Trump administration rescinds Obama guidance on defunding Planned Parenthood

The Trump administration announced Friday it is rescinding guidance from the Obama administration that made it harder for states to defund Planned Parenthood.

The guidance, issued in 2016, warned states that ending Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood or other health-care providers that offer abortions could be against federal law.

The Obama administration argued Medicaid law only allowed states to bar providers from the program if those providers were unable to perform covered services or if they can’t bill for those services.

However, the Trump administration rescinded that guidance Friday in a letter to state Medicaid directors, arguing it was part of the Obama administration’s effort to favor abortion rights.

“Reinstating the pre-2016 standards frees up states to once again decide for themselves what reasonable standards they use to protect Medicaid programs and their beneficiaries,” Charmaine Yoest, assistant Health and Human Services secretary for public affairs, said in a press call with reporters Friday morning.

“This is part of the Trump administration’s effort to roll back regulations the Obama administration put out to radically favor abortion.”

Anti-abortion groups cheered the announcement Friday as another step toward defunding Planned Parenthood.

President Trump and his administration have taken … an important step toward getting American taxpayers out of funding the abortion industry, especially Planned Parenthood,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group in Washington, D.C.

She urged Congress to “finish what this pro-life administration has started” by defunding Planned Parenthood.

States such as Texas have tried to ban Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid programs but were blocked by the Obama administration.

While rescinding the guidance won’t automatically allow states to ban Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid programs, it signals that the administration supports such efforts.

Texas submitted a request to the Trump administration last year requesting permission to bar Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program, but the administration has not yet responded.

Approval from the administration would likely spark similar efforts in other conservatives states but also would encourage legal challenges.

Planned Parenthood on Friday said rescinding the guidance would effectively encouraging states to block the organization from state Medicaid programs.

“They couldn’t get the votes to pass it in Congress, so now they are pushing states to try and block care at Planned Parenthood,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president for Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

“Without Planned Parenthood, many of our patients would lose access to health care altogether — either because there are no other providers in their community or because other clinics cannot serve all of our patients.”

he administration has already taken several actions in President Trump’s first year in office supporting its anti-abortion stance.

In April, Trump signed legislation that nullified an Obama-era rule that effectively barred state and local governments from withholding federal funding for family planning services to groups that provide abortions.

The announcement on Friday comes the same day as the March for Life, an annual march against abortion in Washington, D.C.

Trump is set to speak at the march live via video, the first president to do so.

Also set to speak at the event are House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and GOP Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.) and Chris Smith (N.J.)

[The Hill]

The Justice Department Declares War on Attorneys Who Dare to Oppose the Trump Administration

On Friday, the Department of Justice filed an astonishing appeal with the Supreme Court, urging the justices to intervene in the Jane Doe case that seemed to have ended last week. Doe, an undocumented 17-year-old in a federally funded Texas shelter, was denied abortion access by the Trump administration, which argues that it can force undocumented minors to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. On Oct. 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Doe must be allowed to terminate her pregnancy, which she did the next day. Now the DOJ is urging the Supreme Court to vacate that decision—and punish the ACLU attorneys who represented Doe.

Make no mistake: With this filing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department has declared war on attorneys and groups who dare to oppose it in court.

Because Doe obtained her abortion, Friday’s appeal might seem pointless, presenting no live controversy for the justices to adjudicate. But the DOJ has three goals here. First, it wants the Supreme Court to punish the D.C. Circuit for issuing a decision that it believes to be egregiously wrong by wiping the entire ruling off the books. Second, the DOJ wants to eradicate a decision that sets a legal precedent it despises. Doe’s lawsuit was initially brought as part of a class action, and the ACLU will continue to litigate its broader claim against the Trump administration’s absolute bar on abortion access for undocumented minors. As long as the D.C. Circuit’s decision remains on the books, those lawsuits are almost guaranteed to succeed. The Justice Department wants it gone so that it can litigate this issue anew.

Third, and most importantly, Friday’s appeal is a flagrant effort to crucify the individual attorneys who represented Doe, and to terrify likeminded lawyers into acquiescence. The DOJ thus asks the Supreme Court to force Doe’s lawyers to “show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken” against the ACLU—either by the court itself or by state bars—for “material misrepresentations and omissions” designed to thwart an appeal.

In other words, the DOJ is using the full weight of a government agency to threaten professional ruin upon the lawyers who defended Jane Doe’s constitutional right to abortion access.

The DOJ claims that after the D.C. Circuit ruled in Doe’s favor on Oct. 24, government attorneys believed they had until Oct. 26 until Doe got her abortion. Under Texas law, women must obtain “counseling” at least 24 hours before terminating her pregnancy, and this counseling must be performed by the same physician who performs the procedure. Doe had already received this counseling from a Texas doctor when the D.C. Circuit issued its decision. According to the DOJ, ACLU lawyers told the government that this physician would not be working and that Doe would receive another counseling appointment on the morning of October 25, and get the abortion to October 26. Government lawyers asked to be kept informed of the timing of the procedure, and they claim that ACLU lawyers agreed to comply with their request. They also say that the DOJ planned to ask for a stay on Oct. 25—but on that same morning, ACLU attorneys arranged for Doe to visit the doctor who had already counseled her, allowing him to perform the procedure.

Put differently, the government argues that the ACLU owed government lawyers a notification of when Doe’s legal abortion would occur. The end goal here seems to have been to try to continue to block the abortion until it would be illegal to terminate, even though she had secured an unqualified right to do so. (Doe was 16 weeks pregnant by that point; Texas bans abortion after 20 weeks, and the government had already delayed the abortion by a month.) The DOJ also claims that Doe’s lawyers had the responsibility to keep answering their phone calls to update them on her status: “Efforts to reach respondent’s counsel were met with silence, until approximately 10 a.m. EST, when one of her lawyers told the government that Ms. Does had undergone an abortion.”

What really seems to enrage the DOJ, however, is that Doe didn’t attend a second counseling session—which would have been duplicative and wasteful, and caused her yet more needless delay—because the physician who counseled her the first time later agreed to perform the procedure. If ever there were an indicator of the un-distilled bad faith at work here, it’s government lawyers insisting that a non-person with no rights undergo a second round of the same counseling, not for the purposes of medical advice, but so that they would have more time to thwart her choice.

These allegations of wrongdoing are laughably flimsy and outwardly vindictive. Even under the DOJ’s contorted narrative, it’s obvious that the ACLU simply acted efficiently, and the Trump administration is bitter and embarrassed that it lost. The government argues that the ACLU “at least arguably had an obligation to notify the government” that Doe would terminate on Oct. 25—an “incredibly significant development.” But that’s just not how this works. The government had sufficient time to ask the Supreme Court to stay the D.C. Circuit’s decision before Doe terminated. In fact, Texas was already prepared with its own amicus brief backing the DOJ. But the government didn’t act in time. And it’s not the ACLU’s fault that its client secured her constitutional rights while the government dallied in its efforts to exert control of her reproductive capacities. This week-late effort to blame the ACLU for its “arguable” responsibility to ensure that the government could continue to harm their client is not just an effort to save face, but also an attempt to warn attorneys that zealous effectuation of their duties to the clients will now be punished.

The Justice Department’s crusade against the ACLU is especially galling in light of the fact that there was sanctionable misconduct here—on the part of the government itself. Scott Lloyd, the official who blocked Doe and other minors from abortion access, likely violated a long-standing federal settlement agreement in his anti-abortion crusade. Under this agreement, undocumented minors like Doe must be allowed access to family planning services, which Lloyd intentionally and repeatedly withheld. He even instituted his anti-abortion views as official government policy in obvious violation of the federal settlement.

If anyone deserves to be punished here, it is surely Lloyd, who flouted the law for purely ideological purposes. But instead of investigating its own employee for potential misconduct, the government is going after Doe’s ACLU attorneys for defending her constitutional rights. This is a shocking assault on the nation’s civil rights attorneys, and an unprecedented effort by the DOJ to slander and shame those attorneys who defend their clients’ rights against the government’s abuse of the law. After today, lawyers who question the Trump administration’s legal views should be aware that they have targets on their backs.

[Slate]

Trump Pushes Fear of Non-Existent Partial Birth Abortions

In the final presidential debate, Donald Trump said he supports the federal ban on “partial-birth” abortion because, under the procedure:

“You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.”

He added that this can happen “as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth.”

(h/t NPR)

Reality

However this does not happen.

Partial birth abortions is a non-medical term the pro-life lobby National Right to Life Committee made up in the ’90s for a procedure that was outlawed in 2003 by the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, signed by President George W. Bush.

The law banned the procedure, imposing a fine and imprisonment for any physician who “knowingly performs a partial-birth abortion and thereby kills a human fetus.” The U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2007.

Trump’s erroneous claim garnered widespread criticism, as medical professionals and others explained that there is no such thing as an “abortion” at nine months.

Some 91 percent of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Only 1.3 percent of abortions happen at or after 21 weeks after conception. Of those, the vast majority happen before 24 weeks. Under the current federal ban, a dilation and extraction (D&X), or intact dilation and evacuation (D&E) — what opponents call “partial-birth” abortion — is still allowed if the life of the mother is at stake, which his guaranteed under Row vs. Wade. Still, very few providers perform it and the exact number of procedures is not known, but it’s believed to be small.

That’s because, along with the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, 19 states have their own such bans, while 43 states impose some kind of restriction on abortions later in pregnancy.

Understand that abortion is a very serious and polarizing issue to many people, but if we are to have an equally serious discussion and debate then we should be arguing the facts and realities instead of fear-based allegations, otherwise we dishonor the lives and decisions of everyone involved.

Media

Trump Toughens Anti-Women’s Health Stance

Donald Trump has recruited the influential anti-abortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser to lead his campaign’s national “Pro-Life Coalition.”

Not only that, but Trump has made a new policy promise that strengthens his anti-abortion position.

In a letter to anti-abortion leaders inviting them to join his coalition, Trump commits to a new policy: “Making the Hyde Amendment permanent law to protect taxpayers from having to pay for abortions.”It’s unusual for a Republican presidential nominee to move further to the right on abortion this late in an election cycle. And the move is a direct shot at Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whose party wrote into its platform that it would repeal the Hyde Amendment. Until this summer, the Democratic platform did not include this plank.

A longstanding policy, the Hyde Amendment bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions for Medicaid recipients except in cases of rape, incest or when pregnancy endangers the life of the mother.

Trump’s commitment to making Hyde permanent law is new, though his running mate, Mike Pence, brought up the policy at an evangelical conference over the weekend.

In the letter, released by Dannenfelser’s Susan B. Anthony List, Trump also endorses the anti-abortion movement’s two biggest legislative priorities: defunding Planned Parenthood and passing a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks.

The late-term abortion ban, known as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, has long been one of Dannenfelser’s top priorities. Support for the bill has been the key litmus test for GOP candidates seeking endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List for several election seasons.

The House approved the bill this year, though the initial vote had been abruptly cancelled after some Republicans voiced concerns about a restriction on abortion for rape victims who haven’t reported the crime to the police.

Legal experts have raised questions about whether a national 20-week ban would stand up in court, but Republicans say it is part of their long game to force the issue to reverse the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.

Trump also committed to defunding Planned Parenthood, legalizing the actions of several GOP-led states over the last year. Most of those state actions have been blocked in courts.

Trump additionally doubled down on his promise to appoint “pro-life” justices to the Supreme Court.

“Hillary Clinton’s unwavering commitment to advancing taxpayer-funded abortion on-demand stands in stark contrast to the commitments I’ve made,” Trump writes, “to advance the rights of unborn children and their mothers when elected president.”

Leaders of the anti-abortion movement were hardly quick to embrace Trump, who told an interviewer in 1999 that he supported partial-birth abortion.

But as the prospect of Clinton — a career-long advocate for abortion rights — becoming president came into focus, many anti-abortion activists sided with Trump.
Still, Trump tested their patience when he said that women should be punished for abortions if the procedure were made illegal.
Those remarks in April, which he later walked back, ignored decades of conservative doctrine on abortion, which some leaders of the movement said proved that Trump was out-of-touch with their beliefs. He arranged meetings with anti-abortion leaders, including Dannenfelser, shortly after facing the backlash.

And selecting Pence as his running mate, a trusted ally of Dannenfelser and other leaders, helped Trump immeasurably with the anti-abortion movement.
Co-chairs of the Pro-life Coalition will be announced later this month, according to SBA List’s statement. Coalition members will be asked to write op-eds, speak on Trump’s behalf on television and at public events, and recruit volunteers.

“Not only has Mr. Trump doubled down on his three existing commitments to the pro-life movement, he has gone a step further in pledging to protect the Hyde Amendment and the conscience rights of millions of pro-life taxpayers,” Dannenfelser said.

“For a candidate to make additional commitments during a general election is almost unheard of.”

Reality

Hyde Amendment means that American women — many of them women of color — who cannot afford health insurance are effectively prevented from availing themselves of a legal medical procedure that is their right and that is fundamental to their ability to exert autonomy over their reproductive lives and thus their economic and familial futures. Yes. Hillary Clinton opposes the Hyde Amendment, because it is one of the policies that exacerbates economic and racial inequality in this country.

If Donald Trump is elected president, it will likely be with a Republican congress and Supreme Court seats to fill. He could do every single one of the things he’s promising anti-abortion activists he will do. And those things would return women, in a very real way — in a way that is already happening in state and local jurisdictions around the country — to their secondary status: unable to exert full control over their bodies; barred from making choices about whether or when to bear children based on their health, their economic, or familial status, or the condition of the fetuses they carry.

Abortions accounted for 3 percent of the nearly 10.6 million total services provided by Planned Parenthood clinics in 2013, according to its annual report.

Trump Would Change GOP Platform on Abortion

Donald Trump discussing abortion on Today

Donald Trump said Thursday he would change the Republican Party platform’s position on abortion to include exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Trump made the remarks during a town hall on the “Today” show on NBC on Thursday morning when host Savannah Guthrie asked him about abortion exceptions.

“The Republican platform every four years has a provision that states that the right of the unborn child should not be infringed,” Guthrie said. “And it makes no exceptions for rape, for incest, for the life of the mother. Would you want to change the Republican platform to include the (abortion) exceptions that you have?”

“Yes, I would. Yes, I would. Absolutely,” Trump said. “For the three exceptions, I would.”
Currently, the Republican platform abortion policy reads: “We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed.”

While the official party platform doesn’t explicitly outline or endorse any abortion exceptions, GOP presidential candidates in the past have supported them, including Mitt Romney, John McCain and both Bush presidents.

Among Trump’s remaining GOP presidential rivals, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has said he opposes exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich has said he supports them.

(h/t CNN)

Reality

After flip-flopping all week about his abortion position back in March, Trump’s current positions on abortion exceptions are not out of line with some of the other candidates. Trump has also stated that women who get abortions should be faced with punishment, then backtracked and said doctors should be punished. Also in his 2000 book “The America We Deserve,” Trump then wrote that he supported a woman’s right to choose. Then changed his tune to pro-file in July 2015 after declaring his candidacy.

Abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973.

The official Republican stance on abortion is very extreme as it gives zero exceptions for any reason. Historically only 15-20% of Americans are in line with the Republican party and believe abortion should be completely illegal, compared to around 50% believing that abortion should be legal in some instances, and around 30% believe it should be legal in all instances.

Links

Historical poll results on abortion.

Donald Trump, Part-Time Abortion Foe, Eyes ‘Punishment’ for Women, Then Recants

Donald Trump discusses arresting women who get an abortion.

Donald J. Trump said that women who seek abortions should be subject to “some form of punishment” if the procedure is banned in the United States, further elevating Republican concerns that his explosive remarks about women could doom the party in the fall.

The comment, which Mr. Trump later recanted, attracted instant, bipartisan criticism — the latest in a series of high-profile episodes that have shined a light on Mr. Trump’s feeble approval ratings among women nationally.

In this case, Mr. Trump also ran afoul of conservative doctrine, with opponents of abortion rights immediately castigating him for suggesting that those who receive abortions — and not merely those who perform them — should be punished if the practice is outlawed.

The statement came as Mr. Trump appeared at a town-hall-style forum with Chris Matthews of MSNBC, recorded for broadcast on Wednesday night. Mr. Matthews pressed Mr. Trump, who once supported abortion rights, on his calls to ban the procedure, asking how he might enforce such a restriction.

“You go back to a position like they had where they would perhaps go to illegal places,” Mr. Trump said, after initially deflecting questions. “But you have to ban it.”

He added, after a bit more prodding, “There has to be some form of punishment.”

Hours later, Mr. Trump recanted his remarks, essentially in full, a rare and remarkable shift for a candidate who proudly extols his unwillingness to apologize or bow to “political correctness.”

If abortion were disallowed, he said in a statement, “the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”
“The woman is a victim in this case, as is the life in her womb,” he continued.

Reality

Donald Trump manged to anger literally every single person in the abortion debate. He upset the pro-choicers by being pro-life and his misogynistic stance to blame the woman, he upset some pro-lifers for going too far, and finally he upset the other pro-lifers for not going far enough.

Bravo, sir. Bravo.

This isn’t the first time Donald Trump flip-flopped on the abortion issue. For example in 1999 he told Meet the Press he was “very pro-choice“.

Media

Links

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/31/us/politics/donald-trump-abortion.html?_r=0

https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/donald-j.-trump-statement-regarding-abortion

Trump Makes His Third Position on Abortion This Week

Days after sparking a firestorm of criticism for his comments on abortion, Donald Trump says laws regarding abortions should remain as they are.

“At this moment the laws are set. And I think we have to leave it that way,” Trump told CBS’ “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson in an interview that will air Sunday.

“The laws are set now on abortion and that’s the way they’re going to remain until they’re changed,” Trump said at another point in the interview.

Hours after the excerpt of the new interview was released, Trump campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks denied that Trump’s comments amounted to a reversal.

“Mr. Trump gave an accurate account of the law as it is today and made clear it must stay that way now —until he is President,” Hicks said. “Then he will change the law through his judicial appointments and allow the states to protect the unborn. There is nothing new or different here.”

Reality

Actually this is the third position Donald Trump has taken this week. Usually politicians space out their flip-flops to give them a higher probably for a successful denial.

Links

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/amp/trump-ma kes-new-comments-abortion-laws-are-set-n549526?client=safari#