Anti-abortion activists indicted over fraudulent Planned Parenthood videos

A grand jury investigation into Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast in Harris County, Texas has backfired on anti-abortion activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Not only did the grand jury find claims that the Planned Parenthood branch was illegally trafficking fetal tissue to be totally baseless, but in a twist, they indicted Daleiden and Merritt with second-degree felonies.

Planned Parenthood hoax officially blows up: Texas grand jury decides to indict video creators instead
By Sophia Tesfaye

A Houston jury investigating alleged misconduct by Planned Parenthood declined to charge the women’s health provider, announcing instead felony charges for the leaders of the anti-abortion organization that targeted Planned Parenthood with it’s widely debunked series of “sting” videos in 2015.

The grand jury said they did not find evidence of illegal activity on the part of Planned Parenthood after reviewing the covert videos meant to misleadingly implicate the women’s health provider in the illegal trafficking of fetal tissue. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick ordered an investigation of the nation’s largest women’s health care provider in August, following suit with a host of conservative state lawmakers. Despite the decision by the grand jury to absolve Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing, Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a statement doubling down on the state’s efforts to investigate the organization.

Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden, not PP, indicted for the “purchase and sale of human organs”

Sign this Planned Parenthood Petition to Show Your Support for Women & Their Families

Last night, the Texas Senate passed Rick Perry’s abortion ban.

They ignored the massive outcry from thousands of women and men, here in Texas and across the country. They ignored the deeply personal, moving testimony of women who came to the Capitol to tell their stories, and the courageous 11-hour people’s filibuster, led by Senator Wendy Davis. They ignored the words of doctors and medical professionals who stood against this outrageous attack on women’s health. And they ignored the wishes of Texans, 80% of whom said they did not want this bill. 

It’s the same story we’re seeing in North Carolina, in Wisconsin, and in Congress. A small group of opponents have proven time and again that they will stop at nothing to force their agenda on women nationwide. 

But this moment isn’t about them. It’s about us. It’s about what you and I have seen happen in the past few weeks. It’s about college students and grandmothers and doctors and teachers and dads and nuns and so many others shouting, “ENOUGH!”

And I know, without a doubt, that you and I aren’t going anywhere. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we are in it for the long run. In Texas, and across the nation. 

Say it with me. Say it to women in Texas, and to Rick Perry. Say it to John Kasich, Jack Dalrymple and every single lawmaker trying to shut down women’s access to care. 
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Listen up, lawmakers: we’re still here, we’re still standing, and we’re in it for the long run.

You might not see us crowding your corridors and objecting from the balconies, but make no mistake, we are still here. We are in Texas, in North Carolina, in Ohio, and every place a small group of politicians tries to turn back the hands of time on women and rights. 

We’re still here — and we’re not going anywhere. We’re in it for the long run… and we are bigger and more determined every day. 

When you shut down health centers, when you trample women’s basic rights, when you expose the plain contempt you feel for women who want nothing more than to make their own medical decisions — we get stronger. 

When you twist the rules and abuse your power to force your ideology on women, we get louder. 

And when you stand between a woman and her doctor, you remind us of what we’re fighting for. 

We are in it for the long run. No matter how long it takes, no matter how hard you push your ideology, no matter what — millions of people like me will stand up, speak up, and stay there. For the long run. For as long as it takes. 
No Matter What You Think About Abortion, The Activists Targeting Planned Parenthood Are Lying
The current debate is wildly dishonest.

When a Texas county opened the country’s first criminal investigation into Planned Parenthood — an investigation that was spurred by a series of undercover videos accusing the group of illegally trafficking aborted fetus parts — Devon Anderson probably wasn’t the prosecutor that abortion rights supporters would have chosen themselves.

Women vs. Republicans II

Married woman gets pregnant. Republicans: GOOD. That’s how you do it. Now make me a sandwich.

SINGLE woman gets pregnant. Republicans: Should’ve put an aspirin between your knees, filthy welfare slut.

Single woman keeps child. Republicans: Worthless welfare leech squirting out brats you can’t afford!

Single woman puts child up for adoption. Republicans: Buys it for $30k, but only if it’s cute and white.

Single woman has abortion at 6 weeks. Republicans: BABY MURDERING LIBTARD.

Single woman has abortion at 20 weeks because her fetus has no brain. Republicans: THAT INNOCENT BABY HAD A RIGHT TO LIFE. Who cares if it had no brain, it could’ve still become a Texas Senator!

Pregnancy isn’t an idea. It’s a bodily reality. And it needn’t be an inevitability forced upon unwilling Americans by the same people who want to cut funding for contraception and cervical cancer screenings.

A Weekend At The Last Abortion Clinic In McAllen, Texas

by Hannah Smothers

The walk from the rear parking lot at Whole Woman’s Health to the entrance on Main Street is 100 feet down a sidewalk. The clinic is located in southwest McAllen, Texas at the corner of Main and Houston Streets—both of which are busy thoroughfares that run through the old medical area where Whole Woman’s is. People driving by on those streets have been honking their horns at patients and volunteers outside the newly re-reopened clinic all day.

Next to the clinic is an empty lot filled with wooden signs that say things like, “Abortion, The Ultimate Child Abuse.” This is the same lot where protesters recently built a miniature cemetery for unborn babies. A group of picketers follows each patient from the protection of the parking lot to the door. The sidewalk is public property and it’s the anti-choice picketer’s last chance to, maybe, change a mind. Stepping behind the concrete wall that hides the heavily tinted glass door entrance to the clinic’s waiting room feels like sanctuary. No one on Main Street can see in there—it’s safe. For the woman walking to the front door of a clinic that’s been empty for six months, the wait is almost over. She stands at the door until someone in the waiting room lets her inside.

The patients who came to Whole Woman’s Health McAllen this past weekend had been waiting a long time for assistance. On March 6, two Whole Woman’s Health locations—the one in McAllen and another in Beaumont, Texas—closed because they could no longer afford to stay open without being able to provide abortions.

House Bill 2, a Texas bill that went into effect on October 29, 2013, places highly restrictive provisions on abortion procedures, much like existing legislation in Mississippi. When HB2 went into effect last October, Whole Woman’s McAllen was among over 20 Texas clinics that had to either stop providing abortions or close. The bill has been opposed most prominently by Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for Texas’ upcoming gubernatorial election. Davis recently released a memoir describing her own abortions.

Texas is suffering. With every added provision, more clinics are forced to close. Before HB2, Texas had 42 abortion clinics. Currently, counting the recently re-opened McAllen clinic, there are 20. Another Fifth Circuit hearing on September 12th could make Texas a state with over 26 million people and only seven abortion providers. This makes receiving an abortion in Texas devastatingly difficult for anyone living outside of Houston, Dallas or Austin. For women living in the Rio Grande Valley, it’s almost impossible.

HB2 and the Texas border

When Wendy Davis gave her filibuster wearing pink sneakers in the Texas Capitol Building last summer, the voices of patients from the Rio Grande Valley were heard. At one point during the marathon speech, Wendy read aloud anonymous journal entries from abortion patients. Some of these entries came from Whole Woman’s Health McAllen, where journals are made available to patients before and after their procedure.“Sometimes they’re beautiful poetry,” says Andrea Ferrigno, the corporate vice president of Whole Woman’s Health, about the entries, “Sometimes they’re a beautiful letter to the clinic or to their potential child.”

In the lobby of McAllen’s Casa De Palmas Renaissance Hotel, Andrea told me about the clinic’s re-opening weekend and her year of fighting against the tough abortion legislation. Whole Woman’s Health has five clinics around Texas, including the one in McAllen where Andrea got her start. Since then she’s worked in all of the organization’s clinics, and on the night of the filibuster, she sat with Whole Woman’s staff from all over the state, listening to the stories of the women they’d helped.

At the time of the filibuster, the Texas abortion bill was called Senate Bill 5. After Governor Rick Perry gave his official approval, it became House Bill 2, or simply HB2. Supporters of the legislation say it’s meant to increase safety and health standards for abortion procedures. Opposers say it makes abortion practically illegal in Texas.

Theprovisions of HB2are the toughest of any abortion related legislation in the country. When the bill went into effect on October 29, abortions past 20 weeks were made illegal. Abortion-inducing drugs had to be used with old FDA regulations, which requires that most women in Texas make four doctor appointments for a medical abortion. The fatal provision for the McAllen clinic was the one that requires all physicians who perform the procedure to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. This provision exists in other states as well, but only in Texas is the hospital also required to have an OB-GYN department.

As planned, HB2 shut down over half of the clinics in the state. Another Fifth Circuit hearing to be held on September 12 could close even more. Entire regions of the second biggest state in the country are now located hundreds of miles away from the nearest clinic, but the Rio Grande Valley faces challenges unlike any other part of the country.

When the McAllen clinic stopped providing abortions, the nearest clinic to the Valley region was in San Antonio, located 250 miles (a four-hour drive) away. This distance alone isolates women in the Valley from abortion care.

U.S. Highway 281 will take you out of McAllen, through about 200 miles of private farmland, up to San Antonio. But about an hour into the drive, you arrive in Falfurrias, Texas — a small town known for housing one of the toughest U.S. Border Patrol Interior Checkpointsin the country and nothing else. The checkpoints, located within 75 miles of the Mexico-United States border along major highways, are meant to catch narcotics or undocumented immigrants who made it past the stations located at the actual border. The only way around the checkpoint in Falfurrias is to cut through private farmland.

If you live south of the checkpoint and don’t have proper documentation, trying to drive the 250 miles to San Antonio could result in arrest or deportation. For undocumented women living in the Valley, access to a safe abortion doesn’t exist.

Even with proper documentation, 500 miles round-trip is an expensive journey on top of the high procedure costs. Aside from being so geographically isolated it might as well be an offshore island, Hidalgo County, which houses most of the cities in the Valley, is among the lowest income counties in the U.S. Many women have a difficult time affording the procedure costs alone. Add gas money, multiple physician payments, care for any children she may already have, several days off of work, and hotel costs that may be required thanks to Texas’ mandatory waiting period on abortions, and the cost of the procedure becomes at least five times more expensive.

Six months of emptiness

On the night of March 6, a candlelight vigil was held at Whole Woman’s to mourn the death of the clinic and commemorate the women it has helped for over thirty years. The same journal entries Wendy Davis read almost a year before were passed out to the large crowd that gathered there. The entries were read aloud by candlelight. Afterwards, everybody left and didn’t return until this past Thursday, exactly six months later.

The clinic was forced to stop providing abortions when HB2 went into effect on October 29. The provision that killed the McAllen clinic is the one requiring admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. “That’s the biggest problem we’ve had in McAllen.” Andrea says. “We applied at every possible hospital. We needed a local physician to agree to be our emergency backup in writing and submit the application to the hospital, and none of them wanted to do that. Some of the doctors just did not want to be part of abortion care.” She also says some local doctors personally agreed and wanted to help the clinic, but didn’t want to risk losing patients by supporting abortion. When one physician finally did request admitting applications from a hospital board, the clinic was rejected immediately. “They didn’t explain why,” Andrea says. “They simply said it has nothing to do with our medical abilities.”

With no other option, Whole Woman’s Health was forced to stop providing abortions. Patients who had followed all of Texas’ other rules—like a mandated sonogram and in-person physician counseling session at least 24 hours before the abortion—showed up at the clinic for their procedures, not knowing their rights had changed overnight. “They would point to the doctor and say, “He’s right there, why aren’t you going to see me, he’s right there,” Andrea recalls. “We had to explain that this had nothing to do with the doctor being here, the law just changed.”

For five months, the clinic remained open, providing other routine services like pap smears, well-woman exams and prenatal care. But Whole Woman’s specialty is abortion—it’s the largest service the clinic provides. “Abortion is a specialized service not because the medicine is too difficult—because it’s not,” Andrea says. “We chose abortion because it’s a very stigmatized subject surrounded by lots of controversy. Women feel alone because nobody’s talking about it. And we love to have those conversations.”

While providing gynecological services is necessary, without the ability to provide their primary service, the clinic could no longer sustain itself financially. Whole Woman’s locations in McAllen and Beaumont closed their doors on March 6. A livestream video feed joined the two clinics as they mourned the loss together with candlelight vigils.

While the clinic was closed, volunteer efforts around the region helped over a dozen women access care in other cities. But Andrea says that many women, when left with no other option for almost a year, began seeking illegal abortion drugs in Mexico. McAllen may be 250 miles from San Antonio, but the Mexican city of Reynosa is only 10 miles away. Misoprostol, one of the two medications used in a pill-induced abortion, can be carried back into the country because its main use is treating gastric ulcers. It’s sold in Mexico in 28-pill bottles for a mere $19.50. That’s less expensive than transportation to San Antonio alone. Andrea says that when “everybody knows that if there’s not an abortion clinic in McAllen and you can’t go to San Antonio, you can try to get the pills from Mexico.”

While that works for some lucky women, it doesn’t work for everyone. If taken incorrectly, the complications range from a simple stomachache to excessive bleeding, incomplete abortion, infertility and death. Andrea has seen some of these women at the McAllen clinic—they were fortunate enough to see a physician in time. That’s why the clinic is so crucial for women in the Valley: it was the only safe place they could turn to for the care they need.

The first weekend back

Good news came to the Valley on August 29 when a district court in Austin overturned the admitting privileges provision of HB2. Shortly after the ruling, Whole Woman’s McAllen announced they would open again in two weeks in order to meet the incredible demand in the region. Former staff members came from all over the state to McAllen to set up a clinic that’s been sitting empty since they left.

“By the time I got to the clinic there was already a group of volunteers waiting for us — they had heard the news that we were going to reopen and just showed up,” Andrea says. She was still calling old staff members on the drive down from San Antonio, where she now lives. She says she had to come back home for something like this, something this huge.

Many of the old staff members returned to the McAllen clinic to help women like they did in the “old days” before HB2, as Andrea calls them. All weekend long, the clinic was full of energy. Over 20 women booked appointments for opening day, and 25 made appointments for Saturday. The regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Andrea, the staff and a team of volunteers were there past 9 p.m. both Friday and Saturday night. Andrea says the late hours aren’t a problem. “We’ve gone through so much sorrow, stress, heartbreak in the last year, to finally catch a break and be able to do this and say yes and welcome everybody in, it’s wonderful. We weren’t going to say no to anybody.”

On Saturday morning, the McAllen clinic opened to a full schedule and a horde of over 20 protesters standing on the sidewalk a few inches away from the edge of the property. “They’ve always been there,” Andrea says. “Some of the worst picketing Whole Woman’s has had is in McAllen.” The clinic built a wooden security fence on two sides of the backside parking lot to protect its patients, but the sidewalk is still public. As patients pulled into the lot, protesters stuck pamphlets with gruesome and inaccurate images of aborted and miscarried fetuses through the fence and yelled at the patients all the way to the clinic doors.

The staff of the McAllen clinic were prepared. Standing on the edge of the property, just inside the fence and boundary that separates the protesters from picketing and trespassing, were five volunteers in t-shirts with slogans like “Vigilantes” and “Fight With Texas.” All between the ages of 22 and 33, their main job was to escort the patients down the sidewalk and up to the shrouded front door. They’re there to protect the patients from the picketers. One of the volunteers is Sofia, a 26-year-old social work student at The University of Texas Pan-American and a mother to a five-year-old girl. She says earlier that morning, several especially aggressive picketers had her cornered against a wall. At one point, a 22-year-old volunteer named Sam, stood between a yelling picketer and the car window of a patient. Facing directly towards the gruesome, glossy poster the picketer was holding up, Sam stood unmoving until the patient exited her car and walked into the clinic.

Inside the clinic, away from the protesters, the atmosphere was optimistic and energetic, despite the full schedules and long hours. Ruth Arick, a consultant with Choice Pursuits, a company that focuses on consulting and training in women’s healthcare services, came to McAllen to help Whole Woman’s through their opening weekend. Ruth, who now lives in Florida, has worked all over the country in abortion services since 1975. She’s been involved with or worked in over 300 facilities in the country, including the Whole Woman’s clinic in McAllen. She says the mood inside the McAllen clinic this weekend was “tail-waggin’ happy” until the very last patient of the day left sometime after 9 p.m.

The future

On September 12th, the Fifth Circuit court will meet to decide whether or not to enforce the HB2 provision that requires all abortion providers to meet the same standards as an ambulatory surgical center. This would close the McAllen clinic back down. HB2 would leave only seven clinics open in the state of Texas.

For now, the team at the McAllen clinic remains hopeful. Ruth says she just keeps picturing the party that the clinic will have when the legislation is overturned on the 12th. That’s how she makes it through the hard days.

With the McAllen clinic open again, the Rio Grande Valley has much better access to care than they did only a week ago. Undocumented women are able to receive care at Whole Woman’s. Women no longer have to travel to San Antonio, or take on the risks of self-administering misoprostol pills. With organizations like theLilith Fund,Fund Texas Choiceand Whole Woman’s own action fund, procedure costs are much more manageable for even low-income women in South Texas. At least for now, life is much safer for women living in the Valley.

The women in the Rio Grande Valley have ways of taking care of each other. Andrea still calls the McAllen clinic home and couldn’t stay away throughout the reopening. Staff members convened from all over to be back providing the care they love to give to community women. Ruth shows her compassion by crying with patients who feel lost or confused; it comforts them to feel like they’re not alone.

The young volunteers also all belong to various grassroots feminist groups in the region. They say feminism in the Valley looks a little different than it does in the rest of the country. “We’ve always been feminist, just a different kind of feminist,” Sofia says of the Valley. “It’s the radical notion that every women who stays at home and takes care of the family is feminist, or can be feminist.”

In the Valley, feminist movements come in the form of attending a candlelit vigil when the last clinic for 250 miles closes. They come in the form of a self-organized group of volunteers standing in a hot, Texas parking lot, getting berated by their own community members from the sidewalk. They come in the form of a human shield surrounding a frightened abortion patient walking to the doors of Whole Woman’s, aggressive protesters following close behind. They come in the form of a group of women opening up a clinic they’d had to abandon six months ago with just a few day’s notice.

It’s this distinct type of feminism that Andrea, Ruth, and the volunteers say must be acknowledged when discussing reproductive rights in the Rio Grande Valley. “People don’t understand that this is a way of life for people who live here,” says Melissa, a volunteer. “For Chicana women in the Valley, we are all about intersectionality. We can’t talk about reproductive justice without talking about undocumented folks, we can’t talk about it without talking about faith.”

In the continuing saga of HB2, there’s no way to predict what the court will decide on September 12th, or how long the clinic could be open. It could be only one more weekend, or it could be indefinitely. The only plans now involve seeing as many patients as they can with the time they have. And if the clinic is closed down again, Andrea, Ruth, and the volunteers will keep fighting like they have been since last summer.

Of course, a clinic closure would leave the Valley isolated once again, and abortion essentially illegal — 40 years after Roe V. Wade — in a southern corner of the United States. “They say you can never overturn Roe V. Wade,” Andrea says, “but they were successful in McAllen. When you don’t have access, abortion is illegal.” If the new legislation is passed, the McAllen clinic, along with 12 other Texas clinics, will be forced to close. If the legislation is overturned, you’ll be able to find Ruth, Andrea, the staff of Whole Woman’s McAllen and a team of volunteers throwing the party Ruth pictures in her head every day, celebrating the freedom of women in Texas, the Rio Grande Valley, and beyond.

Texas Senate Approves Strict Abortion Measure

The Texas Senate gave final passage on Friday to one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country, legislation championed by Gov. Rick Perry, who rallied the Republican-controlled Legislature late last month after a Democratic filibuster blocked the bill and intensified already passionate resistance by abortion-rights supporters.

The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and hold abortion clinics to the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers, among other requirements. Its supporters say that the strengthened regulations for the structures and doctors will protect women’s health; opponents argue that the restrictions are actually intended to put financial pressure on the clinics that perform abortions and will force most of them to shut their doors.

Mr. Perry applauded lawmakers for passing the bill, saying, “Today the Texas Legislature took its final step in our historic effort to protect life.” Legislators and anti-abortion activists, he said, “tirelessly defended our smallest and most vulnerable Texans and future Texans.”

Debate over the bill has ignited fierce exchanges between lawmakers and tense confrontations between opponents of the bill, who have worn orange, and supporters of the bill, wearing blue. Signs and slogans have been everywhere, bearing long, impassioned arguments or the simple scrawl on a young man’s orange shirt, a Twitter-esque “@TXLEGE: U R dumb.”

The bill had come nearly this far before: a version had been brought to the Senate in the previous session of the Legislature, in June, and was killed by State Senator Wendy Davis, a Democrat from Fort Worth, with an 11-hour filibuster that stalled the bill until after the deadline for ending the session. The filibuster became a sensation on Twitter and other forms of social media, with more than 180,000 people viewing the filibuster live online.

Almost immediately, however, Mr. Perry called for another special session to reconsider the bill, resulting in Friday night’s vote.

The fight has been heavy with symbols. The House bill’s author, Representative Jodie Laubenberg, a Republican from Parker, dangled a pair of baby shoes before her as she spoke on Tuesday; Representative Senfronia Thompson, who offered an early amendment to the bill, was flanked by colleagues holding wire hangers, representing the brutal abortion methods they said would return if legitimate clinics were run out of business.

Ms. Laubenberg has said that the bill would close no abortion clinics, adding, “It is time these clinics put patients ahead of profits.”

Supporters of the bill in the Legislature have been angered by the language of their opponents. During floor debate on Tuesday, Representative Jason Villalba, a Republican of Dallas, said, “I shall stand with Texas women, but I shall stand here no longer and be accused of conducting a ‘war on women.’ ” He said, “We care for and we fight for human baby lives,” and showed a sonogram of his own child at 13 weeks. “I will fight, and I will fight, and I will fight to protect my baby.”

During the Senate debate, the dean of the Senate, John Whitmire, who is a Democrat, angrily told Senator Dan Patrick, a Republican, “I can’t sit here and let you question my faith.”

The bill was opposed by many doctors, including leaders of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Texas Medical Association; the gynecologists’ group has run advertisements locally that question the scientific underpinnings of the legislation and tell legislators to “Get out of our exam rooms.”

The Senate took up the bill Friday afternoon, and people had begun lining up for seats in the third-floor Senate gallery early in the morning. Department of Public Safety officers, their numbers swelled in anticipation of crowds and tumult, searched every bag and confiscated anything that could be thrown — including, for part of the day and until the practice became an object of derision online, tampons. Department officials said the searches had turned up jars “suspected to contain” urine, feces and paint, along with glitter and confetti, but offered no proof.

Senators worked through the evening surrounded by commotion and ruckus. Shouts, chants and singing could be heard outside the chamber, and as the final amendment was voted down, protesters tried to chain themselves to the railing of the Senate gallery and were removed.

Emotions were high within the Senate chamber as well. Senator Kirk Watson, a Democrat who represents Austin, said that Republicans who do not like the phrase “war on women” should consider the fact that “women don’t understand why you keep coming after them.” Mr. Patrick retorted in his own speech, “I suggest babies are thinking the same thing.”

The passage of the bill, by a vote of 19 to 11 just before midnight, was no surprise. Hours earlier, Senator Royce West, a Democrat who represents Dallas, asked lawmakers to add one of the 20 proposed amendments, but said: “The die is cast. We know the bill is going to pass.”

To explain why he and his colleagues continued to fight when the outcome was certain, Mr. Watson, the chairman of the Senate Democratic caucus, earlier in the week posted aFacebook photo showing an orange T-shirt bearing a statement: “A foregone conclusion has never stopped a group of citizens committed to ideals of democracy and liberty from taking a stand and fighting with everything they’ve got. This is Texas, baby. Remember the Alamo.”

The next step will be a court challenge to the new law almost before Mr. Perry’s signature has time to dry; the many proposed amendments and discussion of them were clearly intended to build a record that could eventually be reviewed by the courts.

In closing her own speech late Friday, Ms. Davis told the groggy lawmakers, those in the gallery and beyond, “The fight for the future of Texas is just beginning.”

May I mindfully present to the public the Texas Republicans’ “three strikes” against Wendy Davis that justified breaking her filibuster:

  1. Mentioning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that solidified a woman’s right to an abortion. This was deemed by Senate Republicans to be “off-topic.”
  2. Wendy Davis receiving assistance in putting on her back brace
  3. Mentioning sonograms, which, if you’ll recall, are required by Texas law for all women planning to receive an abortion. This was also deemed “off-topic.”

Meanwhile, Texas Republicans attempted to redefine “the session ends at midnight” by claiming noise in the gallery justified extra time to vote (LAW states that the session ends at 12:00), while simultaneously claiming the vote was finished before midnight, changed the timestamps of the vote on their website from after midnight to before, and confused multiple senators on whether they were voting on the bill or the “previous question”.

Women Are Still Being Denied The Full Benefits Of Roe v. Wade
Abortion access is becoming a right on paper without also being a practical reality.

Friday marks the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. At this point, many Americans may assume that it’s easier than ever to access abortion services — but nothing could be further from the truth.

Legal abortion, proven to be both life-saving and essential to the economic security of women and their families, was a critical step in this nation’s journey toward gender equity. Roe was profound not only because it affirmed women’s basic right to health care and well-being through abortion care, but also because it ushered in medical standards and regulations that ensured women were safe during the procedure.

Expanding access to abortion care also bolstered the success of the then-newly established Title X program, which provides family planning services to low-income and uninsured families. Women gained unprecedented access to more doctors, enjoyed insurance coverage for the full range of comprehensive reproductive health services, and saw the ability to manage their fertility for the first time. This had a ripple effect on their ability to pursue educational and economic opportunities. In short, Roe gave many women control of their destinies.

However, history shows us that women have been denied the full benefits of Roe for decades.

Just seven years after the Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to abortion, the justices upheld the Hyde Amendment, a budget rider approved annually to this day that prevents women covered by Medicaid from using their insurance to pay for abortion services. Then, in 1992, the Supreme Court held in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey that a state could restrict an abortion procedure as long as it did not pose an undue burden on women seeking the service. Ever since, states have increasingly sought ways to encroach upon a woman’s ability to access abortion care. More than 200 state-level abortion restrictions have been enacted since 2010 — almost the same number as the total number enacted in the 15 previous years.

And this year, the Supreme Court will hear Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, the most significant women’s health case since Casey. Whole Women’s Health, a Texas-based reproductive health clinic, is challenging a Texas state law passed in 2013 that requires abortion providers to meet expensive and unnecessary regulations — including complying with the standards of ambulatory surgical centers and obtaining admitting privileges from local hospitals.

Whole Women’s Health amplifies how far we have strayed as nation from the promise of Roe, and how much remains at stake. The Supreme Court could affirm Roe in a manner that enables the right to abortion and ensures access for the most vulnerable women in Texas. Or the Court could deliver another ruling that further strips away this precious liberty for far too many women.

Should the Supreme Court uphold the Texas law, there could be dire consequences not simply for abortion care, but also for other reproductive health services like family planning and pregnancy-related care. States would have the legal cover to restrict other reproductive health procedures through legislation that is neither medically necessary nor grounded in evidence — expanding harmful legislative interference with medicine. Additionally, restrictions imposed on vital health services force women to forgo necessary services or risk their economic security to access services in other places.

Conservatives have already proven they are willing to sacrifice broader health care access for the sake of targeting abortion. For years, laws knows as the Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) have been enacted under the guise of “protecting women’s health,” despite the fact that abortion is one of the safest and most highly regulated procedures in the United States. In 2015, conservatives at the state level attempted to defund Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest women’s health service provider, by claiming that Title X dollars were being used to fund abortions rather than family planning and cancer screenings. And upon returning in the New Year, Congress presented a reconciliation bill to the President — which he quickly vetoed — that not only defunded Planned Parenthood but also gutted Obamacare.

Across the country, women are fighting daily for the economic stability and mobility of the families. Their ability to realize their full potential is inextricably linked to their ability to determine for themselves if and when they will parent, as well as whether they have the opportunity to raise their children safely and securely with a full range of comprehensive reproductive health services.

Abortion access cannot simply be a right on paper without also being a practical reality for those women. On this 43rd anniversary of Roe, we must reflect on how far we are from realizing its promise and recommit ourselves to ensuring universal access to reproductive health services that includes abortion access for all women in need — regardless of their race, zip code, region, or source of insurance.

Heidi Williamson is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Women’s Health and Rights program at the Center for American Progress.

I shudder to think what would happen if Roe was overturned and Texas HB2 is still intact.

h/t: Heidi Williamson at Think Progress

The U.S. Just Got a D+ on Reproductive Health and Rights
The Population Institute last week released its annual 50-state report card on reproductive health and rights, and it points to alarming disparities. Four states received an A (California, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington), but 19 states received a failing grade and the U.S. grade fell from a C to a D+.

“What accounts for all this? Attacks on Planned Parenthood, including physical assaults, are jeopardizing the ability of women to access contraception and other reproductive health care services. At the same time, there are efforts to cut comprehensive sex education in schools and threats to the progress we’ve made in reducing teen pregnancies. 

It was a bad report card for 2015, but it could get much worse in 2016 as Congress inches ever closer to cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood, slashing support for sex education programs, and eliminating Title X, the federal program that funds many family-planning clinics serving low-income households. Also, the U.S Supreme Court could uphold Texas abortion restrictions that have devastated clinic access in the state, thereby encouraging other states to infringe upon the reproductive rights of women.

The outlook in Congress is particularly threatening. In 2015 the U.S. House of Representatives voted seven times to defund Planned Parenthood, an action that would deny millions of women access to the health care provider of their choice. The U.S. House Appropriations Committee votedagain in 2015 to eliminate all funding for Title X, an action that would deny millions of women access to contraception and other vital healthcare services.

State actions on reproductive health and rights also contributed to the low grade received by the U.S. for 2015. Abortion restrictions in Texas and in other states have forced the closures of numerous family-planning clinics. Worse still, the physical assaults on family planning clinics, which range from vandalism to the devastating shooting that occurred at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, will have a chilling effect, deterring some women from accessing abortions and other services.

About half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and limiting access to contraceptive services and sex education will only increase the number of unwanted pregnancies and, of course, the demand for abortions. This is crazy. A woman’s reproductive health should not depend on her income or where she lives, but increasingly it does. There are growing disparities between states and even between communities, as state laws and policies now vary widely, and clinics are closing in poor urban areas and remote rural communities.

Last year was a terrible one for reproductive health and rights in the U.S., but 2016 could be even worse. Stay informed. More importantly, get involved. Or next year’s report card will be a whole lot worse.”

Read the full piece here



Anti-Abortion Extremists Behind Videos Indicted

Yesterday, a Houston grand jury indicted David Daleiden, the founder and self-proclaimed leader of the anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress, on criminal charges, including one felony charge. The grand jury also cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of all wrongdoing.

Congress and 11 states have found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood. The only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind the fraudulent smear videos.

We’re glad they’re being held accountable — but that hasn’t stopped extremists from using the videos as justification for pushing their anti-abortion agenda. Read more: http://ppact.io/1Pi6O6O