Archive for December 28th, 2011
By Tanya Somanader on Dec 27, 2011 at 9:25 am
2011 marked a banner year in the Republican war on woman’s health. Close to 1,000 anti-abortion bills sped through state legislatures as the GOP-led House led a “comprehensive and radical assault” on a federal level. But in surveying their arsenal this year, 10 bills stood out as particularly perturbing and far-reaching efforts to stymie women’s access to abortion services, birth control, and vital health services like breast cancer screenings. Here are ThinkProgress’s nominations for the most extreme attacks on a woman’s right to choose:
– Redefining Rape: Last May, every House Republican and 16 anti-choice Democrats passed H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act. Anti-choice activists Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) tried to narrow the definition of rape to “forcible rape,” which meant that women who say no but do not physically fight off the assault; women who are drugged or verbally threatened and raped; and minors impregnated by adults would not qualify for the rape and incest exception in the Hyde Amendment. Smith promised to remove the language but used “a sly legislative maneuver” that essentially informs the courts that statutory rape cases will not be covered by Medicaid should the law pass and be challenged in court.
– Abortion Audits: The No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act also bans using tax credits or deductions to pay for abortions or insurance. Thus, a woman who used such a benefit would have to prove, if audited, that her abortion “fell under the rape/incest/life-of-the-mother exception, or that the health insurance she had purchased did not cover abortions.” This requirement turns the Internal Revenue Service into “abortion cops” who, agents noted, would have to force women to give “contemporaneous written documentation” that it was “incest, or rape, or [her] life was in danger” which made an abortion necessary.
– Let Women Die: This October, House Republicans also passed the “Protect Life Act”, known by women’s health advocates as the “Let Women Die” bill. The measure allows hospitals that receive federal funds to reject any woman in need of an abortion procedure, even if it is necessary to save her life. Though federal law already prohibits federal funding of abortions, the GOP insisted that the health care law “contains a loophole that allows those receiving federal subsidies to use the money to enroll in health care plans that allow abortion services.”
– Personhood: Mississippi entertained the idea of passing a “personhood” amendment to its constitution this year, one that defines a person as “every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof.” The measure’s “profoundly ambiguous” language regarding the definition of fertilization not only would ban all abortions, it could potentiallyoutlaw birth control, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization for couples struggling to conceive. Mississippians rejected the amendment but personhood activists are making headway with versions for other states and GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is championing a national personhood amendment.
– Race/Sex Abortions: Taking their queue from Arizona, House Republicans introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) — a so-called “civil rights” bill that bans physicians from performing abortions based on the fetus’s race or sex. The problem of selective abortion is virtually non-existent, as not one state official or independent research offered any evidence of race-based abortions. Only 5 percent of abortions occur after the point when a fetus’s sex can be determined. Arizona’s measure, now law, sends doctors and clinicians to jail for three years if they knowingly provide such abortions. The federal bill PRENDA allows for civil suits against the physicians.
– Forced Ultrasounds: Several states pushed bills that force doctors to show a woman seeking abortion services an ultrasound of the fetus, and in some cases, describe the image to her. The Kentucky bill, for instance, required doctors to describe the image if the woman chose to avert her eyes or face a $250,000 finefor disobeying the law. The bills are designed to dissuade women from undergoing the procedure, and in Michigan’s case, provide a “gift to the medical device industry” by forcing doctors to use “the most advanced ultrasound equipment available” to get the most “distinct” image of the fetus possible. North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue (D-NC) vetoed her state’s version of the bill, viewing it as “a dangerous intrusion into the confidential relationship that exists between women and their doctors.”
– Fetal Pain: This year, multiple states pushed legislation limiting or banning abortions past 20 – 22 weeks “based on disputed research that fetuses an feel pain at that point of development.” The idea is widely panned by many in the medical field, with the Journal of the American Medical Association determining that “pain perception probably does not function before the third trimester.” Regardless of the science, Republican lawmakers and even presidential candidate Rick Perry endorsed the fetal pain concept in order to challenge the Roe v. Waderuling and push an earlier ban on abortions. So discredited is the concept of fetal pain that even a Kansas Republican slammed the “false research,” adding “I would be embarrassed to be a state that bases its laws on untruths.”
– Heartbeat Bill: Ohio Republicans are leading other states on the path to pass the “heartbeat bill,” which, if enacted, will be “the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the nation.” The bill outlaws abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can occur as early as “six to seven weeks into pregnancy” or before a woman even knows she is pregnant. There is no exception in the bill for rape, incest, or mental health of a woman. What’s more, the bill forces doctors to wait until a woman is actually in danger of dying to ensure the abortion falls under the “threat to life” exception.
– Government Shutdown: The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is an international development agency that promotes universal access to reproductive health services. UNFPA does not, nor has it ever, funded abortions — as dictated by its steering document and by its members. But as Matt Yglesias reported, Republicans were determined to believe that UNFPA funds abortion and thus held up negotiations to fund the government with a policy rider eliminating funding for UNFPA. U.S. law also forbids foreign funding to any entity that supports abortion, but House Republicans were so committed to their unfounded belief that the U.S. might be doing so that they threatened to shut down the entire government over it.
– Attack On Planned Parenthood: While simultaneously trying to ban abortions outright, GOP lawmakers on a state and federal level launched a full-scale effort to defund Planned Parenthood. Only 3 percent of the women’s health organization’s services are related to abortion, but it’s association with abortion compelled Republicans to enact legislation cutting or completely defunding Planned Parenthood clinics. Without the funds, many clinics across the country were forced to close, leaving hundreds of thousands of women without vital services like breast cancer screenings, STD testing, and contraception. Texas, thelargest state to defund the organizations, may also shut down the entire Women’s Health Program that served 125,000 Texas women in 2012 becausesome of the family planning clinics in the program are affiliated with Planned Parenthood. Arizona even passed a law banning charity contributions to any organization that is related to abortions or even donates to an organization that is related to abortions. Indeed, this year’s Republican war on Planned Parenthood left thousands of low-income women and children who benefit from tangential health programs as collateral damage.
© 2011, agentleman.
Though former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) has been floating the theory that, contrary to previous news reports that he served her with divorce papers as she was recovering from ovarian cancer surgery, his first wife Jackie Battley Gingrich initiated their divorce, CNN recently recovered the files from that divorce — and they tell a very different story.
Battley Gingrich herself isn’t talking anymore, but previous news reports, combined with the new documents in the divorce, provide a timeline that doesn’t square with Gingrich’s recent attempts to rehabilitate his image by claiming the divorce was mutual and not the result of his affair.
June 14, 1962: Gingrich married Jackie Battley, when he was 19 and she was 26. She was also his then-former high school geometry teacher. Gingrich’s second wife, Marianne Ginther Gingrich,told Esquire last year that, despite what Battley and Gingrich told their families at the time, the two had been involved while Gingrich was still in high school. They had two children, and several former aides, friends and neighbors told Vanity Fair in the 1990s that Gingrich was profligately unfaithful throughout the 1970s.
January 1980: Marianne Ginther met Gingrich at a fundraiser, while Jackie and Newt were still married, and began an affair shortly thereafter.
April 1980: Gingrich approached Jackie about a divorce in April 1980, while she was recovering from the first of three surgeries for cancer. In her only interview, with theWashington Post, she recounted that he left in “spring 1980″ and presented her with divorce terms after her third surgery while at the hospital that September. “He can say that we had been talking about it for 10 years, but the truth is that it came as a complete surprise,” she told the Post.
June 14, 1980: The divorce filings, unearthed by CNN, show that Newt Gingrich left Jackie for good, 5 days before their wedding anniversary.
July 14, 1980: Newt Gingrich filed for divorce.
August 14, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich acknowledged receipt of the divorce filing.
September 12, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich’s lawyers responded to Newt’s divorce petition, contesting the divorce. Specifically, her filing read:
Defendant shows that she has ample and adequate grounds for divorce, but that she does not desire one at this time.
She additionally requested alimony and child support, as Newt left her with two children to care for, a reasonable split of the marital property were the divorce to be granted, and lawyers fees.
September 25, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich’s attorneys filed documents demanding Newt Gingrich’s financial records.
October 7, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich’s lawyers filed their notice to depose Newt Gingrich in the divorce case on October 20, 1980.
October 13, 1980: Jackie Battley Gringrich’s attorneys filed a motion for a jury trial in the divorce case. They also filed documents demanding that the court become involved in the financial aspects of the case, as Newt Gingrich had refused to release his financial information or provide any means to Jackie to support their children or maintain her residence. That hearing was scheduled for October 21, 1980.
October 17, 1980: Newt Gingrich’s attorneys filed a successful motion to reschedule his deposition October 20 to November 10, 1980.
October 21, 1980: Jackie Battley Gingrich filed out paperwork asking for $2036 in itemized monthly expenses for herself and their two daughters:
- $514 for housing
- $340 for food
- $200 for clothing
- $19 for water
- $40 for electricity
- $40 for gas
- $50 for telephone service
- $149 for medical care
- $50 for dental care
- $90 for medicine
- $25 for child care
- $60 for school expenses
- $65 for the car payment
- $26 for health insurance
- $100 for taxes
- $100 for recreation
- $40 to their church
- $10 for their exterminator
- $10 for gifts
- $15 for “beauty parlor subscriptions”
Attached was an estimate of Gingrich’s gross monthly income from Congress ($5,015.21), which, after taxes and insurance payments, was an estimated net of $3.341.24. He claimed to be spending money on houses in Fairfax and Arlington, the utilities on a Virginia house, $407 a month on food, $75 on an orthodontist and $477 a month on his various bank debts unrelated to any mortgages. He also had $120 — due in 4 remaining payments — to Cole’s jewelry store. (Marianne Ginther Gingrich told Esquire that he’d already asked her to marry him at that point.)
December 17, 1980: After the October 21, 1980 hearing, Newt Gingrich was ordered to pay $300 a month in child support and $400 in alimony for the foreseeable future, in addition to the mortgage on the Georgia home, Jackie and their children’s medical bills, all the outstanding utility bills on the Georgia home, payments on the car Jackie was driving and $750 to Jackie’s attorney.
January 9, 1981: Newt Gingrich was ordered to appear at a deposition for Jackie’s attorneys on January 14, 1981.
January 31, 1981: Jackie and Newt Gingrich agreed to the terms of their divorce.
February 2, 1981: Newt Gingrich petitioned for a final decree in his divorce from Jackie, and the divorce is finalized. Newt agreed to pay $200 a month in child support for each daughter until they turned 18 or, if they attended college, until they completed a 4-year degree program or turned 23; as well as all the children’s medical and dental bills and for their insurance. He was also ordered to keep Jackie on his insurance policy until she could qualify for individual insurance without a medical examination, due to her cancer diagnosis (a pre-existing condition); and to pay $1,000 per month in alimony with increases up to $1,300/month as Gingrich’s income increased up to $100,000. They split the title on the Georgia house, with Gingrich assuming the second mortgage, and she ceded the Virginia home to him, and each got the possessions in the house at the time. Jackie kept the car she was driving and Newt continued to make the payments on it.
August 1981: Marianne Ginther and Newt Gingrich married. By 1997, rumors were already swirling about Newt’s next series of extramarital affairs.
1993: As was later revealed in the course of Newt’s second set of divorce proceedings, Newt began a long-term affair with Callista Bisek, a Republican Congressional staffer 23 years his junior.
May 1999: Newt told Marianne of his ongoing affair with Callista Bisek on Mother’s Day — shortly after Marianne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She was visiting her mother in Ohio, and told Esquire in 2010 that Newt had invited Callista to their house for the weekend she was away. Initially, he asked Marianne to simply tolerate his affair.
June 29, 1999: Newt filed for divorce.
April 2000: Marianne and Newt Gingrich finalized their divorce.
August 18, 2000: Callista Bisek and Newt Gingrich married.
2002: Newt Gingrich asked the Catholic Archdiocese Atlanta to annul his marriage to Marianne Ginther Gingrich on the grounds that Ginther Gingrich had been married prior to their wedding. Callista Bisek Gingrich is a practicing Catholic, and Newt completed his conversion to the religion in 2009.
© 2011, agentleman.
Here, then, are the top five reasons why Newt Gingrich will not be anything more than a footnote to the 2012 presidential race:
1. GINGRICH REACHED HIS SELL-BY DATE IN 1996: Born during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s third term,Gingrich would if elected next year assume the presidency on the cusp of his 70th birthday. And unlike the conservative movement’s favorite septuagenarian president, Ronald Reagan, Gingrich has been a political player for his entire adult life. Barack Obama was two years old when Gingrich went to work on his first national campaign.
There are natural trajectories for politicians. Gingrich’s had him running for president in 1996, as the dynamic conservative challenger to President Bill Clinton. That would have been a great race between a pair of similar Southerners—smart, ambitious rascals with plenty of skeletons in their closets but also with real differences regarding the direction of the nation—but Gingrich deferred to the party bosses (and their corporate overseers) who preferred the predictability of Bob Dole.
Gingrich blinked. He missed his chance.
The same thing happened to Mario Cuomo, who should have run in 1992.
But at least Cuomo didn’t try to run in 2008.
2. GINGRICH IS A QUITTER: Stop making fun of Sarah Palin. Sure, she quit in the middle of her term as governor of Alaska, which was kind of pathetic. But Gingrich quit as Speaker of the House on the eve of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Talk about “seduced and abandoned.” He set his fellow Republicans up for a fool’s mission, then he exited stage right.
Why did Gingrich quit not just the Speakership he had connived for a decade to obtain but his House seat? A looming scandal involving his own infidelity? Check. An inability to explain away the strategic missteps that led to the dismal finish of House Republicans in the 1998 election cycle? Check. But the real reason was that his fellow Republicans had lost faith with him as a leader.
That was a smart choice, rooted in actual experience and sincere concern about trusting the future of their party to a Gingrich. Why would Republicans abandon it now?
3. GINGRICH HAS GOT HISTORY AS A “ROCKEFELLER REPUBLICAN”: In a party that checks conservative credentials more seriously than they would have border guards check immigration papers, Gingrich committed the ultimate sin. In 1968, Gingrich was a young Republican operative looking to get his start in presidential politics. He could have signed on with the “Draft Ronald Reagan” campaign of that year. That’s what a visionary conservative would have done. He could have worked for Richard Nixon. That’s what a cautious Republican careerist would have done. But no! Gingrich served as the Southern regional coordinator for the campaign of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the most liberal Republican in the field—a big-government man who backed abortion rights, opposed the Vietnam War and provided right-wingers with their preferred term of derision (“Rockefeller Republican”) for anyone who deviated from the ideologically pure path.
4. GINGRICH KEEPS GOING GREEN ON US: When he first ran for Congress in 1974, and when he ran again in 1976, at a point when the Republican right on the march (taking over the Republican platform-writing process and taking Reagan to the verge of the party’s presidential nod in the latter year), Gingrich did so as a moderate, maybe even liberal. As Ed Kilgore, who was a young Georgia political player in those years, has noted: “Gingrich returned to Georgia and launched his electoral career, running for Congress in 1974 and again in 1976. His incumbentopponent was John Flynt, an old-fashioned conservative Democrat best known for being on the League of Conservation Voters’ “Dirty Dozen” list of environmental reactionaries. Unlike many Georgia Republicans who sought to out-flank Dixiecrats by coming across as better-bred right-wing extremists, Gingrich ran to Flynt’s left, emphasizing environmentalist and “reform” themes, and enlisting significant support from liberal Democrats. Unfortunately for him, these were the two worst election cycles for Georgia Republicans since the 1950s (the Watergate election of 1974 and Jimmy Carter’s Georgia landslide of 1976), and he lost narrowly both times.”
Environmentalist? Appealing to “liberal Democrats”? That was the old Newt Gingrich. He’s a conservative now. Sure, he was kinda green in 1976, but Republican purists can count on Newt now. Right? Well, er, um, he did appear three years ago with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an ad for Al Gore’s Repower American Campaign, an ad that saw Gingrich chirping about how, while he and the liberal Democrat did not agree on many issues, “we do agree our country must take action to address climate change.” That troubled members of a party that has made denial of global warming one of its basic precepts. So Gingrich claimed appearing with Pelosi was “the biggest mistake of his four decades in politics. It wasn’t the biggest mistake. But it was always going to be a disqualifier.
5. GINGRICH CAME UP WITH THE LAMEST EXCUSE EVER FOR CHEATING ON HIS SEVERAL WIVES: To win the Republican nomination, a candidate needs to run well in Iowa and a whole bunch of Southern and Western states where evangelical Christians have been picking winners in caucuses and primaries for decades. These folks are supposed to take infidelity as seriously as they do banning abortion and denying rights to gays and lesbians. And some of them actually do.
So what will they make of the fact that Gingrich is on wife number three, and that he started dating her when he was still with wife number two, and that their affair played out at the same time that he was condemning Bill Clinton for Oval Office hijinks? And what will they think of Gingrich’s excuse? Here, from an interview this year with the Christian Broadcasting Network, is the excuse: “There’s no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.
You see, it was patriotism—the love of the country, not the love of the ladies—that led him to stray.
That was always going to be a tough sell with those essential evangelical voters in Iowa.
They are ditching him in droves now. The only question is whether the evangelicals will coalesce around a candidate—arguably Santorum or Michele Bachmann—in sufficient numbers to push Gingrich into fourth or fifth place by the time the caucus count is done.
Then he really will be in footnote territory, where, conservatives and liberals ought to be able to agree, this most pompous of political grandstanders has always belonged.
© 2011, agentleman.
When the House GOP’s enormous freshman class arrived on Capitol Hill in January, it wasn’t uncommon to hear them sound off on the mistakes their predecessors made in 1995. Despite having shut down the government — twice! — House Republicans under Newt Gingrich had caved too easily, didn’t push hard enough, didn’t embody the true spirit of conservatism.
But the new House leadership wasn’t so sanguine. Many had lived through the Gingrich revolution and its aftermath. Others had been around long enough to hear tales of it. And so they mapped out a strategy specifically designed to avoid what they believe were the party’s ’90s-era mistakes.
In other words, the two factions — the newly energized backbenchers and the veteran leadership — were pulling each other in opposite directions. The tug of war left the House GOP’s strategic center of gravity stuck in an unstable position. The party was committed to fighting as hard as possible, but stopping short of its most conservative members’ slash and burn instincts.
The 2011 version of the House GOP, in not always easy coordination with Senate Republicans, would approve must-pass bills, but only after dragging negotiations down to the wire and extracting as many concessions as possible from Senate Dems and the White House each time. We saw that strategy play out over and over again this year, with mixed results for both parties and largely poor results for the country at large.
Here’s a quick lookback at a year of living dangerously — and the series of recurring crises that it produced.
APRIL: Government Shutdown
This fight set the tone for the remainder of the year. At the tail end of the last Congress, Republicans blocked a bipartisan effort to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September 2011. They’d made big gains and wanted an early bite at the apple in the new Congress. With government funding set to expire, House Republicans sought to make good on their pledge to cut $100 billion from domestic federal programs right away. In addition, they sought to attack the Obama administration’s power to govern from the executive branch with scores of legislative riders meant to limit access to women’s health centers, weaken environmental regulations and so on. The administration and Senate Dems sought to limit the damage — but it wasn’t easy. In negotiations that lasted until minutes before the government shutdown, Republicans locked in billions of dollars in budget cuts, and even a few riders, including one that reinstated a ban preventing the District of Columbia from spending local tax dollars on abortion services.
AUGUST: Debt Limit
This is where House Republicans overplayed their hand — but also made, from a conservative point of view, the most substantive gains. Republicans held the country’s borrowing authority hostage. They implicitly threatened to let the country default on its debt obligations unless Democrats agreed to massive cuts to federal programs over the course of a decade. For a time, the White House genuinely saw this as an opening to strike a fiscal “grand bargain” with House Speaker John Boehner. But in an early indication of the limited room Boehner’s conference would give him to deal, those negotiations fell apart over the GOP’s reluctance to increase taxes on the wealthy. So Democrats reverted again to a “contain the damage” strategy. The damage was pretty severe: $1 trillion in cuts to defense and domestic discretionary spending over the next year, enforced through statutory budget caps; a downgrade to the country’s AAA rating by Standard & Poor’s; and, because the Super Committee the debt deal created would ultimately fail, the prospect of another $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts to national security programs, Medicare providers, and other parts of the budget, which are set to kick in on January 1, 2013, unless Congress finds savings elsewhere.
The good news for now is that the budget cuts are somewhat backloaded and won’t become too severe until later in 2012 and 2013. In the meantime, the country’s fiscal fate — whether we’re on a bumpy path toward unwinding the New Deal or toward shoring it up — now hinges on the outcome of the 2012 elections. If a Republican beats President Obama, the GOP will continue to put the squeeze on government revenue and pursue a course of swapping out the automatic defense and Medicare provider cuts with cuts to other key support programs.
SEPTEMBER: Disaster Relief
The debt limit fight was a political disaster, and an embarrassment for Dems who found themselves outmaneuvered throughout. But it also marked the point at which they adopted a new, more confrontational strategy with the GOP. That manifested itself in a small skirmish over funding the government in the new fiscal year that began in October. Republicans attempted to use the expiration of government funds at the end of the fiscal year as leverage to force Democrats to offset the cost of federal disaster relief with cuts to a successful hybrid vehicle incentive program. Indeed, House Republicans they tried to jam Senate Dems and skip town. In the end, Democrats refused to budge, FEMA managed to squeak by with the disaster relief funds it had, and a shutdown was again averted.
NOVEMBER: Super Committee
The debt limit fight led to the creation of the Super Committee, and a whole new fight over reducing federal deficits. But this fight was completely different. With the threat of a debt default off the table, Democrats drew a line: no cuts to entitlement benefits until Republicans agreed to break the stranglehold anti-tax conservatives have on their party. That break never really happened, and so the 12-member panel failed. As a result, major across the board cuts to defense, Medicare providers and other programs are set to kick in on January 1, 2013, unless Congress comes up with something better. That’s why the coming year and the presidential election are so high-stakes. They’re all about the nation’s priorities.
DECEMBER: Payroll Tax Cut
The GOP strategy of pushing negotiations to the brink of crisis finally caught up with them in the fight over extending the payroll tax cut, giving Democrats their most decisive victory of the year. Not only did Dems manage to turn the Republicans’ reluctance to renew the 2011 payroll tax cut into a huge political liability, they reset the consensus entirely. And in the process they left the House GOP conference — and the relationship between House and Senate Republicans — in shambles. In the end, Congress renewed the payroll tax cut for two months, and both parties have committed to extending it through the end of 2012. But Republicans will have to do so on Democrats’ terms. If they learned nothing from the last month, and try to pick another fight over payfors and unrelated riders, they risk a much more severe political embarrassment in the middle of primary season and, many observers have speculated, losing control of the House in 2013.
© 2011, agentleman.