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Despite Pro-Choice Ruling, Supreme Court Still Threatens Abortion Rights

On Monday, abortion rights yet again narrowly survived another trip to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the majority holding that Louisiana's law requiring physicians to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital was unconstitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the court, but his concurrence makes clear he still supports making abortions very difficult to get.

Louisiana's admitting privilege law was nearly the exact same restriction Texas had enacted in 2013. That law was the subject of a case, Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt, that the court decided four years ago.

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Judge Temporarily Blocks Shutdown Of Last Abortion Clinic In Missouri

A judge blocked Missouri’s Republican-led government from shutting down the state’s last remaining abortion clinic on Friday, temporarily staving off a public health emergency for Missouri women.

Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer granted a temporary restraining order allowing the clinic, Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, to continue offering abortion services until June 4, when the case goes to a full hearing.

Missouri’s health department, which answers to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, has refused to renew the license that allows the clinic to perform abortions. That license was scheduled to expire at the end of the day on Friday, but Planned Parenthood sued Parson and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to stop that from happening.

“Today is a victory for women across Missouri, but this fight is far from over,” Dr. Leana Wen, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement released Friday.

“We are glad that the governor has been prevented from putting women’s health and lives in danger—for now—and call on him to stop this egregious politicalization of public health in an attempt to ban all safe, legal abortion care in the state,” Wen said.

“This is a huge sigh of relief for the many patients who need access to safe, legal abortion in Missouri,” said Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an OB-GYN at the targeted clinic.

The license renewal was in question after state officials earlier in the year demanded to interview medical professionals who work at the clinic without disclosing the scope of their investigation.

Planned Parenthood said in a court filing that the health department was “unlawfully conditioning” its routine license renewal decision on Planned Parenthood complying with the investigation, and that the state refused to disclose the details of a patient complaint it was allegedly investigating.

Planned Parenthood told reporters on a conference call that when Missouri officials were asked if the interviews could result in criminal referrals or affect the medical licenses of physicians, they were told by the state that such outcomes were “not off the table.”

Wen described the state’s efforts as an “inappropriate and suspicious interrogation” designed to intimidate the doctors and medical trainees.

The attack on reproductive rights provoked an outpouring of public outrage. Thousands took to the streets in St. Louis on Thursday to protest Parson and his policy.

Missouri is one of several GOP-led states that have recently passed extreme, unconstitutional abortion bans. Last Friday, Parson signed a law criminalizing abortion after eight weeks, which is before many women even know that they are pregnant.

The law provides no exceptions for rape or incest, which is in line with the national Republican Party platform.

Women’s health care is under a sustained national attack from Republicans — but the court decision in Missouri is a reminder that, for now at least, the law is still on the side of women’s health and rights.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

IMAGE: Dr. Leana Wen, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Pence’s ‘Indiana Mafia’ Guts Funding For Women’s Health Care

It turns out Vice President Mike Pence has been up to something other than praising Trump’s “broad shoulders.

Pence has been quietly working behind the scenes to carry out the Trump administration’s goal of gutting funding for women’s health care — which he helped accomplish by installing allies from his days as governor of Indiana, which Politico described as a “cadre of officials that one HHS official called ‘Indiana mafia.'”

Installing allies whom he had relationships with back in Indiana — such as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma — have helped Pence push for one of his key priorities: defunding Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood provides sexual and reproductive health care to more than 4.6 million people per year. Yet Pence has been working to strip funds from the organization — a lifeline to millions of women and men who often cannot afford reproductive health care services elsewhere — since his days in Congress.

Now that he’s in the White House, Pence helped install new rules for Title X — a federal program that helps fund family planning services — that would effectively cut Planned Parenthood off from crucial federal dollars that provide those reproductive health and family planning services.

Defunding Planned Parenthood has become a rallying cry for Republicans, who believe that the health care organization should not receive funds because it offers abortion services — even though Planned Parenthood doesn’t use any federal funds for abortion services.

Yet the Trump administration’s new rules for Title X gag health care providers that receive Title X dollars from informing their patients about their right to an abortion.

Given that Planned Parenthood runs roughly 40% of the Title X clinics in the country, cutting the group off from funds would have a devastating impact on women.

The Trump administration was ultimately sued for the policy, and a federal judge has blocked it from going into effect as the lawsuit makes its way through the courts. The judge wrote in the ruling that the policy prevents doctors from doing their jobs.

Aside from trying to defund Planned Parenthood, Pence’s cronies at HHS also implemented a policy in April that allows doctors to cite religious beliefs as a reason not to treat certain patients.

Pence has a long history of trying to impose his own beliefs on women to block them from obtaining the health care they need. For example, in 2011, when he was a member of Congress from Indiana, he co-sponsored a bill that would have redefined rape in order to ban abortion.

He also signed eight anti-abortion bills into law when he served as governor of Indiana — including one that would have banned women in the state from getting an abortion if they found out their fetus had a disability. Even some anti-abortion Republican women in Indiana were opposed to the bill.

So, while Pence is a weak vice president — forced to heap praise on Trump — he has apparently been wildly successful at imposing his anti-women agenda by sneaking in his friends into key administration roles that oversee health care.

Women can thank Pence for having trouble finding health care they need and deserve.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: Gage Skidmore photo of Vice President Mike Pence via Flickr.

Fox News Bans Anti-Nazi Ad — But Uses Nazi Imagery Against Planned Parenthood

Fox News: Where a historical documentary can’t run an ad warning about the dangers of fascism because it contains “disgraceful Nazi imagery,” but host Laura Ingraham can show graphics comparing Planned Parenthood to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler with impunity.

During the February 26 edition of Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Ingraham spent several segments delivering a sensationalized and inaccurate rant against abortion, particularly those performed later in pregnancy. In addition to alleging that Democrats support “the wanton extermination of children already born” — a false talking point that has been circulating among right-wing media, anti-abortion groups, and other conservative figures — Ingraham also compared Planned Parenthood to Nazi Germany, claiming that “Hitler, just like Planned Parenthood, practiced and defended mass extermination.” To drive her point home, Ingraham showed the following graphic on the screen:

Fox News viewers — particularly those who watch the prime-time lineup of Tucker Carlson, Ingraham, and Sean Hannity — are no strangers to xenophobic or sexist contentracist dog whistles, and even talking points borrowed from white nationalists. And this isn’t the first time that Ingraham or other Fox News figures have asserted inaccurate and harmful comparisons between Planned Parenthood and Nazis. However, Ingraham’s choice of talking points and on-screen imagery raises some questions in light of Fox News’ recent decision to reject an advertisement warning about the dangers of fascism and Nazi ideology.

On February 13, The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Fox News executives had “rejected a national advertising buy” promoting A Night at the Garden, an Oscar-nominated documentary short warning “viewers about the potential dangers of American fascism.” Although the ad was intended to warn “Sean Hannity’s largely conservative viewers about the potential dangers of President Donald Trump’s brand of populism,” ad sales representatives for the network rejected it, citing concerns from Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott who reportedly said that it was “not appropriate.”

The network clarified the alleged “inappropriate” nature of the anti-facism ad in a subsequent comment to The Week, with Fox’s President of Ad Sales Marianne Gambelli stating that “regardless of the film’s message,” the ad was rejected for being “full of disgraceful Nazi imagery” which “did not meet our guidelines.”

Fox News has found itself under a great deal of pressure going into the upcoming advertising sales season — thanks in large part to an increasing awareness by many companies that associating their products with Fox News is bad for business. Dozens of advertisers have abandoned Ingraham’s show alone in the past year. As Variety reported in January, the network is currently in the process of trying to rebrand itself to advertisers after “sponsors have pulled their advertising” from a number of prime-time shows. The report continued:

Keeping the ad dollars flowing at Fox News is critical – not only for the network, but for its parent company, 21st Century Fox. At some point in the next few months, Fox is slated to sell the bulk of its cable and studio assets to Walt Disney Co. The remaining company, known as Fox Corporation will rely on not only Fox News and Fox Business Network, but Fox Sports and Fox Broadcasting. The Fox News unit has contributed around 20% of the overall company’s operating profit. In a pared-down structure, it might be more. And while many analysts focus on the revenue Fox News derives from affiliates, its ad dollars will also be important after the sale.

There are consequences to allowing this kind of extreme rhetoric to continue unchecked that extend beyond the negative impact on advertisers for having their products associated with vitriol like Ingraham’s. Anti-abortion violence and harassment have been on the rise in recent years — a trend fueled in part by the extreme rhetoric of right-wing media figures, whose anti-choice talkings points are echoed by the president.

When Fox News pitches upfronts this May, advertisers should remember: Fox News was unwilling to show an advertisement denouncing the dangers of Nazism, but the network seemingly has no problem invoking or showing Nazi imagery to attack abortion providers and patients.

IMAGE: From A Night At The Garden, Marshall Curry’s Oscar-nominated short about an infamous pro-Nazi German Bund rally at Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939.