Washington, DC --- House Republican leadership’s political obsession with defunding Planned Parenthood, attacking women’s health, and ultimately banning abortion will be on display again today. After voting yesterday to create a special committee to investigate Planned Parenthood, today the House Judiciary Committee --- one of five committees investigating Planned Parenthood --- is holding its second hearing in a month. This marks six consecutive weeks that Congress has focused on attacking Planned Parenthood and women’s health --- including six floor votes in September alone and 16 votes this year to restrict women's health.
If the takeaways from the first Judiciary Committee hearing are any indication, this hearing will see extreme politicians make unfounded political attacks with no attempt to find the truth, and no requests for full, unedited source footage. The witnesses called for today’s hearing are extremist activists --- just like the witnesses called for a previous hearing, and just like the people who media reports show are guiding Republican leaders in Congress in their political attacks on women’s health.
Quote from Eric Ferrero, Vice President for Communications, PPFA:
“Let’s call this what it is: An all-out attack on safe and legal abortion in this country. The political agenda behind these hearings is on full display today. The committees running these witch-hunts are led by some of the most far-right, anti-abortion politicians in this country. If you want to know what the real agenda is, just look at who they’re listening to. All of the witnesses they call are lifelong, paid anti-abortion activists with ties to extremist organizations that threaten and terrorize women and doctors, and new reports show that far-right anti-abortion groups are actually calling the shots for these investigations.
“Congress is not listening to the American people, the majority of whom support Planned Parenthood and do not want Congress obsessing over women’s health. Instead, Congress is listening to extreme anti-abortion activists, whose claims have no basis in truth and who have shown they’ll stop at nothing to block women’s access to basic reproductive health care.”
This hearing comes after revelations late last nightthat anti-abortion activists are advising Congress in the creation of a special committee solely to investigate Planned Parenthood. House Republican leadership’s original plan changed when outside groups pressured them to appoint members not just from the Energy and Commerce committee, but outside committees as well to serve on the special committee. Now these outside groups are jockeying for power on that committee. Tom McClusky, the vice president of government affairs for the March for Life Education and Action Fund, Penny Nance, the president and CEO of Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee, and Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of Susan B. Anthony List, are all urging House leadership to appoint members of their choosing, all for the sole purpose of defunding Planned Parenthood and banning abortion. The political circus marches on.
BACKGROUND: CONGRESS IS LISTENING TO EXTREME ANTI-ABORTION ACTIVISTS OVER THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
Who Is the Judiciary Committee Listening to Today?
Once again, Planned Parenthood was not invited to testify at a congressional hearing about Planned Parenthood. Instead members of the majority party have invited three longtime, very extreme anti-abortion activists with histories of twisting the truth.
Dr. Anthony Levatino
Dr. Anthony Levatino is a longtime anti-abortion activist and former OB-GYN who performed abortions. One source reported, “Levatino reckoned that from 1981 to 1985 he performed nearly 1,200 abortions. At the same time, his attitude to life changed. He and his wife were unable to conceive and their adopted daughter, Heather, died in a car accident in 1985. Now a gynecologist in New Mexico, Levatino is active in the pro-life movement.” [Aleteia,1/26/2015]
- Levatino has appeared in a number of anti-abortion “education” films. “He appeared in a pro-life film released in 2011, The Gift of Life, and serves on the medical board of advisors for Priests for Life, whose leaders asked him to speak for their ‘Silent No More’ and ‘Shockwaves’ campaigns at the March for Life [in 2015].” [Aleteia,1/26/2015]
- Levatino has reportedly run so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” with his wife. “Levatino is the co-founder of Heather’s Place, a nonprofit foundation which provides grants to pregnancy assistance centers worldwide. He and his wife also founded and operate Turning Point, a pregnancy center in Las Cruces, N.M.” [The Record,4/25/2012]
Levatino has testified before Congress previously and uses very emotional language and graphics as part of his anti-abortion presentations. In his testimony, Levatino, “a self-described ‘former abortionist’…gave vivid testimony about performing later-term abortions.” According to Mother Jones, “Levatino's testimony was light on the science on fetal pain and heavy on the emotion (he later described his own conversion to becoming anti-abortion as resulting from the loss of his 5-year-old daughter in 1986).” [MotherJones,5/8/2012]
Levatino is an advisor to Priests for Life, whose executive director is a key player in the Center for Medical Progress’ video smear attacks. According to thePriests for Life website, Levatino is currently a medical advisor for the organization. Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, has been described as a “key player” in the Center for Medical Progress’ investigation into Planned Parenthood. [LifeSite News,7/23/2015]
Luana Stoltenberg is a longtime anti-abortion activist in Iowa, on the board of the Life and Family Coalition. Stoltenberg got involved with the Life and Family Coalition in 1995. The organization had formed after “concerned Quad City residents…became aware of Planned Parenthood's intent to open a clinic in Bettendorf, Iowa.” The Quad Cities are the “four cities that border each other and the Mississippi River in Iowa and Illinois.” The Life and Family Coalition delayed the construction of the Planned Parenthood clinic for six years. In December 1999, Stoltenberg and other protesters rallied “in front of the newly opened Planned Parenthood clinic in Bettendorf, Iowa, singing carols and praying as they pushed baby strollers carrying dolls. ‘The reason it's raining today is because God is crying,’ Luana told Jacqueline Adams of CBS' Early Show.” [Today’s Christian Woman,5/2001]
Stoltenberg is involved in other similar groups, particularly groups with religious affiliations:
- Stoltenberg has been active in Operation Outcry. She has also been an Iowa State Leader and Legislative Liaison with the organization. According to its website, Operation Outcry “is a ministry of The Justice Foundation that seeks to end the pain of abortion in America and around the world by mobilizing women and men hurt by abortion who share their true stories of the devastating effects of abortion.” It also noted that it “exposes the two great lies surrounding legalized abortion,” which it says are that “abortion is good and safe for women” and that “it is not a baby being aborted.”
- Stoltenberg is member of the board of directors of Pregnancy Resources, a 501(c)(3) organization that provides “life-affirming Biblically-based resources to encourage informed decisions regarding pregnancy and premarital sexual abstinence.”
- Stoltenberg is also a member of the board of directors of the Quad Cities Association of Evangelicals. She serves as Liaison for Voices of Truth. The executive director of Pregnancy Resources is also a member of the board. Additionally, Pregnancy Resources is a partner of the association.
Stoltenberg had three abortions at an early age and these experiences informed her anti-abortion views. She had a back and forth with Ms. magazine about this experience. In 2006, Stoltenberg submitted her story about her abortion experiences to Ms. magazine, which had sent out a request for such stories. In response, the magazine’s editors wrote, “It’s too bad you didn’t feel you had any choice but to have three abortions…But just because you had a negative experience and post-abortion regrets does not mean that the choice to have an abortion should be made illegal—or extremely difficult—for the millions of women who still would make that choice. I know you believe otherwise, but I just want you to know where the pro-choice side is coming from.” Stoltenberg responded to Ms. magazine senior editor Michele Kort. She wrote: “I wrote to you about my experience to let you know that I wasn’t informed. I was only 17 years old when I had my first abortion…That first abortion led me down a path of self destruction, attempts of suicide, and infertility.” [LifeSite News,8/10/2006]
Stoltenberg helped lead protests against a new Planned Parenthood clinic in the Quad Cities, which resulted in Planned Parenthood needing to find a builder who was 165 miles away. In her effort to stop the construction of the Planned Parenthood clinic, the “coalition led marches to city hall for council meetings, sponsored graphic billboards and posters to show what Planned Parenthood does, and held nonviolent sidewalk demonstrations at PP's building site.” Stoltenberg and her husband “also drafted a letter to local contractors asking them not to bid or build for PP's clinic. As a result, Planned Parenthood had to go 165 miles west of the Quad Cities area to find a builder.” Additionally, in October 1998, the Life and Family Coalition “sponsored a 24-page supplement to three of the local daily newspapers informing the public of Planned Parenthood's intent. The supplement featured Luana's testimony. Frequent TV and radio ads were aired at critical points to keep the public informed.” [Today’s Christian Woman,5/2001]
Stoltenberg has joined recent anti-Planned Parenthood protests and is connected to key players associated with CMP’s videos. In August 2015, “Stoltenberg and about 300 other pro-life individuals gathered for a National Day of Protest in front of Planned Parenthood in Bettendorf [Iowa]…praying, sharing testimony and holding signs along the street.” The protest was a part of a national response to the videos released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP). On Facebook, Stoltenberg is friends with Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, Lila Rose of Live Action, and Mark Crutcher of Life Dynamics. [The Catholic Messenger,8/27/2015]
Thayer worked at a Planned Parenthood health center in Iowa for 17 years — from 1991 to 2008. Thayer worked for a Planned Parenthood health center in Storm Lake, Iowa, for 17 years, starting in 1991 as a family planning assistant and moving up to manager. She left in 2008. Thayer said that she was opposed to abortion, “but since it was not performed at her particular clinic, she agreed to work there. However, she had to train at a Des Moines clinic watching a full day of abortions being performed. She said, ‘It made me want all the more to prevent unplanned pregnancies [through the distribution of contraceptives].’ She continued, ‘Planned Parenthood told us that an unborn baby is just a blob of tissue, and that it’s a woman’s right to have an abortion. I guess I bought into some of that. It’s a line they continue to spew out even to this day.’ That’s not the view Thayer holds now. She said, ‘At nine weeks, the baby is fully formed. He has tiny fingernails and facial features. He’s a human being.’” [The Catholic World Report,1/18/2013]
Thayer made her opposition to “webcam" abortions her cause and claimed she was let go when she opposed their implementation at her clinic in 2008. In 2008, Planned Parenthood directed Thayer’s health center “to begin what she calls ‘telemed’ or ‘webcam’ abortions.” She said she “vocally objected to bringing webcam abortions to her clinic. ‘I told them it was a stupid idea…They fired me. They said they were downsizing. I was relieved.’” Thayer said that the “webcam abortions are a financial boon to Planned Parenthood…They cost the same as a surgical abortion, and the abortionist does not have to travel to the site to see the woman.” [The Catholic World Report,1/18/2013]
- Thayer authored an op-ed in the Washington Times opposing “webcam" abortions. In an opinion piece published in the Washington Times in 2012, Thayer wrote, “The final veil had been lifted and Planned Parenthood’s big lie was exposed: Planned Parenthood is not about helping women access health care. Instead, it is about making money. And abortion is its moneymaker. Telemed abortion is its mega moneymaker…Planned Parenthood has issued a mandate stating that each of its affiliates must have at least one clinic offering abortion services by 2013.” [WashingtonTimes,1/31/2012]
Thayer says her religion informs her anti-abortion views. Thayer “is a self-described ‘born-again Christian’ who believes God wants her to share the message of the evil of webcam abortions…Thayer also stresses that money is a big motivator in the abortion business. She said, ‘It’s all about money. Each Planned Parenthood center has a goal of how many abortions they do each week. When I started, I thought Planned Parenthood helped women. Now I see it’s just a business.’ Thayer has participated in the 40 Days for Life prayer vigils in front of the clinic at which she once worked. She has spoken out against webcam abortions before legislative hearings, and believes she played a role in getting the Wisconsin state legislature to ban the procedure.” [The Catholic World Report,1/18/2013]
Thayer led a failed effort in 2011 claiming Medicaid fraud at the Iowa affiliate, related to birth control pills. In 2011, Thayer filed a lawsuit against Planned Parenthood’s Iowa affiliate “under both federal and Iowa False Claims Acts, alleging that Planned Parenthood knowingly committed Medicaid fraud from 2002 to 2009 by seeking improper and even illegal reimbursements from Iowa Medicaid Enterprise and the Iowa Family Planning Network.” The allegations included that Planned Parenthood submitted “repeated false, fraudulent, and/or ineligible [Medicaid] claims for reimbursements.” Thayer claimed that the affiliate “scammed American taxpayers by filing nearly 500,000 fraudulent Medicaid claims over 10 years, netting the organization an illicit $28 million.” A district court judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2012. In August 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit reinstated Thayer’s “lawsuit against Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.” Later in 2014, the Appeals Court dismissed the case, “finding that [Thayer] failed ‘to provide a single specific example of a particular fraudulent claim Planned Parenthood submitted to the government, let alone any representative examples.’”
Thayer’s Facebook posts are anti-gay marriage and in 2013 she defended Paula Deen for “saying a bad word 30 years ago.” In December 2012, Thayer wrote on Facebook, “The US Supreme Court will rule on gay marriage. History shows that once a culture embraces homosexuality, it doesn't last much longer. Pray that the court rules with the Bible.” In July 2013, Thayer defended Paula Deen for “saying a bad word 30 years ago.”
ICYMI: This is who the Judiciary Committee listened to during the last hearing
Last month, the Judiciary Committee held their first hearing on Planned Parenthood. They failed to ask anyone from Planned Parenthood to testify, and instead asked three extreme anti-abortion activists.
Anti-abortion professional speaker (Ambassador Speakers Bureau); founder of The Abortion Survivors Network; was born after her teenage birth mother had attempted a saline abortion.
Melissa Ohden made false claims in an anti-abortion political attack ad about "born alive" legislation:
Ohden appeared in a discredited anti-abortion/anti-Obama political advertisement in Missouri by the Susan B Anthony List, which was aired during the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
- Ohden’s claims of surviving a botched saline abortion are not in dispute, but her claims in the ad of being discarded after the failed abortion earned “two Pinocchios” by the Washington Post and the SBA List Education Fund acknowledged that they made a mistake in saying a nurse retrieved Ohden’s body from the trash.
- “Chuck Donovan, president of the Susan B. Anthony List Education Fund, acknowledged that the antiabortion group made a mistake in saying a nurse retrieved Ohden’s body from the trash. The organization promised to remove the ‘trash’ reference from its article, but it still earns Three Pinocchios for embellishing Ohden’s survival story.” [Hicks, Josh, “Did Obama deny rights to infants who survive abortion?” The Washington Post, 10 September 2012]
- Ohden’s birth record — posted on her own website — instead indicates that medical staff took steps to preserve her life in Aug 1977 [“Consultation”, St. Luke’s Medical Center, 27 August 1977].
Melissa Ohden is a board member of the Vitae Foundation, a powerful, well-funded anti-abortion mass media organization.
- This group uses mass media strategies to further an anti-abortion platform, including a television ad using an actress that pretends to be telling a real patient story and using extremely rare side effects to discourage support for stem cell research donation. The Vitae Foundation was co-founded by Janet Ashcroft (wife of John Ashcroft) and Carl Landwehr, with contributions from Sue Harvath, who later founded Project Rachel. Harvath has been used as a professional validator for those concerned about Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation program. The Vitae Foundation was initially funded by Peter Herschend (Silver Dollar City theme park co-owner) and Deby Sansome Schlapprizzi (“pro-life” author/radio host). Fundraisers in recent years have hosted Sarah Palin, Oliver North, and Glenn Beck.
- This group opposed efforts by the state of Maryland to subpoena its records in a case that would have required Crisis Pregnancy Centers to make clear to patients they do not provide abortion or birth control because "the documents and testimony are being demanded not because they are regulated by the Ordinance (they are not) but because the Organizations reside on the opposite side of the abortion debate.”
Melissa Ohden has been advocating for laws that would ban abortion for more than a decade. She was a proponent of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act of 2002, signed into law by President George W. Bush on August 5, 2002.
- In 2001 and 2002, Ohden supported measures to include a controversial line that states, “A live child born as a result of an abortion shall be fully recognized as a human person and accorded immediate protection under the law.”
- Then-Senator Obama took issue with that part of the bill as it could interfere with a woman’s right to abortion. “Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a -- child, a nine-month-old -- child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute.”
- The bill passed in 2002 and defined “born alive” as the complete expulsion of an infant at any stage of development that has a heartbeat, pulsation of the umbilical cord, breath, or voluntary muscle movement, no matter if the umbilical cord has been cut or if the expulsion of the infant was natural, induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.
- President Obama’s comments were used by Melissa Ohden during her SBA List video in 2012.
- This text defines “human being” as “an individual member of the species homo sapiens at every stage of development.”
- The North Dakota House passed this “Personhood Legislation” on February 11, 2011.
- Melissa Ohden Website: http://melissaohden.com/
- Melissa Ohden Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melissaohdenfan
- Melissa Ohden Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/melissa-ohden/6/655/17b
- For Olivia’s Sake Website: http://www.foroliviassake.org/
- Abortion Survivors Network Website: http://www.theabortionsurvivors.com/
Anti-abortion speaker and advocate, born after her teenage birth mother attempted a botched saline abortion.
Gianna Jessen appeared in a discredited political anti-abortion ad:
- Gianna Jessen appeared in an anti-abortion political attack ad, going after then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008. In it, she made the statement: "My name's Gianna Jessen, born 31 years ago after a failed abortion. But if Barack Obama had his way, I wouldn't be here. Four times Barack Obama voted to oppose a law to protect babies left to die after failed abortions. Senator Obama, please support born alive infant protections. I'm living proof these babies have a right to live."
- Politifact found that statement to be factually false. “According to the medical records provided by the organization that produced the ad, Jessen was born at 29 weeks, which would have been a viable pregnancy and subject to the older Illinois law requiring that she receive medical care. So it's not correct to say that Obama opposed that. [HOLAN, Angie, “Abortion Survivor would have been protected under existing law”, PolitiFact, 9 October 2008.”http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2008/oct/09/bornalivetruth-org/abortion-survivor-would-have-been-protected-under-/]
Gianna Jessen is a longtime anti-abortion activist and paid speaker:
- Worked with Liberty Institute to submit an amicus brief regarding the “Partial Birth Abortion Act”
- Worked at Fenton Right to Life (Fenton, MI) and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Inc (Rochester, MN)
- Official website: http://www.giannajessen.com/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/giannajessen
- Gianna Jessen Community Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gianna-Jessen/66792595148
James Bopp Jr.
Extreme anti-abortion activist, general counsel for anti-abortion group National Right To Life, special counsel for conservative group Focus on the Family
James Bopp Jr. has long opposed the use of fetal tissue for any scientific research.
- Opposes allowing a woman who has chosen abortion to decide what happens to the fetal tissue:
- “We can think of no sound precedent for putting a living human into the power of such an estranged person, not for his or her own welfare, but for the ‘interests’ of the one in power.”
- Has asserted that fetal tissue donation programs will increase the number of abortions due to conflicted women choosing abortion for the benefit of donation.
- “... the widespread use of fetal tissue could reasonably be expected to increase abortions, since knowledge of transplantation will induce some women to have abortions, who would otherwise not do so”
- “it is reasonable to expect that this selfless motivation, when placed in the balance with all other reasons, will tip the balance in favor of abortion for some women who are ambivalent”
- Opposes the use of fetal tissue:
- Served on the Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee that was established in 1985, and halted its work in 1989 due to political “paralysis.” President Bush extended the ban on human in vitro fertilization, experimental transplants of tissue from aborted fetuses, and experimental treatment of living fetuses in some circumstances over the objection of two advisory committees. Dr Alex Capron and Dr. Fletcher expressed dismay at the committee disbanding, and Bopp complained that only “5 or 6” of the 14-member committee were pro life.http://www.kfl.org/siteresources/data/files/BoppTestimonyreOHheartbeatbill-final.pdf http://operationrescue.org/pdfs/Bopp%20Memo%20re%20State%20HLA.pdf
James Bopp Jr. Advocates for men to have the legal right to stop women from having an abortion.
- As general counsel for NRTL Bopp represented men who seek to stop women from having an abortion. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bopp distributed materials titled “Revised Father’s Litigation Kit” nationwide sparking a spate of cases of men challenging women’s right to access abortion.
- In one case, Bopp represented a man seeking to stop the abortion of his 18-year-old girlfriend, accusing her of seeking to terminate the pregnancy because “she wishes to look nice in a bathing suit this summer.”
- Bopp appealed Erin Conn’s efforts to stop his girlfriend from terminating her pregnancy to the Supreme Court, stating, that the father-to-be has a fundamental, constitutional right to share in the care and custody of his offspring. Bopp stated, "The only question is: Is he going to have a live child or a dead child?"
- “In 1988, the Supreme Court refused to hear an Indiana case that involved a man wanting to stop his estranged wife from having an abortion. James Bopp Jr., a Terra Haute, Ind., attorney who is general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee, represented the father in the 1988 case.” Bopp said, “Frankly, I think this leads to an atmosphere of irresponsibility for many men.”
- In 2007 Bopp advocated that the “pro-life” movement embrace media-powerful issues like “partial birth abortion” and pursue legislation such as “born alive” bills and restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.
- Helped NRTL block disclosure of who was paying for ads intended to increase support for particular candidates.
Opposes marriage equality:
- Has crusaded against marriage equality, successfully pushing the Indiana Republican Party convention in Fort Wayne to reinstate “traditional marriage” in the state GOP platform. He called marriage equality advocates "intolerant" during an Indiana legislative hearing.
Championed the failed RNC “purity pledge”:
- Won a seat on the Republican National Committee in 2006 and lost it in 2012. While serving on the RNC he was the chief sponsor of the 2009 “purity pledge” that would have held RNC endorsed candidates accountable for positions in favor of the “Defense of Marriage Act,” opposing funding for abortion, and opposing gun control, among other requirements. Many conservatives opposed this idea, including Erick Erickson.
- Bopp Law Firm Website: http://www.bopplaw.com/
- James Bopp Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jboppjr
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With approximately 700 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America media office: 212-261-4433
October 21, 2015