They're concerned that Republicans are putting abortion providers at risk.
Hannah LevintovaMay 25, 2016 3:59 PM
In one of his final acts as speaker of the House last October, John Boehner helped form the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives to explore allegations that abortion clinics are illegally selling fetal tissue for a profit.On Tuesday, 181 House Democrats sent a letter to Boehner's successor, Paul Ryan, asking him to break from his fellow Republicans and demand an end to an investigation that the panel's Democratic members have called, at various points, a "farce," "witch hunt," "kangaroo court," and something that "belongs in a bad episode of House of Cards."
"To this day, the panel still lacks credible evidence to support its case that any federal laws were broken," the Democrats wrote to Ryan. "Yet the Chair and majority staff continue to harass individuals, researchers, clinics, and health care facilities…The onus is on you to put an end to this witch hunt. You cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the serious risks presented by the Panel and still claim to fulfill your responsibilities as Speaker."
Since its creation, the investigative panel has held two public hearings, and at each one the Democrats repeatedly accused the Republican members of violating House rules.At the first, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) asked the panel's chair, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), to explain why she had issued wide-ranging subpoenas for the names of researchers, grad students, lab technicians, and others who were involved in fetal tissue research—a move that abortion advocates worried could endanger the lives of these scientists and their employees. Blackburn declined to elaborate. At the second hearing, in April, Blackburn repeatedlyrefused to provide clear sources for a set of provocative exhibitsthat included a draft contract between a procurement company and an abortion clinic and several charts implying the growing profitability of fetal tissue procurement. She said only that these items came from the "investigatory work" of the panel.
The panel has also cited as evidence widely discredited material from the Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group established by activist David Daleiden, who was recently indicted by a Texas grand jury for his work on secretly recorded and deceptively edited anti-Planned Parenthood videos released last summer.
This is the fifth letter from Democrats to Ryan in recent months about the panel, airing concerns about the panel's investigative practices or asking that it be disbanded entirely. Each of those letters, they wrote, "has been met with silence." Three of the previous letters were signed only by the six Democratic members who sit on the select investigative panel; the fourth was signed by 98 House Democrats. This time, the Democrats have upped the ante, getting 181 of 188 House Democrats to sign on to Tuesday's letter, and requesting a response from Ryan in writing.
Earlier this month, the Democratic members of the panel held a press conference with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to draw attention to their concerns. Pelosi referred to the panel as "the Committee to Attack Women's Health" and accused it of "abuses that have not been seen on Capitol Hill since the days of Joseph McCarthy."
Pelosi and other Democrats highlighted issues that were laid out in aMay 12 letter to Ryan, written by the Democratic members of the select panel. They wrote that the committee's process for issuing subpoenas to fetal tissue researchers and abortion rights advocates—one of the most aggressive investigative tactics available to Congress—has been deceptive. In early May, for example, the panel issued 19 subpoenas; 17 of those were sent to individuals or groups who had never been asked to comply voluntarily. The other two recipients had already responded to a previous information request and hadn't been informed of any noncompliance. The preemptive subpoenas have allowed Blackburn to make "false public claims" of mass disobedience by researchers and imply that abortion rights advocates have something to hide, the Democratic representatives wrote.
The Democratic members have also repeatedly said the panel's aggressive investigative tactics put fetal tissue researchers and abortion providers at grave risk. "The danger posed by the Panel is real and serious," they wrote yesterday. "There is a long and undeniable history of violence against women's health care clinics, physicians, and patients." They cited the November 2015 shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, where a gunman killed three people and injured nine. They also said the panel disregarded the safety of an abortion provider when it published a press release on May 11 naming him as a "late-term abortionist" who is under investigation by the committee.The doctor haslong been a target of threats and attacks, including a 1991 fire that destroyed his family farm and much of its livestock. "These recent steps are completely outside the bounds of acceptable Congressional behavior," wrote the House Democrats.
The Democratic members of the committee believe the panel's disregard for safety is one-sided, given that it has a whistleblower portal on its website promising confidentiality to anyone looking to provide information. "Apparently, Republicans are willing to protect individuals who provide information that might support their preferred partisan narratives, but are denying this same protection to individuals who perform life-saving research and health care," wrote the members in their May 12 letter.
Ryan doesn't seem to be budging in his support for this investigation. "Speaker Ryan supports the Select Committee’s continued efforts to protect infant lives," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong told the Washington Post on Tuesday.
Last week, Time reported that Frank Amedia, a televangelist, had recently organized a meeting between Donald Trump and Hispanic evangelicals. The magazine noted that Amedia was the Trump campaign's new "liaison on Christian policy." What the story did not mention was that Amedia is a faith-healing pastor and self-described "apostle" and "prophet" who claims to have healed cancer with the power of prayer, calls AIDS the result of "unnatural sex," and says he once stopped a tsunami by appealing to Jesus.
Amedia is a former Jew who says he found God through an encounter with Jesus in 1980. He runs the Ohio-based Touch Heaven Ministries, an international ministry with affiliated churches in Africa and Asia, and he is a frequent presence on Christian TV networks. He appears daily on the evangelical Daystar network and occasionally on the Trinity Broadcasting Network and the North American version of Isaac TV, a Pakistan-based evangelical network that airs Christian broadcasting across several Asian countries.
Since becoming the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for president, Trump has worked to shore up support among social conservatives and evangelicals who are likely to be skeptical of the twice-divorced real estate mogul who once held pro-choice views. Amedia's new role fits with the Trump campaign's efforts to reach out to the Christian right. But the pastor's past isn't without blemishes: District court dockets and media reports show that in 2001, Amedia admitted in court to having participated in an effort to bribe an Ohio prosecutor to drop a case against a car-dealer friend who had been charged in an odometer rollback scheme. The bribery plan failed, and the car dealer was convicted. Amedia received immunity for his testimony against the dealer.
Amedia and the Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Amedia claims to be an apostle—a messenger of the word of Jesus on Earth—and in a 2012 interview on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, he claimed to have stopped the 2011 tsunami in Japan from hitting the coast of a Hawaiian island that his daughter happened to be visiting. "I stood at the edge of my bed and I said, 'In the name of Jesus, I declare that tsunami to stop now,'" he recalled. "It was seen by 400 people on a cliff. It was on YouTube. It was actually on the news that that tsunami stopped 200 feet off of shore." Here's the clip of Amedia's claim, first found by Right Wing Watch:
In an undated Isaac TV broadcast, Amedia engages in faith healing, trying to assist people with jaw problems, bleeding teeth and gums, ringing in their ears, tongue cancer, and parched lips. None of those healed are seen on screen. In the same broadcast, Amedia says AIDS is caused by "unnatural sex." He adds, "We understand that many of the diseases that we receive is because of exposure that we have to things that we should not be exposed to, lifestyles that are unhealthy."
In 2010, Amedia traveled to Haiti, where his ministry was providing aid and food to earthquake survivors. Amedia was interviewed at the time for an Associated Press story about recent clashes between missionaries like himself and Haitian practitioners of voodoo. Amedia told the AP that he would consider cutting off food aid to Haitians if they did not give up voodoo, because "we wouldn't want to perpetuate that practice. We equate it with witchcraft, which is contrary to the Gospel."
She said the "life" exception provided in the bill was "vague."
Hannah LevintovaMay 20, 2016 5:35 PM
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin
On Friday afternoon, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill that would have made performing most abortions a felony in the state. On Thursday, the Oklahoma Senate passed the bill 33-12, with no floor debate. During the voting process, Sen. Ervin Yen, the sole state senator who is a physician, called the measure "insane."
As Mother Jonesreported in April, the bill would make performing abortions, except for those intended to save a woman's life, a felony punishable by a minimum of one year in prison.
If it is discovered that they have provided an abortion, doctors would be stripped of their state medical licenses. The only exception to these rules would be abortions to save the life of the mother, and the bill makes clear that the threat of suicide by a woman seeking an abortion doesn't fulfill the "life" requirement.
Had the bill been signed into law by Gov. Fallin, it would most certainly have led to a protracted and costly legal battle over the bill's constitutionality, since its near total ban on abortion goes against Roe v. Wade—the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. However, the prospect of litigation is not what Fallin took issue with when rejecting the bill. Instead, she said that the "life" exception provided in the bill was "vague."
"The bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered 'necessary to preserve the life of the mother,'" Fallin said. "While I consistently have and continue to support a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, this legislation cannot accomplish that re-examination. In fact, the most direct path to a re-examination of the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade is the appointment of a conservative, pro-life justice to the United States Supreme Court."
The former president sent a letter commending the World Congress of Families after receiving an award from the controversial organization.
Hannah LevintovaMay 20, 2016 4:05 PM
Earlier this week, former President George W. Bush accepted an award from the World Congress of Families, a social conservative group that has played a leading role in fostering anti-gay movements and legislation abroad, including a widely condemned measure in Russia that criminalized the public expression of same-sex relationships.
The World Congress of Families, which awarded Bush its "Family and Democracy Pro-Life Award" at its conference in Tbilisi, Georgia, is the main project of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society. In 2014, Mother Jonesreported on the group's involvement in helping to bolster the nascent anti-gay movement in Russia, where WCF representatives met with legislators and other high-ranking individuals who helped pass the so-called "gay propaganda" law. The law, which inspired anti-gay attacks in Russia, garnered international outrage in advance of the Winter Olympics held in Sochi. The WCF has also supported anti-gay rallies, legislation, and more throughout Eastern Europe, in countries like Serbia, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and the Czech Republic. The organization has been designated an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called it "one of the key driving forces behind the U.S. Religious Right's global export of homophobia and sexism."
Bush did not attend the WCF conference this week, but he sent a letter thanking the group for the pro-life award and praising its work: "I commend your efforts to recognize the importance of families in building nations. Your work improves many lives and makes the world better."
"I care about this country being led by the most competent person."
Hannah LevintovaMay 20, 2016 6:00 AM
At a Trump campaign rally last week in Spokane, Washington, Donald Trump slammedHillary Clinton for "playing the women's card" to gain campaign support. When citing Clinton's criticisms of him, Trump mimicked the candidate, straightening his shoulders and flattening his voice to convey a cold, prim demeanor. He concluded the performance with the pronouncement: "All of the men, we're petrified to speak to women anymore…You know what? The women get it better than we do, folks. They get it better than we do."
The audience erupted into cheers and applause.
Moments like this one—where Trump's unabashed political incorrectness and machismo are on display—resonate with many of his supporters. But his message in Spokane made headlines in part because the notion that men have it worse off than women echoes a central tenet of the Men's Rights Movement (MRM), a network of activists who believe that in many contexts, men are a disadvantaged class. New York magazine even offered its readers a quiz: "Who Said It, Trump or a Men's Rights Activist?"
It seems like a no-brainer that men's rights activists would admire Trump's rhetoric on gender and thus support his candidacy for president. But several leaders of the movement who spoke to Mother Jones are ambivalent about Trump, at best—one has even donated to Clinton—and say that many others in their community haven't been won over by Trump's bluster.But why do many members of a group that would appear to be his natural constituency not support Trump for president?
"It's nice to hear him say" things that align with the men's rights movement, says Dean Esmay, now a contributor to and formerly the managing editor of A Voice for Men, a blog and men's rights discussion hub, but those talking points aren't enough. "Somebody had the guts to say that men have it tougher than women, it gives you an emotional rush," he continues. "But when you listen, where's the meat behind it? What's he offering? I see nothing." Trump isn't offering much by way of policy substance, Esmay says, both on issues key to MRAs, such asincarceration or the treatment of fathers in family courts, or on others.
"Why do I think he would make a bad president?" asks Esmay. "Because he is a loose cannon. You don't know what he's going to do. We have a student loan debt bubble that's going to burst. We have a middle class that's imploding. And Donald Trump is going to fix it all by saying, 'Believe it, baby?' Give me a break."
Warren Farrell, widely considered the father of the men's right's movement and the author of one of its foundational texts, The Myth of Male Power, says he's a "very strong supporter" of Clinton. He has attended several campaign events for Clinton and has donated the allowed maximum of $2,700 to her primary campaign. Still, Farrell says he thinks Clinton is "the worst candidate in recent history, in my lifetime, on gender issues from the perspective of understanding and having compassion for men." But Farrell, who has a Ph.D. in political science, still supports Clinton in part because, he says, "even though I care about men's issues a lot, I care about this country being led by the most competent person."
"Trump is the quintessential example of the immature man and men at their worst."
"Its very hard for me," he continues, "because Trump does have a clue about what's happening with men's issues. But Trump is the quintessential example of the immature man and men at their worst."
Farrell falls into a more liberal faction of the men's rights community, says Gwyneth Williams, a professor of politics at Webster University who also studies men's movements. But some of Farrell's more conservative colleagues also have serious concerns about Trump.
"I think Trump was right on for saying that men are afraid of upsetting women," says Paul Elam, the CEO and founder of A Voice for Men. But Elam notes that he doesn't buy that Trump would be "some sort of savior for" the men's rights movement, and that there are other Trump positions he finds especially worrisome.
"Trump talks a lot about building a wall and the outlandish proposition that he's going to stop drugs from entering the country—which is impossible," says Elam. He's wary of a candidate who would further criminalize drugs, leading to greater incarceration of men. While Trump hasn't directly promised this, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, one of Trump's surrogates and a potential vice presidential pick, has said he supportsthe criminalization of marijuana use. That's why both Elam and Esmay say the possibility that in a Trump administration Christie might be elevated to a position of power might push them to vote for Clinton.
But many men's rights activists are definitely not Clinton fans: Both Elam and Esmay referred to her as a "lizard" while speaking with Mother Jones, and men's rights forums on Reddit and elsewhere are filled with anti-Clinton sentiments. But despite their Clinton scorn, many MRAs say it's obvious Trump is more swagger than substance. "Trump doesn't have the ability to successfully call out Hillary on her sexism. He is to [sic] crass and doesn't grasp the issues," writes one user on the men's rights subreddit. Another sums things up: "Trump VS Clinton. Whoever wins, America (and the world?) loses."