Tag Archives: war on women

News analysis | Despite right-wing media smear, Burke and Walker still tied

Three days before Wisconsinites head to the polls to elect their next governor, two final public polls show the race between controversial Gov. Scott Walker and business leader Mary Burke remains a virtual dead heat.

Walker leads by only one point in both polls, well within their margin of error. Both campaigns have acknowledged that their success on Election Day — Tues., Nov. 4 — depends on who turns out to vote.

Public Policy Polling released a survey yesterday that found Walker with a 48–47 lead over Burke. The poll is operated by Democrats and often criticized for favoring that party. But a respected Fordham University study following the 2012 elections showed that PPP was the most accurate pollster in the nation for that year’s races.

Also released yesterday was the final poll from YouGov, which showed Walker leading Burke 42–41. Both polls are consistent with the results of repeated polls over the last two months.

“The final public polls released over the last few days confirm what we’ve known for months — the race between Scott Walker and Mary Burke is all going to come down to turnout,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said today. “Wisconsin voters need to know this race is incredibly close and their vote will make a difference between four more years of Scott Walker’s failed policies or a new direction with Mary Burke.”

Burke is fighting back with new ads addressing a smear campaign by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin Reporter, a right-wing publication with ties to the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation. The foundation’s leader Michael Grebe is also the chairman of Walker’s reelection campaign.

In the 2012 recall election of Walker, the Bradley Foundation was widely condemned for placing billboards in Milwaukee’s predominantly African-American neighborhood that warned voter fraud is a felony. The billboards were seen as part of a coordinated right-wing effort to legitimize the unproven myth that voter fraud is an actual problem.

The Wisconsin Reporter’s smear piece on Burke quoted three GOP operatives who once worked for Trek Bicycle Corp., owned by Mary Burke’s Family. All three said she was fired in 1993 as head of Trek’s European operations.

Denounced as patently false by Mary Burke, current Trek CEO John Burke and others who worked at Trek during those years, the story was nonetheless picked up by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has endorsed Walker in the past and seemed to endorse him again last Sunday in an article that was not tagged as an endorsement. The newspaper used it as one of two top cover stories, placing it in a prominent position above its fold and next to a story about an unlikely poll from Marquette University Law School showing Walker surging ahead by seven points among likely voters.

Today, the Journal Sentinel placed a story about Burke’s campaign firing back against the GOP’s smear campaign on the cover. But the story read like an attempt to reignite the false claims for readers who missed the first smear piece. It made no attempt to update readers on negative information about Burke’s accusers that has come to the forefront in the past few days or to speak with former Trek employees who disagree with her critics.

The same pro-Walker Marquette poll headlined by the Journal Sentinel a few days ago had, only a week prior, showed Burke ahead among likely voters; and even the more recent poll showed only one point separating the two candidates among registered voters, although the paper’s editors decided to go with the pro-Walker angle in its headline. That led many Burke supporters to dismiss the most recent Marquette poll as either an outlier or as intentionally manipulated to help its favorite son (even though he failed to graduate) out of a tight spot.

In the Journal Sentinel’s smear piece against Burke, the three bylined reporters spoke only to John Burke to defend his sister, creating the perception that no one else disputed the assertions of the Republican operatives. While the Journal Sentinel article revealed that one of the Republican Burke critics — Gary Ellerman — has posted on Facebook comparisons between President Barack Obama and Hitler, the piece did not mention that he believes Michelle Obama is really a man and that the president is, in his words, a “homo.”

Ellerman, who chairs the Jefferson County Republican Party, quickly deleted his Facebook page after receiving media calls. Ellerman ran as a “fake” Democrat in the 2011 state Senate recall elections.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has called on Walker to fire Ellerman from his chairmanship.

Trek dismissed Ellerman for incompetence in 2004, giving him a personal axe to grind, as John Burke charged. Another of the Burke detractors also had reason to retaliate: In addition to being a volunteer on Walker’s campaign, he heads one of Trek’s primary competitors — Specialized Bicycle Components.

All three of the Burke critics who were given a splashy, uncritical treatment in the conservative press are staunch Republicans and Walker supporters who have longstanding political involvement with him. That led Burke to accuse Walker of being behind the smear.

Walker famously acknowledged that he’d considered planting fake protesters to incite violence in the demonstrations outside the Capitol in 2010, and there’s video of him bragging to a mega-wealthy donor that his political strategy is based on “divide and conquer.” Such statements demonstrate his willingness to participate in dirty tricks, such as the 11th-hour revelations from Burke’s right-wing former colleagues at Trek.

In the “divide and conquer” video, he suggests that his goal is to make Wisconsin a “right to work” state, a subject he’s been coy about on the campaign trail as he tries to woo moderates and independents.

Six companies in five years

“The fact is, my track record, is I created six companies in less than five years (at Trek).  I grew sales from $3 million to over $50 million and I did all of this before I was 35 years old,” Burke said on the campaign trail yesterday.

John Burke confirmed that his sister left during a corporate restructuring and that the work she did remains a profitable asset to the company today. In fact, far from firing Burke, Trek asked her to come back to the company two years later to head global forecasting.

None of that was mentioned in the Journal Sentinel story, which took her to task over a snowboarding sabatical that she took as if it was a criminal activity. Burke has repeatedly stated that she worked part time creating trade shows during the two years in question, but she acknowledged that she wanted some time off as well. In forcing her on the defensive over such an odd story that occurred more than 20 years ago, the Journal Sentinel succeeded in trivializing her business achievements, especially since the coverage was not accompanied by side-by-side comparisons with Walker’s activities during that period. Those activitiesincluded being disciplined by Marquette University for breaking its campaign rules in his bid for student body president, quitting college and dealing rumors that he got a Marquette student pregnant around the time he left. That last rumor was initially reinforced by comments posted by Daniel Bice, one of the writers bylined on the Journal Sentinel’s  smear piece on Burke. Bice later said he investigated the charges and was convinced they were not true.

The head of Trek’s German operations joined John Burke and others in praising Burke’s performance in developing the company’s European operations. Both said she established a profitable market, complete with supply-chain and marketing operations, from scratch.

“Mary built the foundation of a business in Europe that continues to pay dividends today,” John Burke told the Wisconsin State Journal. “What’s happening here is people are trying to discredit what Mary accomplished. What I’m saying is ‘No, I was there, Mary accomplished an amazing thing.’ ”

John Burke described the media-coordinated, last-minute smear of his sister as “a highly orchestrated move by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign.”

“This is what you get with Scott Walker-style politics,” said Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki. “Convictions, arrests, shady donations, secret email systems. This is what the people of Wisconsin are going to reject next Tuesday.”

Among the many related issues missing from all of the right-wing newspaper attacks on Burke’s credentials is the fact that Walker has no business management experience, has run up a budget deficit despite huge cuts in government spending, failed to create more than 40 percent of the 250,000 jobs he pledged in his 2010 campaign, turned down $4 billion in federal aid to the state and made a shambles of both the Milwaukee County Executive’s office and his flagship job-creation organization — the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Ironically, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contends that WEDC was a smart idea that was terribly managed, and the paper cited the business-experienced Burke saying she would keep the agency but overhaul it as proof that it dosn’t deserve the wrecking ball.

The ‘anti-woman’ card

Burke’s three GOP detractors accused her not only of being fired for incompetence but also of having a difficult “management style,” which is often used as euphemism among misogynists to describe strong, confident women. That characterization, given the lack of high-level women executives in 1993, suggests to many Burke followers that her white male critics didn’t like answering to a young woman with an MBA from Harvard University Business School.

Neither Burke nor her campaign would talk about that hot-potato aspect of the story, illustrating how difficult it is for women to run for public office. If they behave with the same aggression that a male candidate would, they offend men. If they complain about the unequal treatment they’re given due to their gender, then they face backlash for “playing the woman card.”

Numerous anti-Burke comments that Wisconsin Gazette has had to remove from its Facebook page have attacked the candidate for her appearance, while only two commenters out of the more than 30,000 who’ve seen WiG’s supportive Burke posts on Facebook in recent days have slammed Walker over his looks, specifically his large bald spot, which one commenter said is big enough to host a Burke campaign sign.

While no woman candidate wants to play the “woman card,” the “anti-woman card” gets played frequently and sometimes and it can create a backlash of its own. The Republican Party — both nationally and in Wisconsin — is widely accused by progressives for waging what they call a “war on women.” The result has been a wide gender gap among voters.

Walker’s record is as hostile toward women as any governor’s in the nation. He vetoed legislation mandating equal pay for women doing the same jobs as men. He and Assembly Republicans eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides poor women with STD testing and pre-natal care. Wisconsin Republicans have also eliminated many pre-kindergarten programs, making it impossible for many mothers to work.

Perhaps the most draconian measure that Wisconsin Republicans have taken against women is a state law forcing women who want to terminate their pregnancies to undergo medically unnecessary and invasive ultrasounds that involve placing wands in their vaginas and then forcing the women to look at pictures of the fetal cells in their wombs. Virtually all women’s health experts and groups that oppose government interference with personal freedom have condemned the law in the strongest terms possible.

Walker has denied any involvement in the smear campaign against Burke. He even released a TV ad calling himself sympathetic to women on the issue of abortion, despite opposing abortion even in cases of rape and incest and when the mother’s life is in danger.

The question is will voters fall for the desperate anti-Hail Mary pass to save Walker, who’s divided the state perhaps more than any other governor in history while and presiding over the worst job-growth rate of any governor in the region? Or will voters rally on Tuesday against such sordid tactics and give Burke the edge by showing up to vote in a race so razor-thin that every single vote counts.


Hillary Clinton: Midterm elections should motivate women

Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Democratic voters not to be complacent about the November midterm elections, saying earlier this week that working women and their families will lose out on a better future if Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress.

The former secretary of state made the remarks during a sold-out women’s luncheon in San Francisco that raised $1.4 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The fundraiser was hosted by House Democratic leader and former speaker Nancy Pelosi, who joked that she was ready to give up her own title as the highest-ranking woman in U.S. politics to elect a female Democrat as president “and soon,” a crowd-pleasing reference to the possibility of Clinton running for president in 2016.

“If Hillary Clinton, mother and grandmother, decides to run for president she will win, and like I have said before she will be one of the best-prepared leaders to preside in the Oval Office,” Pelosi said in her introduction to Clinton’s speech. “That she happens to be a woman is a bonus and a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

After acknowledging several congressional Democrats in the room who are running for re-election, Clinton told her overwhelmingly female audience that only Democrats have fought and would continue fighting to raise the minimum wage and for paid family leave, affordable child care and other policies that primarily benefit low-income and middle-class women.

“It is not easy serving and every year it seems to get more challenging, but these candidates and many more across the country have a plan to jump-start the middle class and once more make it work for everyone,” she said. “These elections in two weeks and one day come down to a simple question: who is on your side?”

Clinton reminded the audience of the state the nation’s economy was in when President Barack Obama took office and Pelosi presided over the House and accused the Republican Party of trying to rewrite history by blaming Democrats for the slow recovery.

“It’s truly regrettable that despite all the great work Nancy did and President Obama, given what was inherited when the president came into office that we are having to work so hard to elect and re-elect Democrats. It’s as though the other side wants to pass an air of amnesia over America,” she said.

Tickets for the luncheon ranged in price from $500 per person to $32,400 per couple and included a performance by singer-songwriter Carole King, who led the audience in singing her 1967 song,” (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

Later this week, Bill Clinton is expected to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke in Wisconsin.

Emily’s List pledges $1.2M to elect Mary Burke

A national group that works to elect Democratic who support abortion rights plans to spend $1.2 million on television ads for Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

Emily’ List announced began airing ads statewide in early October. Emily’s List says the first spots will focus on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s record on women’s health.

As of late last week, total GOP-leaning spending on advertising was close to $7 million, outpacing the Democrats’ $5.4 million on the air.

Emily’s List has gotten involved in previous Wisconsin elections. It spent $3.5 million to help elect Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2012.

The group says it is launching a voter mobilization and education project in Wisconsin to get women to the polls to vote for Burke.

Walker and Wisconsin Republicans are considered national leaders in what feminists call “the war on women.”

During his first year in office, Walker signed anti-choice laws enacted by assembly Republicans to severely curtail women’s access to birth control and abortion services. He also defunded Planned Parenthood, which provides essential screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases to poor women in the state. As a result of Republicans’ moves, Planned Parenthood just closed its fifth clinic in Wisconsin.

Walker also signed a Republican bill promoted by the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council repealing the state’s 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which allowed women subjected to employer discrimination, including lower wages, to seek damages in state courts.

Walker and GOP Republicans turned back the clock on sex education by enacting a bill that requires teachers in schools that offer sex education to stress abstinence and mandates that sex education teachers do not have to address contraception. Prior to that law, Wisconsin required teachers to instruct students on birth control options in order to curb unwanted and preventable teen pregnancies.

Still the elephant in the room

Thirty-five years ago, as editor of Amazon: Milwaukee’s Feminist Press, I reported on the murders of Heather Halseth, Alice Alzner, Joanne Esser, Janet Marie Bey and Nancy Lynn Radbill. 

They were only a few of the women murdered, raped and mutilated in southeast Wisconsin during the spring and summer of 1979. Adding to the horror was the disgraceful response of Milwaukee Police Chief Harold Breier to feminist advocates: “How many of these rapes do you really think are rapes?”

This misogynist rampage by both criminals and the criminal justice system fueled intense anger that led to the first Take Back the Night protest. On Oct. 19, 1979, 3,000 people marched through downtown Milwaukee demanding “Fire Breier, he’s a liar!” 

The events of 1979 haunt me still amid recent reports of women’s remains found in burn pits, in corn fields, in suitcases tossed onto roadsides. There are also women who disappear without a trace, like Kelly Dwyer, who vanished from the apartment of a male acquaintance. Landfill searches failed to unearth her remains. Increasingly, criminals plan well, knowing that no evidence or degraded evidence means no murder charges.

Even when there is evidence, murder charges are pleaded down and perpetrators get hand slaps. Judge Jeffrey Wagner recently gave 15 years to a previously convicted felon who plugged nine bullets into Alexis Taylor, killing her and her fetus. At that rate, the young killer can serve time for the murders of four more women during his lifetime. 

Then we have defense attorneys who blame victims, suggesting that women like those found bound in suitcases expired in the pursuit of “consensual” sexual gratification. “If it’s a reckless act involving two people, which one is being reckless?” asked Steven Zelich’s attorney. Conveniently, dead women cannot testify as to the circumstances. 

Those are only a few of the most sensational crimes and injustices against women in recent months. Each year in Milwaukee County alone, almost 5,000 women seek restraining orders against abusive husbands, boyfriends, relatives and even children — mostly male. That staggering figure represents a minority of the number of women being abused, those at the end of their ropes and brave enough to come forward.

Congress is focusing on the military’s failure to assist rape victims. WiG ran an editorial tying violence against women to the anti-woman political climate. The Nation, a liberal bastion, ran a cover story about making colleges more responsive to rape victims. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat suggested that since alcohol use is often present in campus assaults, all drinking ages should be lowered to 18.

Well-meaning or absurd, editorial writers keep talking around the elephant in the room. Male violence against women is endemic in all societies, across all cultures, races and economic and political classes. Decades of statistics from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document pervasive patterns of male violence against women and its pernicious effects on families, communities and whole nations.

Better social services and legal accountability are admirable goals. But nothing will change until scientists and health experts focus their research on men. That is where the problem lies. Why do men treat women so brutally? What can be done to stop them? In a classic example of patriarchal reversal, feminists who raised the issue of woman hatred in the 1970s were condemned as “man haters.” 

Evidence of widespread misogynist violence has multiplied since then. We continue to avoid the essential question.

U.S. has no moral authority concerning violence against women

Two unspeakably cruel incidents that recently occurred half a world apart are terrifying reminders of the world’s growing misogyny. 

On May 23, in the upscale environs of Santa Barbara, California, a 22-year-old man went on a deadly stabbing and shooting spree that left six University of California, Santa Barbara, students dead and another 13 young people wounded. The provocation for Elliott Rodger’s attack, as outlined in his 137-page “manifesto” was to punish attractive women for not dating him.

In faraway India, where the rape, torture and killing of women has seemingly become a national pastime, two girls — ages 14 and 15 — were gang-raped, tortured and hanged. The latest (as of this writing) Indian atrocity occurred in a rural area where girls are forced to go outdoors at night to relieve themselves, due to the lack of indoor plumbing. That’s what led the girls outdoors for the final time on May 30.

Indian authorities, who seem reluctant to prosecute male perpetrators, have reportedly responded more tepidly than usual to this case, because the girls were from a low caste. 

In Nigeria, 300 schoolgirls who were abducted for the sin of seeking an education have remained missing since early May. Sympathizers of the girls say law-enforcement officials have declined to make any serious effort to locate them; instead the government has banned protests on behalf of the girls. Many Nigerians fear the girls were sold into sexual slavery — an increasingly common practice.

Here at home, one out of every five American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape (girls ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely to be victims). But including unreported rapes, only about 6 percent of rapists serve time in prison, and 15 out of 16 perpetrators walk free.

More than three U.S. women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Women serving in the U.S. military were more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq. 

Is there any connection between the growing violence toward women and the political “war on women” in the United States? In the last four years, Republican leaders (including here in Wisconsin) have abolished pay equity laws for women, and conservatives have sued to prevent health insurance providers from paying for women’s birth control. Republican leaders “slut shame” women who demand access to affordable birth control and foam at the mouth over use of the word “vagina” in public, even as they seek to put every vagina in America under their control.

The rise of anti-feminism on America’s political right prevents us from convincingly shaking a finger at the atrocities against women elsewhere in the world. 

Once people looked to the U.S. as a leader in justice and fairness. But when it comes to the treatment of women, our nation appears to be heading in the direction of the primitive barbarity of other nations rather than securing and protecting women’s rights.

House of Representatives passes anti-abortion bill

The U.S. House of Representatives today (Jan. 28) passed a right-wing anti-choice bill — the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act — to deny tax credits to small businesses and middle class families if their health plans include abortion coverage.

The measure also would impose a tax increase on women who need abortion care and make permanent abortion bans that prevent millions of women — such as those enrolled in Medicaid, federal employees and residents of the District of Columbia — from having health insurance coverage that includes abortion care.

The American Civil Liberties Union swiftly responded to the vote from the GOP-controlled House. “In an effort to impose one narrow ideology on the lives of American women, these lawmakers hope to rewrite tax law to penalize a single, legal medical procedure: abortion,” said Dena Sher, ACLU legislative counsel. “Congress needs to lift restrictions on abortion coverage, not enact extreme and dangerous bans that interfere with a person’s private medical decisions.”

NARAL also responded. “Conservative politicians continue to focus almost single-mindedly on finding new ways to dictate the private, medical decisions of women and their families,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “By introducing a bill that  breaks new ground in intertwining our tax code with reproductive decisions and meddling in the private insurance marketplace, extreme members of the GOP have put their cards on the table – they are willing to violate their own principles in order to make attacking women’s reproductive rights their first and foremost priority. The War On Women cost conservatives in 2012 and it will cost them again in the midterm elections and beyond.”

The House vote was 227-188 and seen as another attack on the 4-year-old Affordable Care Act, as well as codification of the Hyde Amendment that prohibits federal funding for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

Heidi Williamson, a senior policy analyst with the Women’s Health and Rights program at the Center for American Progress, had this statement: “Congress denies federal insurance coverage of abortion each year, but this bill goes even further by making the Hyde Amendment permanent law and restricting private insurance coverage for abortion, even for women who purchase private insurance with their own money. Rather than banning legal medical procedures, lawmakers should take up a real women’s agenda that promotes access to higher education, family planning, and equal pay.”

The White House has said the measure would be vetoed if it reached the president. 

Editor’s note: This story is developing.


Opponents to target Michigan anti-abortion law in 2014

Incensed Democrats and abortion rights advocates are vowing that Republican lawmakers overreached so much with new restrictions on abortion coverage in Michigan’s public and private health insurance plans that it will cost them in the 2014 elections.

A ballot drive to repeal or override the law is being considered. If enough signatures are collected, the statewide vote would coincide with November legislative races and keep the issue fresh in the minds of voters in 11 months.

While it’s not unusual for emotions to remain raw in the days immediately after passage of any abortion law, the GOP struck a nerve that critics say will resonate long after the holidays.

Democratic women in the male-dominated Legislature felt compelled to tell their own personal stories during the floor debates, in part because no committee hearings were held on the initiative that allows primary insurance plans to cover elective abortions only when a woman’s life is at risk. Starting in March and once policies renew, an optional rider will have to be bought in advance to cover all other abortions, including those resulting from rape and incest.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, in a heart-rending plea against the bill, disclosed that she had been raped. She said she woke up the day after the vote feeling down but her spirits were lifted with a barrage of supportive calls, emails and Facebook messages from Democrats and Republicans, women and men, those who live in Michigan and elsewhere.

“The vast majority of people in this state don’t want this ugly policy,” the East Lansing Democrat said. “A lot of them are extremely offended by it.”

Those who unsuccessfully lobbied majority Republicans to sidestep the initiative and let voters approve or reject it next year say internal polling is on their side.

Legislators voted for it despite some representing GOP-leaning districts where 60 percent to 70 percent of respondents were opposed, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed similar legislation a year ago, calling it an interference with the private marketplace and saying it would have been inappropriate to tell a rape victim that she needs to have extra insurance to terminate her pregnancy. But he had no say this time because it was a citizens’ initiative for which anti-abortion activists gathered more than 300,000 signatures.

“Abortion is not true health care and people who object will not have to contribute their own tax dollars or insurance premiums for elective abortions,” said Right to Life of Michigan president Barbara Listing.

GOP political strategist Jeff Timmer, a partner with The Sterling Corp. in Lansing, said the die is cast for a battle between forces on both sides of the abortion debate. But he questioned whether it will have much broader bearing next November, adding that in 1988 Michigan voters upheld a Right to Life-initiated law prohibiting public funding of abortion services for welfare recipients.

Republicans hope the federal health care law will prove unpopular in the elections. A thrust behind the abortion law is keeping taxpayer-subsidized plans on Michigan’s new insurance marketplace from covering abortions, an option for states under the federal health care law.

But the measure also applies to employer plans and coverage sold to individuals outside the exchange, something opponents say shows how extreme it is.

“This initiative injects the cold, bureaucratic hand of government into the room when women and their doctors are making medical decisions — very difficult and personal medical decisions,” said Rep. Kate Segal, a Battle Creek Democrat.

Federal judge delays nation’s most restrictive abortion ban

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a new North Dakota law that bans abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected – as early as six weeks into pregnancy, calling the law “clearly invalid and unconstitutional.”

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in Bismarck granted a temporary injunction that blocks the Aug. 1 enactment of the law that abortion rights advocates call the most restrictive in the nation.

“There is no question that (the North Dakota law) is in direct contradiction to a litany of United States Supreme Court cases addressing restraints on abortion,” Hovland wrote. ” (It) is clearly an invalid and unconstitutional law based on the United States Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade from 1973 … and the progeny of cases that have followed.”

“We have our job to do,” Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem told The Associated Press. “We need to convince (Hovland) why the Legislature wanted to enact the law.”

Stenehjem said the state will ask the court for a trial and already has hired an attorney to help argue the case.

New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing the state’s lone abortion clinic, Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, filed the lawsuit in June after the law was passed this year by the North Dakota Legislature. It would outlaw the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy and before some women even know they are pregnant.

Abortion-rights advocates say the measures are an attempt to close North Dakota’s lone abortion clinic. Supporters of the so-called fetal heartbeat measure, including Gov. Jack Dalrymple, have said it’s a challenge the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

Janet Crepps, an attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the law banning abortions at six weeks “poses a very immediate threat to virtually all women seeking an abortion in North Dakota.”

Red River director Tammi Kromenaker and Crepps said the six-week abortion ban would stop about 90 percent of abortions at the clinic.

“This ruling means that women won’t have to rush in and make a decision,” Kromenaker said of the injunction. “Now they have more time to talk to their loved one, their pastor – whoever the need to talk to – while weighing their decision to have an abortion.”

Jeff Zent, a spokesman for Dalrymple, said the governor would not comment on the federal judge’s ruling.

“It’s our standing policy not to comment on litigation,” he said.

The clinic’s lawsuit also is challenging another new measure that would make North Dakota the only state to prohibit women from having an abortion because a fetus has a genetic defect, such as Down syndrome.

Kromenaker said the clinic wants that law overturned but didn’t seek an immediate injunction to block it because abortions are not performed there for that reason.

The clinic is not challenging another new North Dakota law that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain by then. Texas Gov. Rick Perry last week signed into law a 20-week ban and other abortion restrictions for that state.

Kromenaker said the 20-week ban, which she believes is unconstitutional, does not apply to North Dakota because no abortions are performed at the clinic after 16 weeks.

Another measure would require a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital admitting privileges. A lawsuit challenging that law has been combined with another one challenging a 2011 North Dakota law that outlaws one of two drugs used in nonsurgical abortions. A state judge ruled last week that the 2011 law violates the state and U.S. constitutions. A judge hasn’t yet issued a ruling on the new law requiring abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges.

Protesters, filibuster help stop Texas GOP from passing anti-abortion bill

Hundreds of jeering protesters helped stop Texas lawmakers from passing one of the toughest abortion measures in the country.

As the protesters raised the noise to deafening levels in the Texas Senate chamber late June 25, Republicans scrambled to gather their colleagues at the podium for a stroke-of-midnight vote, The Associated Press reported.

“Get them out!” Sen. Donna Campbell shouted to a security guard, pointing to the thundering crowd in the gallery overhead that had already been screaming for more than 10 minutes.

“Time is running out,” Campbell pleaded. “I want them out of here!”

It didn’t work. The noise never stopped and despite barely beating the midnight end-of-session deadline with a vote to pass the bill, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the chaos in the chamber prevented him from formally signing it before the deadline passed, effectively killing it.

Dewhurst denounced the protesters as an “unruly mob.” Democrats who urged them on called the outburst democracy in action.

In either point of view, a raucous crowd of chanting, singing, shouting demonstrators effectively took over the Texas Capitol and blocked a bill that abortion rights groups warned would close most abortion clinics in the state.

“They were asking for their voices to be heard,” said Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, who spent nearly 11 hours trying to filibuster the bill before the outburst. “The results speak for themselves.”

The final outcome took several hours to sort out.

Initially, Republicans insisted the vote started before the midnight deadline and passed the bill that Democrats spent the day trying to kill. But after official computer records and printouts of the voting record showed the vote took place on June 26, and then were changed to read June 25, senators retreated into a private meeting to reach a conclusion.

At 3 a.m., Dewhurst emerged from the meeting still insisting the 19-10 vote was in time, but said, “with all the ruckus and noise going on, I couldn’t sign the bill” and declared it dead.

He denounced the more than 400 protesters who staged what they called “a people’s filibuster” from 11:45 p.m. to well past midnight. He denied mishandling the debate.

“I didn’t lose control (of the chamber). We had an unruly mob,” Dewhurst said. He even hinted that Gov. Rick Perry may immediately call another 30-day special session, adding: “It’s over. It’s been fun. But see you soon.”

Many of the protesters had flocked to the normally quiet Capitol to support Davis, who gained national attention and a mention from President Barack Obama’s campaign Twitter account. Her Twitter following went from 1,200 in the morning to more than 20,000 by late June 25.

“My back hurts. I don’t have a lot of words left,” Davis said when it was over and she was showered with cheers by activists who stayed at the Capitol to see her. “It shows the determination and spirit of Texas women.”

Davis’ mission was cut short but her effort ultimately helped Democrats earn a rare victory in a Legislature dominated by Republicans for more than a decade.

“It’s a bad bill,” said Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, leader of the Senate Democrats.

The bill would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and force many clinics that perform the procedure to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers. Also, doctors would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles – a tall order in rural communities.

If signed into law, the measures would have closed almost every abortion clinic in Texas, a state 773 miles wide and 790 miles long with 26 million people. A woman living along the Mexico border or in West Texas would have to drive hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion if the law passed. The law’s provision that abortions be performed at surgical centers means only five of Texas’ 42 abortion clinics are currently designated to remain in operation.

Republicans and anti-abortion groups insisted their goal was to improve women’s health care, but also acknowledged wanting clinics to close.

“If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and daughter of the late former Texas governor Ann Richards.

The showdown came after Davis had slogged her way through about 11 hours of speaking while Senate Republicans – and several House members – watched and listened for any slipup that would allow them to end the filibuster and call a vote.

Democrats chose Davis, of Fort Worth, to lead the effort because of her background; she had her first child as a teenager and went on to graduate from Harvard Law School.

Rules stipulated she remain standing, not lean on her desk or take any breaks – even for meals or to use the bathroom. But she also was required to stay on topic, and Republicans pointed out a mistake and later protested again when another lawmaker helped her with a back brace.

Lawmakers can vote to end a filibuster after three sustained points of order. As tension mounted over Davis’ speech and the dwindling clock, Campbell, a first-term lawmaker from New Braunfels, made the call on the third violation, sparking nearly two hours of debate on how to handle it.

After much back and forth and senators shouting over each other, the Republican majority forced a vote to end the filibuster minutes before midnight, sparking the raucous response from protesters.

Senate security and several Department of Public Safety state troopers tried to quiet the crowd but were simply outnumbered and had no hope of stopping the outburst.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, blamed the confusion surrounding the final vote on the demonstrators and Democratic senators who urged them on.

“Had that not happened, everyone would have known,” what was happening, Patrick said.

Standing next to him was Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a Democrat.

“This is democracy,” Hinojosa said. “They have a right to speak.”

House passes national anti-abortion bill

The U.S. House of Representatives on June 18 passed an anti-abortion bill that conservatives say is a milestone. Democrats say it is further proof of the Republican Party’s war on women.

The legislation would restrict almost all abortions to the first 20 weeks after conception, defying laws in most states that allow abortions up to when the fetus becomes viable, usually considered to be around 24 weeks, according to The AP.

The legislation lays further groundwork for the ongoing legal battle that abortion foes hope will eventually result in forcing the Supreme Court to reconsider the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that made abortion legal.

The bill passed 228-196, with six Democrats voting for it and six Republicans voting against it.

It is expected to go nowhere in the Democratic-controlled Senate and, if it did reach the White House, President Barack Obama would certainly veto the legislation. The White House, in a statement, called the bill “an assault on a woman’s right to choose” and “a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.”

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called it “yet another Republican attempt to endanger women. It is disrespectful to women. It is unsafe for families and it is unconstitutional.”

Democrats also said the decision by GOP leaders to appease their restless base with the abortion vote could backfire on Republican efforts to improve their standing among women.

“They are going down the same road that helped women elect Barack Obama president of the United States,” said Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s delegate to the House. The bill is so egregious to women, said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., that women are reminded that “the last possible thing they ever want to do is leave their health policy to these men in blue suits and red ties.”

Democrats repeatedly pointed out that all 23 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee that approved the measure last week on a party-line vote are men.

At the right-wing Concerned Women for America, leader Penny Nance called the measure “the most important pro-life bill to be considered by the U.S. Congress in the last 10 years.”

The bill has an exception when a physical condition threatens the life of the mother, but Democratic efforts to include other health exceptions were rebuffed.

The legislation would ban abortions that take place 20 weeks after conception, which is equivalent to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Pro-choice groups argued that the 20-week ban, in addition to being unconstitutional, would affect women just at the point of learning of a fetal anomaly or determining that the pregnancy could put the mother’s life in danger.

“Abortions later in pregnancy are extremely rare, with nearly 99 percent taking place before 21 weeks, but when they do happen it’s often in heartbreaking and unusual circumstances and women and their doctors need to have every medical option available to them,” said Cecile Richards, president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “In states that have enacted laws like this, women and their families have been put into heartbreaking and tragic situations — needing to end a pregnancy for serious medical reasons, but unable to do so.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue said, “Today’s vote is shameless politics. It’s anti-choice lawmakers in Congress catering to the most extreme wing of their political base. What they seem not to care about is that their political agenda puts the health of women across the country at great risk. This bill is yet another example of how anti-choice leaders in Congress have ignored the results of the last election. The House of Representatives should be working on the country’s real, pressing challenges, not wasting their time and our money re-fighting 40-year-old battles and putting women’s health and safety in jeopardy in order to advance their own political agenda.”

NOW, in a statement, said, “By banning abortion after 20 weeks and cutting funding to necessary social safety nets, among other policy decisions, the Republican members of the House continue to show their true colors. No amount of softening rhetoric or moderate posturing will change the harsh reality that today’s GOP is out of step and out of touch when it comes to women. We at NOW are not fooled, and neither are women voters.”