It’s an unexpected use of a decades-old civil rights law.
Hannah LevintovaJan. 15, 2016 7:00 AM
In April 2014, Stephanie Burns' company, Chic CEO, was gearing up for a networking event at an Italian restaurant in San Diego. Chic CEO hosts online resources for women starting their own businesses, and this spring evening it had teamed up with a local networking group to throw a mixer at Solare Lounge, where women could mingle over cocktails and appetizers while talking business.
During the event, Rich Allison, Allan Candelore, and Harry Crouch appeared at the restaurant door. They had each paid the $20 admission fee, and they told the hosts they wanted to enter the event. Chic CEO turned them away, saying that "the event was only open to women," according to the men's version of events, explained later in a legal complaint. Within two months, the three men had filed a discrimination lawsuit against Burns and her company alleging that the event discriminated against men. They are each members of the nation's oldest men's rights group, the National Coalition for Men, and Crouch is the NCFM's president.*
The lawsuit is a recent example of a trend that several men's rights activists have repeatedly deployed in California, one made more successful by their strategic use of the Unruh Act, a decades-old civil rights law named after Jesse Unruh, the progressive former speaker of the California Assembly. The law is quite broad, outlawing discrimination based on markers such as age, race, sex, or disability. In dozens of lawsuits, several NCFM members have invoked it to allege discrimination against men by such varied groups as sports teams and local theaters. And the strategy has worked.
Since 2013, these men have used the law to file two lawsuits, and threaten several more, against groups encouraging gender diversity in tech and business, worlds that have been historically dominated by men, with women holding only about 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and making up only about 13 percent of computer engineers for the last 20 years. As the movement for more gender diversity in these fields has gained traction,some men's rights advocates have questioned the need for such a movement at all.
"Women typically earn more than do men" in industrial engineering and "all other engineering disciplines," Harry Crouch, the NCFM's president, writes on the group's website. (Census data says the opposite: As of 2013, median earnings for men in computer, science, and engineering occupations were about $13,000 more than the median earnings for women.) "Surely, networking mixers to encourage more men to take part in those fields are needed, but not at the exclusion of women," wrote Crouch.
Critics in legal circles contend that these lawsuits appear to be as much about making an easy buck as they are about defending aggrieved men.
The NCFM members' lawsuit alleged that by holding a networking event marketed toward women, Burns and Chic CEO were in fact illegally discriminating against men. The 2014 complaint filed in San Diego Superior Court focused on the event's marketing, noting: "Imagine the uproar by women business owners and entrepreneurs, feminists, and other equal rights advocates if a business consulting company in partnership with a business networking firm brazenly touted a no-women-allowed business networking event as follows." It illustrated the point with a rewritten version of the ad for the event, substituting references to women with men.
(Later in the complaint, the last names of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, two of the highest-ranking women in Silicon Valley, are misspelled.)
This was not the first lawsuit these men had filed against a women's professional group. In 2013, they sued Women on Course, a group that introduces women to golf, after the Virginia-based organization held a golf clinic and networking event at a San Diego golf club. Once more, Allison, Candelore, and Crouch asked to attend the event—this time in advance via email—and sued the organization after they were told they could not come because the event was for women.
Both Donna Hoffman, the president of Women on Course, and Chic CEO's Burns settled with the plaintiffs for an undisclosed sum. As a result of the suit, Burns got a new job and shrunk the business she'd built over six years, suffering a "significant" financial and personal toll. (She wouldn't elaborate on her legal costs, out of concern for potentially violating the terms of her settlement. Rava also said he could not comment on settlements due to confidentiality.) "All Chic CEO is trying to do is provide women with the information they need to get a business started," Burns writes in an email. "Just because we help women, doesn't mean we hurt men."
"Just because we help women, doesn't mean we hurt men."
NCFM members disagreed. They alleged that they were illegally excluded from a business opportunity that was "closed to struggling single dads, disabled combat veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and other business men and male entrepreneurs who, just like business women and female entrepreneurs, hoped to and had the right to meet and mingle with entrepreneurs, CEOs, directors, savvy business people and other entrepreneurial-minded people."
In response to the argument that events like Chic CEO's help address the pay gap, Crouch wrote on the NCFM's website that according to "the plethora of real social science research…only a minute amount of the pay gap may be due to sex discrimination."
Alfred G. Rava—a San Diego-based attorney who is also the NCFM's secretary and free legal consultant—has been suing on behalf of aggrieved men for more than a decade and represented the NCFM members against Chic CEO. The 59-year-old attorney has filed more than 150 sex discrimination lawsuits in the last 12 years, many citing the Unruh Act. In 2003, seven San Diego nightclubs paid Rava and Steven Surrey, a paralegal, a $125,000 settlement after they brought a series of lawsuits challenging the clubs' "Ladies Night" and other woman-specific discounts. (Part of this sum also went to their attorney fees.)* In 2004, the San Diego Repertory Theater paid Surrey $12,000 after he wrote to it, with Rava's help, alleging that its ticket discounts—half-priced tickets for women on specific nights—were illegal. In 2009, Rava won a half-million-dollar settlement from the Oakland A's for a class-action suit that contested a Mother's Day promotion where the A's gave the first 7,500 women to arrive at the ballpark that weekend a sun hat. Rava told Mother Jones that he's never been paid by the NCFM for his "advocacy for equality for men." He also said he could not disclose how much money, if any, he or his clients made from various settlements over discrimination claims because the settlements are confidential.
In 2009, he won a half-million-dollar settlement from the Oakland A's for a suit that contested a Mother's Day promotion where the A's gave women at the ballpark a sun hat.
Rava's most high-profile victory was a sex discrimination case that, in 2007, made it all the way to the California Supreme Court. In the lawsuit, four men, including several NCFM members, alleged that the ticket prices charged by a Los Angeles restaurant and night club were discriminatory—in some instances women got a $5 discount or got in free. The issue that the Supreme Court had to decide was not whether the men were discriminated against, but whether the men had the standing to file the suit at all. The club argued they didn't because men never asked to be charged at the ladies' rate. But California's Supreme Court ruled in the men's favor, so they were free to sue the club. The NCFM members were then awarded a judgment by a lower court—but Rava says they were unable to collect because the club had gone out of business. This Supreme Court victory laid some of the legal groundwork for Rava's recent cases against women's professional groups.
In May 2015, Leslie Fishlock, the CEO of Geek Girl, a tech training company, got a letter from the NCFM alleging that the female-focused marketing for her upcoming Geek Girl tech conference was discriminatory. Copied on the letter were some of her conference's biggest sponsors, including the University of San Diego and Microsoft. Fishlock was shocked, and she worried her sponsors would pull out at the last minute. They didn't, but Fishlock says she spent thousands of dollars on attorneys to avoid a lawsuit.
"It's a fear-based shake down strategy," Fishlock says. "I couldn't sleep. I worried that they would show up to my events, even though we allow guys to come. After the conference, I thought, 'I don't even know if I want to do this anymore.' I shouldn't have to live in that kind of fear."
Since then, Fishlock has been warning other women in tech about how to tweak their marketing language to avoid the NCFM's challenges. She says she has sent emails to "all of the women I know who have networking groups."
The NCFM has also written similar letters to a number of other groups, including a local YMCA and a Monterey bike race, contesting woman-specific promotions. It's unclear if Rava has been behind the drafting of all these letters, but the legal citations and lines of argument in portions of the letters are strikingly similar to those in the Chic CEO and Women on Course lawsuits. A cached page featuring the letter sent to Geek Girl on the NCFM's website thanks Rava for his help.Rava confirms he has consulted for the NCFM about businesses that treat men and women differently, and notes that the letters are signed by the NCFM's president, Harry Crouch.
Rava has lost cases as well, including a much-publicized suit opposing a Mother's Day giveaway by the Anaheim Angels. But when it comes to male discrimination cases, his overall track record is impressive.
"I'm shocked that he has gotten any traction at all," says Michael Kimmel, a professor of sociology at Stony Brook University who has written extensively on men's rights groups. Kimmel cites the example of Roy Den Hollander, a men's rights activist and New York attorney who has filed sex discrimination suits on behalf of men over the past decade. He sued over ladies' nights at a number of New York nightclubs, the Violence Against Women Act, and Columbia University's women's studies department. All three of these cases were dismissed.
But the Unruh Act's protections are broad, which some say makes California fertile territory for Rava's work. Robert Dato, an Orange County attorney who defeated Rava in the Angels case, says the act can encourage frivolous lawsuits, in part because it contains a one-sided provision requiring losing defendants to pay back the plaintiff's attorneys fees, but not vice versa. Rava doesn't agree that the breadth of the Unruh Act encourages sex discrimination lawsuits, in part, he tells Mother Jones, because his litigation and advocacy have led to a dearth of parties to sue. "These gender-based promotions and business practices have been virtually eliminated in California," writes Rava in an email, "and no sex discrimination promotions or events means no sex discrimination lawsuits." Rava told Mother Jones that he's not working on any Unruh Act cases at this time.
"They proclaim themselves equal rights activists, yet repeatedly attempted to glean money…through the threat of suit."
California courts have suggested that Rava and his plaintiffs are exploiting the breadth of the Unruh Act to make money off settlements. They "have been involved in numerous of what have been characterized as 'shake down' lawsuits,'" wrote a California appeals court in dismissing Rava's case against the Anaheim Angels. "They proclaim themselves equal rights activists, yet repeatedly attempted to glean money…through the threat of suit." The California Supreme Court raised the same issue in its opinion on Rava's supper club case, noting, "We share to some degree the concerns voiced by the trial court and the appellate court…regarding the potential for abusive litigation being brought under the Act."
Rava dismisses the courts' references to the potential shake-down nature of his lawsuits. He explains in an email that the courts are merely repeating "personal attacks" made by his opponents when the law is not on their side: "Perhaps because California's anti-discrimination laws and the facts are so much against these serial sex discriminators and their attorneys," writes Rava, "that in some cases the parties and their attorneys have little choice but to make personal attacks against or 'pound' the discrimination victims and their attorneys."
Candelore, Allison, and Crouch are undeterred. As noted by Yahoo News and in San Diego court records, Candelore has been a plaintiff in 12 civil cases since 2011. In 10 of those 12 cases, he was represented by Rava. In nine of those, Crouch was also a plaintiff, and in eight of them Allison was a plaintiff.
But the question remains: Why have tech and business become targets for the men's rights movement? Kimmel offered a theory.
"The STEM field has been, for better or worse, one of the last bastions of uncriticized masculinity," says Kimmel. "You still find that in Silicon Valley. There's a kind of crazy nerd macho where your masculinity is proved by how little sleep you get and how much work you can do. So for these men, it's exasperated entitlement. 'Those were our jobs; why are you taking those too?'"
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated Steven Surrey's job title.
Correction: The headline of this article has been revised to more accurately reflect the nature of the defendants in the lawsuits.
A tone-deaf Missouri lawmaker is sponsoring the "All Lives Matter" Act.
Hannah LevintovaJan. 13, 2016 7:00 AM
As "Black Lives Matter" chants have grown common in communities nationwide responding to police violence against black men and women, opponents of the BLM movement have controversially altered the phrase to "All Lives Matter." Now, Missouri state Republican Rep. Mike Moon has introduced a bill that further co-opts BLM's rallying cry, this time for his anti-abortion agenda. Titled the "All Lives Matter Act," the bill would define a fertilized egg as a person, asserting that life begins at the moment of conception and that embryos have the same rights as humans.
Reproductive rights advocates and activists say this use of the language of Black Lives Matter opponents is an affront to the BLM movement and especially to black women. "By hijacking the prolific chant that has become the title of a movement led by a new generation of human rights activists and recontextualizing it, Rep. Moon is further marginalizing Black women," writes Christine Assefa at the Feminist Wire.
"Black women have had very little reproductive choice, historically. During slavery, they were forced into childbirth. Then, they were forced into methods for sterilization," wrote Alison Dreith, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, in a column for the St. Louis American. "This bill continues the trend in Missouri, that women should not make their own decisions."
The legislation has been moving through the Missouri House since its 2016 session began last week. Missouri already has a "personhood" law in place, but this bill would make the provision more extreme by repealing part of the law that says that the state personhood law must still comply with the US Constitution and Supreme Court precedent such as Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that legalized abortion.
Without such a caveat, this personhood bill would virtually wipe out abortion access—and likely be found unconstitutional. In general, personhood bills can also restrict some methods of contraception because both the morning-after pill and IUDs can prevent an already-fertilized egg—a zygote that is considered a "person"—from implanting in the uterus. Opponents say such measures can also upend laws around abortion access. These laws usually preserve a woman's right to an abortion as established by Roe, but they establish the fetus as a "person," say, in the case of the murder of the mother or if the pregnancy, usually later term, results in a miscarriage. Under these laws, in vitro fertilization can be made illegal, and women who miscarry can potentially be investigated and prosecuted for fetal homicide.
Personhood ballot measures have been roundly rejected by voters in many states—most recently in North Dakota, Colorado, and Mississippi—but are already on the books in Kansas and Missouri. Courts in Oklahoma and Alaska have also struck down personhood initiatives.
In Missouri, this bill is just one of several initiatives seeking to further the state's existing abortion restrictions. A current state Senate bill proposes tightening rules around fetal tissue donation, physician admitting privileges—by requiring abortion clinic doctors to have surgical privileges at a nearby hospital—and abortion clinic inspections, proposing that the state's health department be required to conduct unannounced inspections of abortion clinics annually. Today, the entire state of Missouri only has one clinic that performs abortions after a Columbia clinic was forced to stop offering abortions last November when a local hospital pulled the clinic doctor's admitting privileges.
"There are two anti-abortion laws in the Senate already. And 11, maybe 12, in the House," says NARAL's Dreith. "And our first day of session was Wednesday, so it hasn't even been a full week yet. It's going to be a long year."
As for the title of the bill, Rep. Moon did not respond to Mother Jones' request for comment about why he named the measure the "All Lives Matter" act.But the title was bound to garner controversy. The Black Lives Matter movement ramped up in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August 2014. On the day that Moon prefiled the All Lives Matter Act, a different state representative prefiled a bill that would revoke athletic scholarships from college athletes who refused to play for any reason other than health. The bill was filed just a few weeks after more than 30 black football players at the University of Missouri refused to play as part of a protest against the university president and the school's negligence on issues around racism and a lack of diversity on campus. The coincidence of these bills being filed on the same day is telling, says NARAL's Dreith.
"Reproductive health is intrinsically linked to racism and to the Black Lives Matter movement," Dreith says. This bill, she notes, shows that "the lives of women—and especially black women—do not matter to this legislator."
When HIV rates in Texas soar, show this to your friends.
Hannah LevintovaJan. 7, 2016 7:00 AM
In the final days of 2015, while most were preparing for Christmas and the New Year, the state of Texas presented a different sort of holiday surprise: The Texas Department of State Health Services announced that at the start of 2016 it would cut off about $600,000 in funding for HIV preventionservices provided by Planned Parenthood. The state has provided this funding to the women's health provider for nearly 30 years.
The state gave no reason, saying simply that "there will be no further renewals of this contract" in its notice to Planned Parenthood.
"The state cuts these programs in an attempt to score political points," Rochelle Tafolla, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, told the Texas Tribune. "The true victims here are tens of thousands of women and men who no longer have access to health care that they need.”
Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast—the only Planned Parenthood affiliate that receives this grant—has used this money since 1988 to fund more than 138,000 HIV tests, HIV and STI counseling and education programs, and prevention services such as condom distribution in five counties in the Houston area. The program takes HIV testing outside clinics, to locations such as jails, nightclubs, and college campuses. Harris County, one of the regions covered by the now-defunded program, diagnosed 1,289 new HIV cases in 2014—more than any county in the state.
The roughly $600,000 used for the program was administered by the state of Texas as part of a federal grant for HIV prevention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, that grant totaled more than $13 million. It's unclear what Texas will do with the funds previously allocated to Planned Parenthood. A health department spokesperson told the Texas Tribune that they are "working with local health departments in the area" to continue to provide the HIV prevention services that Planned Parenthood had provided for decades.
This defunding move came two months after Texas' health officials announced that the state would pull Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood over alleged "acts of misconduct" revealed in selectively edited undercover videos released last summer by the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress. Three days after the initial defunding announcement in October, investigators went to Planned Parenthood clinics in four cities to demand extensive records on Medicaid and billing. State health officials claimed they had proof of Medicaid fraud by Planned Parenthood, but they haven't actually produced this proof. They also have yet to deliver the "final notice of termination" to formally defund Planned Parenthood, so for now the organization is able to continue providing health care services to low-income women in Texas who are on Medicaid.
This situation has precedents with bleak consequences. After Indiana passed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood in 2011, a federal judge overturned the bill, but legislators found other ways to chip at the women's health provider's funding. Over the next two years, five rural Planned Parenthood clinics across the state that offered HIV testing but not abortions were forced to shutter. Following their closures, the state saw an alarming HIV outbreak in some of those rural areas.
House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) departs the chamber on January 6 after voting to defund Planned Parenthood.
On Wednesday afternoon, the House voted to approve a bill that would pull about $450 million in federal funding from Planned Parenthood. The bill—passed by the Senate late in 2015—will now head to President Obama's desk. This will mark the first time a bill defunding Planned Parenthood has made it to the president's desk in more than 40 years. This is the eighth time Congress has voted to defund Planned Parenthood in the last year.
Wednesday's vote reflected the deep partisan divide on these issues: All but three Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and all but one Democrat voted against it. Federal law already prohibits using Medicaid or other federal funds for almost all abortions, so this bill would prevent patients from using their Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood for other healthcare services—like cervical cancer screenings, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, or contraceptive services.
Obama has already vowed to veto any legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood, but congressional Republicans are encouraged by the symbolism of sending this bill to the White House. They're also already planning a veto override vote for later in January. To successfully override a presidential veto, both the Senate and the House would need a two-thirds majority.
Those discredited videos threw gasoline on the fire.
Hannah LevintovaDec. 29, 2015 7:05 AM
On July 14, anti-abortion activist David Daleiden and his nonprofit Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of secretly recorded and deceptively edited videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue—a practice that is illegal. The videos have since been widely discredited, but they set off a nationwide offensive against Planned Parenthood that made 2015 one of the worst years ever for the nearly 100-year-old reproductive and women's health care organization.
Responding to the videos, Planned Parenthood emphasized that the discussion that had been covertly filmed concerned the costs of storing and transporting fetal tissue, which can be recouped according to federal law. The group also hired a research firm to examine the editing of the videos. When the firm concluded that the videos had been extensively and deceptively edited, the CMP dismissed these findings as "a complete failure" and an attempt at distraction.
The doctored videos monopolized the abortion debate for the rest of 2015. They inspired efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in six states, investigations of the women's health provider in seven states (all have so far found no evidence of fetal tissue sales), and the creation of a special investigative committee in Congress.In October, Planned Parenthood announced it would stop taking any reimbursements for fetal tissue donations and would pay for their storage and transport instead. Fetal tissue donation is legal in the United States, and it's critical for medical research.
The next month, a shooting attack at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood killed three people and injured nine.The alleged gunman, Robert Lewis Dear, said "no more baby parts" during his arrest. When he appeared in court, he shouted, "I am a warrior for the babies," but authorities still hesitate to confirm the widespread suspicion that Dear's actions were connected to the controversial videos.
"One of the lessons of this awful tragedy is that words matter, and hateful rhetoric fuels violence," Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement after the shooting. "It's not enough to denounce the tragedy without also denouncing the poisonous rhetoric that fueled it."
Here's a look back at some of the significant events from the past year in the relentless war against Planned Parenthood:
Congressional Budget Fights and Investigations
A total of three congressional committees launched investigations into the activities of Planned Parenthood following the release of the videos. Several lawmakers also spearheaded efforts to strip Planned Parenthood of its approximately $500 million in federal funding. Federal money for most abortions is already illegal, but about $400 million of Planned Parenthood's federal funds come from Medicaid reimbursements, when low-income women choose to use their Medicaid coverage for health care services at a local Planned Parenthood facilities. OnJuly 21, Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) introduced the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, saying on the House floor that "Planned Parenthood's culture of depravity runs much deeper than a couple of videos." The bill would have placed an immediate moratorium on federal funding to Planned Parenthood pending the results of a congressional investigation into the group.
In September, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing to investigate the claims about the sale of fetal tissue but found no evidence of wrongdoing. Following the Judiciary Committee hearing, the House passed Black's bill on September 18, voting to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding. A similar defunding measure passed the Senate in early December.
On September 29, Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, was called to testify before a House government oversight committee. Led by Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), House Republicans grilled Richards for more than four hours about how her organization spends its federal funding. Chaffetz frequently cut Richards off when she was replying to his questions, and he suggested throughout the hearing that Planned Parenthood should be stripped of its federal funding. A number of the committee Democrats accused the Republicans of misogyny and discrimination against women. "My colleagues say there is no war on women," said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.). "Look at how you've been treated, Ms. Richards."
Chaffetz also presented a chart at the hearing suggesting that in 2013 Planned Parenthood performed more abortions than life-saving procedures such as cancer screenings. Many media outlets point out that this implied conclusion was completely wrong. Below is Chaffetz's chart alongside a properly scaled version from Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum:
And if the chart were to include the testing for sexually transmitted diseases and the contraceptive services provided by Planned Parenthood, it would look like this:
After three congressional investigations into Planned Parenthood turned up no evidence of wrongdoing, then-House Speaker John Boehner announced on October 23 that Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) would chair a new investigative committee (with $300,000 in funds just to start) to scrutinize the women's health organization. She was joined by seven anti-abortion Republicans, all of whom co-sponsored a bill in July proposing to defund Planned Parenthood. Democrats charge that this committee is as politically motivated and biased as the one investigating Hillary Clinton and the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
On December 3, the Senate passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Though President Barack Obama planned to veto the legislation, Senate Republicans viewed it as an important symbolic gesture. "The president can't be shielded by the weighty decision he'll finally have to make when this measure lands right on his desk," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Nonetheless, later in December, the final spending bill left the funding for Planned Parenthood intact.
The GOP's many presidential hopefuls used the Planned Parenthood video controversy to prop up their anti-abortion bona fides as the campaign season ramped up. In February, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, just a few months before announcing his presidential bid, told a talk show host at the Conservative Political Action Conference that his decision to veto Planned Parenthood funding for five years in a row in his state was a product of his pro-life beliefs. In August, at a town hall in Colorado, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he believed Planned Parenthood should be defunded because "they're not actually doing women's health issues."
During the second GOP primary debate in September, presidential candidate Carly Fiorina described a grisly scene from the doctored Planned Parenthood videos released by the Center for Medical Progress. "I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." Fox News went on to call this "the moment of the night," and Fiorina surged in the polls. The only problem? As noted by many news outlets, the video she described doesn't exist. Fiorina's super-PAC then created their own version of the previously nonexistent video.
When anti-abortion rhetoric turned to violence at the clinic in Colorado Springs and gunman Robert Dear opened fire on the facility, leaving three people dead, Democratic candidates responded swiftly to the tragedy with their condolences.
The Republican candidates took nearly a full day to weigh in, and even then, only a few offered public statements. Two days after the shooting, Mike Huckabee equated the murders in Colorado Springswith the medical procedures at Planned Parenthood, "where many millions of babies die."
Attacks on Planned Parenthood in statehouses across the country preceded the videos but gained new intensity after they were released. In 2013, the Texas legislature passed HB2, a controversial law that imposes several onerous restrictions on abortion providers, including the requirement that abortions be performed in facilities known as ambulatory surgical centers. In January 2015, Planned Parenthood completed a new surgical facility in Dallas to comply with the implementation of HB2. The new clinic—a refurbished ambulatory surgical center—cost the organization more than $6 million. Ambulatory surgical centers have strict structural requirements, including wider hallways, sterile ventilation, and larger operating rooms. Planned Parenthood purchased one and then had to spend additional funds readying it for patients. Many medical professionals, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have repeatedlynoted that typical doctor's offices areappropriate settings to perform medically safe abortions.
In February, the Arkansas legislature proposed a bill that would prohibit government funds (other than Medicaid) from going to any group that provides abortions or gives referrals for the procedure. The move cut off funding that the state's Planned Parenthood chapter had been using to pay for sex ed. The bill was enacted in April and Planned Parenthood's state-funded sex ed program—focused on teaching public school students about the prevention of HIV and sexually transmitted infections—shut down.
After the videos were released, several states attempted to pull state funding from Planned Parenthood. Louisiana was the first: Gov. Bobby Jindal announced in August that the state would cut off Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood. In October, a federal judge temporarily blocked this measure from going into effect, but not before the state's lawyers filed with the court a list of health care providers that could replace Planned Parenthood. The list included dentists, cosmetic surgeons, ophthalmologists, nursing home caregivers, and other doctors outside the field of women's health. "It strikes me as extremely odd that you have a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist who are billing for family planning services," said the judge.
"It strikes me as extremely odd that you have a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist who are billing for family planning services," said the judge.
Just a few days after Louisiana's announcement, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley announced that his state would cut off funds to Planned Parenthood. In October, a federal judge in Alabama ruled that the state had to restore Planned Parenthood's funding, saying that the state's reason for cutting off Planned Parenthood—for allegedly selling fetal tissue—wasn't applicable to patients in Alabama, where fetal donation is outlawed.
Following these announcements in Louisiana and Alabama, the Obama administration wrote a letter to officials in both states explaining that pulling Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood was likely a violation of a 2011 federal rule saying states can't discriminate against health care providers that provide abortions in their Medicaid allocations. Despite this official warning, over the next several months, Arkansas, New Hampshire, Utah, and Texas all announced that their states would pull state funding from Planned Parenthood. In October, federal judges in Arkansas and Utah ruled that Planned Parenthood's funding had to be restored, but in December, a federal judge in Utah reversed the lower court's ruling, saying the state could defund Planned Parenthood. In Texas, an appeal from Planned Parenthood requesting that the court prevent the defunding process from moving forward is awaiting judgment.
In November, the Supreme Court announced it would review its first abortion case in nine years, Whole Woman's Health v. Cole. The outcome of the case will have major repercussions for all abortion providers in Texas, including Planned Parenthood. At issue in the case is HB2, the omnibus Texas abortion bill that imposes onerous restrictions on abortion providers. As portions of the law have gone into effect, more than half of the abortion clinics in Texas have closed. Before the law there were 41 clinics; now there are 18. If the Supreme Court upholds two of the most burdensome requirements of the law—that abortion clinics be performed in ambulatory surgical centers, and that all abortion clinic doctors have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital—the number of clinics in Texas could fall to 10. More broadly, the high court's decision will likely clarify its 1992 ruling in another seminal abortion case, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, further defining how far lawmakers nationwide can go when passing abortion restrictions.
Before the law there were 41 clinics; now there are 18.
Planned Parenthood also mounted several legal challenges on the state level in 2015. In December, Planned Parenthood sued Ohio in federal court. The state's attorney general, Mike DeWine, made statements that the state's investigation of Planned Parenthood had turned up evidence that the contractors tasked with disposing of fetal remains on Planned Parenthood's behalf were doing so in landfills. The women's health provider filed a lawsuit saying that DeWine's inflammatory statements singled out Planned Parenthood and were simply a political move aimed at hurting abortion access in the state. "Planned Parenthood handles medical tissue just like other health care providers do," Jerry Lawson, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, said in a statement. "We work with licensed medical removal companies to handle fetal tissue respectfully and safely."
Clinic Protests and Violence
On August 21, anti-abortion activists protested in front of about 320 clinics around the country, calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood. Organizers of the nationwide protests said this was the largest-ever rally against Planned Parenthood. Violence against abortion clinic facilities and staff continued to surge throughout 2015, with an increase in instances of arson and vandalism, culminating in the deadly rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.
Ever since Colorado Springs, pro-choice advocates have warned that the culture of hate against Planned Parenthood will continue to breed violence against women's health providers.
"Even when the gunman was still inside of our health center, politicians who have long opposed safe and legal abortion were on television pushing their campaign to defund Planned Parenthood and invoking the discredited video smear campaign that reportedly fed this shooter's rage," said Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in the aftermath of the shooting. "Instead of looking for lessons to prevent this from happening in the future, they're doubling down on their effort to block women from getting preventive health care at Planned Parenthood…It is offensive and outrageous that some politicians are now claiming this tragedy has nothing to do with the toxic environment they helped create."