Tag Archives: anti-choice

Planned Parenthood video maker refuses probation, wants to use trial as public platform

An anti-abortion activist’s plan to reject a plea deal offering probation for charges related to making undercover Planned Parenthood videos likely means his goal is to use a trial as a public platform to criticize the nonprofit.

David Daleiden surrendered to authorities, posted $3,000 bond and made two court appearances on the felony and misdemeanor charges he faces before prosecutors offered him pretrial diversion, a form of probation that would keep him out of prison and ultimately have the charges dismissed.

But Terry Yates, one of Daleiden’s attorneys, said Daleiden isn’t interested in accepting the plea offer and is prepared to head to trial if he can’t quash the indictment.

“The only thing we’re going to accept right now is an apology,” he said.

The pretrial diversion, also offered to Daleiden’s co-defendant and fellow activist Sandra Merritt, is the “right thing to do” and a common offer for first-time nonviolent offenders, Harris County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeff McShan said.

But he also said prosecutors are ready to proceed to trial and that “our case is strong.”

Attorneys for Merritt, who was freed on $2,000 bond, have not indicated whether the 62-year-old would take the probation offer. One of them, Dan Cogdell, didn’t reply to phone calls seeking comment.

After his court appearances, Daleiden briefly spoke to about 30 cheering supporters who had gathered at a rally outside the courthouse in Houston, thanking them for their support and saying there will come a day “when there is no longer a price tag put on human life.” The 27-year-old, who’s described himself as a “citizen journalist,” also criticized Texas authorities for not prosecuting Planned Parenthood.

The decision by Daleiden and his legal team to not accept the plea offer likely means the activist wants to use a trial to promote his cause, said Joel Androphy, a Houston defense attorney not connected to the case.

“If they take a plea, then their whole purpose of doing this goes down the tubes,” he said. “This is about a mission. The mission is to show Planned Parenthood did something wrong. Even though they are on trial, they are going to be prosecuting Planned Parenthood during their defense.”

Most defendants who are offered pretrial diversion would likely accept such an offer, said Melissa Hamilton, a visiting criminal law scholar at the University of Houston Law Center, “but the case here is a little different.”

“At least what the individuals have been saying is they want this to be their new platform to battle the system,” she said.

Androphy said while Daleiden wants a trial, prosecutors probably want to settle the case as quickly as possible.

“This is a purely political issue and they don’t want to get involved in it, I’m sure,” he said.

Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero said “the wheels of justice have only begun to roll,” and that the group doesn’t “expect this to be the last time these extremists are booked and fingerprinted.”

He also said Planned Parenthood hopes other law enforcement agencies pursue charges as well.

Both Daleiden and Merritt, who are from California, were indicted on Jan. 25 on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Daleiden also was indicted on a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs that carries up to a year in prison.

Attorneys say the pair plans to plead not guilty. Daleiden and Merritt are each set to appear in court on March 28.

The district attorney’s office initially launched a grand jury investigation to look into Planned Parenthood after the undercover videos, released in August 2015, indicated that the women’s reproductive health organization was illegally selling fetal tissue to make a profit.

The grand jury cleared Planned Parenthood of misusing fetal tissue, opting instead to indict Daleiden and Merritt, who made the videos and are accused of using fake driver’s licenses to get into a Houston clinic.

The video footage showed them posing as representatives of a company called BioMax, which purportedly procured fetal tissue for research. Planned Parenthood has said the fake company offered to pay the “astronomical amount” of $1,600 for organs from a fetus. The clinic said it never agreed to the offer.

Year in Review: Abortion rights, clinics under growing attacks in 2015

More than 300,000 Americans and a coalition of 140 progressive groups want the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the deadly shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as an act of domestic terrorism.

“We, the undersigned, urge the Department of Justice to investigate the recent attacks on reproductive-health clinics using all appropriate federal statutes, including domestic terrorism,” read an appeal sent in December to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “Since the release of the first deceptively edited video from the Center for Medical Progress intended to vilify Planned Parenthood, and, by proxy, all abortion providers, anti-choice extremists have launched an unprecedented and multi-pronged assault against women’s reproductive rights.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America, UltraViolet, CREDO Action, Courage Campaign and others said the November shooting was politically motivated.

“People are dying, clinics are burning — and only a domestic terrorism investigation can help us find out who is driving this violence,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet. 

Thomas cited acts of violence at other clinics in five states in 2015 intended to terrorize women and “scare them away from accessing health care.”

Since 1977, there have been 11 murders and more than 220 bombings and arson attacks at abortion facilities in the United States, according to the National Abortion Foundation.

The request for investigation was made days before shooting suspect Robert Dear, accused of killing three people and injuring nine in the Colorado attack, stepped into a courtroom on Dec. 9 and declared himself a “warrior for the babies.”

Leaders of the progressive groups said politicians should be held accountable for the irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric that fuels such thinking and the resulting violence.

Planned Parenthood redoubled clinic security after the shooting and, in many states, the organization’s supporters marched on their capitols in displays of solidarity. A national day of solidarity was observed on Dec. 5. In Wisconsin, activists gathered at the Capitol on Dec. 10.

“While we’ve seen the continuation of hateful rhetoric toward Planned Parenthood by those who oppose our work, their voice clearly does not represent the majority,” said Teri Huyck, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin. “Our resolve to keep our doors open is stronger than the continued political rhetoric calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, because we care deeply for the people who rely on us for high-quality, nonjudgmental care.”

Throughout 2015, supporters of Planned Parenthood, which serves more than 60,000 women and men each year in Wisconsin, put up a defense against repeated GOP legislative efforts to cut funding and restrict access to health care in Wisconsin, other states and at the federal level.

In November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit rejected Wisconsin’s efforts to reinstate a restriction on access to abortion. The appeals panel affirmed the decision of U.S. District Judge William Conley that the state’s admitting privileges law, which requires physicians who prescribe so-called “morning after” pills and perform abortions, to be affiliated with a nearby hospital. Conley said the measure places an undue burden on women’s access to safe and legal abortions. The circuit court panel said the law does nothing to support patient safety.

“To those who go to shocking extremes to shut us down, know this: These doors stay open,” Huyck vowed.

IN 2015

Lawmakers in 16 states, including Wisconsin, passed nearly 50 bills restricting access to abortion in 2015, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Two state legislatures — Wisconsin’s and West Virginia’s — voted to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Five legislatures voted to lengthen waiting periods for abortions.

— L.N.

Talking about 2015

The most prominent theme to emerge among users on Dictionary.com was in the expanding and increasingly fluid nature of conversations about gender and sexuality, and also racial identity.

This led the online reference service to name “identity” the 2015 Word of the Year.

— Lisa Neff

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?”

Colorado gunman: ‘No more baby parts’

“No more baby parts.”

Those were the words terrorist Robert Lewis Dear spoke to a law-enforcement official on Nov. 28 shortly after he was taken into custody for allegedly staging a long and deadly shooting attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Clinic.

The official could not elaborate about the comment and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

Afer a long, brutal standoff on a snowy afternoon during which portions of Colorado Springs were on lockdown, those words seemed to answer at least one question about the incident in which 12 citizens and police officers were shot and three, including a police officer, killed: Why?

Witnesses to the shooting have also told media sources and Planned Parenthood staff that the shooter was clearly motivated by opposition to choice.

At a vigil held at All Souls Unitarian Church on the evening of the shootings, the Rev. Nori Rost called the gunman a “domestic terrorist.” In the back of the room, someone held a sign that said: “Women’s bodies are not battlefields. Neither is our town.”

Vicki Cowart, the regional head of Planned Parenthood, drew a standing ovation when she walked to the pulpit and promised to quickly reopen the clinic. “We will adapt. We will square our shoulders and we will go on,” she said.

Cowart also said that all 15 clinic employees survived and worked hard to make sure everyone else got into safe spaces and stayed quiet.

Demonstrating the divisiveness of the issue even in friendly territory, after Cowart’s remarks, a woman in the audience stood up, objected to the vigil becoming a “political statement” and left.

The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, like virtually all of the group’s clinics, has long been the site of regular anti-abortion protests. Colorado Springs is home to a very large population of born-again Christians. The anti-gay hate group Focus on the Family is headquartered there.

A Roman Catholic priest who’s held weekly Mass in front of the clinic for 20 years, distanced himself from Dear, saying that he wasn’t part of his group. “I don’t know him from Adam,” said Rev. Bill Carmody. “I don’t recognize him at all.”

The public might learn more about Dear’s motives on Monday, when he makes his first court appearance. Officially, police have not yet presented a motive to the public, although it seemed obvious. As Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers put it, people can make “inferences from where (the shooting) took place.”

Planned Parenthood has been under increased physical and verbal attacks since July, when an undercover video released by anti-choice activists appeared to show PP personnel negotiating the sale of fetal organs. It was later determined that the video had been misleadingly edited. The truth is that the group only recouped preservation and shipping charges for fetal tissue that women ending their pregnancies asked to have donated to science, which is legal. Since the controversy, however, Planned Parenthood has taken the extra step of no longer recouping costs but rather paying the associated costs on its own.

Dears’ comment about “baby parts” likely refers to the controversial video.

Fetal tissue research has been responsible for some of the greatest medical treatment achievements of the last several decades, including the development of a polio vaccine.

In the wake of the killings, David Daleiden, who heads the Center for Medical Progress, the group that released the manipulated videotapes of Planned Parenthood, said he opposed the violence.

“The Center for Medical Progress condemns the barbaric killing spree in Colorado Springs by a violent madman. We applaud the heroic efforts of law enforcement to stop the violence quickly and rescue the victims, and our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, the lost, and their families,” Daleiden said in a statement.

No wrongdoing

Multiple investigations in red states have uncovered no wrongdoing on PP’s part in charging storage and transportation fees for fetal tissue. But that hasn’t stopped politicians, especially GOP presidential candidates, from invoking the tapes often on the campaign trail in an effort to draw the support of fundamentalist Christian voters, who likely will determine the winner of the first-in-the-nation nominating caucuses in Iowa in February.

Demonizing rhetoric about Planned Parenthood has become a sure-fire way to inspire cheers and applause at conservative Republican events.

Eager to get in on that action, Republicans in Congress, who have a 9 percent approval rating among their own party’s voters, staged a Congressional hearing on the tapes to rally conservative support. That investigation, too, found no wrongdoing.

“We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.”

Following the shooting, Ted Cruz was the first GOP presidential candidate to offer condolences to the loved ones of the victims.  

At a campaign stop, Cruz responded angrily to a reporter’s question linking Dear with the anti-choice movement, according to the Texas Tribune

“It’s also been reported that (Dear) was registered as an independent and a woman and a transgendered leftist activist,” Cruz shot back. “If that’s what he is, I don’t think it’s fair to blame on the rhetoric on the left. This is a murderer.”

Cruz is heavily backed by some of the nation’s most extreme anti-choice activists.

Ironically, although Cruz took exception to what he called attempts by the left to use the shooting to taint all abortion foes, he and others on the right have pointed to the terrorist attacks in Paris to denounce President Obama’s plans to allow Syrian refugees to settle in the United States — despite the lack of evidence that any Syrians participated in those attacks.

In recent months, as right-wing candidates and officials have tried to make political gains off the discredited tapes, the National Abortion Federation, an association of service providers, has seen a rise in threats at clinics nationwide. In a statement to Media Matters, NARAL president Ilyse Hogue suggested that all the anti-choice rhetoric quoted recently in the media and on display at GOP presidential debates and appearances was fueling the violence.

She wrote: “Instead of treating these (attacks on clinics) as the real and present danger to innocent civilians that they are, Congress is inviting anti-abortion extremists to testify at hearings, the Department of Justice has yet to announce a full investigation, and the news media remains silent. Where is the outrage?”

Since September, there have been four attempted arsons at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation, three of which have caused significant damage.

At least eight murders of doctors and workers at abortion clinics have occurred in the United States since 1990. Since 1977, there have been 41 bombings and 173 arsons at clinics.

In recent years, the Republican Party has made it a top legislative priority to whittle away at abortion rights in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision making it legal for a woman to determine whether to have a baby.

Wisconsin, where Republicans are in control of every facet of state government, including the Supreme Court, is at the vanguard of those efforts. Gov. Scott Walker recently appointed Rebecca Bradley, a strong opponent to choice, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, even though her career as a judge began less than four years ago, when he first appointed her to the bench.

Wisconsin has adopted among the most stringent anti-choice laws in the nation.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law, which does not benefit women’s health due to the extreme rarity of complications and the nearby availability of other hospitals to handle any such cases if they arose, was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court panel.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

Only about 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin involve ending pregnancies. The organization provides a variety of sexual health services for poor women, including PAP smears, STD and breast screenings, contraceptive services and prenatal care.

AP contributed to this report.

Response to the shooting from Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

To those who go to unimaginable extremes to close our doors:

We deplore your violence.

We reject your threats.

We fight your legislation to limit reproductive rights and health care in every corner of our country.

We believe your actions and words hurt women — whether by making it impossible to seek health care or by creating a climate of disrespect and hostility that fosters extremist violence.

We demand an end to the incendiary rhetoric from anti-abortion activists and lawmakers that demonizes Planned Parenthood doctors and patients. The smear campaign and false accusations that motivated the attack in Colorado Springs must stop.

We aren’t going anywhere. Planned Parenthood has been here for nearly 100 years, and we will keep being here as long as women, men, and young people need health care with dignity.

To those who go to shocking extremes to close our doors, know this:

These doors stay open.

Click here to contribute to Planned Parenthood

See also Gunman had been charged with animal cruelty, domestic abuse



3 dead in gunman’s rampage at Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic

Three of the 12 people shot during an hours-long shooting spree at a Planned Parenthood clinic yesterday are dead.

Colorado Springs Police spokeswoman Lt. Catherine Buckley has confirmed that a police officer and two civilians were killed during the standoff between police and the gunman, whom AP identified as Robert Lewis Dear. An AP source, who requested anonymity, said the gunman was from North Carolina.

Dear’s nine other victims are expected to recover.

Although police have not yet determined whether the shooter was targeting Planned Parenthood, the incident comes in the wake of four arson attacks on PP clinics since Sept. 4.

Arsonists have set fire — or attempted to — at abortion clinics in Pullman, Washington; Thousand Oaks, California; Aurora, Illinois and New Orleans. Pro-choice advocates have complained that national media has overlooked the arson attacks.

NARAL Pro-Choice America circulated a petition last month calling on the FBI to investigate the arsons as acts of domestic terrorism. More than 40,00 people have signed it.

“These attacks on clinics are part of a long history of ideologically-driven violence,” NARAL wrote on the petition. “They’re perpetrated by an extreme minority that’s committed to ruling through fear and intimidation. Let’s call this what it is — domestic terrorism. We can’t wait until one more patient, doctor or nurse is hurt or killed before we say enough is enough. It’s time for an investigation to get to the bottom of this.”

The latest round in a history of deadly violence perpetrated by pro-life activists began after an anti-abortion group videotaped a PP employee talking about providing tissue from aborted fetuses to science. The heavily edited and misleading tape suggested that the organization was selling baby parts to researchers at a profit.

But PP only recouped shipping charges for aborted tissue that women ending their pregnancies asked to have donated to science.

Congress, along with several states, investigated PP clinics and found no wrongdoing. Still, PP decided to stop charging for transporting the tissue in the hope of quelling the anger unleashed among evangelical Christians and other anti-choice activists.

Meanwhile, Congress also held hearings on the issue, which Republicans see as advantageous to them in next year’s elections. Of the GOP presidential candidates, only one — Ted Cruz — has mentioned the attack. In a tweet, he offered condolences for those who lost loved ones.

In a statement to Media Matters, NARAL President Ilyse Hogue suggested all the anti-choice rhetoric played out in the media over the discredited incident was fueling the violence.

She wrote: “Instead of treating these (attacks on clinics) as the real and present danger to innocent civilians that they are, Congress is inviting anti-abortion extremists to testify at hearings, the Department of Justice has yet to announce a full investigation, and the news media remains silent. Where is the outrage?”

At least eight murders of doctors and workers at abortion clinics have occurred in the United States since 1990. Since 1977, there have been 41 bombings and 173 arsons at clinics.

In recent years, the Republican Party has made it a top legislative priority to whittle away at abortion rights in the U.S., with the ultimate goal of overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision making it legal for a woman to determine whether to have a baby.

Wisconsin, where Republicans are in control of every facet of state government, including the Supreme Court, is at the vanguard of those efforts. Gov. Scott Walker recently appointed Rebecca Bradley, a strong opponent to choice, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, even though her career as a judge began less than four years ago, when he first appointed her to the bench.

Wisconsin has adopted among the most stringent anti-choice laws in the nation.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review a Wisconsin law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The law, which does not benefit women’s health due to the extreme rarity of complications and the nearby availability of other hospitals to handle any such cases if they arose, was found unconstitutional by a federal appeals court panel.

The Wisconsin case centers on a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services. The groups argue that the 2013 law amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on abortion.

Only about 3 percent of services provided by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin involve ending pregnancies. The organization provides a variety of sexual health services for poor women, including PAP smears, STD and breast screenings, contraceptive services and prenatal care.

Response from Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards to the Colorado shootings

It is heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with the families of the three people whose lives were lost in yesterday’s attack at the Planned Parenthood health center in Colorado Springs. We wish those who were injured a quick and complete recovery.

And, we are deeply grateful to the law enforcement officers who responded with courage to protect Planned Parenthood staff, patients, and community members.

I want every Planned Parenthood patient to know: your safety is our top priority. Planned Parenthood health centers have extensive security measures in place, work closely with law enforcement agencies, and have a very strong safety record.

Planned Parenthood health centers opened their doors again today, in Colorado and across the country. As always, patients were welcomed by extraordinary doctors, nurses, and staff. We willnever, ever back away from providing safe, reliable care to the millions of patients who are counting on us to be there.

These doors stay open, no matter what.

It’s still too soon to know what exactly motivated this attack. We share the concerns of many Americans that extremists are creating a poisonous environment that feeds domestic terrorism in this country. In the days and weeks ahead, we will continue to stand up for Planned Parenthood patients, staff, and the communities they serve — and it means so much to know that you stand with us, ready for whatever comes next.

Like you, I am full of sadness for the people who were harmed in Colorado. I am also full of admiration for what every member of Planned Parenthood’s staff do every day — to ensure that people can get the health care they need, and to work toward a day when we no longer see this kind of violence.

At this moment, our hearts are broken, but our commitment is unchanged. Care, no matter what.

Thank you for standing with Planned Parenthood.

Cecile Richards, President
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Australia deports leader of radical anti-choice group that made controversial videos

The head of anti-abortion group Operation Rescue is boasting that his organization and the Center for Medical Progress are “taking down” Planned Parenthood on a $120,000 budget, the amount raised over three years for the undercover video operation that has set off a national debate over use of tissue from aborted fetuses in medical research.

Operation Rescue president Troy Newman — who also serves as secretary of the California-based center that released hidden-camera videos — cited the small cost of the videos during an interview with The Associated Press.

“We are one of the most effective pro-life organizations in the country on the smallest budget,” Newman said of Wichita-based Operation Rescue. “I mean, look what we did with the Center for Medical Progress. I mean, we are taking down Planned Parenthood on a $120,000 budget. There are organizations that spend that in one day.”

But his work is not so highly regarded in Australia, which detained and deported him when he showed up there to make a series of inflammatory anti-choice speeches.

Now he’s back in Wichita after being declared a threat to public order.

Newman says he potentially faces fines as high as $10,000 to $20,000 stemming from the proceedings in Australia, but had not yet been fined. Still, Operation Rescue seized on the opportunity to send out a fundraising email under the subject line “Operation Rescue crippled?” that sought to raise funds to pay such a fine. That email was the latest effort by the group to raise money in the wake of the release of the undercover videos. An earlier appeal sought to raise money to fight a lawsuit filed by the National Abortion Federation against Newman and others involved in the undercover operation.

Laura McQuade, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, said the small amount of money abortion foes raised to produce the secret videos and Newman’s comment shows how out of touch they are with the American public.

“They raised $120,000 over three years because they don’t have the support of the American public to be doing what they are doing,” McQuade said.

Planned Parenthood has been fending off attacks since the release of the misleadingly edited and secretly recorded videos showing its officials talking about using tissue from abortions for medical researchers.

Planned Parenthood offers patients contraception, sexual disease testing, cancer screenings, prenatal health care and numerous other reproductive health services to women who could not otherwise afford them. Only about 3 percent of their clinics provide abortions, and even fewer provide tissue to researchers investigating new ways to fight diabetes, ALS, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and other diseases.

Such tissue led to development of a vaccine that prevents polio, virtually ending the scourge of the disease in the United States.

Still, the Republican-led U.S. House voted to create a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood and some GOP Senators have tried unsuccessfully to block federal funding for the group. That battle could resurface in mid-December, when the measure to keep the government functioning runs out. President Barack Obama has promised to veto legislation that cuts the group’s funding.

“Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere either in the region or across the United States,” McQuade said. “And just like we have emerged from other unfounded attacks … we will emerge stronger than ever.”

Threat to the community

Also going nowhere — or at least not going to Australia — is Newman. The battle to prevent Newman from coming to Australia for a speaking tour began, after a lawmaker sent a letter to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton saying Newman could pose a threat to community safety.

“I am most concerned that Mr. Newman’s call for abortionists to be executed could lead to threats or the commission of acts of violence against women and medical professionals,” wrote Terri Butler, a member of the opposition Labor Party.

Immigration officials then revoked Newman’s visa.

Newman, who co-authored a book that suggested doctors who perform abortions are committing a crime egregious enough to warrant the death penalty, denied that he posed a threat to anyone.

After he was detained, Newman appealed the government’s decision to Australia’s High Court in Melbourne. His lawyers argued their client had never incited violence and the revocation of his visa was therefore flawed.

High Court Justice Geoffrey Nettle disagreed, ruling that Newman posed a threat “to the good order of the Australian community.” The judge said Newman willfully disobeyed Australia’s immigration laws by boarding the flight to Melbourne.

“He does not come to this court with clean hands,” Nettle said.

Butler, the Labor lawmaker, said Australians are a welcoming people, but don’t take kindly to those who flout the law.

“To think he is above the law gives us an insight into the sort of person we are dealing with,” she told reporters after the court’s decision. “We don’t welcome extremists into our country and we don’t welcome extremism.”

Operation Rescue is the group that campaigned against Dr George Tiller, one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers. Newman reportedly urged his followers to stalk Tiller, circulating photos of him and his patients and of their license plate numbers.

That campaign resulted in Tiller’s murder. Six years ago, he was shot to death in church by Scott Roeder, an Operation Rescue member who claimed to have spoken with Newman about carrying out possible violent action.

Wisconsin Assembly votes to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding

Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin would no longer be eligible for about $3.5 million a year in federal funding under a bill passed yesterday by the state Assembly.

Republicans passed Assembly Bill (AB) 310 on a 60–35 vote. It would redirect $3.5 million annually in Title X funding to whatever group lawmakers wish. GOP lawmakers are considering diverting much of the funding to the state’s Well-Woman Program, which provides breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings for women between the ages of 45 and 64. The program does not cover the age range or the scope of services that Planned Parenthood provides.

But the bill’s Republican backers say the money should not go to Planned Parenthood because a small fraction of its services include terminating unwanted pregnancies — even though none of the money is allowed to be spent on abortions. Federal law requires it go for family planning and contraceptives and screening for breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.

Gov. Scott Walker has said that he’ll sign the bill into law.

Republicans also are up in arms over video that was secretly recorded over the summer by an anti-choice group. In the tape, a member of the group discusses accessing fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood for use in medical research. The tape was heavily edited to make it appear that PP profits from sale of the tissue, which is not the case.

Republicans in Congress want to shut down the federal government over the tape, unless allocations for Planned Parenthood are stripped from the budget.

Standing in solidarity with Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin recently selected the Wisconsin Gazette as recipient of the group’s Voices award. No honor we’ve received makes us prouder than this one, particularly now.

Despite the unrelenting campaigns of propaganda, PPWI’s 22 clinics provide quality, affordable reproductive health care, including honest sex education, birth control, adoption referrals, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STD testing and treatment to 60,000 women and men. That’s even after being forced to shutter five clinics because Gov. Scott Walker cut off state funding for the organization.

But anti-choice activists have demonized Planned Parenthood in recent years, whipping up the level of hysteria that accompanied Joe McCarthy’s red scare of the 1950s. And conservative politicians are capitalizing on it, just as they did on McCarthyism. 

Although abortion represents only about 3 percent of PP’s services, that’s enough for anti-choice fanatics to put a bullseye on its doors.

Foes have whittled away at women’s reproductive freedom for decades, but abortion is still legal and its legality is supported by a majority of U.S. citizens. It’s also a deeply personal choice that can only be made by a woman whose body and future are involved. Women are not human incubators.

We fully respect the countless women who choose to carry a pregnancy to term under adverse circumstances, including conception through rape or incest. But it’s their right to make that choice, not the right of a bureaucrat. Individual liberty and the pursuit of happiness cannot exist if strangers can force a woman to bear a child against her will.

The current frenzy against abortion is the result of years of brilliant propaganda by anti-choice leaders. Their heart-tugging campaigns of deception featuring fully formed thimble-sized fetuses and bloody, disembodied parts of infants are complete fabrications. Recently it was revealed that activists were using the picture of a stillborn baby in their propaganda and claiming it was an aborted fetus.

A recent “sting” operation added fuel to PP’s critics. Selectively edited tapes that were secretly recorded by activists made it appear as if PP was doing a booming business in selling fetal tissue to medical researchers. But investigations launched by conservatives in several states have yielded no evidence of wrongdoing.

Fetal tissue, which can be donated by women to science just as people can donate their organs, has yielded medical advances that have saved lives — including those, undoubtedly, of anti-choice activists. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., under Walker’s direction, made a $750,000 loan and gave $2 million in tax credits to Flu-Gen, a Madison biotech firm that’s using kidney cells derived from fetal tissue to create a more effective flu vaccine. Biotech companies like Flu-Gen not only save lives, but also contribute significantly to the state’s economy. 

But now, capitalizing on the fury over PP, state Republican leaders want to criminalize the sale of fetal tissue.

Activists have turned the debate about abortion from a women’s issue into one over the “personhood” of fertilized eggs and fetuses. That’s not a scientific view, but rather a religious belief that has no place in the secular world. 

When a 10-year-old girl in Paraguay got pregnant after being raped by her stepfather, the government there ruled for the rights of her fetus over hers, forcing her to carry the baby to term at great risk to her health. The baby was delivered through C-section, because a natural delivery would have killed her. Mike Huckabee praised the decision. He and most of the other Republican candidates, including Walker, want to criminalize abortions under any circumstances, including those in which the mother’s life is in danger. Bizarrely, Walker denies that such situations exist.

More than ever, we need organizations that cherish women’s lives over embryonic cells. PP is at the forefront of such organizations. Its doctors and staffers work under constant harassment, including death threats that have led to at least nine murders in recent years. They refuse to yield to fanatics who believe that women’s bodies are public property. 

We are proud to stand with them and the essential health services they provide. Unlike Walker, they are truly unintimidated.

News analysis | Wisconsin Senate approves controversial abortion ban that experts say will have dire consequences for women, doctors and the state

The Wisconsin state Senate has approved a controversial, potentially unconstitutional bill that would ban non-emergency abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The bill’s supporters in the Republican-controlled Senate say fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks, while opponents argue that the suffering for Wisconsin women would be greater if the measure advanced. The Senate approved the bill on a 19–14 vote along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor.

All of the state’s major medical organizations oppose the law.

Advocates for a woman’s right to choose whether to have a baby say the bill is an attack on sexually active women that’s designed to deflect attention from the Republican-controlled Legislature’s stalemate over a controversial budget bill. The budget slashes popular programs while giving away massive taxpayer dollars to wealthy business interests, including politically connected construction companies that build unneeded highways and the billionaires developing a new arena complex for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The abortion that passed would have minimal impact on reducing the number of abortions in the state.  The most recent information from the state Department of Health Services shows that only 1 percent of abortions in Wisconsin in 2013 occurred after the 20-week mark — in other words, 89 of the nearly 6,500 abortions performed that year.

The vast majority of such abortions only occur when severe fetal abnormalities are detected and the baby is unlikely to survive. Abortions after 20 weeks also are the result of the mother’s life being in grave danger if she continues with the pregnancy.

The Senate’s abortion law will wind up facing expensive litigation. But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said it’s worth spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars defending the law in court regardless of its minimal impact. “Protecting life is something that we shouldn’t necessarily just put a price tag on,” Vos said.

Under the law, doctors who perform an abortion after 20 weeks in non-emergency situations could be charged with a felony and subject to $10,000 in fines or 3.5 years in prison. The fetus’ father could also press charges against the physician. As written, the bill doesn’t provide exceptions for pregnancies conceived from sexual assault or incest.

Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, a fervently anti-gay, fundamentalist Christian, said that passing the bill would prevent suffering during an abortion.

“It’s cruel to allow a baby and a mother to go through a process that inflicts that pain, ultimately ending a life,” Vukmir said. “How can we allow these abortions on five-month-old (fetuses)?”

But while the bill’s supporters, who are opposed to abortion under all circumstances, contend that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks, science does not support them. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says research suggests fetal pain is not possible until the third trimester begins at 27 weeks.

State tea party leaders, however, do not believe in science.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, said the bill disregards a mother’s health. The bill as written says a doctor cannot perform an abortion after 20 weeks unless the mother is likely within 24 hours to die or suffer irreversible impairment of one or more of the woman’s major bodily functions.

“The mother basically has to be knocking on death’s door for the doctor … to legally feel he’s OK to focus on the life of the mother,” Erpenbach said. “You’re going to take a doctor who makes a decision and you’re going to make him a felon.”

Vos said the Assembly could take up the abortion bill later this month or in the fall. He said Assembly Republicans had not yet discussed the measure, but he supported it.

“The bill as it’s drafted, I think, has a lot of merit,” Vos said at a news conference. “I do not certainly support the idea of allowing unborn children who feel pain to be aborted inside the womb.”

Gov. Scott Walker has said he would sign the bill into law.

Fourteen states have passed bans at 20 weeks or earlier, which depart from the standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. That ruling established a nationwide right to abortion but permitted states to restrict the procedures after the point of viability — when a fetus could viably survive outside the womb under normal conditions. If offered no legal definition of viability, saying it could range from the 24th to the 28th week of pregnancy.

Courts have blocked bans in Georgia, Idaho and Arizona. Litigation in other states is ongoing.

Associated Press reporters Scott Bauer and Dana Ferguson contributed to this report, as did WiG staff writer Louis Weisberg.

Federal court blocks enforcement of Louisiana anti-abortion law

A Louisiana state law intended to close abortion clinics across the state will not be enforced on Sept. 1, according to a federal district court ruling issued over the weekend.

Louisiana health care providers filed a suit in federal district court in Baton Rouge last week seeking an immediate injunction against House Bill 388, which requires a doctor who provides abortion care to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. With the federal decision, physicians providing abortion services will not be forced to comply with the law if they are in the process of applying for hospital admitting privileges.

Admitting privileges requirements were pushed around the country, including in Wisconsin, by anti-choice politicians. Yet, studies show that admitting privileges provide no increased benefits for the fewer than 1 percent of abortion patients who experience complications. Also, privileges can often be impossible to obtain due to individual hospital policies or biases toward abortion providers for reasons not related to the doctors’ qualifications.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the federal ruling “ensures Louisiana women are safe from an underhanded law that seeks to strip them of their health and rights. Politicians cannot be given free rein to lie about their motives without recourse, and expect women and their families to pay the consequences.”

She continued, “As the flimsy façade of these laws grows thinner by the day, we continue to look to the courts to uphold the Constitution and protect access to safe and legal abortion for all women regardless of where they happen to live.”

Ilene Jaroslaw of the Center for Reproductive Rights, Demme Doufekias of Morrison & Foerster and William E. Rittenberg of Rittenberg, Samuel, and Phillips, LLC represent Hope Medical Group for Women, Causeway Medical Clinic and Bossier City Medical Suite in the legal challenge to the Louisiana law.

If the law had been put into effect on Sept. 1, at least three of the state’s five clinics would have been forced to stop providing abortion services or close.