Written by Robin Marty for RHRealityCheck.org – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.
When it comes to creepy, offensive anti-choice billboards, Texas has decided to one up Georgia. Midland Catholics for Life has taken Radiance’s "abortion is genocide" message even further, adding in some graphic images and even more overwrought rhetoric to its display.
Via CBS 7:
A graphic downtown billboard is turning heads and raising questions in Midland.
Some who have spoken out against the public display considers the billboard’s depiction of a dead baby inappropriate.
Located at the corner of Texas Avenue and Ft. Worth St., right across the street from Planned Parenthood’s Midland Office, the billboard shows what appears to be a dead baby in a doctor’s hand on the left side.
On the right side it shows what looks like a woman in emotional distress. Above the left side it reads “one dead” and above the right side it reads “one injured.”
On the right side near the woman it reads, “One wounded.”
The two-sided billboard also has a message on the back.
That side says, “Abortion is genocide” and is accompanied by two photos.
The left side depicts what is presumably a healthy baby and the right side shows what looks like a baby that is not alive.
The purpose of the graphic photos, which only recently went live, is to "expose the atrocities that are occurring in Planned Parenthood every week," according to the president of the group. The pictures used are originally from anti-choice group The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (note, links go to graphic photos), and allegedly depicts an aborted 13 week fetus (11 weeks post fertilization) and 26 week fetus (24 weeks post fertilization), even though 90 percent of all abortions performed are done prior to 12 weeks, and the majority of these before 10 weeks.
The Midland anti-choice group asserts that subjecting the public, even possibly children, to bloody fetus photos, is the only way to make women understand the choice they are making. Planned Parenthood clinic staff disagree. From MyWestTexas.com:
Those who oppose abortion, [president of Midland Catholics for Life Pebbles] Kincheloe said, don’t like seeing images of bloody developing babies either. But, she added, as a group they agreed that’s what it was going to take to "open our eyes to Planned Parenthood being in our backyard."
She said those who support a woman’s right to choose an abortion often call the fetus "a blob of tissue" and that their sign is meant to show women the developing baby is a human who they believe God intended to be born.
The backside of the billboard also displays a baby and says "Abortion is genocide," which supporter Danny O’Grady said represents all the families they believe are being killed.
[Carla] Holeva and Planned Parenthood Choice say particularly for children in the area, they think the images are too graphic. They also question why the group acts as if it knows God’s will for area women.
Women who are clients at Planned Parenthood, Holeva said, are presented with all of the options and the organization assists thousands in carrying out their pregnancies to birth as well as connecting several with adoption agencies.
But, she said, they make it a point not to make the decision about what’s best for their clients and they wish others would provide them the same courtesy instead of posting signs and yelling things like "God will not forgive you" at those who come into the clinic.
Both groups do state however, that more needs to be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. It comes as little surprise that the Midland Catholics for Life approach, however, is a "Just Say No To Sex" push, that they believe should not include any safer sex or contraception education.
In fact, contraception, safer-sex education, and general reproductive health access are fairly low on the list of priorities for the anti-choice in Texas, who are still working to see if they can convince the Attorney General to strip funding from state Planned Parenthood organizations — even those that don’t provide abortion services. And more voices are starting to join into the fray, as News8Austin reports:
Planned Parenthood clinics provide family planning services, such as screening for breast and cervical cancer, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and prescribing birth control to women. Some Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas also perform abortions.
But the Austin area clinic’s spokesperson said clinics under the state’s Women’s Health Program strictly provide family planning services.
"If Planned Parenthood isn’t able to participate in the Women’s Health Program, it basically means that there are tens of thousands of women across the state that probably aren’t going to get that health care," Sarah Wheat, with Planned Parenthood, said.
Anti-abortion advocates like Joe Pojman, with Texas Alliance for Life, say that’s not the case. Pojman backed up Sen. Deuell’s request to the attorney general to clear up any confusion about the 2005 law that states participating clinics can’t "perform or promote elective abortions" or be "affiliates of entities that perform or promote elective abortions."
"Women and families will get excellent treatment by the other, more than 400 family planning providers across the state of Texas that do not run abortion facilities or are affiliated with abortion facilities," Pojman said.
A recent Health and Human Services Commission study shows that the Women’s Health Program prevented more than 10,000 unplanned pregnancies in 2008 and saved the state about $40 million a year.
The Senator claims he’s simply trying to get the money to clinics that provide "comprehensive care," something he asserts Planned Parenthood clinics do not do. It is unclear what he thinks is more comprehensive than providing cancer screenings, birth control, gynecological exams and testing and treatments for STIs.
But of course Texas isn’t the only state in which anti-choice legislators are on a crusade to defund Planned Parenthood. A State Senator in Indiana is claiming he will reintroduce a bill next legislative session that will require the state not enter into any contracts or grants with the group. It would also cancel any current funding the group receives from the state. State Senator Greg Walker (R-Columbus) also introduced the same bill this legislative session, but it was never brought up for a vote.
In Colorado, the battle over "personhood" continues, this time with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists weighing in. In a publicly released statement, ACOG stated unequivocally that the language being used to define "person" is both scientifically inaccurate and would greatly jeopardize a doctor’s ability to provide health care to a patient. From the press release:
1. The phrase “the beginning of biologic development” is not a scientific or medical reference point in the process of human reproduction. Developmental Biology is a scientific field that studies the mechanisms of development, differentiation, and growth in animals and plants at the molecular, cellular, and genetic levels. Developmental biology includes the study of embryology and the complex factors involved in human reproduction which leads to the birth of a human being. “The beginning of biologic development” has no specific meaning in the context of human embryology and could even refer to the growth of specific human cell lines, for example, in the study of human transplant possibilities and the cure for diseases such as diabetes and spinal cord injuries.
2. Human reproduction (briefly described as the development of egg and sperm, their union into a fertilized egg (or zygote), then division of the embryo and differentiation into a blastocyst, implantation into the uterine wall, and then growth into a fetus, and then viable newborn) is an intricate and inefficient process. The overwhelming majority of potential egg-sperm unions do not result in human beings.
3. Current medical and scientific practice/procedures that involve the term “person” as defined by Amendment 62:
Treatment of Miscarriage: Miscarriages are commonly treated with medical and surgical therapies as well as supportive means; the goal is the removal of the pregnancy tissue from the uterus, which cannot, by any therapy available, produce a live born infant. There were an estimated 102,517 pregnancies in Colorado in 2006, resulting in 70,737 live births (CDPHE, Health Statistic Section) and an estimated 15,377 spontaneous miscarriages in this year alone.
Treatment of Ectopic Pregnancy: In the U.S., ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of pregnancy related death in the first trimester. Once detected, an ectopic pregnancy is treated with the removal and destruction of the pregnancy either by medical or surgical means, as it cannot result in a live born infant, and yet the growing pregnancy tissue is a threat to the health and life of the mother.
Infertility treatments: Infertility affects at least 10 percent of couples who desire pregnancy; for many of them, assisted reproductive technologies are necessary. Currently 1 out of every 100 babies born in the United States are born through in vitro fertilization (CDC, 2009). This amendment would hold a patient and her physicians liable for embryos which fail to develop or do not result in a pregnancy due to completely natural biologic processes despite rendering the best possible medical care. This amendment can be seen as blocking the rights of infertile couples within the state of Colorado from having a family and will set back the standard of infertility care in this state to the level of medical care practiced in the United States before 1980. What could more antithetical to “family values” and the “right to life”?
· Treatment of Molar Pregnancy: Approximately 20 percent of patients will develop malignant sequelae requiring administration of chemotherapy after initial treatment. All molar pregnancies need to be ended as they cannot produce a live newborn and substantially threaten the mother’s health and life.
· Stem cells research: Stem cells are a unique population of unspecialized cells characterized by their ability to continuously renew themselves for long periods of time through cell division. Researchers are using stem cells to study conditions such a spinal cord injury, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease. Human embryonic cells are commonly derived from unused fertilized eggs (donated with the consent of the infertile couple).
· Safe and legal abortion: Although not mentioned in the Amendment itself, the intent of Amendment 62 (from www.personhoodcolorado.com) is to provide a legal framework to make all abortions illegal. The American Congress of Obstetrician and Gynecologists opposes unnecessary regulations that delay or limit women’s access to needed medical care and that subject physicians to criminal charges for practicing according to accepted medical standards. [v]
Finally, Louisiana is taking a page out of Oklahoma’s book when it comes to the new mandatory ultrasound law, with six clinics challenging the language of the new regulations. From Courthouse News Service:
Six medical clinics have challenged Louisiana laws on abortion, including the "Ultrasound Statute," which could force doctors to make women take home ultrasound pictures of their fetuses, even if the women resist, according to the federal complaint.
The Hope Medical Group for Women and five other clinics say the two state laws are vague, "will deter qualified, reasonable health care providers from entering the field of abortion provision," will "make it more difficult for women in Louisiana to obtain abortion services," and are "not rationally related to any legitimate state interest."
The two statutes in question are the Exclusion Statute, which, the plaintiffs say, would exclude abortion services from medical malpractice coverage, and the Ultrasound Statute.
"The plain language of the Exclusion Statute applies only to health care providers when they are performing certain illegal abortions," the complaint states. "Plaintiffs believe, however, that defendants intend to apply the Exclusion Statute to health care providers performing lawful abortions. Such application would be unconstitutionally vague. It would also deny abortion providers equal protection of the law by excluding them from access to benefits that are available to all other health care providers."
A doctor’s failure to comply with either statute could subject them to criminal and civil liability and professional discipline.
A major disagreement that the clinics are having with the ultrasound law is the mandate that they must provide a copy of the ultrasound in a sealed envelope to every woman, with no clarification as to whether the woman must accept and leave with the image. Each ultrasound picture reveals, among other things, private patient information such as name of patient and age of fetus. One major concern the clinics have is that such information, once discarded, could be used to target the women who may have had abortions.
"At Hope Medical, for example, every print reveals the woman’s name, the fact that she is pregnant, the gestational age of the fetus, and that fact that the woman obtained her ultrasound at Hope Medical, a facility publicly known to provide abortions."
The plaintiffs say that if "a woman is required to take a copy of her ultrasound print, there is a risk that it will be discovered by the woman’s partner, relatives, co-workers, or other persons to whom the woman may not wish to disclose her pregnancy or her consideration of an abortion."
The clinics say this could be dangerous, because for "women in abusive relationships, disclosure of a pregnancy or an abortion to an abusive partner is likely to spark violence."
The plaintiffs add that the "ultrasound print may also be discovered by anti-abortion extremists. For example, an ultrasound print thrown into a garbage can near a clinic might be discovered by extremists surveilling the clinic, particularly since the print will be contained in an envelope clearly stating its contents."
The lawsuit was filed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Friday, August 6th.