Help us make these urgent calls

On Monday, we asked our activists to speak out on the deceptively titled "Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act," a bill that misleads women and puts politics before science.  The House is scheduled to vote on this bill TODAY.  Planned Parenthood sent a letter to all House members informing them that this vote WILL be scored and that a vote against H.R. 6099 will be considered a pro-choice vote. We need you to call the members of Congress listed below right now and tell them to vote NO on H.R. 6099.  After you call, submit a comment so that we can keep track of what these member offices are saying.

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Planned Parenthood's Vision = Action

In the days and weeks leading up the elections, there's been a major shift toward pro-choice candidates. Voters in key heartland states are getting the message about where candidates stand on common-sense issues like support for women's health and safety - and it's clear they care.

In Ohio, anti-choice candidate Ken Blackwell (R), who said he would sign an abortion ban even more extreme than the one in South Dakota, trails pro-choice candidate Ted Strickland (D). In Wisconsin, pro-choice Gov. Jim Doyle (D) is running against Mark Green (R), who opposes providing emergency contraception to rape survivors. Doyle is the one thing standing between women's health and safety and a total abortion ban. This year Doyle vetoed seven anti-choice bills this legislative session, including a law that would have allowed concealed weapons into family planning clinics. Michigan's gubernatorial candidate, Dick DeVos (R), is trailing pro-choice Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) and running scared from his extreme views: in a televised debate, he insisted he would do nothing to change the state's current abortion law -- and yet the very next day said on a Catholic radio show that he supports a South Dakota-style ban.

Our supporters have been out on the streets, raising money, collecting signatures, and getting people in these key states excited to vote on election day. We all feel the momentum building, and we want to be ready for this pivotal moment in our country's history. We CAN advance an agenda that ensures the health and safety of women and families. But we can't get there without a plan.

We have to make it clear what we are for, not just what we are against. We will play offense, not defense, in exposing anti-choice groups and their political sponsors and making them explain their indefensible anti-family planning positions. We have to communicate common-sense values to the entire nation. We're striking a new deal between the pro-choice movement and legislators and policymakers. We will use the courts to broadcast our message.

Read more about our strategy and let us know what you think.

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Issue Groups vs. Parties

So this is my first diary post at MyDD. Obviously, I am too damn lazy to update my own site, so I will write it here.

Basically, as much as I love reading blogs, it drives me absolutely bat-shit insane to see how a medium like this still seems to favor over-simplification of political dynamics - and the Lamont/Lieberman campaign is a great example of it. Here are three things I wish people would think about more:

a) Parties aggregate diverse constituencies into (more or less) cohesive groups and their mission is to attain/retain power for that group. As a result, issues positions are not constant over time.

b) Issue organizations are built around a single constituency and their mission is to advocate for their issue and therefore their issue positions do not change over time (significantly).

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Losing the Next Alito Fight

I've been meaning to blog about what we should in the event of a new Supreme Court opening.  I wrote a prescription for what the anti-Alito forces could have done better.  I know it was forwarded around to various leaders, but apparently these leaders have learned very little.  A very key piece of winning these fights is an enforcement arm.  With a close filibuster vote for a SCOTUS nominee, you have to be able be able to bring unbearable pressure on individual Senators.  They just have to know that the easy vote has costs.  And this is why NARAL and Planned Parenthood's decision to let Lieberman off the hook is just so craven.  It's a choice now to lose later.

In allowing Senator Lieberman to not filibuster Alito and still backing him for his reelection campaign against a reliably progressive candidate, the leaders of NARAL and Planned Parenthood have decided to throw away their political capital.  Jane Hamsher is correct to point out what a horrifically bad decision this is.  I can only add that the move to endorse Lieberman comes from a very top-down DC mindset, where a conservative status quo is preferable to admitting error or engaging in institutional change.

Let me explain how the fight will go down to replace Stevens now that NARAL and Planned Parenthood (and HRC) have chosen access over power as their method of engaging in politics.

Bush will nominate a new right-winger, one with extremist views similar to Alito.  These views may or may not be obviously on display, and this person may or may not be corrupt.  It will not matter.  During the fight, these groups will put out their press releases and maybe even run a few ads in Arkansas and Louisiana (whose Democratic Governor just signed an abortion ban, fyi).  They will get meetings with various Senators, since of course they have good relationships with incumbents.  These groups will make their case, and Senators will thank them and say they need to make the right decision for their constituents, it's very difficult, etc.  And Barbara Boxer and Ted Kennedy will do press conferences with Cecile Richards and Nancy Keenan, and John Kerry and Hillary Clinton may call for a filibuster in a high-profile fashion, spurring headlines from CNN and handwringing on Fox News about how Democrats are extremists and split on obstructionist policies.

But at the end of the day, every Senator will know that the guns on the progressive side are not loaded and they can vote against women's rights and pay no price.  That's the message that NARAL and Planned Parenthood just sent.  And the Republicans, if they are disciplined and on message, and if no third party force asserts itself, will win easily.

You see, after Alito, the groups on our someone's side had one of two choices.  In the face of utter institutional failure, they could (a) change or (b) remain the same.  And my guess, backed up by a little reporting (though not that much), is that these groups are not preparing for the next Supreme Court Justice fight.  In other words, they have settled on (b).  They aren't going to change, and they aren't going to fight for women's rights because they don't think that they can win.

But at least Time Magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan thinks that "pro-choice abortion activists [are] getting smarter about their strategy." In case you're wondering, I took that from the NARAL website. That's what NARAL thinks, that doing a good job means being patted on the head by conservative weirdo Andrew Sullivan.  Pathetic.

If you would like to take action, I recommend contacting NARAL and expressing displeasure or even canceling your membership. I'm sympathetic to Planned Parenthood, because they provide medical services to women all around the country. NARAL though is a lobbying shop only. If you are a NARAL member, the feedback form is here and the telephone numbers are as follows. DC: 202.973.3000 CT: 860.524.1086

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Weekly Pulse: Florida Governor Wants to Drug Test All State Employees

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott plans to force public workers and welfare recipients to undergo random drug testing every three weeks. Why? Because he doesn't like either group, Cenk Uygur argues on the Young Turks. "It's an attempt to stigmatize, demonize, and punish those people," Uygur says:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fhSYsb2Gtg[/youtube]

Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones explains why Scott's plan is almost certainly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled that public employees cannot be forced to take drug tests unless public safety is at stake. The government can impose random drug testing for bus drivers, but not clerks at the DMV. Scott wants to spend millions of dollars testing all state employees. The only beneficiary of Scott's plan will be the drug-testing industry.

From vitamins to purity balls

Martha Kempner of RH Reality Check profiles Leslee Unruh, the eccentric vitamin saleswoman-turned-crisis pregnancy center maven and abstinence crusader who is spearheading the drive for increasingly draconian abortion restrictions in South Dakota.

Unruh founded a crisis pregnancy center in 1997. Gradually, she became convinced that cajoling unhappily pregnant women to give birth was backwards. What she needed to do was save women from sex in the first place:

As Amanda Robb explains in her 2008 expose on Unruh published in MORE Magazine: “after working with hundreds of women who got pregnant unintentionally, she says she began to realize that this kind of counseling put the cart before the horse in women’s lives. To truly empower women, she became convinced, you have to ‘save them from sexual activity.’”

Unruh's Abstinence Clearinghouse is famous for sponsoring "purity balls" at which fathers promise to guard their daughters' sexual purity until marriage.

My uterus is a closed shop

Last weekend the Wisconsin AFL-CIO held a rally with Planned Parenthood in Madison, Wisconsin, Mike Elk reports for Working In These Times. Elk writes:

The labor movement, at its core, is about class struggle - the working class overcoming the power of the owning class in order to take control over their own lives. For women, class struggle historically has centered on overcoming the oppression of men who want to have control over their lives.

It makes sense that organized labor and the reproductive rights movement are being drawn closer together. Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker has declared war on unions and reproductive health care. Walker's notorious anti-collective bargaining bill also declared war on the state's highly successful, money-saving family planning program.

The Walker administration declared the union-busting bill to be law last Friday, in defiance of a court ruling, Matthew Rothschild reports in The Progressive. A court had ruled that the legality of the bill was in question because it seems to have been passed in defiance of the state's strong open meetings laws.

De-funding family planning

Some Minnesota Republicans are taking a page from Scott Walker's playbook, Andy Birkey reports in the Minnesota Independent. A group of Republican state senators are working to de-fund the state's family planning programs by cutting off state funding and refusing federal dollars to fund these initiatives. An estimated 40,000 people receive reproductive health care each year through programs that the GOP is trying to eliminate. Their position is surely not motivated by concerns about the deficit. Joint state-federal family planning programs have been shown to save money for the state and the federal government.

HIV/AIDS at 30

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. At Colorlines.com, LaShieka Purvis Hunter profiles a distinguished community leader in the struggle against HIV, Rev. Edwin Sanders of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Sanders and his congregation have been engaged in the struggle for 26 years, ever since one of the founding members of this predominantly black church died of the virus.

Saunders says that, as far as he knows, his is the only African American congregation operating an HIV/AIDS primary care clinic:

"There are other congregations with primary care clinics that do other things, but ours is exclusively focused on HIV/AIDS,” he explains. “We were really fortunate to get a planning grant from the URSA Institute about 10 years ago, and have a fully operating clinic four years after that. Now we are able to serve a population in our community that represents those who are truly disenfranchised.”

The URSA Institute is a non-profit social interest consulting firm which supports HIV/AIDS-related research and prevention programs.

Dig for victory

Spring is here. Ellen LaConte of AlterNet explains why gardening is good for your health and your pocketbook. Produce prices are rising, thanks to increasing oil prices, dwindling soil reserves, monoculture, and other factors. LaConte predicts that gardening and small-scale collective farming will become an increasingly important source of fresh fruits and vegetables for average Americans in the years to come.

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