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“Republican’s Right-To-Discriminate Debate”: At The Intersection Of Reproductive Choices And Discrimination

Under current law, in every state in the union, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That, however, is the floor – some areas choose to go further.

Irin Carmon recently reported on a new policy in the nation’s capital, where policymakers approved a bold new law – the “D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act” – which adds “reproductive decision-making to anti-discrimination provisions.”

So, for example, an employee in D.C. cannot be fired for being on birth control, using in vitro fertilization, exercising her right to terminate a pregnancy, or getting pregnant outside of marriage. Those are private matters, the D.C. law says, which cannot serve as the basis for a dismissal.

As it turns out, this quickly became the latest twist in the right-to-discriminate debate, and Roll Call reported late last week on congressional Republicans intervening in city law.

In a largely symbolic move, the House voted mostly down party lines late Thursday night to block a District of Columbia bill that D.C. officials say would combat workplace discrimination.

A corps of mainly Republicans passed a joint resolution of disapproval 228-192…. Conservatives argued the act could force employers to violate their religious beliefs.

It was, the article noted, the “first time in nearly 25 years the entire House voted to block a D.C. law.”

The ridiculous push from House GOP lawmakers didn’t change city policy – the Senate chose not to act on the matter – and the local law took effect over the weekend.

But as it turns out, there’s a presidential angle to this.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took it upon himself to go after the D.C. anti-discrimination policy, issuing this press release on Friday.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, released the following statement urging Congress to formally disapprove of the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA) recently passed by the District of Columbia in order to protect First Amendment rights for D.C. citizens.

“The D.C. Council has proposed two measures that trample the very rights the First Amendment was designed to protect – the right of citizens to freely practice their faith,” Sen. Cruz said. “The Constitution gives Congress the authority to exercise jurisdiction over the District of Columbia ‘in all cases whatsoever.’ And both the House and Senate have a constitutional duty to protect citizens’ religious liberty, as enshrined in the First Amendment.

The Senate GOP leadership ignored Cruz’s cries, but Roll Call reported this week that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) “appears to support the effort to block the law.”

In other words, two Republican presidential candidates apparently believe employers should be able to fire workers if bosses don’t like employees’ personal reproductive-health decisions. One of the two candidates is ostensibly from the GOP’s libertarian wing.

This strikes me as a great litmus-test issue for the rest of the Republicans’ 2016 field. How about it, candidates? Should Americans lose their jobs if their employers disapprove of their reproductive choices?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2015

May 9, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Catering To A Small Minority Of Voters”: Don’t Be Fooled; Republicans Are Still As Extreme On Abortion As Ever

A group of Republican men took to the House floor on Wednesday evening and delivered emotional speeches about the need to restrict women’s right to abortion. “A deeply personal issue,” Utah representative Chris Smith noted without a trace of irony, before musing on the pleasures of being a grandfather. Ted Yoho of Florida likened fetuses to an endangered species. “How can we as a nation have laws that protect the sea turtle or bald eagle, but yet refuse to protect the same of our own species?” he asked.

Their speeches anticipated a vote on the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy. Originally scheduled for Thursday, the vote has now been indefinitely “delayed” because the bill, it turns out, was too extreme even for some members of the GOP. A number of female members objected to a provision that would have exempted rape victims from the ban only after they reported to police. Dissent grew throughout the week, and with as many as two-dozen Republicans ready to vote against the bill by late Wednesday, leaders pulled the whole thing.

Oh, well. Republicans immediately found another piece of bad meat to throw the mass of anti-abortion protestors who descended on Washington on Thursday for the annual March for Life: the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act Titled just as misleadingly as the “Pain-Capable” legislation, this bill would have the most damaging effects in the private insurance marketplace, as Medicaid and other publicly funded programs are already barred from covering abortion services. House Republicans passed that legislation Thursday afternoon, as the anti-choice chants echoed across Capitol Hill.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, the bill “could result in the entire private insurance market dropping abortion coverage, thereby making such coverage unavailable to anyone.” It would permanently codify bans on abortion coverage for federal employees, residents of the District of Columbia, female inmates, women insured through the Indian Health Service, and women covered by Medicaid. It would also raise taxes on most small businesses.

The pivot was pure pandering. Representative Trent Franks, who introduced the twenty week ban along with Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn, had noted previously that the vote was scheduled for the same day at the March for Life because of the “symbolism.” Many of the members who spoke on Wednesday in support of the ban gave more attention to promoting the march than to bill itself. “This week, the defenders of life in the thousands have and will come to Washington DC to support the sanctity of life,” said New Jersey Representative Chris Smith. “I want them to know we will keep fighting to defend the silent, unborn child.”

While reproductive rights groups received the failure of the twenty-week ban with glee, they quickly condemned the scramble to find a substitute bill. “Today’s exercise in the House is not about making public policy, nor is it about helping American women and families. It is about catering to a small minority of voters—anti-abortion activists who are descending on Washington for their annual march,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President (and Nation contributor) Ilyse Hogue in a statement released Thursday.

It’s tempting to probe the political significance of a few female Republicans having the will, and enough muscle, to scuttle a bill that passed the House in similar form just two years ago. Maybe this one instance in which GOP leaders resisted the far-right fringe signals they’re finally waking up to the conclusion, encapsulated in the 2012 election post-mortem, that the party’s long-term success depends on women and minorities. And maybe not. (Call me when the House takes up immigration reform.)

But don’t overestimate the practical significance. Republicans are increasingly policing their optics and broadening their rhetoric—read Ran Paul’s rebuttal to the State of the Union for some silver tongue work concerning poverty, for example—but they are not ending their siege of legal abortion at the federal level or in the states, where the worst damage is being done. This would not be the first time that a high-level Republican chose not to highlight their extreme anti-woman principles and yet stuck to them. The twenty-week ban is likely to come up again this year, and it would be a dangerous bill even with a broader exception for rape victims. And out of the shadow of the March for Life, a vote will still be merely symbolic, as it’s unlikely to get through the Senate or to cross the president’s desk without a veto.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, January 22, 2015

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Reproductive Choice, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Choice Is Yours”: Demand That Those Who Ask For Your Vote Stand Up For Choice As Well

December 30, 1994 was the second day of infamy in this country.

That day, a radical anti-abortion activist named John Salvi murdered two employees–Shannon Lowney, 25, and Lee Ann Nichols, 38–at two Planned Parenthood facilities in Brookline, Massachusetts, and shot and wounded five others. He was later apprehended in Norfolk, Virginia after attacking another women’s health clinic.

This domestic terrorist was found guilty of murder in March 1996; he hanged himself in his prison cell just a few months later. (In 1997, his conviction was posthumously vacated on a technicality.)

Salvi was one of many depraved anti-abortion zealots who couldn’t stand the fact that women had the right to choose in this country. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow noted earlier this year:

Some of the people who were witnesses to [the Salvi] shooting were people who were there at the clinic working as clinic escorts because of the hostile and intimidating and occasionally violent intense protests that had been happening regularly outside of those clinics.

That day when John Salvi went into the two clinics in Brookline and opened fire and he shot all those people, there were antiabortion protesters right outside the clinic when he did it, as he did it. At the Brookline Planned Parenthood where he killed a 25-year-old receptionist that day, the protesters outside the clinic [attempted] to intimidate people [by] filming everybody as they arrived to work at the clinic, filming people as they arrived to volunteer, filming people who were working as escorts for patients coming into the clinic. And they filmed the patients, themselves, including taking great pains to be seen videotaping their license plates, trying to be very intimidating and very scary to people so they wouldn`t go into that clinic.

But that day when John Salvi got into that clinic and shot it up and he killed the receptionist and wounded other people, as they brought the bodies of the wounded and the killed out of that clinic that day, the antiabortion protesters in the parking lot, they kept filming. They filmed that, too.

I was seventeen years old when the Salvi shooting happened, and it rattled me to the core. Growing up in Massachusetts, I frankly took legal abortion for granted; in the Bay State, even the Republicans were pro-choice (and still are, as it turns out). I was stunned to learn that there were so many folks who were still angry over the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling…so angry that they would actually result to murder in order to effectively overturn the ruling.

As Maddow has noted over the years, the radical anti-abortion movement has seemingly grown stronger and stronger in the years since Salvi’s terrorist attack. Anti-abortion radicalism has also been legitimized in our media: remember Bill O’Reilly’s crusade against Kansas physician George Tiller, a crusade that only ended when Tiller was assassinated in 2009?

Every day that we allow access to legal abortion to be restricted anywhere in this country, we give aid and comfort to these radicals. Every day that we choose not to stand up in absolute defense of a woman’s right to choose, we give another victory to these deranged deviants. Every day that we turn a blind eye to the importance of defending Roe, we help the haters.

The Salvi shootings were a savage signal that a woman’s right to choose is literally under assault in this country. The radical anti-abortion terrorist network in the United States is far more dangerous than ISIS. These people want to murder democracy just as much as they want to murder doctors who provide reproductive services.

We need to defend women’s reproductive rights with renewed intensity in this country. We need to demand that every man and woman we elect pledge allegiance to the sacred right to choose. We need to insist that Roe v. Wade be accorded the same respect we accord to Brown v. Board of Education.

Twenty years ago, my heart broke for Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, two bright, beautiful, bold young women who were mercilessly slaughtered by a right-wing fiend who decided to do with a bullet what he could not do with a ballot. Twenty years later, my heart breaks again, because I know I haven’t been as vigilant in defending a woman’s right to choose as I should have been. I know I let choice slip way down on my list of political priorities. I know I didn’t remember their heroism and their legacy.

Although they are gone, felled by a fanatic, I apologize to Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols for not being as vigilant as I should have been in defending a woman’s right to choose. I ask their families for forgiveness. I promise that I will stand up for choice, and I will demand that those who ask for my vote stand up for choice as well.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 27, 2014

December 28, 2014 Posted by | Reproductive Choice, Roe v Wade, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stealth Personhood”: Colorado Antichoicers Have Gotten Craftier About Framing Their Next Ballot Text

Since there’s been more discussion of “Personhood” initiatives this year than in past years, and since Colorado’s a state where such initiatives have been voted down twice, it’s worth being aware that the Colorado antichoicers have gotten craftier about framing their next ballot text. This time around, they’re trying to amend the state’s criminal code and wrongful death law to include the “unborn” in the definition homicide. Here’s a report from TNR’s Jessica Schulberg:

The initiative has tied its campaign to the story of a 29-year-old woman named Heather Surovik. In 2012, Surovik was 8-months pregnant with her third child when a drunk driver struck her car. The unborn baby, whom she planned to call Brady—the initiative is also known as the “Brady Amendment”—did not survive the crash. The driver, Gary Sheats, pleaded guilty to drunk driving and vehicular assault. But Surovik felt that at 8 pounds and 2 ounces, Brady warranted the same protections under criminal law as a living being. She wanted Sheats charged with homicide as well.

Sympathetic as this story is, the amendment could have truly damaging consequences for women’s reproductive freedom. “Amendment 67 is extremely misleading in its language,” said Diana Hsieh, Ph.D, in a recent press release by the Coalition for Secular Government. “The proponents of the measure apparently want voters to believe that it is about protecting pregnant women from vicious criminal attacks, but the reality is that the measure would treat women as murderers for getting an abortion or even for using certain types of birth control or in vitro fertility treatments,” she added.

It’s an even bigger bait-and-switch than all those “medical regulations” that are shutting down abortion clinics around the country under the guise of protecting “women’s health.” And its prospects rely entirely on perpetuating that deception. It’s unlikely to work, but it’s still reprehensible. Colorado voters clearly don’t want to make zygotes quasi-citizens, or create a legal foundation for attacks on early-term abortions, IV fertility clinics, or contraception. Tricking them into indicating otherwise won’t exactly enhance the already thin reputation for integrity of the antichoice folk.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, October 14, 2014

October 15, 2014 Posted by | Personhood, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Strategy Won’t Fool Women”: All The Rhetoric In The World Won’t Make Up For Republicans Opposing Pro-Women Policies

If they’re going to pull out a victory in the midterm elections, Republicans need to win over women. But they’re doing everything in their power to alienate them, from pushing extreme anti-abortion measures that even most Republican voters oppose to blocking equal-pay legislation to, well, just opening their mouths. A leading Republican congressional candidate in Georgia recently said, sure, a woman can run for office if she is “within the authority of her husband.”

A report actually commissioned by Republican groups and reported in Politico found that women view the party as “intolerant” and “stuck in the past.” The report found that women are “barely receptive” to GOP policies.

In other words, Republicans are losing female voters faster than their anti-contraception policies can produce them.

What are Republicans to do? The Republican Party seems reluctant to change its actual policies to support women’s economic and reproductive choices and, ya know, generally acknowledge the realities of modern liberated women. So instead, several Republican candidates are coming out against domestic violence in an attempt to seem sensitive to us girls and our issues. That should do the trick, right?

“My ex-husband beat me with a baseball bat, threw me in a garbage can filled with snow and left me in a frozen storage locker to die,” a woman says, looking straight at the camera, in one such ad for Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin. “At that time, I was pregnant, and I lost the child I was carrying. But I fought to stay alive for my other two children, and today I am fighting for Scott Walker.”

Similar ads have been run by Steve Daines, Republican Senate candidate in Montana, and Scott Brown, Republican Senate candidate in New Hampshire.

There’s just one problem: All the rhetoric in the world doesn’t make up for Republicans opposing and obstructing pro-women policies. It’s not just the repeated attempts to crush reproductive freedom and block equal-pay legislation; Republicans also opposed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. That’s the law that was actually supposed to do something about domestic violence, a law that Republicans blocked for over a year before finally caving and allowing it to pass.

Republicans objected to provisions in the bill that would expand domestic violence protections for Native Americans and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans; they even tried to pass their own version of the bill with these protections stripped out. Ultimately, after a year of obstructionism, Republicans allowed the more expansive and bipartisan Senate version of the act to come up for a vote in the House — and even then, a majority of Republicans voted against the measure.

Fast-forward to election season. Florida Republican Steve Southerland has one of the toughest re-election fights in the country. In the House, Southerland voted against the expanded version of the Violence Against Women Act, the version that ultimately passed, but voted for the narrow Republican version that didn’t pass. Now, Southerland is running an ad featuring a survivor of domestic violence who says, “Our congressman, Steve, is advocating for things like (the) Violence Against Women Act.” Well, kinda sorta but not really, Steve.

Southerland’s opponent, Gwen Graham, had her response ad up within 24 hours, accusing Southerland of “saying one thing in TV ads, doing the opposite in Congress.” Which basically sums up all the attempts of Republicans to appeal to female voters on rhetoric but abandon them on policy.

And to be clear, equal pay and reproductive freedom are also key to preventing domestic violence. As the National Network to End Domestic Violence writes, “Like all women, survivors of domestic violence need equal pay initiatives like the Paycheck Fairness Act. As long as women are paid less than men, most survivors will have less ability to gain financial stability and independence.” Many of these women are low-wage workers, who would also be helped by raising the minimum wage.

And a new study this week finds (PDF) that as many as one in four women who seek an abortion experience violence from an intimate partner. Women often say one primary reason for seeking an abortion is to avoid exposing their children to domestic violence. Another reason: They don’t want to remain tied to an abusive partner. According to this long-term study, when these women are able to access abortion services, their odds of being abused decrease by 7% each month after — while women who can’t get an abortion see their rates of domestic violence remain the same or even increase.

Reproductive choice, including abortion rights, and wage equity, including raising the minimum wage and passing gender-equity legislation, are key not only for all women and their families but for victims and survivors of domestic violence, for whom economic and reproductive freedom translates directly into freedom from abuse.

The Republican Party has do more than just talk about domestic violence and women’s opportunity and actually support the real policies that support women’s freedom and choices — or otherwise, women will keep choosing to vote for Democrats.

 

By: Sally Kohn, CNN Opinion, October 9, 2014

October 12, 2014 Posted by | Reproductive Choice, Republicans, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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