Banning rape victims from getting abortions is a step too far for Republican Party leaders, who have publicly cringed at Alabama’s sweeping new law criminalizing abortion in nearly every case.
President Trump, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-Ky.) and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel have all said over the past week they support long-standing exemptions from abortion restrictions: if a woman's pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, or if the woman’s life is at risk. The Alabama law contains only the third exemption.
Their statements — coming as state-level Republicans advance stricter abortion regulations — lay bare an underlying rift within the party and among antiabortion activists over whether certain circumstances make it okay to end a pregnancy.
“There has been diversity for years on this question,” said Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel for the antiabortion group Americans United for Life. “I don’t expect unanimity on every point of abortion policy. The states will move in their own direction.”
Some abortion foes feel exceptions should be carved out for women who are raped. Both McCarthy and McConnell articulated that position. McDaniel she “would prefer such a law to include some exemptions.” Trump tweeted that he is “strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions – Rape, incest and protecting the Life of the mother.”
"Personally, I would have the exceptions" for rape and incest in the Alabama abortion law, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel says.— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 17, 2019
"But we are a party that is a broad tent … we don't have a litmus test as to whether you can belong to our party" https://t.co/Ouz7Lp3f2F pic.twitter.com/vInamnbhGM
Trump tweeted earlier this week:
As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions - Rape, Incest and protecting the Life of the mother - the same position taken by Ronald Reagan. We have come very far in the last two years with 105 wonderful new.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
....Federal Judges (many more to come), two great new Supreme Court Justices, the Mexico City Policy, and a whole new & positive attitude about the Right to Life. The Radical Left, with late term abortion (and worse), is imploding on this issue. We must stick together and Win....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
....for Life in 2020. If we are foolish and do not stay UNITED as one, all of our hard fought gains for Life can, and will, rapidly disappear!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
I will be attacked by fellow conservatives for saying this but so be it, this Alabama abortion ban is too restrictive. It doesn’t save life, it simply forces women into more dangerous methods, other states or countries. You don’t encourage life via blanket government mandate!— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) May 16, 2019
If you think banning abortion with no exception for rape or incest will stop women from terminating pregnancy, you’re not being honest with yourself.— Tomi Lahren (@TomiLahren) May 16, 2019
P.S. you’re not God so don’t you dare evaluate my Christian faith based on your moral superiority complex. https://t.co/TUbRPqudkm
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) also said Alabama's law goes too far:
“I don’t support the Alabama law," says Sen. Mitt Romney on the state's strict abortion law. "I think something much more toward the center makes a lot more sense.” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/DaabJSRmDK— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 19, 2019
Yet others feel that allowing abortions in cases of rape is inconsistent with the view that life begins at conception.
“The pro-life position is if you acknowledge the humanity of the child in the womb, that child’s humanity is not conditional on how he or she has been conceived,” Lila Rose, president of the antiabortion group Live Action, told me. “Regardless of the crimes of her father, she has the same value and should be protected like any other child.”
Rose and some other antiabortion leaders pushed back against Trump's weekend tweets:
Thank you for the great work your administration has done to protect life, @realDonaldTrump. Rape & incest are horrific, but abortion doesn’t help survivors heal, it only adds more trauma. A baby of rape is innocent & doesn’t deserve the death penalty for her father’s evil crimes https://t.co/Pw9yvixEr0— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) May 20, 2019
When you use:— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) May 20, 2019
As the reason abortion is necessary, you are telling millions of people who were conceived in, or have overcome these circumstances, that their life is not valuable
Our worth as humans isn’t conditional, it is inherent
Abby Johnson, former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic who now works to oppose abortion:
My son was conceived in rape. I would love for you to meet him, @realDonaldTrump, and tell me how his life isn’t as valuable as my children conceived in love. He deserved to live and I’m so thankful that he does. pic.twitter.com/G9Izpj3EM9— Abby Johnson (@AbbyJohnson) May 20, 2019
Other antiabortion leaders held their fire. Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, who has frequently praised the president for his antiabortion efforts, said "we thank President Trump for continuing to go on the offense for life, which he has done from day one of his presidency."
Abortions obtained after a rape comprise just a tiny fraction — an estimated 1 percent — of the 630,000 abortions carried out in the United States every year. But the sensitive issue has played an outsize role in the political debate. Some Republicans have made some serious blunders in talking about it (recall Todd Akin and his 2012 Senate bid), which abortion rights advocates have then rushed to highlight as a way of portraying the other side as extreme.
On the national level, the idea that a woman who became pregnant due to rape shouldn’t have to continue the pregnancy seemed to be rare point of agreement — at least externally — in the abortion wars. The long-standing Hyde Amendment restricting taxpayer dollars from going to abortion includes rape, incest and life-of-the-mother exceptions. Most state laws restricting abortion in earlier stages of pregnancy include the three exceptions, too.
But now some states are pushing forward with laws that allow abortion only if continuing the pregnancy would put the woman’s life at risk. Besides Alabama’s law, which passed last week, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) is expected to sign a ban on abortions past eight weeks of pregnancy that also contains no exemptions for rape or incest. (Slate's Ruth Graham has a fascinating explanation of why the antiabortion movement has stopped making allowances for victims of rape and incest.)
These measures are in line with the philosophical position held by Americans United for Life and National Right to Life, although they’ve largely refrained from criticizing rape and incest exemptions for political reasons, said Mary Ziegler, a Florida State University law professor who specializes in the legal history of reproductive rights.
“Those leading larger antiabortion groups have for the most part viewed rape and incest exceptions as politically necessary, partly because polls show so much support for them,” Ziegler said. “Trump is part of that political pragmatism.”
At this moment in time, it’s striking that any Republicans are publicly criticizing an antiabortion law, given how homogenized politicians have become on the issue. That’s true among Democrats, too. Hardly any antiabortion Democrats remain in Congress, and the party has been increasingly vocal about doing away with the Hyde restrictions.
In a post on her presidential campaign website last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) proposed blocking states from passing abortion-restricting laws by establishing “affirmative, statutory rights.” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), another presidential candidate, told BuzzFeed News that as president he would ask Congress to pass a law legalizing abortion nationwide, even if the Supreme Court one day overturned its Roe v. Wade ruling.
“The injustices we're seeing in Alabama right now with this legislation,” Booker said. “It's important that all of us understand that this is a threat to women's freedoms and women's rights all over our country, not just there.”
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AHH: Last week, hundreds of mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered in a New York City suburb to listen to Del Bigtree, a television producer turned activist who is a leader of the anti-vaccine movement. The gathering was an example of the anti-vaccine groups that state and national officials warn are responsible for the measles outbreaks in New York and the record number of measles cases that have emerged nationwide.
“Through an aggressive social media campaign, pamphleting and traveling road shows that pop up in receptive and often insular communities, officials say, the anti-vaccine movement has produced pockets of unvaccinated children where the highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease can catch fire,” our Post colleagues Ben Guarino and Lena H. Sun report in this extensive look at the anti-vaccine movement and misinformation around the issue.
A modern anti-vaccine movement that once began in response to concerns about the side effects associated with vaccinations has developed into something that’s centered in the depths of social media, such as on Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube.
Another way these groups are succeeding is by appealing to fears some parents have. Because vaccine success has eliminated diseases as well as the memory of their negative effects, it can leave parents “more likely to be scared of the vaccine than the disease,” one expert told our colleagues. “It’s very easy to appeal to those fears.”
OOF: Meanwhile, new reports of measles cases in Oklahoma make 24 states among the outbreak, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said there have been 41 new reported cases across the country since its update last week, bringing the total number of people sickened this year to 880.
Most new cases continue to stem from New York, Reuters’s Gabriella Borter and Ankur Banerjee report, with 21 cases from New York City and nine in Rockland County.
“Experts warn that the outbreak is not over as the number of cases approaches the 1994 total of 958,” they add. “That was the highest number since 1992, when the CDC recorded 2,126 cases.”
OUCH: A 16-year-old Guatemalan boy died yesterday at a Border Patrol station in Weslaco, Tex., our Post colleague Abigal Hauslohner reports.
He’s the fifth Guatemalan child to die since December after being apprehended by Border Patrol agents at the U.S. border with Mexico. Over the weekend, the boy had been diagnosed with the flu. He was found unresponsive in his detention cell a day later “during a welfare check.”
Other than the check on Sunday, Carlos had received one other medical screening. After a nurse practitioner diagnosed him with Influenza A on Sunday, the practitioner prescribed him with Tamiflu, an antiviral used to treat the flu.
“This morning, unfortunately, Carlos was found unresponsive within one of our short-term holding rooms,” a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told reporters during a call. “Our medical staff immediately attended to him.”
“Immigration authorities have struggled to manage a record flow of migrant families and children crossing the southwestern border this year, including nearly 45,000 unaccompanied children in the past six months,” Abigail writes. “The Department of Homeland Security requires health screenings for all children taken into custody, and CBP says it has amplified its medical efforts in recent months to accommodate the influx of children and families. Border authorities transfer approximately 70 people to hospitals and urgent care centers daily.”
The FBI is investigating the circumstances of the death, the official told reporters.
— The Obria Group, a chain of faith-based clinics in California, is suing the Department of Health and Human Services over rules for the Title X family planning program. The group says current rules violate its First Amendment rights.
The chain claims it can’t direct more than $5 million in federal family planning funds after courts temporarily halted new Trump administration rules that would have blocked providers that get money from the program from performing abortions or referring patients for the procedure, Politico’s Victoria Colliver reports.
“Obria and its clinics are now put to a Hobson’s choice,” the lawsuit reads. “They may either accept the money — which would mean accepting the abortion referral requirement to which they have deep religious objections — or they can decline to do so, meaning that the funds will be forfeited and Obria clinics will be unable to provide much-needed healthcare to needy women across California.”
— McConnell and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced a bipartisan bill to raise the federal minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21. The broad measure includes all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, our Post colleague Jenna Portnoy reports.
The pair of senators specifically cited growing concerns about youth vaping and the popularity of e-cigarette products. McConnell and Kaine are from the states with the second- and third-highest levels of tobacco production, respectively. In 2018, Agriculture Department data found Kentucky produced a fourth of the nation’s tobacco, compared with 8 percent produced in Virginia.
“Today, we are coming together to side with young people’s health,” Kaine said in a statement. “With this bipartisan legislation, Senator McConnell and I are working to address one of the most significant public health issues facing our nation today.”
“We’ve heard from countless parents who have seen the youth vaping crisis firsthand,” McConnell said in a statement.
“McConnell’s backing means the bill, called the Tobacco-Free Youth Act, is likely to get a vote on the floor, after vetting by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, of which Kaine is a member” Jenna writes. “The federal law would make it illegal to sell a tobacco product to any person under 21 years old in all states. It would include military personnel, a category that is exempted in some states that have already raised the legal age.”
— And here are a few more good reads:
- The House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel and the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health will hold a joint oversight hearing on military and veteran suicide.
- The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health holds a hearing on surprise medical bills.
- The House Budget Committee holds a hearing on single-payer health care on Wednesday.
- The House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on the insular areas Medicaid cliff on Thursday.
Presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) says Trump 'started a war' on American women: