Anti-Choice

Radical Anti-Choice Group Heads To Alabama To Support 'Poet, Warrior, Statesman' Roy Moore

Operation Save America, the radical anti-choice group that grew out of the original Operation Rescue, will be holding a multi-day event in Montgomery, Alabama, in June to express its support for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s activism against marriage equality and abortion rights.

OSA head Rusty Lee Thomas writes in a press release today that the event will bring together “hundreds of gentle Christians from across the nation” for a march drawing on “the historical lessons of Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma.”

A description of the event on the group’s website boasts that “[f]or years, Operation Save America has stood faithfully with Chief Justice Roy Moore, a poet, warrior, statesmen [sic].” It specifically praises Moore’s work to develop a legal framework to support radical anti-choice “personhood” laws and his ongoing standoff with the federal courts over marriage equality.

(In case you weren’t familiar with Moore’s poetry, here’s a representative example.)

OSA:

We are praying for God to record His name in Montgomery and by His Spirit bid His people come to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom to the gates of hell (Abortion mills in Alabama). They will not prevail against the Church of the living God (Matthew 16:18). They never have and they never will. Jesus is Lord!

For years, Operation Save America has stood faithfully with Chief Justice Roy Moore, a poet, warrior, statesmen. Through his many battles, we supported his righteous stands in the face of persecution and tyranny. Today, the Alabama Supreme Court led by Chief Justice Moore continues to stand against injustice and once again we are going to come alongside to help.

Moore, along with Justice Tom Parker, have rendered Decisions from the court that directly or indirectly have taken on Roe vs. Wade. Currently, Moore is acting faithfully as a Lower Magistrate to resist “Gay Marriage” in his state. He is taking another just stand and once again, we will stand with him.

Alabama is also working on establishing “Personhood” for the preborn child who is made in the image of God. Alabamians are willing to stand upon the self-evident truth established by God’s Word and we our coming to stand with them.

There are at least four death camps in Alabama still applying their grisly trade to murder babies made in the image of God. This evil defiles the land and invokes God’s judgments upon us. We are coming to stand in the gap and make up the hedge. We want to give God a reason to show mercy in the midst of the American holocaust.

It’s not surprising that Operation Save America, one of the most radical anti-choice groups in the country, would find ideological kinship with Justice Moore.

Thomas has claimed that the September 11, 2001 attacks were divine punishment for legal abortion. OSA’s former director, Flip Benham (father of the new Religious Right martyrs David and Jason Benham), also used the organization to promote a fringe right agenda:

As leader of OSA, Benham has condemned the interfaith Sandy Hook memorial, protested in front of mosques while shouting “Jesus Hates Muslims” and blamed the Aurora shooting on the Democratic Party, which he said promotes a “culture of death.”

He has also protested LGBT pride events, interrupted church services during a sermon by “ sodomite Episcopalian bishop” Gene Robinson and was found “guilty of stalking a Charlotte abortion doctor after passing out hundreds of ‘wanted’ posters with the physician's name and photo on it.”

Matt Barber: States Should Defy Roe And Jail Abortion Providers

Matt Barber joined Steve Deace on his radio program yesterday to discuss the actions of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who’s urging judges in his state to defy a federal judge and refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples.

Barber told Deace that whether or not the United States Supreme Court has “the authority to redefine the institution of marriage, which cannot be done, it’s contrary to reality to say that it’s anything other than the male and female,” Moore is on “solid legal ground” in claiming that the Alabama Supreme Court takes precedence over the federal district court that issued the marriage ruling.

Deace asked Barber why the conservative movement was less willing to defy the federal courts during Judge Moore’s 2003 standoff over placing a Ten Commandments monument in his courthouse or after Roe v. Wade, “when the court said, ‘We’re going to start just massacring, dismembering little innocent babies.’”

Barber agreed that states should have simply ignored the court’s ruling in Roe: “Why, back when the courts issued their ridiculous, non-scientific ruling in Roe v. Wade, why didn’t states like Texas and other states say, ‘Okay, well thank you for your opinion, but nope, here in the state of Texas, you kill an unborn child, you’ve committed murder, we’re going to throw you in jail for it’?”

Later in the interview, Deace repeated his prediction that a sweeping marriage ruling would ignite an even greater culture war battle than Roe did.

Barber agreed, saying the “goal all along” of the “sin-based, sodomy-based marriage” movement has been to persecute Christians.

“Religious liberty and so-called gay marriage cannot coexist in harmony,” he said. “If the Supreme Court goes Roe v. Wade on this decision and divines a new-fangled right to sin-based, sodomy-based marriage, Christians will be being persecuted across the country. They will be told, ‘You either put your stamp of approval on sin or you will be pushed to the fringes and marginalized and you will not be able to carry a job or function in society.’ That’s been their goal all along anyway.”

The Next Personhood Battle: South Carolina?

Personhood USA, the group that has pushed fetal personhood measures in states including Colorado, Mississippi and North Dakota, told supporters in an email today that its next target will be South Carolina.

The group’s president, Keith Mason, boasted to supporters of the “victory” of a nonbinding resolution supporting a personhood amendment on last year’s Republican primary ballot in South Carolina. He did not specify if the group will be advocating for a state-level ballot initiative or a legislative approach, or both. A personhood amendment currently pending in the state legislature is sponsored by Lee Bright, who was a Tea Party-supported U.S. Senate candidate in 2014.

The recent failures of state-level personhood measures led former Personhood USA official Gualberto Garcia Jones to declare last year that the strategy was “dead for now.” Evidently, Mason disagrees.

Right now, Friend, we need your help to publicly launch our South Carolina initiative.

  • We've identified 250,000 pro-life voters in South Carolina that we want to activate to support personhood, and vote in upcoming primaries and elections.
  • This initiative follows on the heels of a personhood victory this summer, in which 79% of South Carolina GOP primary voters called for a personhood amendment to the state constitution. Right now, there's personhood legislation in the state legislature that needs our support!
  • South Carolina is a vital state in the lead up to 2016. We need to engage and activate the pro-life voters we've identified so that they turn out to support pro-life candidates!

Troy Newman Compares Abortion For Low-Income Women To 'Obama Phones'

In an interview on American Family Radio today, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman claimed that low-income women use abortions “like birth control pills” and compared abortions to “Obama phones,” the name given by a racist meme to a decades-old program that provides low-cost or free phone service to some people in poverty so they can access things like emergency services.

When AFR host Ed Vitagliano asked Newman why “abortions are three times more likely to be performed on a woman with Medicaid,” he responded, “It’s free.”

“These $400 abortions, when they’re free through Medicare [sic], women just go and get them and they use them like birth control pills,” he said, adding that if abortions were more expensive, women would go instead to a “Christ-centered pregnancy counseling center” that doesn't provide abortion as an option.

In fact, the Hyde Amendment currently bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment. Only 17 states use their own tax dollars to fund all or most “medically necessary” abortions for women who are enrolled in Medicaid.

“It’s just like anything else, when you hand out things for free, the system becomes overwhelmed,” he said. “Look at the Obamacare, all the people who are getting it are getting subsidized, the Obama phones, etc. So as soon as you start giving something out you’re going to get more of it.”

Troy Newman Explains His Plan To Destroy 'The Enemy' By Cutting Off 'Supply Side' Of Abortion

In an interview last month with Gary Cass on the “Defending a Christian Worldview” webcast, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman outlined his group’s strategy of targeting individual abortion providers in order to shut off “the supply side of the abortion industry,” thereby cutting off “the Enemy’s ability to make war on the children.”

“Let’s be honest, we’ve passed hundreds and hundreds of bills, possibly thousands of bills in all 50 states and on the federal level, and in the end we do not have an abolition to abortion,” he said.

He told Cass that his group’s local-level agitation is what really works in cutting off access to abortion.

“The other side is always talking about access. They don’t want to talk about choice any more, they never use the A-word — abortion — now their buzzword is ‘women’s health care’ or ‘access,’” Newman told Cass.

He depicted his fight as a battle against Satan, or “the Enemy”: “And because what we’re doing and have done over the past decade or so is destroy, literally destroy, the Enemy’s ability to make war on the children by taking out the supply side of the abortion industry.”

It’s unclear how much impact Newman’s group actually has in shutting down clinics. For instance, in the history section of its website, Operation Rescue takes credit for a drop in the abortion rate for Kansas, which it said led to the closing of what was then the only abortion provider in Wichita. In fact, that coincided with a nationwide drop in abortions that reproductive health experts credit to improvements in contraceptives.

Gary Cass: Avoid Abortion Rape Exceptions By Executing Rapists

Gary Cass, president of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, has a solution for the anti-choice movement’s internal conflicts about including rape exceptions in abortion bans: just execute rapists like in biblical times.

Cass invited Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman to his “Defending a Christian Worldview” webcast last month, shortly after House Republicans cancelled a vote on a 20-week abortion ban because of a dispute over the wording of the bill’s rape exception. Newman lamented that in cases like that, the pro-choice movement was using the issues of exceptions for rape, incest and the health of a pregnant woman “to create a wedge between what would normally be a tight coalition of people that believe the same thing.”

Cass countered that the real issue with rape exceptions is that “we’ve abandoned a Christian worldview as it relates to law.”

“In biblical times, rape was a capital offense,” he said. “So because we don’t treat rape the way God would have us to treat rape, now we have a woman, many women who are suffering because we aren’t doing our job as men protecting our wives and our daughters with the right kinds of law and right kind of enforcement, putting them in a very bad situation.”

He added that “as wrong as the act of rape is,” abortion is an equal or greater “moral catastrophe.”

“It is so devastating that, as tragic as the rape was, to add then the guilt of infanticide and abortion and murder to it is not going to be helpful.”

Later in the program, Cass declared that aborted fetuses have been executed without due process and are only “guilty of being found to be inconvenient by people who want to have sex without consequences.”

“The sexual revolution is drenched in the blood of innocent children and that blood cries out for justice,” he said.

Trent Franks: Withdrawal Of Abortion Ban 'One Of The Great Disappointments In My Life'

Last month, on the eve of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House Republican leaders canceled a planned vote on a national 20-week abortion ban after Republican women and moderates objected to a provision that would have exempted rape survivors only if they filed a police report on their assault.

In an interview with Janet Parshall on Wednesday, the bill’s author, Rep. Trent Franks, said that the cancellation of the vote was “one of the great disappointments in my life.”

Pinning the change of plans on a “certain group within” the GOP, he lamented, “it’s always the water inside the ship that sinks it.”

Franks, who originally introduced the bill with no exceptions except to save the life of the pregnant woman,told Parshall that he objected to the rape exception in the first place because “none of us have any control over how we’re conceived.” He added that the reporting requirement shouldn't be a problem because after 20 weeks of pregnancy “most of the questions about sexual assault and all those other questions have been answered long before then.”

According to Eagle Forum, Franks told the group last year that "If I die and Roe v. Wade stands ... I will die a failure."

Earlier in the interview, Franks linked legal abortion in the U.S. with the brutal murder of a Jordanian pilot by the so-called Islamic State, saying, “Whether it’s the Jordanian pilot, whether it’s terrorism, all of the tragedies of the world, generally, are traced back to a lack of compassion for our fellow human beings, a lack of commitment to our fellow human beings.”

“If we don’t have the courage or the will as a country to protect the most innocent of all  children, these little pain-capable unborn babies — if we don’t have the courage to protect them, I am afraid that we will never have the courage or the will to protect any kind of liberty of any sort for this country or for anyone,” he said.

Anti-Choice Women's Groups Reportedly Pushed For Rape Reporting Requirement In Abortion Ban

Earlier this week, the National Review posted an audio recording of a call that a constituent of Rep. Renee Ellmers made to the North Carolina Republican’s office about her role in delaying a vote on a national 20-week abortion ban, which reveals, among other things, that prominent anti-choice women’s groups pushed for a requirement that rape survivors file police reports before being allowed an exemption from the ban.

Ellmers and other Republican women and moderates had objected to a provision that exempted rape survivors only if they first reported the assault to the police, warning that it could become a political liability for Republicans. In response, the GOP leadership withdrew the bill on the eve of a planned vote to work out what Sen. Lindsey Graham later called “this definitional problem with rape.”

In the call posted by National Review, an Ellmers staffer explains in frank detail the political machinations behind the wording of the rape exception and the ultimate withdrawal of the bill.

As we have noted, an earlier version of the bill sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks and approved by the House Judiciary Committee in 2013 included no rape exception at all. But after what the Ellmers staff called a “huge communications error” from Franks, when he suggested that rape rarely results in pregnancy, Republican leaders quietly snuck in a rape exception to the bill before putting it up for a vote on the House floor.

The Ellmers staffer revealed that prominent anti-choice women’s groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List and Concerned Women for America, objected to the rape exception and were instrumental in getting GOP leaders to modify it to include the reporting requirement.

These groups, the staffer said, told Republicans, “well, if you’re going to make an exception for rape and incest, it’s going to have to be reported to law enforcement officials.”

The staffer told the constituent that the rape exception was bad policy because it puts the federal government in the position of “identifying what is an is not rape”… and creates a “loophole” by which she alleged women would lie to law enforcement about being raped in order to access legal abortion.

The conversation starts at about the 3:00 mark in this video:

National Right To Life Targeting GOP Congresswomen Who Objected To Abortion Ban’s Rape Provision

The National Right to Life Committee is indicating that it will work to unseat the anti-choice Republican House members who sidetracked a 20-week abortion ban last week because of a dispute over the wording of a rape exception.

The House members, led by Republican women including Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana, objected to a provision that would have exempted rape survivors from the ban only if they first filed a police report describing their assault. The members contested that the provision would be politically unpopular and could discourage women from coming forward about sexual assaults. When GOP leaders cancelled a vote on the bill that had been scheduled for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, anti-choice groups were furious, prompting Sen. Lindsey Graham to  beg for their help to “find a way out of this definitional problem with rape.”

LifeNews reports that National Right to Life’s Carol Tobias recently sent an email to supporters urging them to tell Ellmers and her allies, “If you vote or work behind the scenes to allow the slaughter of abortion to continue, you will hear from pro-life voters loudly and clearly at the polls”:

In an email to supporters that LifeNews.com received titled “Elected Officials Who Betray Unborn Babies Have to Go,” Tobias said, “Last week, a small handful of congresswomen and men did something absolutely unconscionable. These lawmakers claim to be “pro-life,” and they were elected to Congress in part because they promised their constituents they would support laws to save the lives of unborn babies.”

“But despite their solemn promises to their pro-life constituents and more important, to the unborn, they ganged up last week to sidetrack for now the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. This humane bill would ban abortions when an unborn baby is developed enough feel terrible pain during an abortion – and if you can’t vote for such a humanitarian no-brainer of a law to protect the unborn, you can’t be trusted to vote for any pro-life legislation,” Tobias added.

We need to send a message loud and clear to all “pro-life” representatives who ask for our vote, but who betray the lives of vulnerable unborn babies when they get in office: If you vote or work behind the scenes to allow the slaughter of abortion to continue, you will hear from pro-life voters loudly and clearly at the polls ,” Tobias added.

Ironically, the last time the 20-week ban was being considered in Congress, NRLC was attacked by others in the anti-choice movement for being too moderate on rape exceptions.

A version of the bill approved by a House committee in 2013 had contained only an exception for abortions that would save the lives of pregnant women; GOP leaders quietly added the rape exception with the reporting requirement after the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks, sparked controversy by implying that rape rarely results in pregnancy. When NRLC continued to support the bill, which had originally been based on its own model legislation, one of its chapters broke off and started a rival group promoting a no-exceptions policy to abortion bans.

A number of no-exceptions anti-choice groups continued to object to the most recent iteration of the 20-week ban because it contained a rape exception at all.

The Personhood Movement: Regrouping After Defeat: Part 4

This is the fourth post in a RWW series on the reemergence of the fetal personhood movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights in the U.S.

Part 1: The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From And What It Means For The Future Of Choice
Part 2: The Personhood Movement: Internal Battles Go Public
Part 3: The Personhood Movement: Undermining Roe In The Courts

Last week, the Republican Party was forced into yet another uncomfortable public conversation about abortion and rape.

The House GOP, enjoying a strengthened majority after the 2014 elections, announced that on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it would hold a vote on a bill banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a top priority of groups like National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and Americans United for Life (AUL), which see it as a legislative key to toppling Roe v. Wade.

The night before the House was set to vote on the bill, GOP leaders pulled it from the floor, citing concerns by Republican women that a clause exempting rape survivors from the ban would require survivors to first report their assault to the police — a stipulation that they argued would prevent women from reporting rapes and would be politically unpopular.

Some anti-choice groups, however, had already stated that they would not support the bill — because they believed that the rape exception violated the principles of the anti-choice movement by exempting some women from abortion prohibitions.

In fact, less than two years earlier, the addition of the rape exemption to the bill had caused an acrimonious public split in the anti-choice movement, leading to the formation of the newest group advocating for a “personhood” strategy to end legal abortion.

The 2013 bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, included only an exception for abortions that would save the life of pregnant women. But in a committee hearing on the bill, Franks caused an uproar when he defended his bill by claiming that rape rarely results in pregnancy anyway. House Republicans, facing another outrageous comment about rape from one of their own, quickly added a rape exception to the bill, put a female cosponsor, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, in charge of the floor debate, and pushed it through the House.

The day before the vote, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) sent members of Congress a letter calling the Franks bill, which was based on its own model legislation, “the most important single piece of pro-life legislation to come before the House since the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act was enacted, a full decade ago.”

The group told members of Congress that it would go after them if they voted against the bill, even if they opposed it because they thought the legislation did not go far enough to ban abortion: “NRLC will regard a vote against this legislation, no matter what justification is offered, as a vote to allow unlimited abortion in the sixth month or later — and that is the way it will be reported in our scorecard of key right-to-life roll calls of the 113th Congress, and in subsequent communications from National Right to Life to grassroots pro-life citizens in every state.”

Major anti-choice groups including the Susan B. Anthony List and Americans United for Life also applauded the vote.

But Daniel Becker, head of National Right to Life’s Georgia affiliate, was not pleased. In the days after Republicans added a rape exception to the bill, Becker worked the phones, urging House Republicans from his state to oppose the “shameful” watered-down legislation. His efforts convinced two Georgia Republicans, Rep. Paul Broun and Rep. Rob Woodall, to buck their party and the major anti-choice groups and vote against the bill. Georgia Right to Life then endorsed Broun in his unsuccessful campaign to win the GOP nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat.

NRLC was livid and, true to its word, sent out a press release the next day singling out Broun and Woodall for their no votes.

Also furious was a prominent NRLC ally in Georgia, conservative pundit Erick Erickson. The day that the House approved the 20-week ban, Erickson wrote a scathing blog post calling Becker’s group “the Westboro Baptist Church of the pro-life movement.”

“Instead of saving souls, they’d rather stone those who are trying to save souls,” Erickson wrote. He called for the formation of a new anti-abortion group in Georgia to replace Becker’s as NRLC's state affiliate.

Several months later, in time for an upcoming meeting of NRLC’s board, Erickson founded his own group, Georgia Life Alliance. He then asked the national group to disaffiliate itself from Georgia Right to Life and take his group on as its official state chapter. NRLC's board happily complied, saying that Becker’s group had “ruptured its relationship” with them with its defiance on the Franks bill.

It didn’t take long for Becker to strike back. Fewer than three months later, Georgia Right to Life announced that it was forming the National Personhood Alliance, a new national organization of anti-abortion rights groups committed to a “no exceptions” strategy. In a press release announcing the group’s formation, he laid out the alliance’s philosophy, including a thinly veiled attack on NRLC. “Compromise is not possible,” he wrote. “This is not like roads or highways or agricultural subsidies; when we compromise — someone dies.”

The group later renamed itself the "Personhood Alliance."

In a policy paper in June, Jay Rogers of Personhood Florida laid out the new alliance’s strategy. It would not oppose incremental measures like the 20-week ban, but it would oppose any measure that “identifies a class of human beings that we may kill with impunity.” That is, it would only support efforts to restrict abortion rights that contain no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the pregnant woman.

Becker announced that the group’s interim president would be another anti-choice activist who had broken ranks with National Right to Life over strategy — in this case, over LGBT rights. Molly Smith, the president of Cleveland Right to Life, had earned a rebuke from NRLC when she said her group would oppose the reelection of Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman after he came out in favor of marriage equality, citing his openly gay son. NRLC blasted Smith for opposing the staunchly anti-choice senator and taking on “an advocacy agenda that includes issues beyond the right to life.”

The new Personhood Alliance won early endorsements from prominent Religious Right activist Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, popular conservative talk show host Steve Deace, and the Irish anti-abortion organization Life Institute.

But it also displayed ties to more fringe activists, boasting of an endorsement from infamous abortion clinic agitator Rusty Lee Thomas of Operation Save America, who blames the September 11 attacks on legal abortion. Jay Rogers, who wrote Personhood Alliance’s manifesto, is a longtime ally of Operation Save America who once assisted the group by administering a website showing the locations of Florida abortion providers’ private homes.

Another founding member of Personhood Alliance was Les Riley, who spearheaded Mississippi’s failed personhood amendment in 2011. Riley is a one-time blogger for a group that advocates Christian secession from the U.S. and a current officer with the theocratic Mississippi Constitution Party. Georgia’s Constitution Party also sponsored a booth at the Personhood Alliance’s convention.

Becker himself has a history on the more radical, confrontational fringes of the anti-abortion movement. In 1992, while running for a House seat in Georgia, Becker gained national attention when he helped pioneer the strategy of using an election-law loophole to run graphic anti-abortion ads on primetime television.

Personhood Alliance hasn't only set itself up against the rest of the anti-choice movement; it's directly competing with the group that brought personhood back in to the national political conversation.

In 2007, 19-year-old Colorado activist Kristi Burton teamed up with attorney Mark Meuser to push for a ballot measure defining “person” in Colorado law as beginning “from the moment of fertilization.” Keith Mason, another young activist who as an anti-choice missionary for Operation Rescue had driven a truck covered with pictures of aborted fetuses, joined the effort. Soon after the Colorado ballot initiative failed in 2008, he joined with Cal Zastrow, another veteran of the radical anti-choice “rescue movement” to found Personhood USA.

Personhood USA has raised the profile of the personhood movement by backing state-level ballot initiatives and legislation modeled on Kristi Burton’s. None of the group's measures has become law, but the political battles they cause have drawn national attention to the personhood movement’s goals.

In 2010, Mason’s group led the effort to again place a personhood measure on the Colorado ballot, eventually garnering just 29 percent of the vote (a slight uptick from 27 percent in 2008).

Following that loss, the group announced a “50 state strategy” to launch a personhood ballot petition in every state. The group focused its organizing on Mississippi, where an amendment made it onto the 2011 ballot but was rejected by 55 percent of voters after a strong pro-choice campaign centered on exposing the risk the amendment posed to legal birth control. In 2012, the group tried again in Colorado, but failed to gather enough signatures to get a personhood amendment on the ballot. The same year, a personhood bill in Virginia was passed by the state House but defeated in the Senate. In 2014, it got measures on the ballot in Colorado and North Dakota, both of which failed by wide margins.

As it expanded its mission, Personhood USA’s fundraising boomed. According to tax returns, in 2009 the group brought in just $52,000. In 2010, it raised $264,000. In 2011, when it was fighting in Mississippi, it brought in $1.5 million. But after the Mississippi defeat, the group’s fundraising faltered, falling to $1.1 million in 2012. The funding of the group’s nonpolitical arm, Personhood Education, however, continues to expand, going from $94,000 in 2010 to $373,000 in 2011 and $438,000 in 2012. In the process, it built a database of a reported 7 million supporters.

Despite its electoral setbacks, the group continues to have national ambitions: in 2012 it hosted a presidential candidates’ forum in Iowa attended by four Republican candidates. In what can be seen as another sign of the group’s success in raising the profile of the issue, in 2012 the Republican Party added to its platform support for a federal constitutional amendment banning abortion and endorsing “legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

Personhood USA has also quietly become involved in international efforts to restrict abortion rights. In its 2012 tax return, the group’s political arm reported a $400,000 grant to an unnamed recipient in Europe, representing more than one third of its total spending for the year. When Buzzfeed’s Lester Feder asked Mason who and what the grant went toward, Mason declined to comment. In 2014, Personhood USA’s Josh Craddock was granted consultative status at the United Nations, where he participated in the December, 2014, “Transatlantic Summit” of anti-choice, anti-LGBT advocates from around the world. The same year, Mason was scheduled to participate in an international social conservative forum at the Kremlin in Moscow. In January 2015, a Personhood USA representative reported having delivered a presentation at the U.K. parliament.

Personhood USA initially supported the Personhood Alliance and backed Becker — a former Personhood USA employee — in his battle against NRLC. But in September 2014, Personhood USA announced that it was cutting ties with Becker, accusing him of “trying to replace Personhood USA by using our structures and intellectual property” including the word “personhood.”

But it isn't just the right to the word "personhood" that divides the two groups; they also differ sharply and publicly on strategy.

When Becker launched his group, he took with him Gualberto Garcia Jones, a top Personhood USA official and key thinker in the personhood movement, who says he drafted the failed Colorado personhood initiatives in 2010 and 2014. A few weeks later, after statewide personhood ballot initiatives promoted by Personhood USA in North Dakota and Colorado went down in flames, Garcia Jones wrote an op-ed for LifeSiteNews explaining that while he had hoped to see those measures succeed, he believed that “the statewide personhood ballot measure is dead for now.” This was a direct repudiation of the strategy of Personhood USA’s strategy of introducing these measures or legislative alternatives in all 50 states.

Garcia Jones wrote that the struggling movement needed to engage in “asymmetrical tactics” by pushing through municipal personhood measures in rural areas where the movement can “control the battlefield”:

These initial years of the personhood movement have taught us a lot. I believe that we now know how to fight to win against Planned Parenthood. And the key is being able to control the battleground.

When you look at electoral maps of the country, it is readily evident that majorities in almost every metropolitan area of the country are opposed to our worldview. These metropolitan areas are also the major media centers and accumulate large percentages of the voting population in every state.

Right now, fighting the abortion industry at the state level is akin to having lined up a battalion of colonists against the well-trained and well armed redcoats. We need to start engaging in more asymmetrical tactics, and this means engaging the enemy in municipalities and counties that we know we control.

This can be done at the legislative and political level, as Georgia Right to Life and other groups have done by the endorsement of state officials, or it can be done by engaging in municipal ballot measures.

Jones noted that such municipal ordinances could affect the “many [local] powers that touch upon the personhood of the preborn, from local health and building codes to local law enforcement such as child abuse prevention.” And he hopes that, in the long run, municipal-level victories could lead to greater things. Becker has told blogger Jill Stanek that he hopes municipal measures will provoke legal battles that will accellerate a reconsideration of abortion rights in the courts.

Personhood USA, meanwhile, took credit for the municipal resolutions strategy and said it supported it, but noted that its state-level activism had been successful in mobilizing the grassroots and as an "educational tool that simultaneously provides a pro-life standard for lobbying and candidate endorsements."

Will the personhood movement’s strategy work?

Polling shows that the level of support for abortion rights in the U.S. depends on how you ask the question. And Gallup has found that Americans are pretty much evenly split between those who call themselves “pro-life” and those who choose the label “pro-choice.” But behind the labels is an entirely different picture. A large majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal under all or some circumstances; only 21 percent want the procedure to be completely banned. Similarly, Pew found in 2013 that only three-in-ten respondents favored overturning Roe v. Wade.

These numbers don’t bode well for the personhood movement. Voters in states as conservative as Mississippi and North Dakota have been turned off by personhood’s clear goal of banning abortion in all circumstances as well as the threat it poses to contraception and fertility treatments.

At the same time, the more successful anti-choice groups have managed to work within current public opinion to push through scores of state-level measures restricting access to abortion in an effort to slowly undermine Roe. These measures, many based on model legislation from Americans United for Life, restrict abortion access by such means as imposing waiting periods for women seeking care, requiring hospital “admitting privileges” for abortion providers and then banning public hospitals from providing such agreements; or even regulating the width of the hallways in clinics.

The Guttmacher Institute has calculated that between 2011 and 2014, states enacted 231 abortion restrictions, meaning that half of all reproductive-age U.S. women now live in a state that the Institute categorizes as “hostile” or “extremely hostile” to abortion rights — all without passing outright bans on abortion or establishing fetal “personhood.” The anti-choice group Operation Rescue, which keeps detailed records on abortion providers in its effort to shut them down, reports that the number of surgical abortion clinics in the country has dropped by 75 percent since 1991, with 47 such clinics closing permanently in 2014. This can be partly attributed to the increased frequency of medication abortion, a practice that anti-choice groups are targeting with new restrictions. In 2005, even before the closures of the last few years, 87 percent of U.S. counties had no abortion provider.

Even as voters reject moves to ban abortion outright, anti-choice groups have found less resistance to this strategy of chipping away at abortion rights with the same goal. This contrast played out in the 2014 election, when voters in Colorado and North Dakota rejected personhood measures when they were clearly told could end legal abortion, while voters in Tennessee approved a measure giving the state government sweeping new powers to curtail abortion rights without outright ending abortion rights.

In fact, by loudly proclaiming its end goal, the personhood movement may be inadvertently helping the incrementalists who are using a different strategy to achieve the same ends. By proudly embracing the no-compromise extremes of the anti-choice agenda, the personhood movement has allowed the incrementalists to portray themselves as the political center, giving them cover for a successful campaign to undermine the right to choose. In 2014, Americans United for Life president Charmaine Yoest told Time, “Most people want to see abortion restricted in some way, even if they don’t call themselves pro-life … We’re the ones occupying the middle ground.” She might not be able to make that statement if the personhood movement was not loudly and proudly occupying the absolutist, no-compromise stance that her group believes to be too politically risky.

Even as the personhood movement provides political cover to groups like AUL, it also serves as an ever-present reminder of the goals of the anti-choice movement as a whole. While the more visible anti-choice groups may find a total, immediate ban on legal abortion politically unfeasible, the personhood movement is a constant reminder that this is what they want to achieve — one way or another.

The Real Problems With Bobby Jindal And His Prayer Rally

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal skipped an Iowa stage crowded with Republican presidential wannabes on Saturday so he could host a prayer rally on the campus of Louisiana State University. Jindal and others have mischaracterized objections to the rally, suggesting that its critics were somehow out to silence people of faith. So let’s be clear about the real issue: Bobby Jindal used the power and prestige of his office to promote an event backed by some of the nation’s most religiously divisive and stridently anti-gay activists. And in a bid to boost his own political future, he sent a clear message of support for the Christian-nation views of the event’s extremist organizers.

Christians Only, Please

Let’s start with the invitation, sent on Jindal’s official state letterhead. “We are in need of spiritual and transforming revival,” he wrote, “if we are to recapture the vision of our early leaders who signed on the Mayflower, ‘In the name of God and for the advancement of the Christian faith.’” Leadership to solve the country’s problems “will not come from a politician or a movement for social change,” he wrote in this time of civil rights movement anniversaries. So how will we solve our problems? “Jesus Christ, Son of God and the Lord of Life, is America’s only hope.” In a separate letter he wrote to the other 49 governors inviting them to his rally to pray for “spiritual revival” and “heaven’s intervention” over the country. “There will only be one name lifted up that day – Jesus!”

What does all this suggest to non-Christian Americans (including non-Christian governors) about how Jindal views their contributions? Jindal’s letters reflect the attitudes of rally organizer David Lane, a political strategist who believes America was founded by and for Christians. The event was paid for by the American Family Association, whose chief spokesman, radio host Bryan Fischer, believes the First Amendment’s religious liberty protections apply only to Christians.

The rally was also a showcase for the dominionist views of self-proclaimed “apostles” who promoted and spearheaded the event. One of those “apostles” was the event’s emcee. Doug Stringer has called the 9/11 attacks “a wake-up call” that happened because God was not around to defend America due to abortion, homosexuality, and kicking God out of public schools. While introducing Jindal, Stringer made a brief mention to “Seven Mountains” theology, which states that all the “mountains” in society – arenas like business, entertainment, and government – must be led by the right kind of Christian. A later speaker, Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum, spent more time on the “Seven Mountains.” Mills said these spheres of influence belong to God, but are currently occupied by the “enemy.” They therefore need to be evangelized and “occupied by the body of Christ.”

Not Political? Not Credible

Jindal and organizer David Lane declared, unbelievably, that the rally was not political. Lane is a self-described political strategist who works to turn conservative evangelical churches into voter turnout machines for right-wing candidates and causes. Lane is trying to get 1,000 conservative evangelical pastors to run for public office, and he held a recruiting session the day before the prayer rally. Jindal and Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma were among the speakers. Another example of the disconnect between rhetoric and reality: Stringer made the claim that the rally was not meant to lift up any politicians while he was standing in front of a huge screen featuring a quote from Bobby Jindal.

The “not political” claim was hard to take seriously given the amount of time devoted to making abortion illegal and declarations that what will tip the scales will be the “the voice of the church in the voting booth.” Jim Garlow, who led church organizing for California’s anti-gay Proposition 8, and who believes the marriage equality movement is demonic, dropped all “nonpolitical” pretense, railing against marriage equality and IRS regulations that restrict the involvement of churches in electoral politics.

Opponents = Enemies

One of the biggest problems with treating politics as spiritual warfare is that you turn your political opponents into spiritual enemies. People who disagree with you on public policy issues are not just wrong, but evil, or even satanic. That makes it pretty hard to work together or find compromise.

In daily prayer calls leading up to the rally, organizers prayed for God to forgive students who were organizing protests, as if disagreeing with Bobby Jindal were a sin – or a form of anti-Christian persecution. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” prayed call leaders, comparing their pleas to Jesus asking God to forgive those who crucified him, and Saint Stephen asking for mercy for those who were stoning him to death. On one call, a prayer leader decreed a “no-go zone for demons” over the sports arena where the event was to be held. At the rally, one speaker talked of storming the gates of Hell. Bishop Harry Jackson finished his remarks by leading the crowd in a chant he has used at anti-gay rallies: “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered!”

Jindal Unplugged, Unhinged, and Unapologetic

Jindal seems to have decided that his best chance in a crowded Republican field is to plant himself at the far right of an already far-right group. In the days leading up to the rally, he drew criticism for comments denigrating Muslims and for repeating bogus charges about Muslim “no-go zones” that Fox News had already apologized for spreading. During a radio interview a few days before the rally, Jindal said liberals pretend that jihadist terrorism isn’t happening and pretend “it’s a good thing to kill journalists, to kill teenagers for watching soccer, to kill over 150 schoolchildren, to treat women as second-class citizens…” He decried political incorrectness and multiculturalism and said of immigrants who do not embrace American exceptionalism, “that’s not immigration, that’s invasion.”

On “This Week” on Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos noted that Jindal had declared at his prayer rally that “on the last page, our God wins,” and asked him if that was appropriate in a religiously diverse country. Jindal praised religious liberty but ducked the question.

On the same show, Jindal said he would back a push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow states to discriminate against same-sex couples, all while saying “I am not for discrimination against anybody.” (Jindal describes himself as an “evangelical Catholic,” and his contradictory rhetoric parallels the language of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which says it opposes “unjust discrimination” against gay people, but defines the term “unjust discrimination” in a way that applies only to those people with “same-sex attraction” who remain celibate.)

Jindal has also promoted far-right policies as governor. As Brian has noted:

Jindal has reached out to the party’s increasingly extreme base by undermining the teaching of evolution in public schools; promoting wild conspiracy theories about Common Core, an effort to adjust school standards that he supported before it became the target of the Tea Party’s fury; and hyping the purported persecution of Christians in America, specifically citing the plight of Christians with reality television shows.

Whose Agenda?

Jindal’s rally was not an original idea. In fact Jindal’s “Response” recycled materials and themes from a similar event that Texas Gov. Rick Perry held in 2011 to launch his presidential bid. Here’s what I wrote about Perry’s event, which applies equally well to Jindal’s – not surprising since both were organized by the same groups of extremists:

Organizers argued (unconvincingly) that "The Response" was about prayer, not politics. But groups like the American Family Association (AFA), which paid for the rally and its webcast…are not designed to win souls but to change American law and culture through grassroots organizing and political power-building. They have a corrosive effect on our political culture by promoting religious bigotry and anti-gay extremism, by claiming that the United States was meant to be a Christian nation, and by fostering resentment among conservative evangelicals with repeated false assertions that liberal elites are out to destroy religious liberty and silence conservative religious voices.

Jindal, of course, has the right to talk about his faith. But it is wrong for him to use his public office to proselytize and denigrate the faith of others. Teaming up with anti-gay extremists and Christian-nation advocates gives them credibility they do not deserve. His actions speak volumes about his judgment, values, and commitment to religious pluralism and equality under the law.

The Personhood Movement: Undermining Roe In The Courts: Part 3

This is the third post in a RWW series on the reemergence of the fetal personhood movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights in the U.S.

Part 1: The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From And What It Means For The Future Of Choice
Part 2: The Personhood Movement: Internal Battles Go Public
Part 4: The Personhood Movement: Regrouping After Defeat

As we have detailed in previous posts in this series, ever since the anti-choice movement rose to prominence in the wake of Roe v. Wade, it has been divided over how to go about repealing Roe and recriminalizing abortion in the U.S.

Groups like Americans United for Life (AUL) and the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) have achieved great success in pushing states to adopt incremental measures targeting abortion providers in the name of protecting women’s health and in advocating for national policies — such as the 2003 “partial-birth” abortion ban and the 20-week abortion ban currently being considered by Congress — that attempt to undermine the legal reasoning in Roe by targeting a small segment of abortion procedures.

But the anti-choice personhood movement believes that the incremental strategy is doing too little to end legal abortion. They believe they have a better plan.

The personhood movement argues that small, incremental legal victories cutting off access to abortion will never achieve the ultimate goal of completely criminalizing the procedure — in part because those measures fail to make a moral argument on behalf of the humanity of the fertilized egg and fetus.

At the founding convention of the Personhood Alliance late last year, the chief of staff to Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, notorious for his legal fight over a Ten Commandment monument he placed in the courthouse rotunda, discussed an alternate legal strategy to end abortion rights. As Nina Martin has outlined in The New Republic, Moore’s protégé and colleague Justice Tom Parker has been carefully laying out a legal framework to overturn Roe, not by constitutional amendment, but by the legal redefinition of what it means to be a person protected by the law.

Parker, with Moore’s backing, has been building a body of jurisprudence that offers a blueprint for a personhood victory in the courts. In doing so, he’s drawn the attention and praise of anti-choice activists; Liberty Counsel, a right-wing legal group, has called him a “modern-day Wilberforce.”

Since efforts to overturn Roe by passing a Human Life Amendment or a legislative alternative faltered in Congress in the 1970s and 1980s, personhood advocates have focused on the states, passing legislation giving limited rights to fetuses as separate entities from pregnant women. Since 1986, 38 states have passed “fetal homicide” laws identifying fetuses at some or all stages of development as separate victims of crime and in 2004 Congress passed a similar law covering federal crimes. Similarly, in 18 states substance abuse during pregnancy is legally considered child abuse. In Alabama last year, Republicans passed a law allowing judges to appoint lawyers for fetuses. As Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues associate at the Guttmacher Institute, put it in an interview, “all of that is about trying to build up a legal case that personhood starts at fertilization.”

Personhood USA’s 2014 attempt to insert personhood language into Colorado law drew on this legal history, specifically limiting its new definition of personhood to the Colorado criminal code and Colorado Wrongful Death Act. But the proposal was nonetheless widely recognized as an attempt to ban abortion, or at least to set up a legal battle challenging Roe. In fact, Colorado had already passed laws imposing extra penalties for crimes against pregnant women, the purported purpose of the personhood amendment. “They are changing the tone, they are changing the language, they are changing the messaging to try to win,” Nash said.

Parker has chronicled laws treating fetuses as full-fledged humans in certain cases to argue that “[t]oday, the only major area in which unborn children are denied legal protection is abortion, and that denial is only because of Roe.” He has urged the Supreme Court to address the issue at the next chance it gets.

Parker and Moore’s strategy relies on what the personhood movement’s proponents believe is a loophole in Roe v. Wade that would allow anti-abortion advocates to effectively undo the decision without a constitutional amendment or a Supreme Court friendlier to their cause. In Roe, the Justices rejected the idea of fetal personhood. Justice Blackmun wrote in his majority opinion that “no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment,” noting, “If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses...for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment.”

A federal bill that currently has 132 cosponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate takes aim at this supposed loophole in Roe, simply declaring that “the right to life guaranteed by the Constitution is vested in each human being," which includes “each member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, including the moment of fertilization, cloning, or other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being.”

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the chief sponsor of the Senate bill, signed a fundraising email for the pro-personhood National Pro-Life Alliance in November, arguing that his was the strategy that would work:

The Supreme Court itself admitted  if Congress declares unborn children 'persons' under the law, the constitutional case for abortion-on-demand 'collapses.'

Alabama’s Supreme Court is the most prominent court to give a serious hearing to the personhood strategy, long considered by even some in the anti-choice movement to be a crackpot theory and a potential political and legal disaster. As recently as 2009, Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, wrote in the National Review that the so-called “personhood loophole” was an “urban legend” and those pursuing it were “heading toward a brick wall.” Forsythe argued that in 1992 Casey decision, the Supreme Court had shifted the abortion debate from the personhood of fetuses to the rights of women, and that that was therefore the ground that the anti-choice movement should be playing on. “The real challenge for pro-lifers in 2009 is to effectively address the assumption that abortion is good for women,” he wrote, presaging AUL’s revamped woman-focused messaging.

Even more alarming to the personhood strategy’s detractors in the anti-choice movement is the possibility that a personhood challenge to Roe could create the opportunity for a Supreme Court ruling that would actually strengthen constitutional protections for abortion rights. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for instance, has said that she believes abortion rights should be secured under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, making the issue more clearly about the rights of women. In 2010, Austin Ruse of the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) wrote, “If a personhood amendment comes before this court, a new and terrifying decision may put the pro-life movement back a quarter century or more.”

In 2007, as the anti-choice movement’s schism over a ban on so-called “partial-birth” abortion was gaining national attention, Georgia Right to Life, which was at the the state affiliate of NRLC, worked with legislators to introduce a state constitutional amendment defining a “person” under state law as “including unborn children at every state of their biological development, including fertilization.”

Although the Georgia amendment was based on language originally drafted as a federal constitutional amendment by NRLC, NRLC’s chief counsel James Bopp, Jr. tried to shut it down. In a lengthy and frank memo to his fellow anti-choice activists, Bopp contended that such an amendment would be immediately struck down in federal courts and, if it made it to the Supreme Court, could give the court’s majority the opportunity to rewrite Roe in the way favored by Ginsburg. The state-level personhood strategy, he cautioned, was “presently doomed to expansive failure.”

Instead, Bopp said, the anti-choice movement should continue its incremental strategy, which was succeeding in curtailing access to abortion while keeping the issue in the public eye. He wrote that the “partial-birth” abortion law had been a successful example of this strategy because it “forced the pro-abortion camp to publicly defend a particularly visible and gruesome practice.” Acknowledging that “most pro-lifers” believe that abortion should only be available to save the life of a pregnant woman, he warned that absolutist, no-exceptions approaches like personhood were both legally unwise and poor public relations:

By contrast, the pro-life movement must at present avoid fighting on the more difficult terrain of its own position, namely arguing that abortion should not be available in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity, and harm to the mother. While restricting abortion in these situations is morally defensible, public opinion polls show that popular support for the pro-life side drops off dramatically when these “hard” cases are the topic. And while most pro-lifers believe that a consistent pro-life position requires permitting abortion in only the rare circumstances where it is necessary to save the life of the mother, some pro-lifers believe that there should not even be an exception to preserve the life of the mother. Other pro-lifers advocate exceptions for rape or incest. This is an important debate to have, and we should be ready to convince the public of the need for few, if any, exceptions to laws prohibiting abortion when such laws can be upheld. However, since that is currently not the case, such a debate is premature and would undermine public support for the pro-life position.

Responding to Bopp’s memo, the conservative Thomas More Law Center, which drafted the Georgia amendment, argued that the incremental strategy had taken too long and done too little and that “after 34 years of abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy, it is time to rethink pro-life strategy.”

“[T]he central holding of Roe v. Wade remains the primary obstacle to any meaningful pro-life initiative that seeks to end abortion,” wrote Thomas More attorney Robert J. Muise. “To remove this obstacle, a case must be presented to the United States Supreme Court that challenges the central premise of Roe — that the unborn is not a person within the meaning of the law.”

If personhood laws were to succeed in the courts, the legal implications would be immense and unpredictable.

The ambiguous wording of personhood measures has led to concerns that they could be interpreted to outlaw oral contraception, IUDs and in-vitro fertilization. But birth control is not the only issue. As the National Advocates for Pregnant Women’s Lynn Paltrow and Fordham sociologist Jeanne Flavin have documented, laws granting legal rights to fetuses outside the context of abortion have led to hundreds of cases of pregnant women being arrested or otherwise apprehended after suffering miscarriages or for alleged drug and alcohol use deemed to be harmful to the fetus.

In countries that completely criminalize abortion — the goal of the “pro-life” movement in the U.S. — pregnant woman can find themselves in terrifying situations: recently in El Salvador, a woman was sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder after suffering a miscarriage.

As Paltrow told Newsweek in 2012, “There’s no way to give embryos constitutional personhood without subtracting women from the community of constitutional persons.”

By redefining what it means to be a person under the law, personhood measures could also have a broad legal impact on issues unrelated to reproductive rights, threatening to upend everything from inheritance law to census results. In 2014, the Colorado Bar Association opposed the state’s personhood ballot measure, warning that the vaguely worded measure would have “potentially serious, unintended and unknown consequences for Colorado lawyers…From areas of Family Law to Probate Law to Real Estate Law, as well as the explicit effect on Criminal Law and Wrongful Death statutes, this Amendment could create uncertainty and endless litigation.”

Daniel Becker, the former leader of Georgia Right to Life and founder of the Personhood Alliance, also sees the personhood issue as extending beyond abortion rights, but in a different direction. The final chapter of Becker's 2011 manifesto, "Personhood," is written in the form of a science fiction story set in a "post-human future" in which computers have gained consciousness, procreation has been moved to laboratories, and a "specialized sub-class of human-animal hybrids" has been developed to perform menial labor. The anti-abortion rights movement, he argues, will cease to be relevant in coming battles over biotechnology if it remains "at its heart, anti-abortion as opposed to pro-sanctity of human life." He argues that only by embracing full "personhood" rights for zygotes and fetuses will the movement remain viable in the future.

The personhood movement, while it has hope in the legal system, also recognizes that it won’t get far without winning hearts and minds. In the final post in this series, we’ll look at the movement’s efforts to reorganize in the wake of electoral defeats.

The Nativist Strategy Behind World Congress of Families' Anti-LGBT, Anti-Choice Work In Russia

Last year, a slew of American Religious Right activists traveled to Moscow to take part in an international conference called “Large Families and the Future of Mankind.” The conference was funded by top allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was organized by the Illinois-based World Congress of Families (WCF ended its official role in the event after the U.S. placed sanctions on some of its funders, but was still clearly the main organizing force behind it.)

The fact that the conference was dedicated to “large families” is important. In a new report for Political Research Associates, Cole Parke exposes how WCF has worked with Russia’s government to exploit fears of a European “demographic winter” and push for policies restricting abortion and LGBT rights. Parke illustrates that behind the “demographic winter” warning is a “cynical manipulation of racial resentments” — not the fear that the country’s population is dropping but that Russian identity might be “redefined as something other than White and Orthodox.”

WCF’s influence at the U.N. relies heavily on its longstanding ties with Russia, one of the five permanent members on the U.N. Security Council. Carlson’s work on the ”demographic winter”—the idea that abortion, birth control, homosexuality, feminism and other ”unnatural” deviations have led to dangerous population decline and a crisis for the ”natural family”—has proven to be particularly effective in garnering favor with Russia’s conservative leadership.

Carlson argues that declining birth rates threaten the decline of civilization—Western civilization. As researcher and journalist Kathryn Joyce puts it, “The concern is not a general lack of babies, but the cultural shifts that come when some populations, particularly immigrant communities, are feared to be out-procreating others.” Put another way, the demographic winter thesis cultivates racism and xenophobia in support of exclusionary “natural family” policies. A main objective of the WCF’s demographic scare tactics is to convert nationalism into natalism, and thereby mobilize a larger anti-abortion, “natural family” base. (Natalism prioritizes human procreation, including public policies that reward birthing children.)

This perspective is commonplace among WCF and its affiliates. Following WCF’s 1997 congress in Prague, Cathy Ramey, associate director of the U.S. anti-abortion organization Advocates for Life Ministries, explained what she’d learned: “As native citizens reject marriage and child-bearing, other non-native groups will simply move in and replace the historic population.” Speaking at WCF V, John Mueller, a researcher at the Ethics and Public Policy Center—a neoconservative think tank in Washington, DC, argued that “fertility would rise and remain above the replacement rate, not only in the United States but also most other countries, by ending legal abortion.”

In Russia and other parts of Europe, a combination of population anxiety and growing anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiment has offered WCF a favorable political context in which to advance its anti-abortion, “natural family” agenda. Carlson and his network have fanned the flames of “demographic winter” anxieties throughout the region.

In June 2011, WCF hosted the Moscow Demographic Summit, describing it as the “world’s first summit to address the international crisis of rapidly declining birthrates.” More than 500 people attended, including Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church; Russian First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva; members of the Russian Duma; and a host of right-wing American scholars and activists.

Within two weeks of the event, President Medvedev—whose wife, Medvedeva, had recently teamed up with the Russian Orthodox Church on a new anti-abortion campaign—signed a law requiring abortion providers to devote 10 percent of any advertising to describing the dangers of abortion to a woman’s health, and making it illegal to describe abortion as a safe medical procedure. This was the first new legislative restriction placed on abortions in the country since the fall of Communism.

Four months later, in October 2011, the Russian Duma passed a law further restricting abortions to within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for cases up to 22 weeks in instances of rape or medical necessity. The new law also tacked on a mandatory waiting period of two to seven days before an abortion can be performed, a common tactic used by anti-abortion activists in the U.S.

Parke explores how WCF exploits nativist and nationalist fears in order to push restrictions on reproductive rights and LGBT equality in its work in Africa and at the United Nations as well. You can read the full report here.

The Personhood Movement: Internal Battles Go Public: Part 2

This is the second post in a RWW series on the reemergence of the fetal personhood movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights in the U.S.

Part 1: The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From And What It Means For The Future Of Choice
Part 3: The Personhood Movement: Undermining Roe In The Courts
Part 4: The Personhood Movement: Regrouping After Defeat

As proponents of the “personhood” strategy to end legal abortion like to remind those who will listen, the original goal of the anti-abortion rights movement after Roe v. Wade was to pass a constitutional amendment overturning the decision. And one possible amendment — along with a dubious statutory alternative  — would have done so by defining “personhood” as starting at conception.

In the 1970s and 1980s, dozens of anti-Roe “Human Life Amendments” were introduced in Congress, containing a variety of language. Only one made it to an up-or-down vote in Congress: the “Hatch-Eagleton Amendment,” which would have simply gutted Roe by stating, “A right to abortion is not secured by this Constitution.” In June of 1983, the amendment fell far short of the two-thirds majority needed for a constitutional amendment, garnering just 49 yes votes.

But there was another strategy for amending the Constitution to reverse Roe, one that rather than just returning to the states the power to regulate abortion would have overturned Roe by declaring that fetuses are "persons" protected under the Constitution. In 1976, one such amendment was put up for a test vote in the Senate, garnering only 40 votes in support.

The language of these amendments was a matter of bitter internal debate among anti-abortion rights groups. One draft amendment formulated by the National Right to Life Committee in 1974, known as the NRLC Amendment, would have declared that the word "person" in the 14th and 5th Amendments "applies to all human beings irrespective of age, health, function, or condition of dependency, including their unborn offspring at every stage of their biological development," but included a specific exemption for "medical procedures required to prevent the death of the mother."  

Some members of NRLC’s budding coalition thought the amendment didn’t go far enough to prohibit abortion, arguing that the “life of the mother” exception was too broad. Two founding members of NRLC, Judie and Paul Brown, had left the group because they perceived it as too willing to compromise and founded their own anti-choice group, the American Life League (ALL) and helped to establish the radical abortion “rescue” movement. In 1979, ALL wrote its own amendment, nicknamed the “Paramount Amendment,” which would have erased all abortion exceptions by declaring, “The paramount right to life is vested in each human being from the moment of fertilization without regard to age, health, or condition of dependency.”

Faced with a splintering movement, NRLC held months of talks with its fellow anti-abortion groups, hoping to hammer out a Human Life Amendment that they could unify behind. In October of 1981, NRLC announced that “with tears of joy and happiness” it had “solved what formerly appeared to be an irreconcilable difference over a fundamental question: how to allow for just those abortions truly needed to prevent the death of the mother without at the same time making her right to life superior to that of her unborn child.”

NRLC’s new “Unity Amendment,” which was introduced by Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina that December (and which ALL still refused to support), tightened the “life of the mother” exception by adding the stipulation that abortion would be allowed only to “prevent the death of either the pregnant woman or her unborn offspring, as long as such law requires every reasonable effort be made to preserve the life of each.”

All of these amendments failed to get off the ground, as did a novel and controversial legislative approach to achieve the same goal. In 1981, Helms and Sen. Henry Hyde introduced a bill that they claimed could overturn Roe without a constitutional amendment or a new Supreme Court majority, by simply declaring that life begins “at conception.” The effect of the law, the New York Times reported at the time, would be to once again allow “states, if they choose, to prosecute abortion as murder.” President Reagan got behind the strategy, but legal scholars called the bill unconstitutional. NRLC and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops continued to favor the constitutional amendment strategy, doubting that the Helms-Hyde bill would hold up in the courts.

By that time, however, it became clear that a constitutional amendment and the Helms-Hyde personhood bill weren’t going anywhere in Congress, and proponents had already started focusing on other strategies to turn back the tide on abortion rights.

In 1975, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops had developed a plan to turn every diocese into an anti-choice political machine and to use its existing infrastructure to set up an office in every congressional district. The bishops’ plan included a four-pronged legislative strategy, which continues to guide the anti-choice movement today:

(a) Passage of a constitutional amendment providing protection for the unborn child to the maximum degree possible.

(b) Passage of federal and state laws and adoption of administrative policies that will restrict the practice of abortion as much as possible.

(c) Continual research into and refinement and precise interpretation of Roe and Doe and subsequent court decisions.

(d) Support for legislation that provides alternatives to abortion.

In other words: fight for an amendment to undo Roe, but at the same time work through the courts and legislatures to make it harder for women to access legal abortion. While Roe would remain the law of the land, women would not be able to actually exercise their rights.

Part of this strategy involved targeting public funding for abortions. Frederick Jaffe, Barbara Lindheim and Philip Lee explained in their 1981 book "Abortion Politics":

The new strategy was outlined by RTL [Right to Life] leader Randy Engel, who urged restrictive riders on “any and all federal legislation related directly or indirectly to health,” in order to keep the abortion issue visible and build support. She argued that the efforts to win interim legislation would provide antiabortion workers with political experience, would educate the public, and would force members of Congress to go on record one way or the other. Not least important, she added, this strategy would require the forces supporting abortion rights to expend time, effort and resources in opposing riders.

One of the early victories of this strategy was the 1976 passage of the Hyde Amendment, a rider to the health and human services spending bill that prohibited Medicaid from funding abortions for low-income women. The Hyde Amendment was a victory, but it provoked yet more squabbling within the anti-abortion rights movement.

When it was first passed, the Hyde Amendment contained one exception: for abortions that could save the life of a “clearly endangered” pregnant woman. But because it was attached to a spending bill, the Hyde Amendment had to be renewed annually. The next year, after a lengthy legislative deadlock, Congress kept the exception for saving a woman’s life and added additional exceptions for ensuring a woman’s long-term health and for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The 1977 compromise allowing abortion funding for rape and incest survivors — which has been modified several times since then — was a setback for anti-choice hardliners, but the anti-abortion rights movmement's leaders continue to celebrate the Hyde Amendment’s repeated renewal. In 2013, on the amendment’s anniversary, National Right to Life crowed that “over one million people are alive today because of the Hyde Amendment.”

But Daniel Becker, a longtime personhood activist and founder of the new Personhood Alliance, sees it differently. “The Hyde Amendment,” Becker wrote in his 2011 book on the personhood concept, “damaged the very fabric of our mission. No longer would the lofty rhetoric of ‘sanctity of all human life’ and ‘the personhood of the unborn’ be embodied in a strategy to achieve those protections. The prolife movement had a seat at the political table, but contented itself with crumbs.”

In 2007, the anti-choice movement achieved another seeming victory that was divisive in its own ranks. The Supreme Court, which now included George W. Bush appointees John Roberts and Samuel Alito, reversed a previous decision and upheld the 2003 ban on a specific procedure that the anti-choice movement had labeled “partial birth abortion.”

Linda Greenhouse wrote in the New York Times that the decision, Gonzales v. Carhart, was a “vindication” of the anti-choice movement’s strategy of pursuing a “partial birth” ban after the 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey made a more sweeping victory look unfeasible: “By identifying the… procedure and giving it the provocative label ‘partial-birth abortion,’ the movement turned the public focus of the abortion debate from the rights of women to the fate of fetuses.”

As with the congressional fight over abortion coverage in Medicaid, abortion rights opponents hoped to use the debate over so-called “partial birth” abortion, an exceedingly rare procedure, to keep attention on their efforts to end legal abortion entirely.

But not everybody in the anti-choice movement was thrilled. In fact, the decision that was widely seen as a victory for the anti-choice movement brought into the public eye a long-simmering split in the movement.

Six weeks after Gonzales was handed down, a coalition of anti-abortion groups, including the Colorado chapter of National Right to Life, took out a full-page ad in newspapers around the country attacking Focus on the Family founder James Dobson for supporting the ruling.

One Denver pastor in the group, Bob Enyart, accused mainstream pro-life groups of fundraising off a strategy that “has no authority to prevent a single abortion” because other procedures could be used in place of the banned operation. Colorado Right to Life President Brian Rohrbough told the Washington Post, “What happened in the abortion world is that groups like National Right to Life, they're really a wing of the Republican Party, and they're not geared to push for personhood for an unborn child — they're geared to getting Republicans elected. So we're seeing these ridiculous laws like the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban put forward, and then we're deceived about what they really do."

As the Post noted, NRLC’s detractors started referring to the group as the “pro-life industry” — a term intentionally reminiscent of the anti-choice movement’s “abortion industry” epithet for abortion providers, implying that those groups had sold out and cared more about their fundraising than their mission. (Several years later, Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia was using similar rhetoric to question the group’s motives.)

A week later, leaders of Colorado Right to Life confronted the board of NRLC at its annual meeting, attacking its “immoral and failed anti-abortion strategy.” Enyart told the board, in a speech secretly recorded by Colorado Right to Life:

We’ve provided cover to pro-choice politicians, even Democrats, who would say, ‘I’m not an extremist, I supported the partial-birth abortion ban.’ We wasted 15 years while 20 million kids — 20 million kids — have died. We’ve spent a quarter of a billion dollars as an industry for a ban that does not have the authority to save one life. You guys are worried about what’s growing in Colorado. I’ll tell you what’s growing in Washington, D.C. It’s called the abortion weed. Child-killing regulations — that’s what National Right to Life is really good at — child-killing regulations prune the abortion weed and sanction its root.

National Right to Life promptly voted to kick the Colorado group out of the organization. Colorado Right to Life then hired an Abraham Lincoln impersonator to accost conference-goers with a revised version of the Gettysburg Address: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...no exceptions!"

It was around this time that the “personhood” strategy began to see a national reemergence in the public eye, and along with it a legal theory that had long been dismissed even by leaders in the anti-choice movement.

The next post in this series will look at the debate within the anti-choice movement on how to best confront Roe v. Wade in the courts.

Lindsey Graham Tells Anti-Choice Activists: Need To Find 'Way Out Of This Definitional Problem With Rape'

Sen. Lindsey Graham, chief Senate sponsor of the GOP’s effort to undermine Roe by banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, spoke this morning to the Family Research Council’s “ProLifeCon,” about the House GOP’s decision to cancel a vote on its version of the bill that had been planned for today. The House leadership pulled the plug on the vote in response to protests from some Republican women who objected to a provision that exempted rape survivors from the ban only if they report the rape to police. Some anti-choice groups have objected to including a rape exception in the bill at all, a last-minute addition after the bill’s previous House sponsor, Trent Franks, implied that women who are raped rarely get pregnant.

Graham acknowledged that opponents of rape exceptions are being “intellectually consistent and honest about ‘the baby is the baby’” but argued that banning rape survivors from accessing abortion is a political impossibility: “Some of us who have these exceptions do so in a democratic society believing that there are some places we will not go.”

“I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,” he told the audience, saying that his plan was to hold a Senate vote on a Democratic bill aimed at pushing back on state-level abortion clinic “TRAP” laws in order to show that it’s Democrats who are “extreme” on abortion rights.

“The rape exception will be part of the bill…We just need to find a way definitionally to not get us in a spot where we’re debating about what a legitimate rape is, that’s not the cause that we’re in,” he said.

This post has been updated with additional details of Graham's speech. 

Anti-Choice Activists Furious About GOP's Reversal On 20-Week Abortion Ban

Yesterday, Republican leaders in the House decided to pull a plan to vote on a national ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy after Republican women balked at a provision that would have exempted rape survivors only if they reported their assault to the police. The vote had been planned to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the anti-choice March for Life on the National Mall.

Anti-choice activists are, predictably, furious. After all, many saw the rape and incest exception as an unacceptable compromise in the first place. The bill, originally proposed by Rep. Trent Franks last year, included only an exception for abortions that could save the life of the pregnant woman. After Franks claimed in a hearing that “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” GOP leaders quietly added a rape exception to the bill and picked a Republican woman, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, to handle the vote on the House floor.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa told the National Journal yesterday that he would fix the problem by eliminating the rape exception entirely: "I would not make exceptions for rape and incest, and then the reporting requirement would not be necessary.”

After House leaders decided to pull the bill yesterday, prominent anti-choice blogger Jill Stanek and the group Students for Life announced that they were putting together a last-minute protest at the offices of two Republican women, Reps. Renee Ellmers and Jackie Walorski, who reportedly led the fight against the rape reporting provision:

Conservative pundit Erik Erickson, in a late-night blog post, attacked Ellmers for her “two-faced ploy” and shot off a series of tweets giving her the “abortion Barbie” label he had previously bestowed on Wendy Davis:

 

Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm, responded with a press release saying he was “disgusted” by the House leadership’s “act of moral cowardice” and urged his supporters to call their members of Congress to protest the “breach of trust.”

“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice. If the House Republicans cannot pass something as basic as restricting the abortion of five-month, pain-capable unborn children, what can they get done?

“The Republicans in Congress should come and explain this atrocity to the hundreds of thousands of people gathering here in the nation’s capital to march for life. The congressional Republicans seem to think that pro-lifers will be satisfied with Ronald Reagan rhetoric and Nancy Pelosi results. They are quite wrong.”

House Republicans are now scheduled to vote on a bill Thursday that would prohibit federal funding for abortions. This scheduled vote coincides with the annual March for Life event, held in Washington, D.C., on or around the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion in the case Roe v. Wade.

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat seemed to capture the feelings of many abortion rights opponents:

 

Americans United for Life Official: State Anti-Choice Laws Stopping 'Abortion Mentality' From 'Corroding' US

Former New Hampshire gubernatorial and senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne, who now serves as the general counsel of Americans United for Life, stopped by the “Janet Meffered Show” last week to discuss his group’s recent success in pushing scores of incremental state-level measures that are chipping away at abortion rights across the country.

Lamontange boasted about AUL’s guidance to anti-choice state legislators, and touted the Guttmacher Institute’s data showing that more abortion restrictions were enacted between 2011 and 2013 than in the entire previous decade.

He credited this success not just to his group’s lobbying efforts but to an “awakening” about “what this abortion mentality is doing to us, it’s eroding, corroding who we are as a country and as a people.”

The good news is the momentum is in our favor, more pro-life laws were passed in the last three years in this country at the state level than had been passed the prior 10 years. So we’re really in a good place. And prayer, I think, has been the most important fuel to this success. People are praying and the 40 Days for Life movement and other groups are helping people to have an awakening about what it means to preserve and protect life. And what this abortion mentality is doing to us, it’s eroding, corroding who we are as a country and as a people.

The Personhood Movement: Where It Comes From And What It Means For The Future Of Choice: Part 1

This is the first post in a RWW series on the reemergence of the anti-choice “personhood” movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights in the U.S.

Part 2: The Personhood Movement: Internal Battles Go Public
Part 3: The Personhood Movement: Undermining Roe In The Courts
Part 4: The Personhood Movement: Regrouping After Defeat

“Welcome to the future of the pro-life movement.”

As a few dozen activists walked into a conference hall in an Atlanta suburb in October 2014, they were met with an optimistic greeting from an impromptu welcoming committee.

It was the founding convention of the Personhood Alliance, an association of anti-abortion groups from 15 states who are determined to wrest back an anti-choice movement that they fear has gone dangerously astray.

The members of the Personhood Alliance felt betrayed.

The largest and best-funded groups opposing abortion rights have, over the past several years, achieved astounding success in chipping away at women’s access to legal abortion in the United States. But these successes, Personhood Alliance’s founders maintain, are too small and have come at a grave cost.

In seeking mainstream approval for anti-choice politics, personhood advocates believe, groups like the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and Americans United for Life (AUL) have adopted a secular tone and downplayed their Christian origins. In focusing on drawing attention to issues like late-term abortion, they may have won some support for the cause but have done little to end the procedures they targeted. In seeking incremental successes, personhood advocates argue, the movement has given up on making a moral argument for the humanity of fertilized eggs and fetuses and lost sight of its larger goal of eliminating legal abortion entirely.

But the greatest betrayal in the eyes of these personhood advocates is the willingness of major anti-choice groups to endorse legislation that includes exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest. The personhood movement’s leaders contend that these political concessions are not only immoral and intellectually inconsistent, but also threaten to undermine the movement’s goals in the long term. In fact, the Personhood Alliance grew out of a feud between Georgia Right to Life leader Daniel Becker and NRLC centered around a rape exception inserted into a national 20-week abortion ban. Becker and his allies believe that they have a better plan, one that does not require compromise.

Joining the activists at the founding conference was Ben DuPré, the chief of staff for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who, along with his colleague Justice Tom Parker, has outlined an alternate strategy for eliminating legal protections for abortions in the United States: building a body of laws that define fertilized zygotes and fetuses as citizens with full rights under the law.

On the first night of the Personhood Alliance’s founding convention in October, Paul Broun, then a Republican congressman from Georgia, captured the activists’ anger at the leaders of the anti-choice movement, charging that they had betrayed the movement's core principles to such a degree that it had provoked the wrath of God — and implied that they were doing so for personal gain.

Broun told the activists of a meeting he had had with two leaders of NRLC when he was running for U.S. Congress in 1996. He told them that were he elected, the first bill he would introduce would be a Sanctity of Human Life Act giving personhood rights to fertilized eggs, because [that’s] "how we’re going to overturn Roe v. Wade is by giving the right of personhood to that one-celled human being.” The NRLC leaders, Broun said, told him they wouldn’t support it and he “walked away very disillusioned.”

When an audience member asked Broun why he thought NRLC and other major anti-choice groups weren’t putting their energy behind personhood bills, including one that he helped write, Broun responded that he wasn’t “making any accusations here,” but implied that “pro-life” leaders have a financial incentive to never achieve their declared goal.

Harkening back to that 1996 meeting, he drew a historical parallel:

They never told me [why they wouldn’t back the Sanctity of Human Life Act]. I asked them, and they just said, well, we won’t. And I walked away from that meeting in 1996 very, very disappointed, very disillusioned. And shortly after, actually as I was riding away in a taxi cab, it came to mind, back when I was a kid – looking around the room, I’m not sure anybody’s old enough to remember polio – but when I was a kid I had classmates who got polio who were in iron lungs, and I had patients as a doctor, people who when I was in medical school, were people who had polio.

The biggest charity in this country was an organization called March of Dimes. And they were, their executives were, I guess, I’m not sure, but they were making lots of money, March of Dimes was probably the biggest charity in the country. And a doctor by the name of Jonas Salk developed a vaccine. And suddenly, March of Dimes went broke.

And I went away from that meeting with National Right to Life and I was wondering, I still wonder, I’m not making any accusations here: If we were to stop abortion, what would happen to the jobs of all those people who are getting paid every day to be in the pro-life movement? What would happen? I don’t know if that’s what it is or not, I’m not making any accusations, I’m just telling you what my thought was when I left that meeting.

He told the Personhood Alliance that every day that legal abortion continues, America risks God’s wrath. Discussing his 2013 refusal to vote for a 20-week ban to which the House GOP had added a rape exception at the last minute, Broun said:

If we can save some, let's do it, but let's not make exceptions and that some babies are worth killing and some are not. They're all worth saving.

And then it goes back to 'my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,' as we hear [from] Hosea 4:6, and that's the reason education is so important. Because we've got to educate the grassroots.

...

You see, God is a holy, righteous God. He cannot continue to bless America while we’re killing over a million babies every single day. Abortion must stop.

(Broun's estimate of one million abortions taking place every day is, to say the least, wildly exaggerated.)

Broun argued that groups like the NRLC are selling the movement short by accepting political compromise bills containing rape and incest exceptions and then pressuring anti-choice lawmakers to vote for those bills.

"The reason a lot of pro-life people are willing to compromise is because of that outside pressure," he said. "Whether it's an endorsement from Concerned Women [for America] or the Family Research Council or another group, or it could be an endorsement of the U.S. Chamber [of Commerce] or it could be the endorsement of any group. Politicians, the major principle that they will not budge from is their reelection. So they will do whatever it takes to get the endorsements, the money that they need to raise.”

Barry Loudermilk, a former Georgia Republican state senator who had recently been elected to the U.S. House, also spoke to the convention, comparing the fight against abortion rights to the struggle of America’s founders, who he said also witnessed “a decline in the moral sensitivity of our nation.” Loudermilk, who while serving in the state senate introduced a personhood amendment that was backed by Georgia Right to Life and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, said, “When you look at our movement, we have the exact same things against us that they had against them,” he said. “They had the government against them, the laws, the judges. We don’t have the people who are totally with us, it’s growing. But we have the truth with us. We have Providence with us.”

The congressmen echoed a founding tenet of the Personhood Alliance: that in a movement that was increasingly struggling to appear secular, the organization would be unabashedly “Christ-centered” and “biblically informed.”

As personhood's proponents like to remind their fellow activists, both sides of the movement share the same goal: to completely criminalize abortion. The question is just how to do it.

The largest and best-funded anti-choice groups, deploying a strategy of chipping away at abortion access in the name of “women’s health,” have pushed state legislatures to pass over 200 new restrictions on abortion rights since 2011, many based on model legislation from AUL and NRLC. This strategy has managed to shut down abortion providers (especially in rural areas), make it harder for low-income women to pay for abortion, and erect unnecessary logistical hurdles for even those women who could access and afford abortion care.

The movement also won a pivotal court case with the Supreme Court's ruled that private corporations could deny their employees legally mandated health insurance coverage for contraceptives that the corporations’ owners believe cause abortion. And they did this all while stemming the loss in public opinion that had hindered other “culture war” issues, in part by lifting up female leaders and adopting woman-centered empowerment rhetoric.

But at the same time, another side of the anti-choice movement, those eschewing compromise and incrementalism and pursuing the goal of establishing legal “personhood” from the moment of conception, have suffered a series of embarrassing electoral blows. In 2014, Colorado voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have defined zygotes and fetuses as persons in the state’s criminal code. It was the third time in six years that voters in the state had rejected a “personhood” measure, although its proponents noted that their margin of defeat got smaller each time. Perhaps even more galling for the movement, voters in reliably conservative North Dakota rejected an amendment to provide constitutional protections for “every being at every stage of development” by a whopping 28-point margin. And this all came three years after a personhood initiative was soundly defeated in deep-red Mississippi.

These personhood measures, while sharing the same ultimate goal as the incremental strategy, have become widely seen as politically toxic, in large part because they could threaten access to common forms of birth control. The no-compromise strategy has also become tied to a series of ham-handed comments made by male politicians, most infamously former Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, which further hurt the personhood movement, while providing political cover to those pursuing a more incremental approach.

But despite its spectacular losses at the ballot box, personhood movement strategists maintain that not only is their strategy the morally sound and intellectually consistent one — they believe their strategy is the one that will ultimately swing public opinion and overturn Roe v. Wade.

This series, marking the anniversary of Roe, will explore the recent resurgence of the personhood movement and what it means for the future of abortion rights. Upcoming posts will examine the history of the split in the anti-choice movement and its debates over legal strategy, and the organizations that are currently leading the movement.

Personhood Advocates Come Out Against 20-Week Abortion Ban Because It Includes Rape Exception

Next week’s scheduled House vote on a national 20-week abortion ban, to be held on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, is reviving a bitter public debate within the anti-choice movement about whether to support abortion bans that include exceptions for preganancies resulting from rape or incest.

Even as major anti-choice groups line up to support the 20-week ban, activists in the “personhood” camp of the anti-abortion-rights movement are warning that the ban’s exceptions sell out the movement’s principles.

Back in 2013, when the House Judiciary Committee was debating a 20-week ban based on National Right to Life model legislation, Democrats on the committee tried to amend the bill to add rape and incest exceptions, but were rebuffed by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks, who declared that “the instance of rape resulting in pregnancy is very low.”

The Republican-led committee eventually approved the measure without the exceptions, but Franks’ comment had caused such a political firestorm that the House GOP leadership quietly added the exceptions in at the last minute and handed the public leadership on the bill over to a Republican woman, Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

Most of the major national anti-abortion groups didn’t support the added exceptions but backed the ban anyway, and it handily passed the Republican-controlled House. But the addition of the exceptions caused a very public split in the anti-choice movement. Georgia Right to Life, the state affiliate of the National Right to Life Committee, urged its state’s representatives in Congress to oppose the bill, a direct repudiation of the national group’s strategy. In return, National Right to Life kicked its Georgia affiliate out of the organization and replaced it with a new group called Georgia Life Alliance. Georgia Right to Life continued to exist as an independent group but also started a new national group called the Personhood Alliance to rival National Right to Life and push for no-exceptions abortion bans.

Now that Blackburn has reintroduced the bill with a rape and incest exception included, the Personhood Alliance and Georgia Right to Life are coming out to oppose it. In a statement yesterday, the Personhood Alliance’s president, Daniel Becker, lambasted Republicans for introducing a “message bill” with what he believes is the wrong message: "This a message bill. The president has already vowed to veto the bill, so why, in a Republican led House and Senate, send out a message that fails to embrace the essence of the pro-life movement."

Georgia Right to Life sounded the same note, saying that abortion bans should “protect all children in the womb who feel pain, not just those conceived by consent”:

"Last Fall, voters sent a clear message that they're fed up with political gamesmanship and lack of courage," [GRTL Executive Director Genevieve] Wilson said. "There's absolutely no need to compromise principles on any bill, especially one that President Obama has already said he will veto."

GRTL supported the 2013 version until an exception for rape and incest was added - which H.R.36 also has. We should pass bills that protect all children in the womb who feel pain, not just those conceived by consent.

Anti-Choice Groups Hope To End Legal Abortion Through National Strike

An Albuquerque anti-choice group that failed last year to pass municipal ordinance banning abortion after 20 weeks has come up with a new way to convince Albuquerque and all of America to criminalize abortion: a national strike!

Earlier this year, Project Defending Life, the group behind the Albuquerque ballot measure, launched a new project called Protest ABQ, aimed at recruiting anti-choice activists from around the country to converge on Albuquerque, the home of one of a very few late-term abortion clinics in the nation. Project ABQ is now announcing that, along with the anti-choice group Operation Rescue, it will launch a general strike to coincide with the anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the March for Life.

The groups are calling for supporters to “stay home from work, avoid buying anything unnecessary and basically be on strike” for two days later this month.

Protest ABQ’s Father Stephen Imbarrato explains in a YouTube video that this will finally be the strategy to end legal abortion:

It’s our hope that these protests will culminate in a national strike to end pre-born baby killing in the United States. While we’re marching in protest in Washington D.C. and San Francisco and Santa Fe and throughout our country on January 22, let us pray and fast and protest. Stay home from work, avoid buying anything unnecessary and basically be on strike to end this national pre-born baby killing. Let us extend this protest, this strike beyond Roe v. Wade day on January 22 to Friday, January 32. No work, no school, no spending, just prayer and fasting to end pre-born child killing.

An announcement for the strike calls on protesters to emulate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a supporter of reproductive rights) and warns that protesters could be “beaten, screamed at or abused”:

The yearly anniversary of Roe vs. Wade continues to be a day of mourning across the pro-life community. Each year thousands gather in Washington D.C. to protest against this evil.

However, to step up our call to end abortion, we are encouraging all like-minded people throughout the country not to go to work or school nor spend money on Thursday, January 22nd and Friday, January 23rd, 2015, but instead to join together for prayer, fasting and PROTEST in their localities.


All participants must commit to following the model of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in their protests.

"Even if we were to be beaten, screamed at, or abused, we will not respond in kind," stated Fr. Imbarrato.

Protests will be held in front of state capitol buildings, busy intersections, and abortion facilities. No place is off limits and no one who profits from, supports, or condones pre-born child killing is immune from these protests.

Together, we are calling on national religious and pro-life leaders to join us and encourage all like-minded people to participate in a national strike.

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Anti-Choice Posts Archive

Miranda Blue, Thursday 03/19/2015, 1:11pm
Operation Save America, the radical anti-choice group that grew out of the original Operation Rescue, will be holding a multi-day event in Montgomery, Alabama, in June to express its support for Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s activism against marriage equality and abortion rights. OSA head Rusty Lee Thomas writes in a press release today that the event will bring together “hundreds of gentle Christians from across the nation” for a march drawing on “the historical lessons of Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma.” A description of the event on the group’s... MORE
Miranda Blue, Friday 02/20/2015, 2:49pm
Matt Barber joined Steve Deace on his radio program yesterday to discuss the actions of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who’s urging judges in his state to defy a federal judge and refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples. Barber told Deace that whether or not the United States Supreme Court has “the authority to redefine the institution of marriage, which cannot be done, it’s contrary to reality to say that it’s anything other than the male and female,” Moore is on “solid legal ground” in claiming that the Alabama Supreme Court... MORE
Miranda Blue, Thursday 02/19/2015, 12:15pm
Personhood USA, the group that has pushed fetal personhood measures in states including Colorado, Mississippi and North Dakota, told supporters in an email today that its next target will be South Carolina. The group’s president, Keith Mason, boasted to supporters of the “victory” of a nonbinding resolution supporting a personhood amendment on last year’s Republican primary ballot in South Carolina. He did not specify if the group will be advocating for a state-level ballot initiative or a legislative approach, or both. A personhood amendment currently pending in the... MORE
Miranda Blue, Monday 02/09/2015, 4:08pm
In an interview on American Family Radio today, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman claimed that low-income women use abortions “like birth control pills” and compared abortions to “Obama phones,” the name given by a racist meme to a decades-old program that provides low-cost or free phone service to some people in poverty so they can access things like emergency services. When AFR host Ed Vitagliano asked Newman why “abortions are three times more likely to be performed on a woman with Medicaid,” he responded, “It’s free.” “These... MORE
Miranda Blue, Monday 02/09/2015, 1:20pm
In an interview last month with Gary Cass on the “Defending a Christian Worldview” webcast, Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman outlined his group’s strategy of targeting individual abortion providers in order to shut off “the supply side of the abortion industry,” thereby cutting off “the Enemy’s ability to make war on the children.” “Let’s be honest, we’ve passed hundreds and hundreds of bills, possibly thousands of bills in all 50 states and on the federal level, and in the end we do not have an abolition to abortion,... MORE
Miranda Blue, Friday 02/06/2015, 5:51pm
Gary Cass, president of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, has a solution for the anti-choice movement’s internal conflicts about including rape exceptions in abortion bans: just execute rapists like in biblical times. Cass invited Operation Rescue’s Troy Newman to his “Defending a Christian Worldview” webcast last month, shortly after House Republicans cancelled a vote on a 20-week abortion ban because of a dispute over the wording of the bill’s rape exception. Newman lamented that in cases like that, the pro-choice movement was using the issues of... MORE
Miranda Blue, Friday 02/06/2015, 1:41pm
Last month, on the eve of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, House Republican leaders canceled a planned vote on a national 20-week abortion ban after Republican women and moderates objected to a provision that would have exempted rape survivors only if they filed a police report on their assault. In an interview with Janet Parshall on Wednesday, the bill’s author, Rep. Trent Franks, said that the cancellation of the vote was “one of the great disappointments in my life.” Pinning the change of plans on a “certain group within” the GOP, he lamented, “it’s... MORE