Weekly Pulse: Nebraska's Sweeping Abortion Ban on Colision Course with Supreme Court

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Yesterday, Nebraska’s Republican governor Dave Heineman signed a sweeping new law that criminalizes almost all abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation and another bill that forces women to undergo extensive mental health assessment prior to obtaining an abortion before 20 weeks.

Intimidating providers

Monica Potts of TAPPED explains that the laws are meant to have a chilling effect on all abortion providers in Nebraska. In the wake of last year’s assassination of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, Dr. LeRoy Carhart of Nebraska began providing late-term abortions. According to Potts, the new abortion legislation is probably designed to run Dr. Carhart out of town.

An anti-choice Catch-22

Robin Marty of RH Reality Check notes the glaring contradictions between the two Nebraska abortion laws: Before 20 weeks of gestation, the state is so concerned about a woman’s health that they will force her to seek a mental health assessment to spare her the trauma of an ill-advised abortion. It seems that Nebraska legislators think women are so fragile that they can’t decide on their own whether an abortion will be unduly upsetting. Yet, after 20 weeks, a woman is not entitled to a “life of the woman” exemption even if a doctor determines that she is likely to commit suicide if she is forced to continue her pregnancy.

The second round of debate was held [Monday] on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill created almost entirely as a vehicle for getting anti-choice legislation challenged and potentially reviewed by the Supreme Court.  Unlike every other anti-choice law that has so far passed in this country, LB 1103 refuses to provide an exemption for a mother’s mental health, regardless of the fact that prior to 20 weeks a pregnant woman’s mental health was so valuable that the state wants to advocate mandatory screenings to protect it.

Vanessa Valenti of Feministing writes of the Nebraska law:

The blatant anti-choice and ableist implications in these bills are just atrocious. Not only will some women be forced to carry their pregnancies to term with no mental health exception, but doctors will be terrified to perform abortions in fear of not correctly adhering to obscure these screening rules.

A collision course with Roe?

Gov. Heineman vowed to defend the new laws against any legal challenges. The Nebraska law bans abortion based on the purported ability of fetuses to feel pain, not their ability to survive outside the womb. The Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot ban abortion of pre-viable fetuses. According to the accepted legal reasoning, if a fetus is too immature to survive outside the woman’s body, the woman has the right to withdraw the support of her body by terminating the pregnancy.

Conveniently, anti-choicers say that they have scientific evidence that pre-viable fetuses can feel pain. This dubious evidence isn’t just a pretext for banning abortion earlier, it puts the bill on a crash course with Roe. If the abortion issue is really about a woman’s right to control her body, then the fetal pain issue is a red herring. A woman can legally inflict pain on a full-grown person if she strikes in self-defense to protect her bodily autonomy. Nebraska is launching a full frontal assault on women’s rights. In Nebraska the pain of a non-viable fetus allegedly matters more than a woman’s freedom. We’ll see what the Supreme Court says about that.

How Justice Stevens’ retirement fits in

The wheels were set in motion just as the leading liberal on the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens, announced his retirement. In The Progressive, Matthew Rothschild, the son of Stevens’ former law partner, recalls some of Stevens’ key pro-choice opinions over the course of his long career. For example:

In the 2000 Nebraska “partial-birth-abortion” case, Stevens stated: It is “impossible for me to understand how a State has any legitimate interest in requiring a doctor to follow any procedure other than the one that he or she reasonably believes will best protect the woman in her exercise of this constitutional liberty.”

As we look ahead to a Supreme Court confirmation battle, the Nebraska abortion bans illustrate why the stakes are so high. The Court is losing a leading champion of reproductive choice. President Barack Obama will face intense pressure from the liberal base to replace him with a nominee whose record on choice is equally strong. As Scott Lemieux argues in the American Prospect, only a strong liberal will be able to hold the line against the conservative cadre of Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.



Weekly Pulse: Obama Signs Health Reform Bill, Backlash Begins

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Yesterday, President Obama signed health care reform into law. As Mike Lillis explains in the Washington Independent, the bill now proceeds to the Senate for reconciliation. The whole process could be complete by the end of the week. Republicans and their allies have already moved to challenge reform in court.

Legal challenges

The fight is far from over, however. Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly notes that Republicans have already filed papers to challenge health care reform in court. The Justice Department has pledged to vigorously defend health care reform, according to Zach Roth of TPM Muckraker.

The legal arguments against health care reform center around the constitutionality of an individual mandate, i.e., the requirement that everyone must carry health insurance. This argument is specious. The bill characterizes the mandatory payments as a tax, and imposes a fine for those who don’t pay their insurance tax. There is no question that Congress has the authority to levy taxes in support of the general welfare and providing health insurance to the people easily meets that legal criterion.

Dave Weigel of the Washington Independent reviews some of the other formidable legal barriers to challenging health care reform in court. But take heart, teabaggers! Birther-dentist-lawyer Orly Taitz is on the case.

Violent outbursts from reform opponents

Some anti-reform activists have resorted to intimidation.  Five Democratic offices were vandalized in the days surrounding the House vote, as Justin Elliott reports for TPM Muckraker. Someone hurled a brick through the window of the Niagara office of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the chair of the powerful House Rules Committee.

Slaughter is notorious on the right for drawing up the controversial “deem and pass” strategy for moving the bill forward. Her plan was never put into action, but she has become a target anyway. Another Democratic office in Slaughter’s district was damaged by a brick bearing a quote from conservative icon Barry Goldwater: “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.”

Elliott notes that a conservative blogger in Alabama is doing his best to incite similar attacks, though it’s not clear whether he instigated any of the original five:

…Blogger Mike Vanderboegh has been tracking the breaking of windows at Dem offices after issuing a call Friday: “To all modern Sons of Liberty: THIS is your time. Break their windows. Break them NOW.

Reproductive rights take a hit

Anti-abortion extremist Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) failed to get his ultra-restrictive abortion language inserted into the health care bill, but the final bill does impede health insurance coverage for abortion.

For example, those who choose abortion coverage will have to write two checks: One for their regular premium and one for a dollar to go into a separate abortion coverage fund. Many analysts fear that the extra hassles will discourage private insurers from covering abortion at all.  Pro-choice activists were in a weaker negotiating position because, unlike Stupak and his allies, they weren’t prepared to kill health reform if their demands weren’t met.

The greater good?

Now that health care reform is safely signed into law, the pro-choice movement is stepping back and asking itself some tough questions.

In The Nation, Katha Pollitt argues that the pro-choice movement deserves to be rewarded for sacrificing its own agenda for the greater good. She suggests that the Democrats could reward the reproductive rights movement by fully funding the Violence Against Women Act, addressing maternal mortality and other policy changes to advance women’s health and freedom.

Jos of Feministing counters that with their go along to get along attitude pro-choice groups have only demonstrated that they can be ignored with impunity: “You don’t get rewarded for demonstrating a lack of political power, you get further marginalized.”

At RH Reality Check, Megan Carpentier argues that national pro-choice organization like NARAL and Planned Parenthood ceded their leverage too easily. While anti-choicers were beefing up their lobbying presence in Washington, major pro-choice groups were scaling back. Pro-choice groups compromised early and easily, perhaps because they were overly confident that their service to the Democratic cause would be rewarded in the end.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.



Why I am Challenging a 34 Year Pro-Life Democratic Incumbent Congressman


Fellow Democrats,

My name is Scott Withers and I am a Democratic Primary Candidate for the U.S. Congress in Michigan’s 5th District. I am challenging incumbent Dale Kildee, someone whose public service I respect, but I believe is out of touch with the dire needs of the residents of Mid-Michigan.

I grew up in the small Tuscola County city of Vassar. My grandfathers, father, stepfather, sister and many uncles, aunts and cousins do or did work in the UAW plants throughout mid-Michigan. I received my dual-bachelors degree in International Relations and Broadcast Journalism at Syracuse University. While in school, I interned for CNN at the United Nations and in the London bureau. After graduation, I worked as a producer/writer and on-air youth correspondent for CNN in Atlanta. Following my time at CNN, I worked in local tv news in Tennessee and eventually moved into Public Relations where I worked on communications plans for large aviation, tourism and chemical companies. When the economy crashed last summer, I like millions of Americans was laid off. The last six months has been trying. I have lived through the fear of home foreclosure. I understand living pay check to pay check (often not making it). I can relate to the millions of good people who barely pay their bills with unemployment. I am not rich and don’t have the desire to be. I live with my partner of 10 years, Lane, and our 3 dogs. I am running for Michigan’s 5th Congressional District seat to help instill hope, create new jobs and solve the home foreclosure problem.

I am challenging Dale Kildee for 3 main reasons…

1) We need a leader who will fight to create jobs here in Michigan. We need someone who will do whatever it takes, who will make some noise and jump up and down to protect every job in Michigan, bring new ones in and make sure not a single job goes overseas. I will organize, I will rally, I will go door to door, I will lobby, I will do whatever it takes! I will spend every day soliciting large domestic and foreign corporations to expand/relocate job opportunities into the district, create new jobs or invest in existing companies so they can expand their staffs. My focus will not just be on automotive jobs, but on any and all opportunities including Green Energy, Film/Television, Tourism, Chemical, etc. I will LOBBY every federal government agency to open new or relocate existing offices/facilities in mid-Michigan, expand their current job opportunities in the area or pick our area for future projects. I will seek federal funding for our State to offset the cost of keeping prisoners in Michigan prisons instead of closing them down, releasing them early and laying off employees. We cannot afford to have a Congressman who just goes with the flow.

2) We need a Congressman who will champion progressive values. Congressman Dale Kildee is out of touch with the majority of Democrats in the 5th District. He is pro-life, opposes marriage equality, supports funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and does not support a single-payer healthcare system. We need an aggressive Congressman representing the 5th District and I believe I am that individual. Protecting a woman’s right to choose is one of the most important human rights issues facing women today. Dale Kildee has consistently gone out of his way to oppose protecting that right.

3) The 5th District Congressional seat belongs to the people of the 5th District. Dale Kildee has been a life member of Congress – holding the seat for 34 years, since the 1970’s. This seat belongs to the people of the district and no member should be in office for 34 years. He has been in political office for the past 46 years! I support term-limits for every member of Congress. I will self-limit myself to four consecutive terms in the U.S. House. We need to stop the system of creating career politicians and have a system that allows citizens to serve in public office and then return back to private life.

These are the facts:

- Even though Mid-Michigan’s unemployment rates are among the highest in the nation, Dale Kildee voted to give himself and his colleagues a pay raise (June 2009)

- Dale Kildee introduced just 13 bills last year, none of which dealt with job creation

- Dale Kildee received a 0% rating by NARAL. (December 2003)

- Dale Kildee voted NO on allowing human embryonic stem cell research. (May 2005)

- Dale Kildee received a 53% rating by the ACLU, indicating a mixed civil rights record (December 2002)

- Dale Kildee voted NO on withdrawing from the World Trade Organization, the WTO, (June 2000), which has sent thousands of jobs overseas.

- Dale Kildee voted NO on tax cuts to small businesses (March 2000)

- Dale Kildee opposes marriage equality (January 2008)

- In the last cycle, Dale Kildee received over $338,545 in PAC and special interest money, a strong majority of this total funds raised.

I believe it is time for a change and I believe I will be that progressive voice who fights to bring new jobs to the 5th District.

I will run an aggressive campaign on the issues and provide a clear contrast between myself and Mr. Kildee. Every pro-jobs, pro-choice, pro-equality Democrat will have a real choice in this election.

I hope to earn your trust and your support during this campaign.


Scott Withers
Democratic Candidate for U.S. Congress

p.s. please sign up to follow our campaign at http://www.withers2010.com


Super Bowl Ads

"CBS has come under fire in recent weeks from various groups for allowing a conservative Christian group to air an anti-abortion ad, and for barring a commercial from a dating site for gay men as inappropriate for prime time."

CBS is just being consistent  -  anti-gay and anti-women

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

Being Pro-Choice Also Means Accepting A Woman's Right To Choose Life

Twenty-six years ago, a 13-year-old girl in Atlanta got pregnant. She knew that at her age, she was not ready for a child. So she had a choice to make -- abortion or adoption. The choice made by this 13-year-old girl was a very mature one for someone of her years. She chose life. She chose to put me up for adoption, and I was fortunate enough to be adopted by a very impressive lady; a lady that was recognized by the Georgia House of Representatives in 2005 for making history as the first black female to graduate from Mercer University [House Resolution 1008].

That's my story. And if by sharing that story, I could prevent just one abortion, then I'd tell it again and again and again on national television.

There is a new controversy looming on the horizon. It involves 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, the conservative organization Focus on the Family, and a coalition of women's rights groups.

At the center of this new controversy is an ad.

There's more...


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