The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: abortion rights

Republican National Committee Vows To 'Go On Offense' Over Abortion

Republicans didn’t get the big red wave they expected in November’s elections, thanks to voter anger over harsh abortion bans. So how are Republicans going to do better in 2024? By embracing harsh abortion bans, if the Republican National Committee has anything to say about it. That’s the party’s official position as laid out at length in a resolution passed by the RNC on Monday.

See, the problem is that Republicans didn’t talk about abortion enough in 2022. “Instead of fighting back and exposing Democratic extremism on abortion, many Republican candidates failed to remind Americans of our proud heritage of challenging slavery, segregation, and the forces eroding the family and the sanctity of human life, thereby allowing Democrats to define our longtime position,” in the resolution’s words.

The RNC passed the resolution in the wake of Ronna McDaniel’s reelection as chair and, in that context, it looks like a Kevin McCarthy-style concession to the far right. McDaniel was reelected easily compared with McCarthy’s 15 rounds of speaker votes, but the chair fight drew enough attention, and her opponents drew enough votes, to give her reason to try to shore up her right flank. As ways of doing that go, though, “more abortion bans” is a glorious gift to Democrats.

The resolution for action moving forward is twofold. First, there’s a plan to “go on offense,” aka lie. “The Republican National Committee urges all Republican pro-life candidates, consultants, and other national Republican Political Action Committees to remember this proud heritage, go on offense in the 2024 election cycle, and expose the Democrats’ extreme position of supporting abortion on-demand up until the moment of birth, paid for by the taxpayers, even supporting discriminatory abortions such as gender selection or when the child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.”

That is simply not the position of the Democratic Party. So that’s step one: “Hey, Republicans, you didn’t lie about Democrats enough in 2022! Fix that in 2024!”

The second part of the action plan is to pass more anti-abortion laws, specifically ones based on disinformation. Yep, voters dealt you a historic rebuke in 2022 over the anti-abortion laws you had already passed, but this time is going to be different.

“The Republican National Committee urges Republican lawmakers in state legislatures and in Congress to pass the strongest pro-life legislation possible – such as laws that acknowledge the beating hearts and experiences of pain in the unborn – underscoring the new relics of barbarism the Democratic Party represents as we approach the 2024 cycle.”

The “beating hearts” part means six-week abortion bans based on the first signs of cardiac activity that come long before anything that could reasonably be described as a heart has formed. Those bans prohibit abortion starting at a point before many people know they are pregnant.

The “experiences of pain” part is a mainstay of Republican anti-abortion legislation, often used as an argument for 15-week abortion bans. Except a 15-week fetus does not and cannot feel pain. Here’s what the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has to say on the issue: “The science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24–25 weeks. Every major medical organization that has examined this issue and peer-reviewed studies on the matter have consistently reached the conclusion that abortion before this point does not result in the perception of pain in a fetus.” The 24 to 25 weeks at which the capacity to feel pain develops, by the way, is also right around the viability threshold that was a critical part of the rights guaranteed under Roe v. Wade.

The RNC probably thinks that part one of the plan—tell lies about Democrats being the real extremists on abortion—will overwhelm part two of the plan—pass more of the kind of laws that voters rose up against last year. But the losses of hardcore anti-abortion politicians like Arizona Senate nominee Blake Masters, Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, and Michigan gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon suggest that “go harder on abortion” may not be the key to success in battleground states.

If Republicans want to try that, though, please proceed. Anti-abortion bills are not going to get through the U.S. Senate or get President Joe Biden’s signature, but if House Republicans want to pre-write Democratic campaign ads by passing some message bills showing what they would do to ban abortion at the federal level if Republicans got full control of government … great, thanks guys. If Republicans manage to pass more state-level abortion restrictions, real suffering will follow in those states, as has already kicked off in the states that have passed harsh restrictions.

But the low-hanging fruit has already been picked—the states that don’t yet have abortion bans are probably ones where, even if Republicans propose such bills, they may encounter trouble passing them, potentially even from fellow Republicans who look at what happened in 2022 and decide that maybe extreme opposition to abortion is not a winning tactic.

Abortion, and the long-term consequences of banning it, aren't going anywhere as political issues because they're not going anywhere in people’s lives. If Republicans want to keep being loud and proud about which side they’re on, that’s helpful in ensuring that voters know what their votes mean when Election Day rolls around.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Republicans Say They Should Have Talked More About Abortion

“It was probably a bigger factor than a lot of people thought.”

That's current Republican National Committee (RNC) Chair Ronna McDaniel having the most profound GOP revelation of the cycle on the role abortion played in the midterms. McDaniel was speaking earlier this month with radio talk show host John Catsimatidis, but her next observation was perhaps even more telling.

“We’ve got to get conversant on that,” McDaniel added, according to The Hill.

That's the jargon of a political operative who knows their entire enterprise has taken a direct hit and has absolutely no earthly idea what to do about it.

McDaniel surely would be ignoring the topic of abortion if there was any chance Republicans could just stick their heads in the sand and ride it out, but the energy behind the issue and its financial firepower wouldn't allow for that, she admitted:

“We can’t just do an ostrich method and pretend that it doesn’t exist when Democrats are spending $30 million on that message.”

But if the the next phase of the Republican Party's campaign to take 50 percent of the American population hostage is anything like the misadventure of their post-2012 GOP autopsy, simply acknowledging the problem is all but meaningless amid the vacuousness of the GOP.

The truth is most Republican operatives knew exactly how devastating abortion might prove at the polls, even as they publicly assured political reporters that women would forget being voted constitutional inferiors by the time they cast their ballots.

The RNC actually put out a memo encouraging Republican candidates to cast themselves as pro-lifers open to exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, while depicting Democrats as wanting "abortion at any time for any reason." That false framing supposedly yielded a 22-point advantage for generic Republicans, per the RNC memo.

But the entire conversation was so toxic for Republicans, candidates chose to ignore it altogether.

“We put out a memo, we said address this, take this head-on,” McDaniel explained in a post-election interview with Tony Perkins, president of the right wing Family Research Council. “How many candidate consultants said we don’t want to talk about it, it’s not polling well?”

And it wasn’t polling well for Republicans in virtually every survey conducted on the topic. Remember when Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tried to offer a compromise ban of 15 weeks? There’s a reason that national ban proposal dropped like a lead balloon on the campaign trail.

Naturally, McDaniel’s doing a lot of CYA as she tries to save her job, but she does seem to realize Republicans are in a pickle. Her fundamentalist counterparts, meanwhile, remain delusional.

For instance, get a load of Marilyn Musgrave, vice president of government affairs at Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

“I’m very confident that the voters are with us on this,” Musgrave said of placing what she called "reasonable limits" on abortion.

Never mind the fact that Roe v. Wade—and the approximate 24-week viability limits associated with it—was the standard for what roughly two-thirds of Americans consider "reasonable."

Yet Musgrave believes that all Republicans need to do is work a little harder at jamming their extremism down Americans' throats.

“They just need to get that information and they need leaders and they need candidates talking about this," she explained. "And of course, it will be a big issue in the presidential, so here we go.”

Oh yes, yes, it will be.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Harnessing Women's Power To Preserve And Protect The Rule Of Law

Excerpted from Lady Justice: Women, the Law, and the Battle to Save America

The 2020 election story ended with Americans waking up on the morning of January 6, 2021, to the news that Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff had won their respective runoff races. But within just a few hours, insurrectionists would be scaling the walls of the US Capitol, attempting to decertify Joe Biden’s victory in the Electoral College. People would die. The seat of government would be trashed. Elected members ran for their lives and hid in their offices. Donald Trump would later fete the insurrectionists as peaceful patriots. In time, they would be hailed as freedom fighters.

Within a few short weeks, states like Georgia and Texas were passing the most draconian voter suppression bills in the country. Other states hastily followed suit. Although the amount of in-person vote fraud was negligible in the 2020 election, as it has been for decades— as even Attorney General Bill Barr acknowledged—under cover of “election protection,” in the first months of 2021, 18 states enacted more than 30 laws restricting access to the ballot. Projections suggest around 36 million people, or about 15 percent of all eligible voters, will be affected. Under false claims of bolstering voter confidence in election integrity, states would try to cancel "souls to the polls" Sunday voting and would impose onerous new ID requirements. Georgia would make it illegal to bring food or water to voters standing in long lines. Partisan poll watchers would be empowered to harass voters.

In the most dangerous move, new powers to set aside election results are being bestowed on state legislatures, with authority removed from nonpartisan election officials. Some states have arrogated new powers over election administration and certification and authorized election “audits” that will be used to discredit the 2022 and 2024 elections. The GOP has purged moderates or those who question the proposition that Trump won in 2020 from party leadership. Republican senators have filibustered national voting rights legislation from even being debated. And a growing spirit of vigilantism has allowed citizens to take law enforcement into their own hands, from Texas’s SB-8 enforcement, to stand your ground laws, to state- sanctioned harassment of school officials.

This is horrible, if largely invisible. In many ways, the rule of law feels more fragile in 2022 than it seemed during the Trump years, but voters, including women, seem to be suffering from what some activists have dubbed the Great Forgetting: an abiding desire to relegate the Trump craziness to the ash heap of history; the blind belief that activism saved the country and will prevail in the future; and the assessment that because “the system held” in 2020, it must be magic. None of that is true. About one-third of all voters (and 78 percent of Republicans) believe the 2020 election was stolen by Joe Biden and that those who stormed the Capitol in January 2021 are heroes. State election officials and politicians are openly campaigning for 2022 and 2024 on The Big Lie.

I am not sure why, in the face of this sort of existential threat to democracy, it feels as if so many of us have fallen asleep. COVID and partisanship have surely exhausted us all. Maybe that’s why these women lawyers seem more essential than ever to my mind. Their voices and pleadings play out on a loop in my ears late at night— demanding basic dignity, family autonomy, bodily integrity, and other values enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment. They hold on to our memories when we all just want to forget and move on.

Robbie Kaplan and Karen Dunn kept the Charlottesville torch march of 2017 alive for four years. Stacey Abrams kept the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia burning for two. I sometimes cling to the fanciful notion that one of the special points of connection between women and the law is that the law’s slow, measured progress allows it to preserve histories that might otherwise be erased. That recasts these Trump resistance attorneys as modern-day Philomelas, weaving the details of long-forgotten crimes into a tapestry so that it may stand as evidence.

Mary Beard opens her book Women and Power: A Manifesto with Penelope from The Odyssey, whose son, Telemachus, scolds her for speaking out in the great hall of her palace. He tells her to “go back up to your quarters, and take up your own work, the loom and the distaff,” and reminds her that “speech will be the business of men, all men, and me most of all; for mine is the power in this household.” Penelope, too, scoots off to her loom. Perhaps all of this looming of the truth is an ancient female response to being silenced. But it also leads back to what Vanita Gupta and Stacey Abrams keep saying about women and the accumulation of power. Abrams talks compulsively about power. The paperback Abrams published in 2019 is titled Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change, a protracted meditation on power and how to build it and use it: “The questions for those in search of power abound: Who has it? How do we get and wield it? What do we do when we have less than the other guy? What do we do when we lose it?”

Beard writes about why contemporary notions of power still exclude women and why “women are still perceived as belonging out- side power.” She says we still cling to models (thanks, Telemachus) of power as something “elite, coupled to public prestige, to the individual charisma of so-called ‘leadership’” that almost always comes with celebrity. (Thanks, cowboys!) Beard imagines structural changes to how we think about power, “decoupling it from public prestige,” and it seems to me that the law has emerged as a system that does exactly that. Framed in the ways leaders like Gupta, Hill, and Abrams describe, law and power can blossom and grow, far from the klieg lights of reality TV.

The women lawyers and organizers who sprang up in opposition to Trump and Trumpism seem to be a natural experiment in adopting Beard’s broader prescription for power, which demands “thinking about the power of followers, not just of leaders.” For Beard, that means, above all, “thinking about power as an attribute or even a verb (‘to power’), not as a possession.” The women who used the law to save democracy since 2016 taught us how “to power.” They both modeled and harnessed the “power of followers,” whether it was women protesting the travel ban and family separations or getting out the vote. Women organizing around halting mass shootings, promoting reproductive freedoms, and opposing white supremacy were also lashing the power of groups to the power of law; it was the furthest thing from a president who was announcing whimsical executive orders via Twitter and fomenting violence through mobs.

We are in a truly frightening moment. Election deniers are laying the tracks to set aside the 2024 election and the Supreme Court has, for the first time in history, reversed precedent in order to take away freedom rather than expand it. Justice Samuel Alito produced an opinion in Dobbs in which women were imaginary and fetal personhood was real. He told us to vote if we didn’t like it, even as the court works ever harder to limit voting rights. Gun massacres of school children seem to continue unabated. Yet in 2022, the Supreme Court expanded gun rights substantially. States punish LGBTQ families and ban books in schools. The Supreme Court will hear a case affording state legislatures the right to determine election outcomes; the discredited legal theory deployed to try to set aside the 2020 contest. This will not be reversed in a year or maybe even a decade. But I don’t believe women sleep through revanchist backsliding any easier than they sleep through colic. We hear things, we see things. We are awake.

Just as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg unfailingly name-checked Pauli Murray, Stacey Abrams never fails to mention Helen Butler, Nsé Ufot, Debo- rah Scott, Tamieka Atkins, Atlanta’s mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, LaTosha Brown, and the women who work alongside her. After Biden was sworn in, Vanita Gupta was chosen and confirmed (by a single vote) as associate attorney general of the United States, overseeing the Justice Department’s civil rights litigation as well as its antitrust, civil, and environmental divisions. She, too, is scrupulous in highlighting the communities and organizations that do the work in the trenches. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden’s nominee to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, told us she stood on the shoulders of Constance Baker Motley, the first Black woman ever seated as a federal judge.

Throughout the Trump years, women who were asking themselves, “What can I do?” learned that whether we notice it or not, the law organizes every part of our lives. Lashing ourselves to legal ideas, movements, and causes gave us power. It organized us. It focused us. It connected us to first principles and lofty ideas. And every step of the way, the wins felt tangible and material and enduring. Women have come so far in a few decades, and the law, even with its flaws and its anachronisms, has been a quiet, persistent source of order and meaning in a world that feels ever more out of our control. It’s been a source of power beyond just rage. We have a long way to go, the road will be bumpy, and the destination still feels less than clear. But women plus law equals magic; we prove that every day. And bearing witness to what it can and will achieve has been the great privilege of my lifetime.

Dahlia Lithwick is the senior legal correspondent at Slate and host of Amicus, Slate’s award-winning biweekly podcast about the law. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, and The New Republic. In 2013 she won a National Magazine Award for her columns on the Affordable Care Act.

Excerpted from Lady Justice, copyright 2022 by Dahlia Lithwick, published by Penguin Press, a division of Penguin Random House.

Super PAC Ad Spreads Lies About Kelly, Masters, And Abortion Rights

The Arizona Senate ad was sponsored by a group tied to the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

An anti-abortion super PAC released a misleading new ad on Friday, dishonestly claiming that Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) supports abortion "right up to the due date, for any reason." The ad also attempted to present Arizona Senate Republican nominee Blake Masters as only wanting a reasonable "compromise," despite his long history of backing total abortion bans.

The 30-second ad is being run by Women Speak Out, a super PAC affiliated with the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America — formerly known as Susan B. Anthony List. In the 2020 campaign, the super PAC reported receiving at least $4 million from right-wing billionaire Richard Uihlein.

After showing images of people celebrating the beginning of a pregnancy, a narrator says, "From that moment, a child should be protected. Blake Masters supports compromise: reasonably regulate late-term abortion, with an exception to protect the mother. But Mark Kelly's position is extreme: abortion even after the sonogram, right up to the due date, for any reason. Kelly is just not reasonable."

Arizona polling has shown that most voters oppose an abortion ban.

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America is one of the leading anti-abortion groups in the United States. Its website touts "life-saving laws" barring even "early abortion" and tracks the effort to enact "total/near total limits on abortion" in all 50 states.

The ad repeats a debunked claim being pushed by Masters that because Kelly voted for the Women's Health Protection Act — a bill that would have codified the right to choose an abortion as had been guaranteed in the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling — that means he backs unrestricted abortion up until the moment of birth.

In reality, the legislation expressly allowed for restrictions "after fetal viability," as long as they included an exception for the rare cases where, "in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient's life or health."

Kelly told the Washington Post on Thursday that he is not opposed to "restrictions on abortion late in pregnancy." His campaign site notes that "Mark will always defend and protect the right of Arizona women to make their own healthcare decisions."

And while the ad attempts to paint Masters as a centrist seeking a "compromise" position, he has long advocated for a near-total abortion ban.

Before winning the GOP Senate primary in August, Masters sold himself to voters as "100%" against abortion at any time.

"I'm just unapologetically and unqualifiedly pro-life," he told the Pima County Republican Club in August 2021. "From conception."

That December, he posted a video in which he called legal abortion "a genocide happening in America."

Indeed, up until last month, his website contained language backing "a federal personhood law (ideally a Constitutional amendment) that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed."

Since that time, Masters has scrubbed his anti-abortion positions from his website.

Kelly has been endorsed in the race by both NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

An Arizona Republic poll of likely voters released Tuesday found Kelly leading Masters by a 49%-42% margin.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Anti-Abortion Politicians Confront Harsh New Reality

For decades, conservative politicians had a free ride on the abortion issue. They could tell their "pro-life" base that they were doing all they could to ban the procedure — while not scaring the pro-choice majority. As long as Roe v. Wade protected the right to an abortion, the talk about outlawing it was just talk.

Now that Roe is gone, unwanted pregnancies have become enshrined in the law. Parents, for example, face the possibility that their tenth grader could be forced into becoming an unwed mother at 16. There are real world consequences here, and that's why voters in generally conservative Kansas showed overwhelming support for abortion rights.

Republicans genuinely opposed to abortion should accept the political repercussions of their "success." But those who were simply opportunists and are now trying to dodge blame for ending a basic reproductive right have a hard climb.

You hear the trimmers say, look, we've made exceptions for rape and incest. That's blatant hypocrisy. If they believe that the embryo or fetus is an innocent baby, then the circumstances surrounding the conception should not matter at all.

The advantage of Roe was that anyone could obtain an early abortion without politicians demanding to know the reason. States that have made carveouts for rape and incest are going to see a lot of creepy intrusion into the lives of women — and their families.

Only the truly gullible would believe any of that sweet talk from abortion-banning states about how they'll help the women and their unplanned families. Mississippi will "take every step necessary to support mothers and children," said Gov. Tate Reeves.

Oh, sure. This is a state that couldn't summon the humanity to sign onto the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion, which would have extended health coverage to 43,000 women of reproductive age. Its welfare program limits payments to poor women with two children to a maximum $260 a month.

States severely restricting abortion will soon face the demographic realities of compelling women to have children they don't want and can't afford. Their affluent residents will go elsewhere for an abortion while the dysfunctional or poorer women will stay home and have children they can't care for. (A study found that after abortion became legal in Washington, D.C., in the early '70s, the percentage of girls who became mothers in their teens fell by a third.)

As the country divides into states that defend reproductive rights and states that attack them, the latter are bound to suffer economically as a result. Indiana, for example, just passed a strict anti-abortion law, quickly signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb. That day, Eli Lilly, one of the state's biggest employers, announced that the abortion ban would make it hard to recruit workers — and that it would look elsewhere to expand its business.

When Texas virtually banned abortions — while letting any ghoul try for a cash prize if he thinks one was illegally performed — 50 major employers signed a letter in protest. The list was heavy with the tech companies that Gov. Greg Abbott brags about attracting.

Richard Alm at Southern Methodist University says that this sort of social policy "also has a labor market component." With the likes of Apple and Google moving in, he said, "you need enough labor and the right kind of labor."

Thus, these places will have to deal with the loss of top employers to states and countries guaranteeing reproductive rights. And almost everywhere else guarantees reproductive rights.

With the end of Roe, politicians must now take responsibility for harsh new intrusions into families' ability to plan for their future. This is not a hypothetical concern, and offering free baby clothes is not going to allay the public's anger.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Backlash On Abortion Rights Hits Republicans Hard

For decades, abortion was the perfect issue for Republicans: one that they could use to energize "pro-life" voters, and one that would be around forever. What's more, they ran little risk of alienating "pro-choice" voters, who had little concern that the GOP would ever be able to repeal abortion rights.

Key to this strategy was the assumption that the Supreme Court would preserve Roe v. Wade. GOP candidates and legislators could champion the anti-abortion cause secure in the knowledge that they would not have to follow through in any major way. They could nibble away at abortion rights with waiting periods and clinic regulations, but the fundamental right endured. And their efforts were rewarded with the steadfast support of a bloc of single-issue voters.

But the court dynamited the political landscape when it decided that the reproductive freedom women had enjoyed for half a century was a constitutional abomination. Roe was cast into the depths, and Americans woke up to a flurry of state laws greatly restricting or banning abortion.

How that sits with voters came into focus last Tuesday in Kansas, where the state constitution guarantees the right to terminate a pregnancy. Abortion-rights opponents put an amendment on the ballot to revoke it, but the effort went down by a crushing margin of 59 percent to 41 percent.

This was a state that Donald Trump won by a landslide twice. Even red-state citizens are recoiling from the new reality. The abortion initiative galvanized a surge in voter registrations and a massive turnout — nearly double the 2018 primary number.

Maybe the outcome should not have come as a surprise. "The vote in Kansas and four other states that had similar ballot measures before Roe was overturned is very much in line with all the national polls from the past several decades that showed roughly 60 percent didn't want to overturn Roe," Karlyn Bowman, a polling expert at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, told me.

The anti-abortion cause has other problems. The first is that however much Americans gripe about the status quo, they often take a dim view of change. The prime example is the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. When it was moving toward passage in 2010, a CNN poll found, 59 percent of Americans opposed it. In 2014, Republicans captured the House and Senate while promising to repeal and replace it. And in 2016, they won the presidency.

But a funny thing happened on their way to scrapping Obamacare: Public opinion went the other way. By the summer of 2017, a CBS News survey found that 59 percent of Americans opposed the "repeal and replace" bill. The legislation failed because three GOP senators voted with Democrats. Even in the House, which passed it, 20 Republicans voted no.

Americans generally don't like the idea of having something taken away from them. With the ACA, they feared losing their existing insurance — which is why Barack Obama repeatedly asserted (falsely), "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it." But once the program was in place, those same people feared the consequences of losing it.

In the case of abortion, many Americans had not really considered the possibility that it might suddenly become illegal. When that became a threat and then a reality, they were moved to fight back. And the people most affected by new abortion restrictions — women — were the ones most motivated.

Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist who teaches at Howard University, notes that after the draft of the Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe leaked, there was a spike in new voter registrations by women — "and a huge jump after the Supreme Court handed it down." Fully 58 percent of the early votes in the Kansas referendum were cast by women, which Bonier says is "unprecedented."

Republicans have done further damage to themselves by doing what politicians often do when they feel emboldened: overreaching. It's one thing to ban abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. It's another to ban them all, without exceptions for rape and incest — and with weak protections to protect the health and life of the mother.

When abortion restrictions pose a danger even to pregnant women who fervently want to give birth, or when they inflict cruel suffering on victims of rape and incest, they are bound to provoke a negative reaction — which could have a major impact on the 2022 and 2024 elections.

On abortion, Republicans have sown the wind. The whirlwind they reap could be something to see.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Alito Delivers Partisan Speech Warning Of His Post-Roe Targets

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito made a big splash with his first public remarks since eviscerating abortion rights in the United States. Alito’s comments—made at a legal conference in Rome—mocking the world leaders who spoke out against the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade drew the most attention, but he also offered a screaming warning about his intentions for future decisions.

“I had the honor this term of writing, I think, the only Supreme Court decision in the history of that institution that has been lambasted by a whole string of foreign leaders—who felt perfectly fine commenting on American law,” Alito said, before going on to single out British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (joking, “he paid the price”) and Prince Harry (not actually a leader).

This was striking, for sure. “Alito apparently didn’t see the need to come across as a dispassionate and fair-minded justice,” Steve Benen wrote of the comments. “Rather, his audience saw a politician giving a political speech, deriding other politicians who dared to disagree with him, and patting himself on the back for having succeeded on a political goal.”

It’s not the first time, either. Benen pointed to a string of past speeches Alito has given that have each seemed surprisingly political for a Supreme Court justice. It’s almost like Alito is operating as a partisan. And now, with his latest speech, he’s telling the world that he does not care that his decision singlehandedly damaged the Supreme Court’s standing with Americans or the world. Since Alito’s decision in Dobbs, support has grown for reforming the court, while its favorability has plummeted.

But not only is Alito mocking the outrage over what he’s already done, he sent a signal about what he’s prepared to do, railing against “hostility to religion” and saying, “ultimately, if we are going to win the battle to protect religious freedom in an increasingly secular society, we will need more than positive law.”

Looking at those comments, legal analyst Chris Geidner tweeted, “When Sam Alito says something like this, that's a sign that the fundamental ways the Supreme Court majority has already eviscerated the Establishment Clause in favor of the Free Exercise Clause are just the first steps he wants the court to take.”

What Alito is telling us with his mockery, his arrogance, his absolute lack of pretense that he’s equally weighing free exercise of religion with other rights, is that he doesn’t care. He’s here as a political figure and he’s going to shape the country’s laws to fit his political preferences as long as he has that power. Senate Democrats should take this as a dare, and they should step up with the reforms the nation’s voters are already embracing.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Far-Right Agitator Busted In Arizona After Bear Spray Incident

The extremist ”Patriot” movement is nothing if not adaptable: As a kind of pan-far-right insurgency, it has a history of attacking democracy on a broad range of fronts, from immigration to civil rights to abortion rights. That’s why you can find deranged activists like Jennifer Harrison of AZ Patriots, who made her bones harassing Latino immigrants and Muslims, showing up to a protest over the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade to do a drive-by pepper spray of participants.

Unsurprisingly, when police arrested her, Harrison claimed it was all in self-defense—a claim belied by video of the incident. Just as predictably, as David Gilbert at VICE reports, police in Tempe, Arizona, also arrested one of Harrison’s victims based on Harrison’s claims that she had been assaulted.

The incident occurred on Sunday night in Tempe, when Harrison and her frequent partner in her far-right escapades, Michael Pavlock, cruised slowly past a cluster of abortion rights protesters waiting to cross the street on the corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive with Harrison in the passenger seat.

Videos and photos show that she rolled down her window with a can of bear spray in her hand and directed it twice at the protesters. After the first blast, while the victims were crying for water, they continued to roll slowly past the crowd; a woman standing with them, later identified as activist Vivika Lofton, reached toward the bear spray with a flag in her hand as if to deflect it. Harrison can then be seen unleashing a second blast in her direction.

Harrison later claimed in a press release (subsequently deleted) that Lofton had “aggressively rushed toward the vehicle, hands raised and flying around as she entered the street and reached her hand into the open window of the vehicle.” Video indicates that this description is at best a gross exaggeration, and that Lofton had not reached inside the car at any moment.

Lofton, who was briefly hospitalized, was charged with disorderly conduct. She adamantly denies Harrison’s claims. “I’m being charged with the same charges as [Harrison], which isn’t right, because I was the one that was injured and went to the hospital,” Lofton told Gilbert.

Victims of the mace attack were treated by emergency services at the scene. Some were transported for further treatment at a local fire station, including a 9-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. The mother of the two children set up a GoFundMe page in which she described their agony.

The pain of being maced is intense and burning, an incredibly strong stinging sensation that does not go away quickly. Additionally, mace reactivates every time it gets wet. This means that every time my children started to cry in reaction to the pain they were feeling, it only made the burning worse. Seeing my children in wailing in pain and unable to do anything about it was the most excruciating thing I've ever gone through.

Everything happened so fast and there was no time to prepare or run away for safety. We were taken away by ambulance to a near by firestation where I had to flush the mace from my children's face in a decontamination shower.

On social media, Harrison said she “didn’t expect kids” among the anti-abortion protesters Sunday night. However, as Gilbert notes, she had berated the same group of protesters on Saturday night, acknowledging in her Facebook livestream that a child was there.

Harrison has a long history of notoriously ugly far-right activism. AZ Patriots (also known as the Patriot Movement of Arizona) won notoriety in 2018 for a Facebook video posted by a leading member of the group showing her entering a Muslim mosque and removing articles, leading eventually to a felony conviction for the woman. Harrison, who was sued by several churches for harassing immigrant children by posting videos of them arriving by bus, also faced a felony identity theft charge in Maricopa County that was later dismissed when she agreed to enter a federal diversion program.

In the wake of the November 2020 presidential election—which Democrat Joe Biden surprisingly won in Arizona—Harrison was one of the leading figures protesting outside election-counting centers. Harrison also led a small delegation inside the building in the early moments of one protest, where video showed her demanding to be permitted to observe the count and being denied.

Harrison also has a history of using bear spray to attack her political opponents. In June 2020, she made a video of herself and Pavlock at a Black Lives Matter protest march through downtown Phoenix. In the video, the pair were stopped by traffic police at an intersection to allow protesters to march past.

She could be seen using her megaphone to shout, “Black rifles matter,” and “Trump 2020,” which drew about six protesters who walked toward their car. Harrison yelled, “You’re going to get sprayed,” while Pavlock chimed in: “You’re going to get shot.”

Harrison could then be seen bear-spraying a girl, after which a Phoenix police officer told the pair to leave the area.

Harrison devoted much of her energy in 2021 to harassing border crossers as they entered Arizona, but more recently has turned her focus to counterprotesting at liberal events.

"I have one comment: This was self-defense. I have an attorney, and we are confident that we'll see this through," Harrison told the Arizona Republic.

Harrison is not the first right-wing extremist to harass Arizona abortion-rights protesters. In early May, a group of white nationalists showed up to try to commit violence at a Phoenix protest.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.