Commentary

Pro-choice supporters energized despite divided court on abortion case

On the blistery cold morning of March 2, hundreds gathered at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in advance of oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the most significant reproductive rights case in recent history. The crowd sprawled out across the sidewalk and into the street. A man held a baby in one arm and a “Protect Abortion Access” sign in the other. Others held homemade signs, which read “Not Going Back.” An anti-choice crowd had also gathered, all clad in blue, but their presence was drowned out by the sea of purple pro-choice supporters.

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Inside the building, the walls vibrated with the sound of the crowd outside chanting “Stop the Sham!” The mood inside the courtroom was more somber as attendees contemplated the gravity of what was at stake in this case. The Justices would not only be determining the constitutionality of HB2, a law passed in Texas that requires clinics to convert into ambulatory care centers, and requires doctors who provide abortion care to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, but also whether states can continue to put barriers in place to prevent women from exercising their constitutional right to an abortion. As U.S. Solicitor General Verilli stated at the end of his oral arguments, if the court finds that HB2 should be upheld, what they will really be saying is “that this right exists only in theory and not in fact, going forward.”

At exactly 10am, the Justices entered the courtroom armed with questions for both sides. The seat formerly occupied by Justice Scalia sat noticeably empty and covered in black cloth. Within minutes, it was clear that this was going to be a battle for Justice Kennedy’s vote. Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayer and Kagan pulled no punches in calling out the unfairness in applying certain rules to abortions that aren’t applied to more dangerous procedures like liposuctions and colonoscopies. Justice Breyer further pointed out the hypocrisy in the State’s argument by asking if the State was truly passing these abortion restrictions for health reasons, weren’t they worried that the result of the restrictions was to shut down clinics and cause later-term and more self-induced abortions? Breyer continued, “[s]o if the concern is this tiny risk of dying through complication in a clinic, is this a remedy that will in fact achieve the legislature’s health-saving purpose?”

The arguments in favor of Whole Woman’s Health seemed persuasive at the time but it will be a few months before the Justices release their decision. Walking back down the steps of the Supreme Court and seeing the even larger and more energized crowd of supporters rallying in the cold weather, one thing was clear — no matter what the Justices decide, the right to abortion will not be allowed to be easily taken away.

Chavi Koneru is Policy Analyst for NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina

Commentary

Rep. Pittman and his outrageous lie about Planned Parenthood

Larry PittmanRep. Larry Pittman is obviously not a powerful lawmaker or someone who will ever be taken very seriously — even in the strange, far right environment of the 2015 North Carolina House of Representatives.  That said, the Cabarrus County lawmaker needs to be called out loudly and repeatedly for his outrageous statement on the House floor last night that, as reported by WRAL.com,

“the nonprofit would ‘give out contraceptives that don’t work’ in order to increase the number of abortions done.”

Although Mr. Pittman describes himself on his campaign website as a “minister of the gospel,” he is someone best known for promoting the spread of guns and an especially virulent version of the far right social agenda. And while he is entitled to his opinions — however twisted they may be — he should not be entitled to tell malicious lies about good people who have dedicated themselves (often at great personal sacrifice) to saving the lives and health of millions of women. The representative needs to apologize for the one he told last night.

Those interested in reminding Rep. Pittman of his duty not to tell such monstrous untruths will find his official contact information by clicking here.

Commentary

Editorial blasts state budget attack on Planned Parenthood

Among the myriad new laws and budget items that appeared out of nowhere in the massive new state budget proposal this week is yet another dishonest and destructive attack on Planned Parenthood and the women’s health care the group provides. The lead editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer tells the story:

“So, with a sneaky provision in the state budget, right-wing ideologues preoccupied with social issues such as Rep. Skip Stam of Apex have barred state funds for new or renewed contracts with groups that provide family planning or pregnancy prevention. That is, if those groups also provide abortions.

It’s true Planned Parenthood isn’t mentioned, but that’s what this bit of mischief is about. Two pregnancy-prevention programs dealing with teens would be affected, in Fayetteville and Wilmington. Planned Parenthood officials believe the loss of funding, about $135,000, will ultimately mean more teen pregnancies.

This action is outrageous on several counts. First, of course, it’s a bunch of heavy-handed legislators such as Stam interfering with women trying to deal with health issues. Second, as a budget provision it slipped into the final document without attention or debate. That is an abuse of the legislative process. It’s the use of the budget to attack an organization that does valuable work for women’s health care. Abortions represent only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services.

Stam and his mates are inflicting their ideological beliefs without regard to the many people don’t agree with them. And they’re doing it despite the fact that the health of young women could be affected.”

In short, it’s another par-for-the-course step from the ideologues on Jones Street. Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

Why the smear campaign against Planned Parenthood is backfiring

This morning’s North Carolina news media “must read” comes from Greensboro News & Record  columnist Susan Ladd. In her column, Ladd explains exactly why the latest manufactured smear campaign against Planned Parenthood is just that:

“Because of its nationwide network of providers, Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortion services in the country, but abortions amount to only 3 percent of the health services this group provides.

The most recent attacks on Planned Parenthood were videos purporting to show the group’s ‘procuring baby parts for profit.’

The Center for Medical Progress, which shot these heavily edited undercover videos, is not a medical organization but a political one, founded to create inflammatory ‘sting’ videos of Planned Parenthood.

David Daleiden, the project leader for the videos has a history of creating deceptively edited videos. One of CMP’s board members is Operation Rescue President Troy Newman, who in 2003, called the murder of an abortion doctor “a justifiable defensive action.”

Abortion rights groups and some U.S. senators are asking that CMP be investigated for false representation and misleading the IRS when it applied for tax-exempt status….

But the smear campaign hasn’t abated. CMP continues to release more of its videos, and politicians continue to site them over and over in trying to sway opinion and public policy.

I’m sad to say that some of our local elected officials, including U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (R-Guilford) and Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Richard Burr (R-NC) are among them.

Unfortunately, a lie repeated often enough still will persuade some of the people — especially those who want to believe it. And the truth, determined over time by impartial investigations, never has the shock value or leaves quite as much of an impression as those sensational videos.”

Fortunately, the lies aren’t achieving their intended objective -harming Planned Parenthood. As Ladd notes:

Read more

Commentary

The healthy path to even fewer abortions

Nobody wants there to be more abortions in North Carolina. The issue is women’s health and the fact that thousands of women every year must grapple with unintended pregnancies. Happily, as the lead editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer reminds us, there is a way to get after both problems: readily accessible birth control:

“The number of abortions in North Carolina has been dropping sharply even as Republican legislators step up efforts to make the procedure more difficult to obtain.

The decline was documented in an Associated Press survey of 45 states that keep abortion records. North Carolina had the nation’s second-biggest drop with the number of abortions falling 26 percent from 2010 to 2013. Nationwide, the survey showed a decrease in abortions of about 12 percent since 2010.”

But, as the editorial also notes:

“There’s no evidence that women choosing against abortion because of new state restrictions are numerous enough to account for the drop. The Associated Press survey found that abortions also were down in states that haven’t tightened their laws. The biggest decrease in abortion, percentage-wise, was in Hawaii, a state with relatively liberal abortion policies….

What is accounting for the decrease in abortions is a decrease in the condition that precedes an abortion: pregnancy. In North Carolina, according to the latest statistics available, reported pregnancies dropped from 148,922 in 2010 to 139,582 in 2013. Abortions likewise fell from 30,952 to 22,820.”

In other words:

“The way to further reduce abortion in North Carolina isn’t to cut funding for Planned Parenthood but to increase funding for sex education and contraception.”

What a tragedy it is that those who fight to ban abortion and send women back to the back alleys (are you listening Governor McCrory?) can’t at least see this reality and join the effort to stop unintended pregnancies from happening in the first place.