selling fetal parts, which is illegal.

Planned Parenthood denies the charges and has asked for an injunction to block Jindal.

In straining to identify alternate providers, the state has added to a growing body of evidence that other health care providers would have a difficult time accommodating low-income women if Planned Parenthood were no longer able to take Medicaid. Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana do not provide abortions. Instead, the clinics provide thousands of annual cancer and STI screenings, overwhelmingly to low-income women on Medicaid. In Louisiana alone, the group last year performed 2,100 well-woman exams, 1,200 pap smears, and 11,000 STI tests, and it administered long-lasting contraceptives 4,100 times, to 5,200 patients, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast said.

Several Louisiana health care providers that would have to take over Planned Parenthood’s patients have stressed that their capacity to do so is very limited. “You can’t just cut Planned Parenthood off one day and expect everyone across the city to absorb the patients,” Stephanie Taylor, who oversees the state’s efforts to curb sexually transmitted diseases, told the New York Times. “There needs to be time to build the capacity.”

Another obstacle is the dearth of family planning clinics and doctors that accept women on Medicaid or other forms of public funding. Across the country, Planned Parenthood provides contraception to almost 40 percent of women who rely on public programs for family planning. The Times notes that four out of five Planned Parenthood patients have incomes below 150 percent of the poverty level, at a time when two-thirds of states reported difficulties ensuring there are enough health providers, especially OB-GYNs, for Medicaid patients.

On Tuesday, there was fresh evidence for what the fight to defund Planned Parenthood means for poor women. The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights think tank, published an analysis of nearly 500 counties where Planned Parenthood operates clinics. In 103 of those counties, Planned Parenthood is the health care provider for every single woman who relies on public funding for contraception. In an additional 229 counties, Planned Parenthood clinics provide care for at least half of patients who rely on Medicaid.

“Certainly in the short term, it is doubtful that other providers could step up in a timely way to absorb the millions of women suddenly left without their preferred source of care and whether those providers could offer the same degree of accessible, quality contraceptive care offered by Planned Parenthood,” the Guttmacher researchers wrote.

But the notion that patients could turn elsewhere remains a key rationale when abortion foes attempt to strip the group of $528 million in federal funding. The argument came up frequently in a Wednesday hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on the Planned Parenthood sting videos. “We often hear that if Planned Parenthood were to be defunded, there would be a health crisis among women without the services they provide,” testified Gianna Jessen, an anti-abortion activist who was born after an unsuccessful abortion. “This is absolutely false. Pregnancy resource centers are located nationwide as an option for the woman in crisis.” Abortion foes have also touted a map showing more than 13,500 clinics that could replace Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, the junior Republican from Louisiana, has said there were more than 100 community health care centers “scattered all over the state” that could accept Planned Parenthood’s patients.

Lawyers for the state appeared to contradict him after they whittled down their list of capable providers to 29. And even among those providers, their ability to pick up Planned Parenthood’s slack is questionable. In Baton Rouge, the site of one of two Louisiana Planned Parenthood clinics, the state lists five alternate providers. But only three of those offer contraception, according to the state’s filing, and two of those have wait times ranging from two to seven weeks. One of the Baton Rouge clinics the state suggested is not accepting any new patients for STI, breast cancer, or cervical cancer screenings.

The state did not withdraw its original list without a fight. When pressured by Judge deGravelles, an attorney for Louisiana stood by the list, saying it represented every provider in the state that had used a family-planning billing code for insurance reimbursement. Here is an excerpt of the transcript:

The judge is set to rule on Planned Parenthood’s call for an injunction before September 15, when the state’s contract with Planned Parenthood would expire and Medicaid reimbursements would stop flowing.

In the September 2 hearing, deGravelles expressed reluctance to allow the contract to expire, since the state hadn’t articulated a good reason for doing so. “You have 5,200 women who are getting their care at these facilities,” he said. “If these contracts are terminated that care is going to be disrupted…for no reason related to the health care they’re getting.…They’re going to have to get other doctors, they’re going to have to seek out other places to get their health care. Correct?”

“They will have to do that,” a lawyer for the state replied. “Correct.”

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Louisiana: Women Don’t Need Planned Parenthood. They Have Dentists.

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