Bridging a Generation Gap on Abortion Rights

Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

Pro-abortion rights protesters rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, March 2, 2016.

If you want to get Joan Heider going, bring up H.B. 1948, the oh-so-appropriately numbered anti-abortion bill that’s gliding through the state legislature like a hot knife through butter. “Oh my God, that bill,” Heider says darkly as she sips tea in a coffee shop on Arch Street. “They can’t pass a budget, but this bill gets pushed through in three days?”

Heider, 27, pushes her red hair back over her shoulder. “It’s an insidious attack,” she declares. “They insist they’re passing it to help women. That’s what Kathy Rapp” — the state representative who sponsored H.B. 1948 — “called her last bill in 2012, the one that pushed ultrasounds on women seeking abortion: ‘Women’s Right to Know.’” She’s getting even more worked up. “People pushing pro-life have a very simplistic understanding of women’s reproductive rights. Their activism doesn’t spring from a desire to protect the unborn; it’s to control women’s lives. They’re pro-no-sex-for-women. You can tell they’re hypocritical because they’re not in favor of birth control!” She pauses for breath, and her friend Caitlin Dalik takes over:

“I’m tired of constantly getting emails that say ‘Call your senator! Act now to save women’s right to choose!’ Abortion is legal. We have to counteract the pro-lifers who’ll get on buses to D.C. at 5 a.m.” Read more »

Is Pa. House Rushing to Pass a Controversial Abortion Bill?

Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia.

Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia.

A controversial bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks is on the schedule for Wednesday’s house session, according to Steve Miskin, spokesman for Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Dave Reed. At that time a vote may take place or could be postponed. The bill passed out of the House Health Committee on Monday.

In addition to shortening the timeline for legal abortions from the current 24-week cut-off, House Bill 1948 would also ban what it calls “dismemberment abortions” — a procedure currently known as dilation and evacuation, it involves dilating the uterus then removing the fetus using a vacuum and surgical tools. It is one of the main abortion methods for women in their second trimester.

The bill is primarily sponsored by staunch pro-life advocate State Rep. Kathy Rapp (R), of the 65th district. The bill currently has 101 co-sponsors, at least 11 of whom are Democrats. In a November memo sent to house members to gain sponsorship for the bill, Rapp and co-sponsors Rep. Bryan Barbin and Rep. Bryan Cutler wrote one of their primary reasons in creating the bill was because of evidence that the babies are capable of feeling pain at that stage.  Read more »

Bill Would Punish Harassment of Abortion Clinic Patients

Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. Anti-abortion activists are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Philadelphia. Anti-abortion activists are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Sen. Larry Farnese is pushing a bill that would punish harassment of women entering abortion clinics — and give prison sentences to anybody who injures or kills a woman entering a clinic.

Farnese, the Philly Democrat, introduced the bill earlier this month. He promoted it Wednesday with a “Twitter Town Hall” held online with pro-choice and other liberal Pennsylvania groups.

“I have escorted women through crowds of protesters and I have witnessed the verbal and physical harassment that has been angrily directed towards them,” Farnese said in introducing the bill. “The walk from the curb to the clinic door should never be the last one of their lives, so people need to know that if they hurt someone they can be punished with felony crimes and big fines.” Read more »

Here’s the Problem With That Popular Planned Parenthood Defense

Patricia Ireland, president of National Organization for Women (NOW), third from right, demonstrates with other NOW participants in favor of the Roe vs. Wade decision during the candlelight vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. in 2000.

Patricia Ireland, president of National Organization for Women (NOW), third from right, demonstrates with other NOW participants in favor of the Roe vs. Wade decision during the candlelight vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. in 2000.

When attacked, it’s a natural instinct to defend oneself as quickly and succinctly as possible, to shoot down bold lies with hard facts before they hang around and poison the air any longer.

And so when Republican lawmakers attempt to defund Planned Parenthood and presidential candidates paint the women’s health nonprofit as a sadistic baby-killing machine, I can understand why we whip out the numbers. They’re good numbers to have on hand when Jeb Bush says things like “they’re not actually doing women’s health issues” and that Planned Parenthood is “involved in something way different than that.” Or when Rep. Diane Black, sponsor of the House defunding bill, claims: “If there is reason to investigate, then there is reason to withhold taxpayer dollars during that period of time. The American taxpayer has been clear for a very long time that they do not want federal funds spent on abortion.”

Plenty of people have broken it down, but it’s worth repeating: Only 3 percent of the services provided by Planned Parenthood last year were abortion-related. Out of the 10.6 million services provided, 42 percent treated or prevented STDs. Another 34 percent provided contraception. Cancer screening and prevention accounted for 9 percent. (The annual report is available here.) Read more »

The Problem With Charlie Dent’s Planned Parenthood Compromise

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On the surface, Pennsylvania Congressman Charlie Dent has a great idea for ending the coming storm over Planned Parenthood’s federal funding: He wants to compromise.

Planned Parenthood,  you’ll recall, has been in hot water ever since tapes emerged that purport to show organization officials haggling with a “buyer” — in reality, undercover anti-abortion activists — to sell organs from aborted fetuses for research purposes. (Planned Parenthood says no illegal activity took place.) Since then, Republicans in Congress have been proclaiming their intention to pull federal funding from the entire organization, nationwide — and even made noises about shutting down the federal government over the matter.

Enter Dent’s compromise: Read more »

Stu Bykofsky Doesn’t Think I Should Have Had an Abortion

Patricia Ireland, president of National Organization for Women (NOW), third from right, demonstrates with other NOW participants in favor of the Roe vs. Wade decision during the candlelight vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. in 2000.

Patricia Ireland, president of National Organization for Women (NOW), third from right, demonstrates with other NOW participants in favor of the Roe vs. Wade decision during the candlelight vigil on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. in 2000.

In an odious “story” in today’s Daily News, Stu Bykofsky, a man whom I have never met, makes the huge (and hugely male) presumption that he knows why I had an abortion 40 years ago, how I felt about it then, and how I feel about it now. “There are women more casual about their abortions than their hair color,” he writes, and recalls feminist rallies he attended back in the day at which women wore t-shirts that read, “I had an abortion!” “I had 2 abortions!” “I had 3 abortions!”

It’s possible, since Stu is so old, that his memory is faulty. I don’t remember any such jolly carnivals of fetus-killing. The women I know celebrate the fact that abortion is an option that is legally available to them and their daughters. They would never, ever celebrate having one. What a despicable assumption for Stu to make. Read more »

Thanks, But I Don’t Need the Pope to Forgive My Abortion

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By the time I graduated from college in 1978, almost every one of my women friends had had an abortion. The circumstances in each case were different, but the choice we made was the same. I’ve written before about telling my pro-life daughter about my choice years later. I did so because the climate in this country had become so profoundly anti-choice—because male legislators and activists were doing their damnedest to outlaw my decision, and were burning down clinics and murdering doctors who provided this health service—a health service, by the way, that the Supreme Court has deemed perfectly legal—to women like me.

Now here comes Pope Francis, declaring in a letter on Tuesday that the “tragedy of abortion” is “an existential and moral ordeal,” and pitying the “many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision.” He even instructed priests to offer forgiveness to women who have had abortions.

To which I say, with the utmost respect: No thanks, Your Holiness. Read more »

Chaput Praises Pope’s Abortion Stance

Archbishop Charles Chaput. Photo | Jeff Fusco

Archbishop Charles Chaput. Photo | Jeff Fusco

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput on Tuesday praised Pope Francis‘ decision to allow priests to forgive abortion during the Catholic Church’s forthcoming “Jubilee Year of Mercy.”

“Pope Francis’ recent remarks on absolution for the sin of abortion demonstrate his commitment to all those in need of healing,” Chaput said in a statement released by the archdiocese. “With a special ‘Jubilee Year of Mercy’ set to begin in December, the timing is very welcome.”

Abortion is considered by the church to be a grave sin, and in much of the the world a senior church official is required to give permission for absolution. The policy has been different in Philadelphia, Chaput said. Read more »

Pope Francis Says Priests Can Forgive Abortion

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Well, this pope keeps defying expectations, doesn’t he?

The Vatican announced today that priests will be allowed to forgive abortions during the upcoming “Jubilee Year” starting December 8th. Normally, abortion is considered a grave sin that can be absolved only by senior church figures.  The announcement comes just weeks before Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia and an American church that is more divided over issues like gay rights and abortion than doctrine might suggest.

Pope Francis made clear in his order that the church remains committed to its anti-abortion stance, and said that forgiveness will be offered only to those women “who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.” Read more »

Report: Planned Parenthood Isn’t Harvesting Fetal Tissue in Pa.

Planned Parenthood's offices in Center City. (Google Streetview)

Planned Parenthood’s offices in Center City. (Google Streetview)

Planned Parenthood clinics in Pennsylvania do not participate in the controversial practice of fetal tissue donation, the state’s top health officer says.

“Although donation of fetal tissue is lawful under the Abortion Control Act and federal law, our review has found that Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania do not participate in this practice,” Secretary of Health Karen Murphy wrote in a letter reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Moreover, there is no evidence that any Planned Parenthood site in this commonwealth is involved in the buying or selling of fetal tissue.” Read more »

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