Tag Archives: abortion clinics

Gwen Moore: Abolishing the myth that abortion clinics ‘target’ blacks

A few weeks ago, Rep. Sean Duffy took to the House floor to scold black lawmakers like me. Citing high abortion rates among African-American women, the Wisconsin congressman accused abortion providers of preying on minority communities.

“I’ve heard many of my liberal friends and a lot of friends from the (Congressional Black Caucus) talk about how there is targeting and unfair treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system,” Duffy said. “But what I don’t hear them talk about is how their communities are targeted in abortion.”

Groups like the Guttmacher Institute — an independent reproductive health research organization — have debunked this assertion with data showing that fewer than 1 in 10 abortion providers are in majority-black neighborhoods.

But no matter. That allegation has been uttered by countless conservatives. Recently, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson accused Planned Parenthood of building “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods” so they could “control that population.” At last month’s March for Life, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a prominent religious voice on Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, described the targeting of African American and Latino women as “unbridled and unfettered racism.” Extremist groups like Protecting Black Life exist to disseminate this lie.

These comments are part of a massive disinformation campaign, one that seeks to dismantle the progress made by the pro-choice movement, shaming African American women and attacking the reproductive health providers they rely on. Their goal is to intimidate and inflict trauma while limiting the health care choices for pregnant women in need.

These anti-choice activists also exploit the high rate of abortion among black women as further (and somewhat circular) evidence that minority communities are targeted for abortion. For example, during his remarks on the House floor, Duffy said that the “African American community is 15 percent of the country as a whole, but account for 40 percent of the abortions. … In New York City, the most recent stat, African-American women had more abortions than live births.”

Insisting these numbers represent a targeting of minority communities is flawed and misleading, and it perverts this debate with deceptive implications of causality. No one denies that the abortion rate in black communities is higher than in white communities, but failing to mention the underlying context behind those numbers demonstrates a disturbing lack of awareness of the impact of poverty and the realities faced by black women in America.

From 2008 to 2010, researchers from UCSF’s Bixby Center on Global Reproductive Health conducted 3,000 interviews with over 1,000 women across the country who had either had abortions or were denied care because of the timing of their pregnancies. The report uncovered that economic security was one of the primary reasons women pursued abortion care in the first place. Forty-five percent of the women were on public assistance, and two-thirds had household incomes below the federal poverty level.

The inability or outright refusal to recognize the barriers black women encounter in accessing quality prevention services and reproductive care walks the line between sheer blindness and malice. However, what infuriates me, and so many African Americans, is the shameless misappropriation of “Black Lives Matter” as a vehicle to demean women of color for exercising their right to make their own private medical decisions. Anti-choice lawmakers are using it as a political tactic to further their own ideological agenda.

Black Lives Matter is a critical component to our shared struggle for reproductive rights. It extends far beyond the realm of deadly interactions with police and economic inequality. It is a means to amplify our voices against injustice and to empower our communities. It provides an opportunity for those to shape a future worthy of their highest aspirations, free of political paternalism and discrimination.

This social justice movement means something to us.

I will not remain silent while Republican lawmakers publicly feign concern for women and children of color, while simultaneously attacking the very social programs that lift them out of poverty. Spewing such divisive rhetoric masked in moral concern exposes a stunning insensitivity for our community’s collective pursuit for dignity and equality.

This column originally ran in the Washington Post.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, represents Wisconsin’s 4th Congressional District.


Planned Parenthood suspect: ‘I am a warrior for the babies’

The man accused of killing three people in an attack on a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic defied his own defense attorney in court, declaring himself a “warrior for the babies” who would not be silenced by the lawyer tasked with potentially saving his life.

Robert Dear, 57, repeatedly interrupted public defender Daniel King and accused him of seeking a gag order in the case to conceal what Dear portrayed as Planned Parenthood’s crimes that led to the Nov. 27 assault. The conflict added a new level of turmoil to a politically charged case that has already sparked debate about when political speech becomes a call for violence.

“You’ll never know what I saw in that clinic,” a bearded, unkempt and shackled Dear yelled on Wednesday in one of more than a dozen outbursts as King successfully argued for the gag order by contending that public discussion of the investigation could prejudice potential jurors. “Atrocities. The babies. That’s what they want to seal.” A deputy squeezed Dear’s shoulder in an effort to quiet him.

King appeared to be trying to follow the same playbook he used in his defense of Colorado theater shooter James Holmes, whom he convinced a jury earlier this year to spare from execution on the grounds of his mental illness. But, as Dear was formally charged with 179 counts of first-degree murder, attempted murder and other crimes that could lead to the death penalty, he was having none of it.

“Do you know who this lawyer is?” Dear exclaimed of King. “He’s the lawyer for the Batman shooter. Who drugged him all up. And that’s what they want to do to me.”

Holmes was on anti-psychotic medication this year during his trial for the 2012 shootings that killed 12 people and wounded 70. He was sentenced to life in prison.

“Seal the truth, huh? Kill the babies. That’s what Planned Parenthood does,” Dear yelled later. At another point, he snapped at King: “You’re trying silence me.” Then he said: “Let’s let it all come out. Truth!”

King did not directly address the outbursts, though at one point during a break he leaned over to Dear and said: “I know what you’re trying to do; it’s not going to work.” King raised doubts about whether Dear is competent to stand trial, saying defense attorneys wanted investigators to turn over evidence as soon as possible so they could assess the “depth of his mental illness.”

Colorado Springs police have refused to discuss a potential motive in the Nov. 27 attack, which wounded nine and killed three. But even before Wednesday’s startling outbursts, there was mounting evidence that Dear was deeply concerned about abortion.

He rambled to authorities  about “no more baby parts” after his arrest. And a law enforcement official told The Associated Press this week that Dear asked at least one person in a nearby shopping center for directions to the clinic before opening fire. The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the investigation and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, Dear interjected as Judge Gilbert A. Martinez discussed a pretrial publicity order, saying, “Could you add the babies that were supposed to be aborted that day? Could you add that to the list?”

At one point, Dear yelled simply, “Protect babies!”

Later, he accused his attorneys of being in “cahoots” with Planned Parenthood to “shut me up.”

“I want the truth to come out. There’s a lot more to this than for me to go silently to the grave,” he shouted.

Dear has lived in remote locations without electricity or running water and was known to hold survivalist ideas.

One of his three ex-wives, Barbara Mescher Micheau of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, said he vandalized a South Carolina abortion clinic at least 20 years earlier, announcing to her that he had put glue in the locks of its doors, a common protest technique among activists trying to shut down abortion clinics.

Killed in the attack were Garrett Swasey, 44, a University of Colorado-Colorado Springs officer who rushed to the scene; Ke’Arre Stewart, 29, an Iraq war veteran who was accompanying someone at the clinic; and Jennifer Markovsky, 35, who also accompanied a friend at the clinic.

Five other officers were shot and wounded in the rampage.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said Monday that responding officers rescued 24 people from inside the clinic building and helped remove 300 people from surrounding businesses where they had been hiding while the shooting unfolded.

Martinez set the next hearing for Dear for Dec. 23. A first-degree murder conviction can lead to life in prison or the death penalty.

At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, the judge looked at Dear and said, “Are you finished?”

Supreme Court lineup fit for an election year

The Supreme Court’s lineup of new cases is fit for an election year.

Affirmative action, abortion and another look at the Obama health care law all are before the court, and they could well be joined by immigration, giving the justices a run of cases that reads like a campaign platform.

Also coming; disputes involving public-sector labor unions, the death penalty and the way electoral districts are drawn.

Decisions in these high-profile cases almost certainly will split the court along ideological lines, mirroring the country’s stark partisan split. What’s more, the most contentious issues won’t be resolved until late June, barely four months before the 2016 presidential election.

What started as a somewhat sleepy term – especially following major decisions last June on health care and same-sex marriage – has become much more interesting, says University of Pennsylvania law dean Theodore Ruger.

“This is a court that remains very assertive in its role in declaring what the law is,” Ruger said.

The accumulation of wrenching social issues and pointed policy disputes at the Supreme Court at this moment is mostly a matter of chance. A legal fight over the regulation of abortion clinics in Texas has been underway for two and a half years. President Barack Obama’s plan to shield from deportation millions of immigrants who are living in the country illegally was rolled out a year ago and almost immediately challenged in court. Faith-based groups that say they are forced to be complicit in providing objectionable birth control to women covered under their health plans have been challenging the Obama administration for more than three years.

It is still is possible the immigration dispute will not be heard until next fall, if at all.

Now that the cases are at the marble courthouse atop Capitol Hill, the justices’ decisions could feed campaign rhetoric that already has been heated on abortion and immigration, to name just two issues.

In June 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts provided the decisive vote that saved Obama’s health care overhaul in the midst of the president’s campaign for re-election.

A short time later, Republican candidate Mitt Romney proclaimed that as president he would do what the high court failed to do that June – get rid of the health care law. Obama won re-election, and the law survived.

Ruger said the chief justice wrote a nuanced opinion that appeared to show some sensitivity to the looming election.

“I think Roberts recognized this was going to be an issue in front of the voters,” Ruger said. The electorate ultimately would decide the health care law’s fate, he said.

Court decisions close to an election, especially when they produce big changes in the law, also can increase attention paid to those issues.

This is part of what Texas A&M University political scientist Joseph Ura called the court’s agenda-setting effect. Ura pointed to Brown v. Board of Education’s outlawing of racial segregation in public schools and Lawrence v. Texas’ ban on state anti-sodomy laws as examples of past decisions that altered “the existing arrangement of material or symbolic benefits in our political system.” Researchers found that those decisions “led to a large, sustained increase in the media’s attention” to those issues, Ura said.

Last term’s big rulings on health care and same-sex marriage already have prompted criticism of the court, and of Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy in particular, from several Republican presidential candidates. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for example, has said that putting Roberts on the court was a mistake, even though Cruz endorsed his nomination in 2005.

The court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United that led to a flood of what critics call “dark money” in political campaigns remains controversial, and Democratic candidates have pledged to try to undo it.

The Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that established a woman’s right to an abortion produced a backlash that eventually showed up in election returns, said Sara Benesh, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “A lot of scholars say (President Ronald) Reagan got elected because of Roe v. Wade. Pro-life forces really got him moving in his campaign,” Benesh said.

But there is little evidence that the court itself will become an issue in the campaign, except perhaps on the margins, she said.

The court and the justices are little known to the public. “It seems to me a long, drawn-out relationship between any decision the court might make and any decision an individual might make in the voting booth,” Benesh said.

Every four years, interest groups across the political spectrum try to make that connection for voters. Elections matter, they say, because the winner may get to choose justices who will serve for the next quarter century or longer.

Indeed, with four justices in their late 70s or early 80s, and the court so closely and fiercely divided, any appointment could dramatically change the court’s direction.

Texas Republicans vow to pass extreme anti-choice bill in next two weeks

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst promised Saturday that a bill toughening abortion restrictions would not be derailed again after screaming protesters this week drowned out state senators and ran out the clock on a vote.

In a new special session that starts July 1, lawmakers will take up the anti-abortion bill again after failing to pass it by midnight Tuesday. Political rivals have questioned Dewhurst’s leadership in the Senate and blamed him for the bill’s collapse _ a chaotic scene broadcast over the Internet.

Dewhurst said Saturday after speaking at the National Right to Life Convention that next time, he’ll move to have protesters thrown out if they become disorderly. He said he had tried to get them out Tuesday, though outnumbered troopers in the Capitol were not seen removing most protesters until the early hours of Wednesday.

Believe me,” Dewhurst told reporters. “I have spent most of my time between about 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning and through yesterday making sure that when I give the order … to clear the gallery, it gets done.”

The bill would place new restrictions on abortion clinics that would shutter nearly all of them and ban the procedure after the 20th week of pregnancy.

In his speech, Dewhurst ripped the crowds opposing a vote as driven by “hatred” and “mob rule.” He called on anti-abortion activists to fill hearing rooms and galleries during the next session as their opponents have done, and use social media to broadcast their support using the hashtag “(hash)stand4life.”

As for State Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster delayed the vote on the session’s final day and put her in the national spotlight, Dewhurst said, “No human being can talk for two weeks. This bill is going to pass.”

He told reporters he would move quickly on the bill to keep it out of “filibuster range.”

Gov. Rick Perry’s move to add abortion regulations well into the first special session limited the time senators had to act on it, Dewhurst said.

Dewhurst also backed down from comments published Friday on the conservative website Hot Air, in which he said he’d heard reporters in the Capitol were inciting protesters. He told Hot Air he would “take action” against any reporters who were driving the crowd.

On Saturday, he said he respected reporters and that “the case is closed.”

Dewhurst has been lieutenant governor since 2002, and he is running for re-election next year. But a year after he was soundly beaten in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate by Ted Cruz, Dewhurst faces rivals who used Tuesday’s episode to question his ability.

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a letter that Dewhurst “has lost his grip on the reins of the Senate.” And state Sen. Dan Patrick, who has also joined the race, said the Senate needs new leadership.

Asked about his opponents, Dewhurst said, “I know it’s harder to stay on top than get on top, and I’m going to make sure this state keeps moving forward.”

Dewhurst was flanked Saturday by two women from groups that oppose abortion: Texans For Life Coalition.

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