The Alabama legislature may have abandoned their anti-GLBT efforts, but dagnabit, somebody better get their civil rights restricted or the session just won't be a success! So naturally, their next stop is birth control and abortion.
We already have the fetal heartbeat bill pounding away in committee, but that's not nearly enough distraction from pressing issues like the state budgets, infrastructure problems, education, and amending the Alabama Accountability Act to bail out Bob Riley.
Alabama's next PSA (Please Sue Alabama) bill is HB-491, this session's incarnation of last year's "Health Care Worker Conscience Bill" aka the "I don't want to do the job you hired me to do and there's nothing you can do about it" bill.
As we noted in 2014:
For some reason, the State of Alabama thinks it's fun and easy to pick on women and limit their health care choices, but the wording of this bill, cuts both ways (so to speak). What's going to happen the first time a doctor refuses to prescribe Viagra for an unmarried man or a pharmacist denies his prescription refill based on the "moral" belief that an aging single guy doesn't have any business tomcatting around?
And, for a political party that likes to tout its "business friendly" policies, can you imagine what a nightmare this law would be for hospitals, medical offices, and pharmacies? Imagine trying to draw up a work schedule:
"Let's see, Sally won't fill birth control prescriptions without seeing a marriage license first, but Joe will, so we'll put them on shift together. Bob won't assist with fertility treatments unless the couple is Christian, married, and heterosexual and Kelly is morally opposed to sterilization and refuses to assist with tubal ligations. Then there's Andrew, the Christian Scientist, who doesn't do anything but sit all day but I can't fire him....."
HB-491 has the same guidelines, exceptions, and gives any employee the ability to sue their employer if the business, for some bizarre reason, expects them to do the job they're getting paid for.
It's an odd position for the "party against frivolous lawsuits" to hold, isn't it? A far simpler, cheaper solution is for people who have "religious objections" to health care to not pursue a career in health care. So simple. No bill required, no lawsuits to follow.
But when do our legislators ever take the easy path?
Federal court rulings be damned, Decatur Rep. Terri Collins has introduced HB-405, a "fetal heartbeat bill," that will outlaw the vast majority of abortions in Alabama if a heartbeat is detected. It's yet another time and money-wasting PSA bill that the GOP supermajority is famous for.
PSA you ask? Public service announcement? No: Please Sue Alabama.
Collins, a former board member of Decatur Sav-A-Life Pregnancy Center, said that of all the anti-abortion legislation, this one makes the most sense to her. If no heartbeat is a sign of no life, then a heartbeat is a sign of life, she said.
Similar legislation has been challenged in other states. Collins said she is aware of that, but thinks the legislation is important and educational.
“My concern right now is to move the legislation through the House,” Collins said Tuesday. “I believe that education is always a good thing. So when you talk about life, to understand that baby in the womb that you can’t see really does have a heartbeat is great education to have circulating around the state.”
Yeah, because no pregnant woman in the past 30 years has ever been offered the opportunity to hear the heartbeat during a pre-natal visit. Can you imagine the shock if this bill passes?
"What? There's something in there with a heartbeat? How did that happen? Thank goodness you told me, doctor: I thought I just needed to spend more time at the gym or buy some bigger pants."
Either the majority of our rabidly anti-choice legislators are actually stupid or they think women in Alabama are.
Waiting periods: So that women have a chance to reflect on their choice before choosing an abortion. Yeah, there was such a problem with women passing by a clinic and making a spur-of-the-moment decision to have an abortion.
Trans-vaginal ultrasounds: So a pregnant woman who wants an abortion will understand that "there's a baby in there." Is there another reason to get an abortion that I'm not aware of?
Fetal personhood: Former Senator Shadrack McGill's contribution to the dumbing down of the debate was a bill that would have given full civil liberties on a group of cells smaller than a pencil eraser. To be fair, a lot of those cells are probably smarter than he is.
The Times Daily says that similar legislation has been challenged, but fails to note that it has also been struck down as unconstitutional. That taste of forbidden constitutional fruit is well night irresistible to some members of the Alabama Legislature - and our Attorney General.
From North Dakota:
"The North Dakota strict ban on abortions at the time when a 'heartbeat' has been detected -- essentially banning all abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy -- cannot withstand a constitutional challenge," U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland wrote in his decision.
"A woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy before viability has been recognized by the United States Supreme Court for more than 40 years. The United States Supreme Court has clearly determined the dispositive issue presented in this lawsuit. This court is not free to impose its own view of the law."
Of course, that never stopped Alabma before! Previous PSA laws include:
LOL... Nothing says "I'm opposed to abortion" more than sending money to Chinese companies, right? That's what one radical anti-choice group did with its extra cash. Certainly, they won't help struggling families feed & clothe their children. No, the Pro-Life Action League bought 500 CHINESE-made handcuffs & sent them to women's clinics across the country. The clinics in Huntsville & Montgomery report getting a set along with a note encouraging them to "get out of the abortion business."
Look! It even includes a number to call! Although I have to note that offering counseling by mail (not to mention the free toys) is preferable to screaming at women from the sidewalk, but it's not really a good use of donors tax-deductible contributions. Do you suppose those donors realize that the organization is sending money to China - the "Great Satan" of forced abortion?
An ARRA volunteer drove College Girl up to the state capital, where she arrived 14 weeks pregnant at the home of another volunteer who hosted her while she was in town. Although she’d already had the state-mandated ‘counseling’ at her local Planned Parenthood clinic, she still needed to have a state-mandated ultrasound, and there was necessary lab work to be done. Her procedure was also more expensive than most because of a medical complication, but the volunteers raised every penny needed to take care of her. [...] If you need help accessing your reproductive RIGHTS in Alabama, or know someone who does, do not hesitate to contact ARRA. Their website is here and their Facebook page is here. You can also find them on Twitter here.
ARRA's financial aid fund is running low; they're hoping to collect $5,000 to replenish the fund. The goal is 500 $10 contributions in honor of the handcuff stunt.
Because I had no help nor support from any of my family or friends on my decision. - See more at: http://www.breitbartunmasked.com/2015/01/26/arra-alabamas-underground-railroad-for-reproductive-freedom/#sthash.Ei81oV0a.dpuf
Because I had no help nor support from any of my family or friends on my decision.
How would you rather your tax-deductible donations be used? To help women who have nowhere else to turn or to subsidize the activities of the handcuff charity?. Go figure - the handcuff folks get just 2 stars from Charity Navigator. ARRA doesn't have a ranking yet, but none of these volunteers are in it for the money.
See a close-up of the Chinese handcuffs on the flip.
Alabama's Big Daddies in the House - Aderholdt, Brooks, Byrne, Palmer, Rogers, & Roby - are better at making health care choices than American women. At least that's how they voted today. If, by some miracle, this becomes law, thank your Republican Congressional parents when you can't buy the insurance coverage with your own money that you think is best for you and your family.
And this is the party that railed about "putting government between you and your doctor" and "government takeover of healthcare?" You betcha.
Taking a page from the Alabama Legislature's book of "outlawing things that are already illegal," the House decided to make federal funding for abortions (the Hyde Amendment) even more illegal! In fact, they took it a bit farther. In their view, not only can the federal government decide how federal funds will be spent - they're going to decide how you can spend your own money. This isn't new. We've been fighting some version of this silliness for years. From 2011, for example:
You know when the GOP says "it's your money?" What they really mean is that it is your money - unless it's part of a government tax break. If you don't have to pay taxes on the money, then Boehner and company - including Alabama co-sponsors Mo Brooks and Joe Bonner - think they get to decide how you spend it.
That's the case with HR-3: under the GOP's bill, if you pay for an abortion with your "own money" - out of your own HSA or cafeteria plan - then be prepared to provide the proof that you needed it. Not proof that you were pregnant, but actual written proof that you meet the right-wing test: rape or incest.
They're all for state's rights, but screw your family's right to decide what insurance coverage you need.
It wasn't exactly a "Profiles in Courage" moment in the Alabama State Senate on Tuesday. Senators voted 30-2 to pass Greg (Ultrasound Salesman) Reed's bill (SB10) to prohibit elective abortion coverage from the state health insurance exchange. They know better than you what health coverage you need and how you should be spending your own money.
That's right campers - this isn't employer-sponsored insurance. This isn't Medicare or Medicaid. This is you writing a check to a private health insurance company each month and Greg Reed and the Alabama legislature telling you what you can buy. And what you can't.
So much for the party of personal responsibility & freedom from regulation.
What's especially shocking are the votes of Alabama's Democratic Senators - some of whom spoke at the anti-SB12 rally held in Montgomery last month.
This is happening on the national level now. The House leadership got smacked down by some of its own Republican women members for their 20-week "almost no exceptions" anti-abortion bill. But not because it was stupid you understand: because they didn't like how the wording "looked." Apparently, it's ok to be extremist as long as you don't look extremist on choice. Kind of like a "pro-choice Spanx" vote."I may be anti-choice, but this bill makes me look extreme, so I'll complain about it to leadership."
The House bill would also restrict small businesses from getting an Affordable Care Act tax credit if they purchase employee health plans that include abortion coverage on the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP exchange.
Screw "states rights" and "burdensome government regulation!" We need to penalize women and businesses if they purchase the insurance policies that House members don't like. After all, that group of non-physicians certainly knows better than we do what sort of health coverage we need, right?
A featured speaker at Friday's "Stand for Life" anti-abortion rally shared a personal list with the 40 or so people assembled. According to Daniel Bearden, there are fates worse than abortion: attending public schools, learning about "secular humanism," voting for the wrong candidates, and joining the Roman Catholic church. Seriously. A triumph of ecumenism and tolerance, it wasn't.
Street preacher James Henderson began the proceedings by instructing the crowd on "what the Lord would have us do here." Not surprisingly, his list included "continue our work of sidewalk counseling." Struggling to be heard over the roar of passing cars and buses, Henderson continued with his list:
Rededicate ourselves to the goal of closing all abortion clinics.
Make Huntsville "abortion free."
"Most of all, the Lord has called each of us to be Christian witnesses in the same way as our Lord, Jesus Christ."
At that point, a lone heckler raised a salient point: "If you want that, why don't you act like it? If you want to stop abortion, why don't you learn how to treat people?" Henderson called for the police - even though that pesky First Amendment does give a person the right to stand on a public sidewalk and yell. It's rude, but not illegal - kind of like using bullhorns to shout at women going into medical clinics.
She left the group, but it gave Henderson the perfect opportunity to play the victim card and start whining about the treatment his "pro-life heroes" have received from clinic escorts. In his description, his group peacefully stood, prayed, and counseled (often at ear-splitting volume with bullhorns, but he left that part out) "in spite of smoke pots, duck calls, verbal abuse, and false charges that could have led to arrest." Except, oops! they DID lead to arrest and resulted in this fetching mug shot of Joyce Fecteau, who attended the rally in street clothes instead of her preferred "concentration camp inmate" costume. Henderson called her arrest "the result of false charges," but the arresting police officer might disagree.
"Nothing will stop this group from standing uncompromisingly for life against every abortion, for any reason."
Things got really weird when the son of an anti-choice activist (who passed away last year & was honored at the rally) got up, thanked the group for the "kind words about my father" and then started a wide-ranging condemnation of everything from public schools to the IRS to the... ahem... Roman Catholic Church. Given that an official from the Knights of Columbus was about to tee up and accuse pro-choice supporters of "wanting abortion on demand all the way through 9 months" and that at least half of the small crowd appeared to be Catholic (the rosary beads are a giveaway), this moment was more than a little AWKWARD!
"As terrible as abortion is in every case, there are worse things that can happen to a person. Even Jesus said that it would have been better for Judas if he hadn't been born. What is our goal for children after they're spared an abortion? Do you want them to be brainwashed in public schools in the church of secular humanism? Do we want them to grow up to vote for leaders who take away our freedoms? To vote for IRS agents who will take money away from us to favor Socialism? Do we want them to be spared an abortion so they can be baptized in a worthless effort to wash away their sins and take part in a Mass which shamefully crucifies Christ over again or be saved by their own works?
No, these children need to know the gospel! That Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and it is his righteousness imputed to us by grace that saves us - not our works that are potentially improved up on by Christ's efforts. That's why my father is in Heaven today, because of God's grace."
A later speaker segued into another topic - evolution. Major Fecteau (husband of Joyce) proclaimed himself a "creation scientist," which is certainly listed somewhere as the prime example of an oxymoron. Fecteau read Bible verses that warned about "believing in myths and fables," And I'm not sure, but I think he also quoted from "The Princess Bride."
It's "inconceivable" that this crew has and credibility in the community or in the legislature, but at least two local elected officials - Rep. Mike Ball & Rep. Mac McCutcheon - were on hand, spoke, and are eager to carry water for Henderson & company as they seek to enact a "2,000 buffer zone between schools & women's clinics" because, well... just because it's another way to make it more difficult to open & operate clinics.
Look for this bill to be front and center in the legislative priority list. It's specifically targeted at Huntsville's clinic and the supporters are delusional enough to think that the legislature can pass a bill that will retroactively close the clinic that opened (across the street from a closed public school) in 2014.
Author Matt Osborne (a former LIA regular!) wrote about it at Breitbart Unmasked:
This ‘buffer zone’ hypocrisy has already spilled into the school parking lot. When the city got tired of forced-birth activists treating it as their rally point, workers blocked off the lot with a plastic orange net. But as you can see in the animated .GIF below, which I made with pictures taken by a clinic volunteer this past Saturday, they don’t let pesky things like traffic control devices get in the way of their weird hobby.
Anyway, the school system finally got tired of this nonsense and dispensed with the ineffective orange barricade. There are now actual locked gates at every entrance with "No Trespassing" signs attached to each gate. While I'd love to say this was the school system taking a stand on the issue of choice, it's more likely due to concerns about liability. The school building is being refurbished and is a construction site.
This poor, confused woman (who doesn't like to show her face) was trying to brand the pro-choice, female OB-GYN - Dr. Robinson-White - who moved her practice into the building formerly occupied by the Alabama Women's Center, an "abortionist." Since the practice opened, the antis show up regularly to harass women patients arriving for pap smears, pre-natal care, etc.
Something big happened this week though! It was some hereto unknown physiological change that we only thought was possible in science fiction and fantasy novels - Dr. Robinson-White seems to have split in half and each half is now a practicing physician - and abortionist. Or maybe just one doctor is, because the sign says "abortionist," (singular) not "abortionists." Was this some sort of Jekyll & Hyde situation where the "good half" of the doctor split away from the bad half? It's impossible to tell from this poorly-worded sign.
Grammar matters, people! Who exactly are we supposed to be outraged at?
Dr. Robinson-White who has an OB-GYN practice.
Dr. Robinson, miracle of science/nature, who's an abortionist in practice with good Dr. White - also a miracle of science/nature.
Good Dr. Robinson, miracle of science/nature, who's in practice with Dr. White, an abortionist who's also a miracle of science/nature.
Dr. Robinson AND Dr. White are miracles of science/nature AND abortionists.
Inquiring minds want to know. Except that few are curious enough to approach these products of the gene pool's shallow end and ask for clarification.
Judge Alan Mann today dismissed "with prejudice" a lawsuit filed by anti-choice activists against the City of Huntsville. The suit alleged that the city was violating its own zoning ordinances when it allowed the Alabama Women's Center to open at its new location. The judge saw it differently, and the clinic (which reopened in late October) is now free to continue to provide reproductive health services to the women of Alabama - and soon, possibly women from Tennessee.
It's the second bit of good news pro-choice advocates have had in the past few weeks. One bright spot in a otherwise dismal mid-term election was the defeat of local political opportunist Chris Horn, who tried to turn the clinic's location in a majority-minority neighborhood into an election issue that would get him to the Alabama Legislature. Voters saw through that charade though and elected Anthony Daniels instead. Really: all you had to do was drive by the clinic and see that the "neighborhood" wasn't protesting - only this crew of regular faces of anti-choice Huntsville.
The dismissal of this lawsuit is no small victory for the clinic owner. Remember what he has been through. Not just having to relocate his business due to the TRAP laws, he's had to put up with this sort of clapTRAP:
This has to be galling for head protester & pseudo-preacher James Henderson, who told the judge in this case that he was sure he was "more qualified" to interpret zoning regulations than the city's long-time zoning board administrator, James McGuffey. Henderson was also recorded giving legal advice to a federal judge who called out the Huntsville protesters' bad behavior: "Mind your own business and stay out of ours."
Well, Mr. Henderson... take that advice to heart. Mind your own damn business and let the women who visit the clinic make their own medical decisions.
Kudos again to the brave men and women of the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates who volunteer at clinics across Alabama, track legislation, lobby, and advocate for women's reproductive health issues. They're on the front lines in this battle and they're true heroes for justice. Why not join them?
Dang. This Facebook thread is pretty hard to share on a "family blog," but methinks Alabama Democratic Governor hopeful Kevin Bass needs to keep his mouth - or keyboard - or whatever - ZIPPED instead of attempting to discuss women's reproductive choices. After failing to "pump" the vote, Bass decided to "dump" on the people who supported him in the primary.
Unfortunately, this resulted in a rather "sticky" debate with his former supporters.
Members of the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates(ARRA) endorsed Bass in the primary & were shocked when he went rouge this week with a strongly anti-choice post on his campaign Facebook page. Not surprisingly, many of his astonished supporters called him out on it. But what's more astonishing is the explanation that Bass pulled out to explain his new favorite position. Was it Bass posting or a 12-year-old demon that temporarily possessed his spirit? You review these comments and decide.
In any case, it pretty much assures us that Bass has little interest in pursuing elected office in Alabama again.
Here's Bass earlier this year:
And here's the candidate "unleased" - or "unzipped" - or simply unaware that he's totally trashed any future political prospects.
Thanks to dismal recruiting efforts by the Alabama Democratic Party, our choice was between turncoat Parker Griffith and Kevin "pump & dump" Bass. And people wonder why Alabama Democrats weren't enthusiastic about voting last week.
Guess who thronged the sidewalks to protest on the first Saturday that the Alabama Women's Center was open at its new location? Not the neighbors. Not the local business owners. Imagine a surreal, twisted remake of "Grumpy Old Men" & you'll get it. It was just the regular, "weaned on a pickle" faces of anti-choice Huntsville. Doesn't this guy look happy to be there?
This was a "big shock" to clinic supporters (snark), because the opponents were vocal and confident when they told the Huntsville Zoning Board that the "neighborhood" didn't want the clinic in the new location. They offered two reasons.
Local politico Chris Horn cited neighborhood concerns at the meeting. He spoke on behalf of "hundreds" who hadn't bothered to show up at the meeting. Later, a priest who lives 100 miles away played the race card. Watch a video clip of the hearing.
And yet, the first Saturday after the clinic opened, here's the crew who showed up:
Do they look remotely like the same group that was protesting in October 2013 & who appear on a weekly basis?
Crikey! Some of them are even wearing the same clothes. Kind of like their "oppress women" uniforms.
Towards the end of the protest, their leader, James Henderson, snatched one of FIVE bullhorns used by the group & made a speech. Yes campers, 14 people came armed with FIVE bullhorns. Isn't that special?
While we have video of Henderson's ranting, I'm not posting it. He can get his 50 seconds of fame somewhere else. But he reported that he had been at Saturday's meeting of the Madison County Republican Men's Club & confidently promised his motley group of acolytes that "Governor Bentley's office" would intervene in the clinic zoning dispute.
"Delusional" barely describes the man. No matter how little authority local governments have under the Alabama Constitution, they can regulate zoning. That's not the purview of the Governor's office.
North Alabama women once again have a convenient location for health screenings, tests, and abortions. The Alabama Women's Center has reopened in its new location. The previous building didn't comply with the state's new TRAP laws, and the clinic's owner fought a long battle with protesters and state & local government agencies to relocate.
This was not an easy process. Opponents fought the clinic at every turn with outrageous arguments and even accusations of racism:
While the clinic has been closed, North Alabama women have had to pay the TRAP tax and travel to Tuscaloosa or go out of state. Not surprisingly, that presented a time and financial challenge for many, but hundreds of donors and volunteers (heroes & heroines, all) stepped up to help pay expenses and ferry patients to more distant locations.
Congratulations to the clinic owners, employees, and dedicated volunteers from the Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates (ARRA). It would have been so easy to give up and walk away, but y'all stood strong in the face of verbal harrassment, legal threats, and delays.
The good guys (and gals) won one for themselves and for the women of North Alabama.
Isn't this just the face women need to see before & after they leave the "Reproductive Health Services" clinic in Montgomery? Ladies, meet David. He cares so much about your health that he spends his valuable personal time picketing and trespassing on private property in order to yell "babykiller" and other epithets through the windows of the clinic.
We're not kidding about trespassing. He was so proud of being arrested for trespassing that he filmed it. He explained to police that he had "no choice" because the sprinkler sprayed the sidewalk. And yet, he had a choice whether or not to be on the sidewalk in the first place. Details, details.
This self-righteous street preacher is a fixture at Montgomery's sole women's clinic. That's nothing unusual: most clinics have a regular gang of protesters. We've reported extensively on the faces of anti-choice Huntsville. But there's always a ringleader who can be counted on to be over-the-top in behavior & rhetoric.
In Huntsville, we have the oozing self-importance of Rev. James Henderson, who offers free legal advice to federal judges. Montgomery has David here. Judging from his stance in this photo taken yesterday, he also appears to be an aspiring Victoria's Secret model - as soon as he, ahem, grows a pair. Eat more Twinkies son, you'll get there....
The clinic escorts in Montgomery invite y'all to participate in a photo caption contest for David. Suggestions include:
Secret Shopper at Frederick's of Hollywood
"Do you carry something in a nice DDD?"
"Why don't the ladies dig me?"
Share your suggestions in the comments! The clinics escorts can have posters made. Maybe the winner can receive an autographed copy!
Seriously though, people like this are the reason we have FACE laws (Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances) and why some states instituted strict buffer zones around clinics. Protesters want courts to believe that they only want to pray, counsel women, and offer them alternatives to abortion. Some undoubtedly are telling the absolute truth. However, they do nothing to reign in the obstreperous, judgmental majority of protesters who do their best to shame and upset women entering the clinics - potentially causing them physical harm.
The court found the interest in protecting patients in and around the clinics was compelling, especially given physicians' testimony that amplified sound can cause anxiety and high blood pressure, hindering patients' recovery.
Huntsville's only women's clinic is closed temporarily, so what's a bored abortion opponent to do? Why, protest at the previous location of course. The fact that it's occupied by a female OB-GYN who is pro-choice just puts the cherry on top. For months, we've been following the saga of Huntsville's Alabama Women's Center as it struggles to comply with the TRAP (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) bill passed by the GOP supermajority. (Part of the bill was struck down by a federal judge. Read coverage of the hearings here.)
As of now, the clinic remains closed, pending final inspection and approval from state & local government. Not surprisingly, the state is taking its time sending someone up here and the city is now embroiled in a lawsuit over the zoning.
That's right campers! The supermajority's TRAP law is costing taxpayers money at the state and local levels. That's quite the twist on their pledge of "fiscal responsibility."
So, with the actual clinic closed, what's a dedicated anti-choice protester to do with his/her time? Maybe they could volunteer to help with the many humanitarian needs in our community: the hungry, the homeless, the kids needing mentors, sick people without medical care, elderly & homebound residents who need a helping hand.....
NOPE. This Huntsville group has decided to go "back to the future" and protest at the old clinic location. You know: the one where abortions are no longer performed and the place where a private physician has set up an OB/GYN practice.
This isn't the first time protesters have tried to disrupt this doctor's private practice. They picketed her old office as well - directly across from a middle school school. Why their intense interest and determination to disrupt a private medical practice?
She used to be a physician at the clinic, but folded under the pressure & threats from the anti-choice zealots. It's understandable: many doctors have to make the same choice to protect themselves, their families, and employees. But here's the thing: the protesters won. They forced her to stop working at the clinic - but they're still harrassing her and her patients.
It seems that these goons just can't stop yelling at pregnant women - even women who are hoping to carry their pregnancies to term.
The word "bully" just doesn't seem to cover it.
The photos accompanying this post were taken yesterday outside the doctor's office. If you're confused by the "White Abortionist" sign, just understand that the doctor's last name is hyphenated and the protesters apparently have problems with proper punctuation.
URGE - Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity - invites young (age 17-25) Alabama activists to attend the "Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute" training in Tuscaloosa next month. The weekend-long retreat will "introduct young activists to the reproductive justice movement and basic organizing skills.
URGE envisions a world where all people have agency over their own bodies and relationships, and the power, knowledge, and tools to exercise that agency. URGE builds this vision by engaging young people in creating and leading the way to sexual and reproductive justice for all by providing training, field mobilization, and national leadership for a youth-driven agenda
At a meeting of the Huntsville Zoning Commission Tuesday night, James Henderson, Executive Director of the Christian Coalition of Alabama decided to take a traditional approach & blame federal judges for his problems. Traditional, that is, for Alabama. We're the state remember, that likes to thumb our nose at Washington with one hand while we pocket federal cash with the other.
Judge Thompson's opinion (PDF) specifically called out Huntsville clinic protestors for creating a hostile, violent atmosphere outside the clinics (noisy too - note the bullhorn), outlined the state's "history of violence & threats againt abortion doctors," and noted that the "protests in Huntsville go beyond run-of-the-mill political protests."
Apparently, being called out on their bad behavior injured the tender feelings of Henderson & his crew because several mentioned the judge during their speeches to the board. But only Henderson offered specific instructions:
"He should mind his own business and stay out of ours."
Except that, Jenderson's "business" is denying women their constitutional right, so who better to get involved than a federal judge?
The "faces of anti-choice Huntsville" swarmed the city zoning board hearing last night in a last ditch attempt to keep North Alabama's lone women's clinic from reopening in a new location. In a breathtaking display of chutzpah, speaker after speaker - some of whom live more than 50 miles from the proposed location - went concern trolling. They cited concerns about "the neighborhood" and "disruptions" caused by protests at the previous clinic location.
Why yes.... block the sidewalks, bus in scores of children, bellow at passersby through a bullhorn, and assault clinic escorts.... and then complain about the "tension & violence" associated with the clinic.
The Huntsville clinic has been closed since the end of June, forcing many women to go out of state. The clinic owner found a new location that complies with the TRAP laws - the same laws that the demonstrators lobbied so hard to pass. But it's still not good enough. While some speakers tried to pretend it was just "concern" about the neighborhood, others were pretty candid. They don't like abortion & don't want a clinic to open anywhere.
One speaker, GOP legislative candidate Chris Horn, even obliquely referred to the events in Ferguson, MO as an example of what can happen when neighborhood residents don't have a voice. Except that residents do have a voice - and a forum where they could have exercised their rights last night. However, of all the opposition speakers, only Horn actually lives in the neighborhood. The next closest speaker is more than a mile from the new clinic location, and the main speaker, Rev. James Henderson, lives in Morgan County.
In spite of repeated requests to stick to the topic at hand - zoning - and avoid wading into the abortion debate or causing a disruption, many speakers just couldn't help themselves. A favorite moment was when a monk from Cullman stressed that neighborhood residents don't want this clinic! The next speaker? A woman who lives .8 miles from the clinic & who spoke in favor of the location. oops....
Another favorite moment: Rev. Henderson railing about "Wiccan witch smoke" being used against his group.
Watch the video clip for a sample of the evening's activities. In spite of all the Sturm und Drang, the zoning board voted against the appeal. Reverend Henderson, unwilling to give up his time in the limelight, promises a court challenge.
Note: I'll also have video up with the remarks of clinic supporters, but have to tend to other matters today. Coming soon!
It was a motley crew: the leader was a guy with a theory of "post-abortion syndrome" & a Home Ec degree. Others included: the plastic surgeon who screwed up Linda Tripp's face lift; a male emergency room doctor who needs to be "told" why a woman has come to the hospital with complications; a sociologist who thinks it's no big deal if poor women have to travel hundreds of miles & spend days in hotels in order to get a legal medical procedure; & a North Carolina obstetrician & professor who travels the country (for money) supporting TRAP laws as "the current standard of care."
Let's start with the ringleader: Vincent Rue, who collected a whopping $82,890 from Alabama during 2013 & 2014.
Rue has a long and sordid history as a professional "anti-abortion expert." He's a psychotherapist (or is that "psycho" therapist?) who coined the term "post-abortion syndrome" to refer to a form of mental illness women experience after getting an abortion. Which would mean, essentially, that he believes one in three American women is mentally ill. He's also a proponent of giving men veto power over their partner's abortion (because of the "damage" abortion does to men, you understand), meaning that he thinks men have a "right" to control women's reproductive choices. Hey girls! They may transfer the sperm to you, but they still own it!
Rue, who holds a doctorate in family relations from the University of North Carolina School of Home Economics, has claimed that "abortion reescalates the battle between the sexes" and "abortion increases bitterness toward men." For decades, he has strived to convince mainstream researchers to recognize "post-abortion syndrome," a supposed mental illness resulting from abortion.
But "after submission for peer review by scientists with the Center for Disease Control, the National Center for Health Statistics and other scientific institutions, [Rue's] study was found to have 'no value' and to be 'based upon a priori beliefs rather than an objective review of the evidence,'" according to Daniel Huyett, a federal judge who disregarded Rue's testimony in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a landmark 1990 abortion case that eventually ended up before the Supreme Court. "His testimony is devoid of…analytical force and scientific rigor," Huyett added. "Moreover, his admitted personal opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, suggests a possible personal bias." Rue "possesses neither the academic qualifications nor the professional experience of plaintiffs' expert witnesses," another federal judge wrote in 1986 after hearing Rue's testimony in another landmark abortion case, Hodgson v. Minnesota.
Rue has testified, written reports, and coached witness during abortion lawsuits since the mid-1980's. In the past two years alone, he's pocketed over $200,000 in taxpayer money from Alabama, North Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.
Next up, we have emergency room physician Dr. James Anderson, who was paid $16,350 to essentially repeat testimony that Vincent Rue prepared for him. Anderson defended the "admitting privliges" requirement in Alabama's TRAP law because women might be "embarrassed" to admit they'd had an abortion (reckon why?) and he wouldn't know why they were bleeding unless the doctor who performed the procedure was on hand. What a medical marvel he is!
Dr. Anderson has a history of being Rue's mouthpiece (think of the scene in "Chicago" where Roxie sits on lawyer Billy Flynn's lap). From the Mother Jones article:
Rue engaged James C. Anderson, a Virginia emergency room physician, to testify not only in Wisconsin, but also in Alabama, Alaska, North Dakota, and Texas.
Rue often drafts written testimony for his star witnesses. In Alabama, Anderson testified that Rue had written his supplemental report to the court—Anderson had merely signed his name to it. When pressed by the judge, Anderson revealed that Rue had provided most of the research for his main report, too.
According to Anderson, Rue helped coordinate witnesses to defend Alaska's 2010 parental notification law.
A few days earlier, in Alabama, Anderson testified that he didn't know courts had disregarded Rue's testimony.
"You say you don't know his employment or any organizations that he belongs to," the judge asked Anderson. "Why do you trust him?"
Another member of Rue's crew, Dr. John Thorp, is a North Carolina ob/gyn & professor at Chapel Hill. He collected $34,131.25.
Dr. Thorp has allegedly researched the "physical harm" done to women by abortions. His study on that harm was refused by peer-reviewed journals & only saw print when he placed it in a "pay to publish" journal.
Thorp ran into some trouble when he testified in Wisconsin. Turns out he has problems with decimal places:
If you knew the State of Alabama had an extra $142,000 to spend, what might you suggest? What if you knew the state had another $580,000 extra? Chances are, you won't spend it like Attorney General Luther Strange did - defending unconstitutional bills passed by the Alabama Legislature.
It was bad enough that the state got soaked with tons of bad publicity when the Legislature passed Scott Beason's folly - aka... the immigration bill. There's no way to know how many businesses decided to relocate elsewhere - particularly foreign companies who might not want their executives arrested, but one thing we do know: the state spent almost $600,000 to fight (and lost) just two lawsuits: immigration & TRAP. The fight over the Alabama Accountability Act is still in the courts.
When the federal hearings over the state's TRAP Law (Targeted Regulations Against Abortion Providers) ended in May, those final bills from "expert" witnesses for the state began to rain down on the Attorney General's office. As of 8/3/2014, Strange has flushed away $142,721.25. And for what? Just this past week, a federal appeals court struck down Mississippi's TRAP law and the opinion specifically cited the spurious explanation from the state that women could "just go out of state" if they wanted an abortion:
In explaining their decision, judges E. Grady Jolly of Mississippi and Stephen A. Higginson of Louisiana wrote, "Pre-viability, a woman has the constitutional right to end her pregnancy by abortion."
The Mississippi law "effectively extinguishes that right (to a lawful abortion) within Mississippi's borders," they said.
The ruling goes on to explain that if a woman has to go out of state to get an abortion, then that requirement places an "undue burden" on her.
Oops... let's recall coverage of the hearing in Alabama. See if any of this sounds familiar:
The assertion that being required to travel 100+ miles to obtain a legal medical procedure is an "undue burden" infantalizes poor women, the state's "expert" witness testified: That conclusion, he said "suggests women who are poor are incapable of planning and carrying out a trip of more than 100 miles to obtain something important."
Oh, and let's not forget this gem from one of our state lawyers. He wanted to know why women don't just get abortions when they have a few days off work? "Send the kids to grandma's with food! Do it while the kids are in school! Huntsville and Tuscaloosa both have clinics on Saturday so do it when you're off work!" Like women's clinics in Alabama are open 24/7 or that everybody has nights & weekends off.
Take a few minutes to read our coverage of the TRAP lawsuit hearings because most of these so-called "experts" who cost the state $140,000+ made some truly bizarre, entitled, and off-the-wall assumptions about the lives of women in Alabama. For this particular post though, we'll just point out how much each of them got paid. It's all in detail in the Alabama Checkbook, but I put it together in a single Excel spreadsheet here for download.
Dr. James Anderson
Let's even forget the financial aspects of this silliness and consider the long-term consequences. I keep hearing that we need to make our cities and our state more attractive to young professionals. We want to keep our educated young people in this state and attract more good-paying jobs. Is this the way to do it? Ask yourself why young professionals - particularly women - would even consider staying or moving to a state whose legislature proudly flaunts its xenophobia, misogyny, and contempt for public education.
The only way the state will change is if we the voters change the government. We can do that in November & a good place to start is by ditching Big Luther. Joe Hubbard for Attorney General.
The statewide group Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates (ARRA) has received multiple requests for assistance from North Alabama women this week. Prohibited from receiving medical care in their own community by Alabama's TRAP law, they're faced with traveling to Nashville, Tuscaloosa, or even Columbus, GA.
Several members of the group have helped these women with personal donations, driven hours with them to appointments in other cities/states, and cobbled together groups of volunteers who are willing to offer free lodging and/or transportation. As one frustrated volunteer noted: "It's like we're setting up a $%$# Underground Railroad."
During the federal court hearings this spring on the TRAP law, a witness predicted just this situation, calling the laws, "a tax on women."
ARRA sent us this plea for assistance & asked if our LIA community members can help by donating online here.
"As many of you know, our women's clinic in Huntsville was unable to meet the building requirements of the TRAP law. We are starting to get calls for help from young women needing an abortion. We want to start this fund to help with travel expenses and a partial funding of the abortion when needed. It will also cover pregnancy tests or Plan B (the morning after pill) for those that can't afford it. West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa has agreed to take the Huntsville patients until the clinic is reopened.
Thank you SO much!!
Tuscaloosa is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Huntsville and Alabama has a 48 hour waiting period law (because, you know, pregnant women are flighty, right? We have to stop them from just pulling into an clinic and impulsively getting an abortion). That means women who travel there either have to pay for meals & hotels or make two trips, for a total of 10 hours travel time, 2 days lost from work/school, and added cost for gas. The extra travel cost is not insubstantial: 600 miles total at 30 miles/gallon is 20 gallons of fuel and adds about $70 to the cost - more than a day's pay for a minimum wage worker who's probably already missing work to travel.
No donation is too small - no donation is too large! It all goes to help women facing situations that are already difficult both financially and emotionally. Thanks to the Alabama Legislature, the whole experience is just that much harder.
This is a short post, but an important one. The state & anti-choice protestors will do whatever is necessary to keep the Huntsville women's clinic closed. That's an action that leaves a gaping hole in abortion services in Alabama. It's a hole that stretches from Tuscaloosa to Nashville.
Campers... will we permit this? NOOOOOO!
This is easy. You don't have to show up anywhere to escort (although that would be nice). You don't have to write a letter (although you could do that too).