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Trump WH: Birth Control Mandate Is Unnecessary Because of Planned Parenthood, Which We’ll Also Defund

Mother Jones

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The Trump administration’s argument for letting lots of employers opt out of covering birth control is…not exactly bulletproof.

Yesterday, Vox reported that the Trump administration is considering a broad exemption to Obamacare’s mandate on contraceptive coverage, according to a leaked draft of the proposed rule. If passed, the rule would allow virtually any employer, not just a religious one, to remove birth control coverage from its insurance plan if contraception violates the organization’s religious beliefs or “moral convictions”—a broad and murky standard.

But, in a curious twist, part of the Trump administration’s justification for the move hinges on the existence of hundreds of Planned Parenthood clinics, many of which the White House is actively trying to close by “defundingPlanned Parenthood.

As the draft text explains, the administration believes the past rationale for Obamacare’s contraception mandate is insufficient. The document lists several reasons why this is the case. Here’s one of them:

“There are multiple Federal, state, and local programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptives for low-income women, including Medicaid (with a 90% Federal match for family planning services), Title X, health center grants, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. According to the Guttmacher Institute, government-subsidized family planning services are provided at 8,409 health centers overall. Various state programs supplement Federal programs, and 28 states have their own mandates of contraceptive coverage as a matter of state law. For example, the Title X program, administered by the HHS Office of Population Affairs (OPA), provides voluntary family planning information and services for clients based on their ability to pay.

“The availability of such programs to serve the most at-risk women identified by IOM Institute of Medicine, now known as the National Academy of Medicine diminishes the Government’s interest in applying the Mandate to objecting employers.”

The implication here is that since there are already programs like Medicaid and Title X to help low-income women afford contraception, the requirement that most employers provide no-cost birth control is less pressing.

But there are a couple of glaring contradictions here: First of all, of the 8,409 health centers that provide Medicaid and Title X family planning services, as cited in the rule, 817 of them are run by Planned Parenthood—the very group that Congress and the administration are trying to exclude from using Title X and Medicaid funds to provide health care.

Trump has already signed a bill into law allowing states to exclude Planned Parenthood and other providers who offer abortions from receiving Title X family planning funding—never mind that Title X funding is used exclusively for nonabortion services. Beyond that, there are several more proposals moving through government—including in the House’s American Health Care Act and in the Trump budget proposal—to withhold Medicaid and other federal dollars, including Title X, specifically from Planned Parenthood.

The problem with the White House’s logic boils down to this: As the nation’s largest provider of federal Title X-funded care, in 2015 Planned Parenthood centers served more than 40 percent of women nationwide using Title X-funded family planning care—a whopping 1.58 million patients. But if Planned Parenthood can no longer receive a single federal dollar to provide contraception and other family planning care—an oft-repeated goal of the Trump administration—then these nearly 1.6 million low-income patients will suddenly lose their family planning care. And now their employers may not cover that care either.


Trump WH: Birth Control Mandate Is Unnecessary Because of Planned Parenthood, Which We’ll Also Defund

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The Senate Has a Working Group to Repeal Obamacare. It Apparently Includes Zero Women.

Mother Jones

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Now that Republicans in the House of Representatives have passed a bill to repeal Obamacare, the work is shifting to the Senate. Senate Republicans will need to cobble together a deal without losing more than two of their own members (Vice President Mike Pence could cast the tie-breaking vote if it’s tied 50-50). Because the legislation is what’s known as a reconciliation bill, it can’t be filibustered.

The House bill is unlikely to pass the Senate without significant changes, as a number of GOP senators have voiced displeasure with various aspects of it. Senate Republicans have formed a working group made of up various ideological factions—ranging from Republicans in swing states wary of Medicaid cuts to hardcore conservatives, such as Ted Cruz—to try to find a compromise.

On Friday, Bloomberg published the list of senators who are part of that working group so far, and one group is notably absent: women. All 13 of the GOP senators reportedly involved in crafting the new bill are men; none of the Senate’s five Republican women are members of the group. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (Ky.) press office didn’t immediately respond to a request to confirm or comment on the membership of the working group.)

The House plan to repeal Obamacare would cut all federal funding to Planned Parenthood and would allow states to end Obamacare’s prohibition on discrimination against patients with preexisting conditions—allowing insurance companies to charge women more strictly because they are women. And yet apparently, none of the lawmakers involved in crafting the Senate’s initial legislation will be women.

This is particularly surprising since several female Republican senators have voiced skepticism about the House bill, and at least some of them will need to be brought onboard in order for the Senate to pass a health care bill. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) cosigned a letter earlier this year objecting to the House’s proposal to end Medicaid expansion, which has helped lower the uninsured rate for adults in her home state from 22 percent in 2011 to 8.7 percent in 2015. Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) have both objected to the bill’s provision defunding Planned Parenthood. Collins’ absence from the working group is particularly surprising, since the Maine senator has taken a leading role in crafting one of the few fully fleshed-out alternative proposals to the House’s bill.

Leaving women out of key spots is becoming a trend when it comes to health care decisions during the Trump administration. When Trump invited House members to the Rose Garden after Thursday’s vote, it was a sea of mostly men standing behind him. When the White House released images of Trump meeting with the conservative Freedom Caucus in March, Kellyanne Conway was the only woman in sight.

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The Senate Has a Working Group to Repeal Obamacare. It Apparently Includes Zero Women.

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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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Republicans Unveil Their Health Care Plan. It’s a Bloodbath.

Mother Jones

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Republicans have finally released their shiny new health care plan. It’s pretty much the same as the discussion draft that leaked a couple of weeks ago, and includes the following basic features:

Subsidies (in the form of advanceable tax credits) are age-based, starting at $2,000 for young people and going up to $4,000 for older folks.
The subsidies begin to phase out above incomes of $75,000 ($150,000 for households). This will affect about 10 percent of the population and probably reduces the cost of the bill by about 5 percent.
Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is frozen in 2020 and then gradually phased out.
The bill allocates about $10 billion per year for high-risk pools run by states. This is far too little to work effectively.
The tax meant to pay for everything was removed.
Insurers are required to cover everyone who applies, even if they have pre-existing conditions. However, if you have a coverage gap longer than two months, insurers can impose a premium surcharge of 30 percent for one year. This “continuous coverage” provision is designed to motivate people to buy insurance, since the bill repeals the individual mandate.
The funding formula for Medicaid is changed to a “per-capita allotment,” which is a fancy way of saying it gets cut.
All the Obamacare taxes on the rich are repealed.

Oh, and the bill includes a one-year ban on funding for Planned Parenthood. Conservatives love this, but it’s also likely to generate some sure no votes in the Senate. Remember that Republicans can only afford two defections in the Senate. Any more than that and their bill fails.

Needless to say, there’s not yet an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office about how much the GOP plan will cost or how many people it will cover. It’s safe to say that on the cost side, it will be a lot cheaper than Obamacare. In fact, since the tax credits are so stingy, it’s likely that very few people in the bottom third of the income spectrum will use them. They leave insurance too expensive for most poor people to afford.

Because of this, my horseback guess is that the Republican plan will be used by about 3 million people, compared to 10 million for Obamacare. The Medicaid expansion will be unchanged for a while, continuing to cover about 10 million people. Total cost for subsidies + high-risk pools + Medicaid expansion will run about $25 billion per year, compared to $100 billion for Obamacare.

Three million is far too small a pool for any kind of successful program, and the pre-existing conditions clause ensures that the pool will be not just small, but very, very heavily weighted toward the very sick. It’s a disaster for insurance companies, who will almost surely refuse to participate.

That’s my guess, anyway. It’s a bloodbath. More detailed analysis from think tankers will be available soon, and the CBO will weigh in eventually too. It’s not going to be pretty.

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Republicans Unveil Their Health Care Plan. It’s a Bloodbath.

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The House GOP Just Finally Revealed Their Secret Bill to Repeal Obamacare

Mother Jones

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On Monday evening, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled Republicans’ bill proposing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Until today, top Republicans opted to keep the bill “under lock and key” somewhere in the basement of Congress. You can read the full draft here and here (it is split). It includes proposals to eliminate mandatory health insurance for all Americans, defund Planned Parenthood, and more.

Mere moments after it was released, Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) attacked the bill from the right by calling it “Obamacare 2.0.”

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The House GOP Just Finally Revealed Their Secret Bill to Repeal Obamacare

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Republicans Just Found a New Way to Harass Scientists

Mother Jones

The congressional subcommittee investigating allegations of fetal tissue sale for profit recommended holding a company that procures tissue for medical research in contempt of Congress.

House Democrats staged a walkout to protest the vote for contempt proceedings after being overruled by Republican members of the Select Investigative Panel. “We refuse to sanction or endorse this exercise by continuing to participate,” said ranking member Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

The small Northern California biotech firm, StemExpress, prepares human tissue and cells for biomedical researchers across the world. It specializes in isolating stem cells from donor tissue in order to expand a sample’s lifespan for research, which is important because otherwise, perfectly usable cells can be lost in transit to a lab.

Although StemExpress and CEO Cate Dyer have submitted information to comply the Select Investigative Panel, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in her opening remarks this morning that the submission was unsatisfactory because it did not include personnel information or detailed accounting records, only summaries. Blackburn said that Dyer’s attorney responded to additional requests for information in April by saying that if the panel wanted more detailed records, it would have to issue another subpoena.

“A subpoena is not a suggestion, it is a lawful order, and a subpoena is to be complied with,” Blackburn said.

Until a year ago, the company partnered with Planned Parenthood, which provided fetal tissue for research that comprises less than 1 percent of the company’s business. Following the release last year of surreptitiously recorded videos that purported to show the sale of fetal tissue for profit, StemExpress has been the target of hundreds of threats. StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer has received personal threats, including a $10,000 bounty on her head.

In the wake of the video’s release, a congressional subcommittee launched an investigation into whether Planned Parenthood and StemExpress violated a federal statue that bans the sale of fetal tissue for profit. In February, Blackburn sent two letters to the Obama administration that requested further investigation. Those letters were not properly redacted, and the identities of several researchers and Planned Parenthood staffers were made public in attachments that came with the letters and were posted on the Select Investigative Panel’s website.

Also in February, the committee issued a subpoena to StemExpress seeking accounting and personnel records. The next month, it issued a subpoena to StemExpress CEO Cate Dyer. Dyer’s attorney, Frank Radoslovich, told STAT that Dyer has complied with the subpoena and turned over more than 1,700 pages worth of the requested information, but she is also balancing a need to protect her staff’s anonymity in the wake of violent threats.

“We have a real, legitimate interest in protecting the privacy of our employees,” Radoslovich told STAT. “We have a panel of zealots that have already proven that they will disclose or mischaracterize documents, or just flat-out make up things and attribute it to us. We can’t be put in a position to further endanger employees.”

Top Democrats are condemning the actions of the Republicans on the committee. Energy and Commerce ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) wrote a letter to full committee chairman Fred Upton accusing the panel of abusing its power, claiming it does not have the authority to hold anyone in congressional contempt without the full support of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Ranking member Jan Schakowsky also decried the committee’s actions, calling it a sustained “witch hunt.”

“The McCarthyesque threat that StemExpress ‘name names’ of all employees or face congressional contempt is disgraceful,” she said in a statement. “We will fight this continued abuse of congressional authority every step of the way.”

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Republicans Just Found a New Way to Harass Scientists

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Pence Tells Evangelicals He’ll Help Trump Restrict Abortion Rights

Mother Jones

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GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence spoke to a convention of conservative Christians Saturday, drawing loud applause for his promises that he will work with Donald Trump to restrict abortion rights and appoint right-wing justices to the Supreme Court.

“Let me be clear: People who know me well know I’m pro-life, and I don’t apologize for it,” said Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, to the largely evangelical crowd at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC. “I want to live to see the day that we put the sanctity of life back at the center of American law, and we send Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history, where it belongs.”

Pence’s speech provided a stark contrast to his running mate’s address at the same summit. On Friday night, Trump asked attendees for their support in November without ever mentioning abortion or marriage. The pair of speeches reinforced this political duo’s dynamic, with Pence—a lifelong anti-abortion advocate with a legislative record to prove it—once again providing a salve for religious voters skeptical of the thrice-married, formerly pro-choice Trump.

Penny Nance, the president of Concerned Women for America, introduced Pence. She opened with an anecdote about getting a call from a reporter after Trump’s selection of Pence. She told the reporter there was one thing people needed to know: On abortion, “Mike Pence has a 100 percent Concerned Women for America voting record, and a zero percent record with the National Abortion Rights Action League,” also known as NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion rights group.

The audience roared with applause, and Nance lavished praised on Pence’s record both as a congressman and as Indiana Governor. “Mike was a leader in Congress before most people knew Planned Parenthood was the abortion mafia,” she said, citing the deceptively edited Center for Medical Progress videos released last summer that purported to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue. (So far, four congressional investigations and 12 state-level investigations have found no wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.) Nance also lauded Pence’s efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, both in Congress and as Indiana’s governor. By 2014, Pence had cut Planned Parenthood’s funding nearly in half in his state, resulting in the closure of five clinics, none of which ever provided abortions.

When Pence took the podium, he sharply criticized Hillary Clinton. He cited the Benghazi investigation—a popular topic among many of the speakers. Pence also blasted Clinton’s comments at a New York fundraiser Friday night, in which she said that “half” of Trump’s supporters represented “a basket of deplorables.”

“Let me just say from the bottom of my heart: Hillary, they are not a basket of anything,” Pence said. “They are Americans and they deserve your respect.” Pence added that he hadn’t heard “that level of disdain for Americans” since 2008, when Barack Obama said that residents of Midwestern towns with high unemployment “get bitter and cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Pence went on to promise that a Trump administration would shore up the military, stand with Israel, and cut a variety of taxes. But soon, he turned back to abortion. Citing his own extensive record—including his funding for crisis pregnancy centers in Indiana and state legislation prohibiting women from obtaining an abortion because of the race, gender, or disability of the fetus—Pence outlined the Trump team’s plan for reproductive health access.

He promised to work with Congress to pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection act, a bill that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions only for cases of rape, incest, and threats to the woman’s life. (These kinds of abortions are rare and often happen when a serious fetal disability is discovered late in pregnancy.) “We will end late-term abortions nationwide,” Pence said. The post-20-week abortion ban failed in the Senate in September 2015, but was resurrected with a hearing in March.

Pence promised to uphold the Hyde amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions, and to defund Planned Parenthood. “The days of public funding for Planned Parenthood are over when the Trump-Pence administration arrives in Washington, DC,” he said.

And finally, Pence returned to Trump’s main selling point with evangelicals: the Supreme Court. “When it comes to life and our liberties,” he declared, “Donald Trump will appoint justices to the Supreme Court of the United States who will strictly construe the constitution of the United States in the tradition of the late and great Justice Antonin Scalia.”

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Pence Tells Evangelicals He’ll Help Trump Restrict Abortion Rights

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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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The Supreme Court Abortion Ruling Could Soon Take Down Laws in These 8 States

Mother Jones

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In a press call on Thursday, Planned Parenthood announced a campaign to work toward the repeal of abortion restrictions in eight states across the country, in light of the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

The ruling, announced on Monday, found that two types of abortion clinic restrictions in Texas—a law requiring abortion providers to have local hospital admitting privileges and a rule requiring clinics to meet the strict infrastructure standards of outpatient surgery centers—were unconstitutional because they caused an undue burden on abortion access.

Planned Parenthood announced on Thursday that it was planning to seek repeals of Texas-style restrictions in seven other states: Missouri, Virginia, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Planned Parenthood also announced that they would begin work toward repealing abortion restrictions in Texas beyond those struck down this week by the Supreme Court.

Missouri and Tennessee each have both of the Texas-style restrictions on the books: an admitting-privileges law and facility infrastructure requirements. In Missouri, the admitting-privileges law led to the closure of an abortion clinic in Columbia, leaving the state with just one clinic. In Tennessee, both laws are being challenged in the courts. The rest of the states on Planned Parenthood’s list each have laws requiring structural standards comparable to those of surgical centers, though the law specifics vary by state.

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The Supreme Court Abortion Ruling Could Soon Take Down Laws in These 8 States

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Congress fails to pass Zika bill, and that’s an ominous sign of things to come

This bites

Congress fails to pass Zika bill, and that’s an ominous sign of things to come

By on Jun 28, 2016Share

The Zika virus epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean threatens to spread throughout much of the United States, causing birth defects and potentially deadly or paralyzing complications, but it looks like Congress isn’t going to do anything about it. With climate change increasing the prevalence of mosquito-borne illnesses such as Zika, this is a chilling reminder of how political dysfunction may prevent timely responses to climate-related disasters.

The House passed a $1.1 billion bill to fight Zika last week, and on Tuesday, the Senate voted 52 to 48 in favor of the same measure. But it now takes 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate, thanks to rampant filibuster abuse, so 52 votes is not enough.

Strangely, Senate Democrats were the ones who voted the bill down. They had valid reasons. House and Senate Republicans stuffed the bill with a conservative wish list unconnected to Zika. “The package loosens Environmental Protection Agency restrictions on pesticides and strikes a measure that would have banned display of the Confederate Battle Flag at cemeteries run by the Department of Veterans affairs,” The Washington Post reports. The bill also excludes Planned Parenthood from its funding, even though the Zika crisis directly involves women’s reproductive health. And it pulls funding away from the Affordable Care Act.

So Democrats felt compelled to vote against the Zika funding bill rather than expose Americans to more dangerous chemicals, snub Planned Parenthood, and endorse racist, treasonous symbolism.

The end result is that we likely won’t have a federal response to Zika this year, though one is clearly needed. “At least four women on the U.S. mainland have given birth to infants with birth defects related to Zika, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is monitoring 265 women on the U.S. mainland and an additional 189 with Zika in Puerto Rico,” the Post reports. The CDC estimates that 25 percent of Puerto Ricans could be infected within a year, and 1.1 percent of blood donations on the island currently have the virus present. Puerto Rico is ill-equipped to handle a public health emergency right now as it is struggling with an economic and fiscal crisis.

Democrats have been trying for months to pass an emergency-funding bill that would provide for a robust response to Zika. In February, the Obama administration requested nearly $1.9 billion to bolster prevention measures such as mosquito control in states and territories facing Zika outbreaks and to invest in federal research and detection. For three months, Congress did nothing. In May, the Senate passed a $1.1 billion bill and House Republicans countered with a bill that would cover less than half of Obama’s request. Both included spending cuts to other public health programs. Unable to reconcile the House and Senate bills, Congress adjourned for a Memorial Day recess.

Now they have finally made a deal, but it’s one that Senate Democrats can’t accept. This is typical of congressional Republicans, who suffer from a pathological need to politicize everything. From Hurricane Katrina to Superstorm Sandy, Republicans have tried to capitalize on nearly every crisis by making funding contingent on passing unrelated measures to advance their preexisting agenda: stripping away labor protections, eliminating environmental regulations, undermining Obamacare, or just cutting domestic spending. They also have fetishized the idea of paying for emergency-spending bills with cuts to unrelated spending, though they never feel the need to pay for tax cuts with spending cuts. They seem to think fighting deadly disease is less important than showering money on the rich.

This congressional deadlock is an ominous sign for a future that will feature more outbreaks like Zika and other disasters like floods, heat waves, and wildfires.


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Congress fails to pass Zika bill, and that’s an ominous sign of things to come

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