Friday, July 1, 2016

Abortion numbers in decline across Minnesota—except at Planned Parenthood

The following is a follow-up to today's earlier news release.

ST. PAUL — Planned Parenthood continues to defy state and national trends of declining abortion numbers by managing to perform more abortions, year after year. As Minnesota’s largest abortionist, Planned Parenthood enlarged its market beyond 50 percent for the first time, despite a decrease in abortions statewide, according to the state’s annual Abortion Report issued today by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Planned Parenthood increased its abortions by 28.5 percent from 2011 to 2015, and has more than doubled its abortion business since 2000. Beginning in 2007, state abortion totals declined each year except in 2014, when the number rose 2 percent. In contrast, Planned Parenthood’s annual abortion numbers were down from the previous year in only two of those nine years. Planned Parenthood's 2015 total of 5,048 abortions was its highest number ever, and a record market share of 51.2 percent of all abortions performed in Minnesota.

Despite Planned Parenthood, many of the 2015 statistics are encouraging. Last year's total of 9,861 abortions was the lowest since 1974. Just 246 abortions were performed on minors, accounting for 2.5 percent of the total. This is the smallest number since the state began recording minor abortions in 1975 and represents a decline of 89 percent from their peak in 1980, the year prior to passage of Minnesota's Parental Notification law.

More than 11,600 women received factual, state provided information about abortion risks and complications, abortion alternatives and much more under the Woman's Right to Know law. MCCL helped to pass the informed consent law in 2003; state abortion numbers have decreased in all but two years since the law took effect. MCCL also helped to enact the Positive Alternatives law, which took effect in July 2006.

Not all of today's report is good news, however. Abortions were performed at a rate of more than 27 every single day last year. More than 40 percent of abortions in 2015 were performed on women who had undergone at least one prior abortion; 703 women had three or more previous abortions. The report also shows that African Americans remain a target of the abortion industry. They represent just 5.5 percent of the state’s population, yet 24 percent of abortions were performed on African Americans.

Tax-funded abortions increased from 38.1 to 43.3 percent of all abortions last year. This is the highest percentage since the 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court required taxpayers to pay for abortions performed on low-income women. This percentage has increased nearly every year since the court ruling. Taxpayers have funded 77,438 abortions since the decision.

Full reports for 2015 and prior years are available at the MDH website.

Abortions down in MN in 2015

The following news release was issued today, July 1, 2016.

ST. PAUL — Abortion numbers have dropped in eight of the last nine years in Minnesota to their lowest level since 1974, confirming the success of life-affirming laws that provide women with abortion information and alternatives and empower them to choose life for their unborn children—and themselves.

Women are turning away from abortion and embracing life in greater numbers, according to the latest annual Abortion Report issued today by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The 2015 decrease of 2.6 percent follows a trend of fewer abortions statewide since Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) helped to enact the Positive Alternatives law, which took effect in July 2006. The report also shows that nearly 1,700 women decided to give birth after considering the Woman’s Right to Know factual information about fetal development, abortion and alternatives.

"Minnesotans can take pride in the fact that all of the services and resources being marshalled to help pregnant women are actually reaching them and saving lives," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "Today's report is further evidence that women don't want abortion, and when they find help they have hope."

Pro-life legislation has helped to empower women in their desire to give birth to their unborn babies. Positive Alternatives offers women life-affirming alternatives to abortion by funding programs that help them with health care, housing, education, transportation and much more. The state's Woman's Right to Know informed consent law and the parental notification law for minors considering abortion also serve to empower women and girls with factual information and trustworthy support. Ultrasound, in utero surgery and other technologies have caused more Americans to reject what unquestionably kills a developing human life in the womb.

"Many factors have contributed to this long-term trend of declining abortions," Fischbach said. "Women in need have been helped and protective laws have been enacted. Pro-life educational efforts and ultrasound technology have revealed to more and more people the humanity of the unborn child and the injustice of abortion."

The 2015 total of 9,861 abortions is a reduction of 2.6 percent from the previous year's 10,123 total. More than half were performed on women in their 20s. A total of 11,553 women received the Woman's Right to Know informed consent information, meaning 1,692 women chose not to abort after learning about fetal development, abortion risks and complications, and abortion alternatives.

Today's report also shows that taxpayer funded abortions grew to 43 percent of all abortions reported in the state, the highest percentage since the 1995 Doe v. Gomez Supreme Court ruling requiring taxpayers to fund abortions.

Full reports for 2015 and prior years are available at the MDH website. MCCL will release a further analysis of the MDH Abortion Report later today.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Supreme Court decision should put spotlight on Whole Woman's Health

This week's legally outrageous Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt decision has undermined efforts to hold the abortion industry accountable and to safeguard the health of pregnant women. To see the real tragedy of the Supreme Court's ruling, consider the lead plaintiff in the case, whose name will now forever be tied to this appalling decision.

Whole Woman's Health (WWH) is a Texas-based chain of abortion centers that expanded to Minnesota in 2012. WWH is now the second-leading practitioner of abortion in our state (behind only Planned Parenthood).

WWH's track record in Texas shows why the Texas safety provisions struck down by the Court were important—and why WWH was so committed to stopping them. Justice Samuel Alito, during oral arguments back in March, noted that there had been "instance after instance where Whole Woman's facilities have been cited for really appalling violations when they were inspected. Holes in the floor where ­­rats could come in, the lack of any equipment to adequately sterilize instruments." (Alito went on to vigorously dissent from the Court's awful ruling.)

Indeed, WWH has been cited many, many times for health code violations. In 2007, for example, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) fined WWH of Beaumont $3,050 for five different violations.

In 2011, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined WWH of Austin and WWH of McAllen $40,410 for illegally disposing of the remains of aborted children. In 2012, the Texas Medical Board disciplined two WWH abortionists for violating standards of patient care. They were both fined $3,000 and required to take a medical education course.

A 2013 inspection of the Beaumont clinic noted that "the facility failed to provide safe and sanitary equipment in the patients' procedure rooms." Inspectors found "numerous rusty spots on the suction machines used on the patient" that had "the likelihood to cause infection," according to the DSHS report. They also found "expired drugs," unlabeled "pre-filled medication cups," and "a large hole in the cabinet flooring ... [that] had the likelihood to allow rodents to enter the facility." The DSHS concluded: "[T]he facility failed to provide a safe environment for patients and staff."

A 2013 inspection of WWH of San Antonio determined that it "failed to implement and enforce acceptable environmental controls in cleaning and preparing instruments for sterilization." An inspection that same year of WWH of McAllen found that "personnel ... were not following proper sterilization procedures." In 2014 and 2015, inspectors uncovered numerous safety violations at WWH clinics in Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and McAllen.

Year after year, clinic after clinic, WWH never seems to get its act together. This should be especially concerning for Minnesotans. Unlike Texas, our state does not license or inspect abortion facilities at all—we have no way to determine if WWH has imported its shoddy conditions and practices into Minnesota.

Whole Woman's Health and other abortion facilities must be held to a higher standard. Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt has, sadly, made it more difficult to do so.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The problems with the Supreme Court's abortion industry regulations decision

Yesterday, in the case of Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two abortion-related measures in Texas. One requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges at a local hospital in order to ensure continuity of care in the event of complications. The other requires that abortion centers meet the same health and safety standards as other facilities that perform outpatient surgery.

Both of these are reasonable efforts to safeguard the health of women. The Court, in a 5-3 vote, has now ruled them unconstitutional. Justice Stephen Breyer's majority opinion claims that the two measures improperly impose an "undue burden" on women seeking abortion, a standard for judging abortion-related laws that the Court had previously invented and applied in its 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision.

Dissenting Justice Sam Alito
Justice Samuel Alito, in a dissenting opinion joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, blasts yesterday's decision for violating "settled procedural rules" and for failing (and for hardly even trying) to establish that the Texas provisions actually impose any "undue burden." Alito writes: "The Court's patent refusal to apply well-established law in a neutral way is indefensible and will undermine public confidence in the Court as a fair and neutral arbiter." The majority, in short, went far out of its way to reach the judgment it wanted to reach.

Justice Thomas also offered a separate dissent. While stressing that he remains "fundamentally opposed to the Court's abortion jurisprudence," Thomas notes that "even taking Casey [and its "undue burden" criterion] as the baseline ... the majority [in yesterday's Whole Woman's Health decision] radically rewrites the undue-burden test." The Court, he explains, applies precepts that "are nowhere to be found in Casey or its successors" in order to strike down Texas's provisions. Thomas concludes, quoting the late Justice Antonin Scalia, that the decision "exemplifies the Court's troubling tendency 'to bend the rules when any effort to limit abortion, or even to speak in opposition to abortion, is at issue.'"

The fundamental problem is that, beginning with Roe v. Wade in 1973, the Court has been in the business of creating abortion policy (specifically, a policy of abortion-on-demand) and imposing it on the nation—even though there is no constitutional basis for such action. Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt is a clear step in the wrong direction.

Yesterday's decision underscores the necessity of having Supreme Court justices who apply the Constitution as it actually is. Only then will the Court respect the right of the American people, through their elected representatives, to enact laws that protect women and unborn children and that hold the abortion industry accountable.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Supreme Court ruling on abortion facilities poses safety risks for women

The following news release was issued on June 27, 2016.

Women's safety lost out to the abortion industry in today's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning a Texas law that applied basic safety standards to abortion facilities. Facility safety requirements and admitting privileges at a nearby hospital in cases of emergency were deemed unnecessary by a majority of the Court, which ruled in favor of an abortion industry that fiercely opposes regulation.

"With this ruling the Supreme Court has sided with the wealthy and powerful abortion industry rather than vulnerable women," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's oldest and largest pro-life organization. "An unregulated abortion industry, which performs thousands of invasive surgical procedures every day, is very bad news for women."

Lack of abortion industry oversight has been harmful—and in a few cases, deadly—for women. Dangerous conditions and unscrupulous providers have been exposed at abortion centers in numerous other states. For example, abortionist Kermit Gosnell conducted criminal activity for years at his abortion facility in Philadelphia while the state provided no oversight. He was convicted in 2013 on three counts of murder, another count of manslaughter and 21 felony counts.

In Minnesota, abortion facilities are not even licensed or inspected. The Minnesota Department of Health has no authority to even enter these facilities as it does for other outpatient surgical centers.

"Reasonable regulation serves to hold the abortion industry accountable and ensure a degree of safety for women," said Fischbach. "Today's Court action, which reversed common-sense regulations, is deeply disturbing for everyone who cares about the health and safety of women."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Personally pro-life, publicly pro-choice?

"I'm prepared to accept as a matter of faith ... that at the moment of conception there's human life and being, but I'm not prepared to say that to other God­-fearing [and] non-­God­-fearing people that have a different view," Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview last fall.

"Abortion is always wrong," he continued. "But I'm not prepared to impose doctrine that I'm prepared to accept on the rest of [the country]."

This is a familiar view among both politicians and everyday Americans. Some people personally oppose abortion but don't want to apply that rule to others. And many abortion defenders tell pro-life advocates that they shouldn't force their individual beliefs on everyone else.

It's an understandable—yet fundamentally mistaken—perspective. Here are three varieties of this position and why they don't work.

The religion dismissal

First, some suggest, as Biden does, that the pro-life view is merely a "religious" doctrine that may not be imposed on a pluralistic society. But this is flat-out wrong (as Biden's own Catholic Church teaches).

The pro-life position is about justice, not theological dogma. It is rooted in the empirical science of embryology (which establishes that human embryos and fetuses are living human organisms) and the basic moral principle that all members of our species have an equal dignity and right to life. Opposition to killing human beings in utero is no more inherently "religious" than opposition to killing teenagers (or anyone else).

Of course, religion can influence, inform or motivate a person's pro-life position, but that fact should not disqualify it from public consideration. Religion has played a central role in the work of social reformers throughout history. Just as religious Americans who campaign for government anti-poverty programs are free to pursue their policy goals, so too are the religious pro-lifers who only wish to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves" (Proverbs 31:8) and "rescue those being led away to death" (Proverbs 21:11).

The morality confusion

Second, some people treat the pro-life position, religious or not, as if it were simply a matter of individual opinion. Abortion is wrong for me but not necessarily for you. This attitude is expressed in the bumper-sticker slogan "Don't like abortion? Don't have one."

But the pro-life position, observes philosopher Francis J. Beckwith, is not that pro-lifers don't like abortion. It's that abortion is wrong, whether we like it or not. We are not making a preference claim, like which genre of movie we enjoy most. We are making a moral claim about right and wrong.

The confusion stems from a philosophy called moral relativism, which holds that no objective standard of right and wrong exists. Moral claims are really just preference claims that are relative to each individual or culture.

But this view is not plausible. No one would say, "I'm personally opposed to human trafficking, but that's just my view. If you want to traffic human beings, that's your business." No bumper sticker proclaims, "Don't like spousal abuse? Then don't abuse your spouse."

Human trafficking is objectively wrong. Spousal abuse is objectively wrong. Is abortion also wrong? That's the question.

The legal subversion

Finally, some argue (for various reasons) that abortion should be permitted as a matter of public policy even if it is morally wrong. After all, not every unethical act should be illegal. Swearing at your mother may be immoral, but it's not criminal.

Abortion, however, is something altogether different. What is it that makes abortion wrong? It's wrong because it unjustly takes the life of an innocent human being. And the state—whatever else it may or may not do—ought to at least protect basic human rights and prevent violence against the innocent. This is a foundational and uncontroversial purpose of government. People have a right to the protection of the law against unjust killing. That's why abortion should be illegal.

At its core, then, the "personally pro-life, publicly pro-choice" position is incoherent. The reason to personally oppose abortion is the very same reason that it should not be publicly permitted.

Because it is the killing of a defenseless human person.

This article first appeared in the January-February 2016 issue of MCCL News.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

MCCL backs effort to ban dismemberment abortions

The following news release was issued on April 7.

ST. PAUL — An initiative aimed at ending a particularly gruesome method of abortion was introduced today in the Minnesota Legislature. The bill to ban dismemberment abortions has the strong support of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the state's oldest and largest pro-life organization.

H.F. 3849 is authored by Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley; S.F. 3487 is authored by Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point. The legislation, which has bi-partisan support in both chambers, would ban dismemberment abortions in the state.

Polling indicates that the majority of Americans oppose second-trimester abortion, including many who support abortion in general. Three states—Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia—have made the dismemberment procedure illegal, and the governor of Mississippi is expected to sign a ban on the procedure into law next week.

"All abortions destroy the life of a developing human being, but dismemberment is outrageously cruel and needs to be stopped," said MCCL Legislative Director Andrea Rau.

In a dismemberment abortion, forceps with sharp metal jaws are used to grasp legs, arms and other parts of the developing baby in the womb, which are then twisted and torn away. This continues until the child's entire body is removed from the womb. Because the baby's skull has often hardened to bone by this time, the skull must sometimes be compressed or crushed to facilitate removal. Risks include incomplete abortion, cervical laceration and hemorrhage requiring hospitalization.

Dismemberment is the most common second-trimester abortion method and is used to abort unborn children as old as 24 weeks. Dismemberment is a type of dilation and evacuation or D & E abortion; 704 D & E abortions took place in Minnesota in 2014 (see Table 14), according to the Minnesota Department of Health. A medical illustration of the dismemberment procedure is available on the MCCL website.

"Halting this inhumane practice is something that most Minnesotans can agree on," Rau added. "It's time to end dismemberment abortions in our state."

Letter to the editor: The facts about assisted suicide

The following MCCL letter to the editor ran on April 1 in the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. It was written in response to a column touting the bill to legalize assisted suicide in Minnesota.

Forum columnist Mike McFeely dismissively claims that opposition to assisted suicide in Minnesota "appears twofold"—the Catholic Church and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life ("We should be able to die with dignity," March 20). Not true. Not even close. The opposition is broad and well-grounded.

During the March 16 committee hearing for Sen. Chris Eaton's bill to legalize assisted suicide—which she withdrew after it became clear that it would not pass—17 people testified against it. They included doctors, nurses, disability rights advocates, professors, attorneys, and people with grave illnesses (contrary to McFeely's suggestion, no officials from the Catholic Church spoke).

Indeed, opposition to assisted suicide brings together liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, the secular and the religious. It unites the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

These groups object to assisted suicide for good reason. The dangers are numerous. Eaton's bill, for example, provides no safeguards whatsoever once the lethal drug has been dispensed—no witness is required at the death. Nor does it require psychiatric evaluation before patients receive the lethal prescription. And, given the bill's loose definition of "terminal illness" and the difficulty of making an accurate prognosis, legalizing assisted suicide would lead to the killing of patients who have years left to live.

Under Oregon's assisted suicide law, which McFeely touts as a model, depressed patients have received lethal prescriptions. Patients who went on to live for years (far beyond the required six-month prognosis) have received lethal prescriptions. Some Medicaid patients have been denied expensive treatment and offered life-ending drugs instead. And the annual number of assisted suicides has consistently risen—as has the regular (non-assisted) suicide rate.

These are not what McFeely calls the "fears" of "irrational opponents." They are established facts, many supplied by Oregon's own reports. Minnesotans should continue to reject assisted suicide.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Tax-funded abortions spike to highest-ever percentage in MN

The following news release was issued on April 4, 2016.

ST. PAUL — After 19 years of taxpayer-funded abortions, Minnesotans are paying for 39 percent of all abortions performed in the state. Taxpayers have funded more than 73,000 abortions at a cost of $22.5 million, according to a just-released report from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). Taxpayer-funded abortions numbered almost 4,000 in Minnesota in 2014; nearly all of those abortions were elective.

Taxpayers are forced to fund abortions due to a successful 1995 challenge to Minnesota's law which prohibited funding of most abortions. Since then, abortion advocates have steadily marketed taxpayer-funded abortions to low-income women. Taxpayers now pay for 39 percent of all abortions (up from 34.2 percent in 2013), the highest percentage ever.

"Aggressive promotion of abortion to economically vulnerable women is enriching the state’s abortion industry," said Scott Fischbach, Executive Director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). "It is time to end this exploitation of low-income women and their unborn children."

Minnesota taxpayers have been required to fund elective abortions since the Minnesota Supreme Court's 1995 Doe v. Gomez ruling. In that decision, the Court created a state "right" to abortion on demand and obligated all taxpayers to fund abortions, including purely elective procedures.

Since the Doe v. Gomez ruling, taxpayers have paid $22,507,205 for a total of 73,171 abortion procedure claims. Taxpayers' 2014 portion (the latest available) was $953,187 for 3,957 abortions. Prior to the court decision, taxpayers were charged about $7,000 per year for about two dozen abortions in cases of rape and incest and to save the life of the mother.

Planned Parenthood's taxpayer funded abortion claims rose 40 percent in 2014, after rising 45 percent in 2012 and 2013. Planned Parenthood increased its revenues from taxpayer funded abortions in 2014 by 39 percent to $410,713; it filed claims for 1,801 abortions, which represented 45 percent of the claims that year.

Whole Woman's Health, which purchased and merged two abortion facilities in Minneapolis, filed 1,081 abortion claims, the second most. The abortion business has paid several large fines for breaking the law in Texas. Legislation currently before Minnesota lawmakers (S.F. 616, H.F. 606) would require the state’s five surgical abortion facilities to be licensed and inspected by the Department of Health as outpatient surgical centers. None is licensed or inspected by the state.

"Polls continue to show that most Minnesotans and most Americans are opposed to taxpayer funded abortions, yet they continue to be forced to pay for them," Fischbach said.

MCCL helped to pass a ban on taxpayer funded abortion during the 2011 legislative session; it was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton. Similar legislation (S.F. 683, H.F. 607) was introduced last year in the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives. The measure would end the forced funding by taxpayers of this mistreatment of poor women and the killing of unborn children.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Attempt to legalize assisted suicide in Minnesota withdrawn after Senate hearing

The following news release was issued on March 16, 2016.

ST. PAUL — An effort to legalize assisted suicide in Minnesota appears to be dead after the bill's author withdrew her legislation this afternoon. More than two hours of public testimony on S.F. 1880 included 17 physicians, nurses, attorneys and members of the disability community who warned of the grave dangers assisted suicide poses to vulnerable members of society. At the end of the hearing, lead author Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, withdrew the bill before committee members could vote. A vote would very likely have killed the bill.

More than 100 people opposed to the bill attended its first hearing today, wearing red "No assisted suicide" stickers. Minnesotans Against Assisted Suicide (MNAAS) and many of its supporters submitted written testimony to the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing committee, which took up the bill. The bill has not been heard in the House.

Medical professionals offered compelling arguments in favor of compassion and care for those facing illness and disability.

"We have an obligation to the terminally ill and their loved ones. But this bill will not help that cause," said Thomas Nobrega, M.D., a St. Paul cardiologist. "This bill is about giving a patient the means to die by a drug overdose. It creates an irreconcilable conflict between the doctor as a compassionate guide and healer, and the motivation to expedite death."

As a family physician and county coroner, Dr. James Joyce has seen the "ravages" of suicide, but also the gratitude of those he has helped overcome the desire to end their lives. Legal assisted suicide would severely damage the doctor-patient relationship, he said. "If they can’t trust us, we can’t help them."

Kathy Ware, R.N., is a disability advocate and mother of a disabled son, Kylen. She spoke passionately about the need to protect and defend persons with disabilities. "People wouldn’t pursue assisted suicide if they had the help and care they needed for their loved one," she declared. "We in the disability community are not asking for pity. We want help and we want to be treated with value."

A woman suffering from terminal cancer and brain disease begged the committee members not to legalize assisted suicide. Elizabeth Bakewicz said persons with severe illnesses must be treated with dignity and not as burdens. "Under this bill I am treated as nothing but a list of burdens. But I am a human being," she said.

Neil Helgeson is the board president of The Arc Minnesota, a disability rights organization, and the father of a 23-year-old son with disabilities. He explained that persons dealing with disabilities generally enjoy life, but that society projects onto them a poor quality of life. "This places their lives at extraordinary risk," Helgeson stated. "Senate File 1880 poses a grave threat to individuals with disabilities."

Today's hearing and Sen. Eaton's withdrawal of the legislation is a victory for those with disabilities and serious illnesses, the elderly and all those who care for them.

MNAAS is a growing statewide coalition of organizations, professionals and individuals who oppose the legislation introduced in the 2015 Minnesota Legislature to legalize assisted suicide. For more information about MNAAS, visit www.mnaas.org.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Whole Woman's Health challenges safety standards before Supreme Court

This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging a Texas abortion law. The Texas provisions in question require that (1) abortion centers meet the same health and safety standards as other facilities that perform outpatient surgery and (2) abortion providers have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital to ensure continuity of care in the event of complications.

These commonsense measures are designed to protect the health of women. But the abortion industry is vigorously opposed to them. The lead plaintiff in this landmark Supreme Court case? Whole Woman's Health.

Whole Woman's Health (WWH) is a Texas-based chain of abortion centers that expanded to Minnesota in 2012. In fact, WWH is now the second-leading practitioner of abortion in our state (behind only Planned Parenthood).

WWH's own track record in Texas shows why the Texas law is so important—and why WWH is so committed to stopping it. Justice Samuel Alito, during oral arguments on Wednesday, mentioned that there had been "instance after instance where Whole Woman's facilities have been cited for really appalling violations when they were inspected. Holes in the floor where ­­rats could come in, the lack of any equipment to adequately sterilize instruments."

Indeed, WWH has been cited many, many, many times for health code violations. In 2007, for example, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) fined WWH of Beaumont $3,050 for five different violations.

In 2011, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined WWH of Austin and WWH of McAllen $40,410 for illegally disposing of the remains of aborted children. In 2012, the Texas Medical Board disciplined two WWH abortionists for violating standards of patient care. They were both fined $3,000 and required to take a medical education course.

An Oct. 3, 2013, inspection of the Beaumont clinic noted that "the facility failed to provide safe and sanitary equipment in the patients' procedure rooms." Inspectors found "numerous rusty spots on the suction machines used on the patient" that had "the likelihood to cause infection," according to the DSHS report. They also found "expired drugs," unlabeled "pre-filled medication cups," and "a large hole in the cabinet flooring ... [that] had the likelihood to allow rodents to enter the facility." The DSHS concluded: "[T]he facility failed to provide a safe environment for patients and staff."

An Aug. 29, 2013, inspection of WWH of San Antonio determined that it "failed to implement and enforce acceptable environmental controls in cleaning and preparing instruments for sterilization." A Sept. 4 inspection of WWH of McAllen found that "personnel ... were not following proper sterilization procedures." In 2014 and 2015, inspectors uncovered numerous additional safety violations at WWH clinics in Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and McAllen.

Year after year, clinic after clinic, WWH never seems to get its act together. This should be especially concerning for Minnesota. Our state does not license or inspect abortion facilities at all—we have no way to determine if WWH has imported its shoddy conditions and practices into Minnesota. Current proposed legislation, H.F. 606/S.F. 616, would rectify this problem by licensing abortion centers in the same way as other outpatient surgical centers and allowing for health inspections. The Legislature will consider the bill again during the upcoming session.

In the Supreme Court case, Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court should uphold the Texas law. Measures to improve the safety of women are constitutionally permissible. They are also good public policy.

Whole Woman's Health must be held to basic standards—in Texas and in Minnesota.

Video: A physician illustrates dismemberment abortion

In the video below, Dr. Anthony Levatino, who personally performed more than 1,200 abortions, graphically illustrates and explains the second-trimester dismemberment abortion procedure. More than 700 such abortions were performed in Minnesota in 2014.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Justice Scalia on the Constitution, abortion, and assisted suicide

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who passed away Saturday, believed that the role of the Court is to faithfully interpret and apply the law as it actually is—not as the Court wants it to be. Making law and policy is the job of the elected branches of government. Judges should not be legislators.

That's why Scalia took the position he did on abortion and the Constitution. The Constitution simply does not require, as the Court mistakenly ruled in Roe v. Wade (1973), a nationwide policy of abortion on demand. In his dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which upheld the "central holding" of Roe, Scalia explained:
The issue is whether [abortion] is a liberty protected by the Constitution of the United States. I am sure it is not. I reach that conclusion ... for the same reason I reach the conclusion that bigamy is not constitutionally protected—because of two simple facts: (1) the Constitution says absolutely nothing about it, and (2) the long-standing traditions of American society have permitted it to be legally proscribed.
Therefore, Scalia concluded, "The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting."

Dissenting in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), which struck down a state law banning partial-birth abortion, Scalia wrote:
The notion that the Constitution of the United States, designed, among other things, "to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility ... and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity," prohibits the States from simply banning this visibly brutal means of eliminating our half-born posterity is quite simply absurd.
Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990) dealt with the details of Minnesota's parental notification law. In a complicated and divided outcome, the Court upheld the law as long as there is a judicial bypass option (Scalia would have upheld the law regardless). Scalia noted:
One will search in vain the document we are supposed to be construing for text that provides the basis for the argument over these distinctions; and will find in our society's tradition regarding abortion no hint that the distinctions are constitutionally relevant, much less any indication how a constitutional argument about them ought to be resolved. The random and unpredictable results of our consequently unchanneled individual views make it increasingly evident, Term after Term, that the tools for this job are not to be found in the lawyer's—and hence not in the judge's—workbox. I continue to dissent from this enterprise of devising an Abortion Code, and from the illusion that we have authority to do so.
Nor does anything in the Constitution prevent states from prohibiting assisted suicide or protecting against the dehydration and starvation of medically vulnerable patients. In Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health (1990), Scalia wrote:
American law has always accorded the State the power to prevent, by force if necessary, suicide ... [T]he point at which life becomes "worthless," and the point at which the means necessary to preserve it become "extraordinary" or "inappropriate," are neither set forth in the Constitution nor known to the nine Justices of this Court any better than they are known to nine people picked at random from the Kansas City telephone directory.
Scalia was part of the unanimous decisions in Vacco v. Quill and Washington v. Glucksberg (1997), which held that there is no right to assisted suicide. In his dissenting opinion in Gonzales v. Oregon (2006), Scalia argued that the Attorney General is allowed, under federal law, to prevent the use of drugs in Oregon for assisted suicide:
Unless we are to repudiate a long and well-established principle of our jurisprudence, using the federal commerce power to prevent assisted suicide is unquestionably permissible. ... If the term "legitimate medical purpose" has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death.
In Roe v. Wade and subsequent decisions, the Court usurped the authority of the American people and their elected representatives to determine abortion policy—and 58 million abortions have been the result. Some people want the Court to do the same with assisted suicide. To prevent that from happening—and to reverse Roe, allowing for greater protection for unborn children and their mothers—we desperately need more Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia.

Friday, February 12, 2016

MCCL News February issue

The January-February 2016 issue of MCCL News is now available online. It includes stories on the March for Life, the upcoming legislative session and MCCL agenda, and more.

MCCL News online is only available to registered NetCommunity members who are also current donors. Be sure to keep your membership current by making at least an annual donation to MCCL.

Monday, February 8, 2016

'The State of Abortion in the United States'

Last month National Right to Life released its annual report The State of Abortion in the United States. The report provides the most up-to-date overview of abortion in America today, including:

  • The latest abortion statistics and trends
  • An analysis of Planned Parenthood's annual report
  • Public polling on abortion
  • Court cases
  • Federal policy
  • State laws

The pro-life movement has made undeniable progress. Abortions are dropping, most Americans oppose most abortions, and pro-life laws continue to proliferate. But much more work remains to be done.

Friday, January 22, 2016

MCCL March for Life draws thousands, calls for dismemberment abortion ban

The following news release was issued on Jan. 22, 2016.

ST. PAUL — An enormous crowd of Minnesotans came to the State Capitol today to urge lawmakers to ban dismemberment abortions. Pro-life citizens also called on legislators to protect the safety of women by licensing abortion centers, and to ban taxpayer funded abortion. The annual Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) March for Life commemorates the millions of lives lost to abortion.

The 42nd annual MCCL March for Life marks the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Jan. 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that have resulted in the deaths of more than 600,000 unborn Minnesota children (Minnesota Department of Health), and more than 58 million unborn babies nationwide.

"Every abortion kills an unborn child, but dismemberment abortions are some of the cruelest abortions of all and it's time to ban them," MCCL Executive Committee member Jaclynn Miller told the huge crowd of citizens gathered from across Minnesota. "In 2014 there were more than 700 dismemberment abortions in the state and it has to end!"

MCCL's 2016 legislative agenda seeks the licensing and inspection of abortion facilities (H.F. 606/S.F. 616), which currently are exempt from licensing and inspection required of other outpatient surgical centers across the state. Such minimal oversight would help ensure a degree of safety for women entering abortion facilities.

MCCL's pro-life agenda also calls for lawmakers to end taxpayer funded abortions (H.F. 607/S.F. 683), which account for 38 percent of all abortions performed in the state. This is the highest percentage since the 1995 Doe v. Gomez decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court forced taxpayers to pay for abortions performed on low-income women. This percentage has increased nearly every year since the court ruling. Taxpayers have funded more than 69,000 abortions since the decision, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Pro-life Speaker of the Minnesota House Kurt Daudt spoke briefly at the March, stating, "Every child in the state of Minnesota has a right to life and a right to fulfill their God-given potential. ... I am very encouraged to see so many of you here, in the cold, to march for life and to stand up to protect the unborn. Minnesota is a pro-life state!"

Many of Minnesota's pro-life elected officials, including state legislators, were in attendance and were introduced during the brief program on the lower Capitol Mall. Minnesota's pro-life Members of Congress John Kline, Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer and Collin Peterson sent written greetings that were read at the March.

View photos of today's MCCL March for Life and from past marches on the MCCL website.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The devastation of Roe v. Wade—and how to end it

Richard John Neuhaus called it "the most consequential moral and political event of the last half century of our nation's history."

On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton. The Court ruled that abortion must be permitted for any reason before fetal viability—and that it must be permitted for "health" reasons, broadly defined in Doe (so as to encompass virtually any reason), all the way until birth. Roe legalized abortion on demand nationwide.

The harm of that decision is difficult to overstate.

2015 MCCL March for Life
Roe is unjust. The Court ruled that a particular class of innocent human beings (those in utero) must be excluded from the protection of the law and allowed to be dismembered and killed at the discretion of others. More than 58 million unborn children have now been legally killed, including more than 600,000 in Minnesota.

Roe is unconstitutional. "It is bad because it is bad constitutional law," wrote the eminent constitutional scholar and Yale law professor John Hart Ely (who personally favored legalized abortion), "or rather because it is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be."

Roe is undemocratic. Roe and Doe struck down the democratically decided abortion laws of all 50 states. Because it lacked any constitutional justification, the Court's ruling usurped the authority of the elected branches of government to determine abortion policy.

Forty-three years later, what can we do?

Overturning Roe would allow states to once again enact their own abortion laws. But this requires at least one more Supreme Court justice committed to interpreting and applying the law as it actually is (rather than making it). And that requires electing a president who will nominate and senators who will confirm such a judge. Changes to the Court's composition in the past have already led to greater (though still very modest) protection for the unborn.

In the interim, we should continue the multi-pronged effort to reduce abortions. That means providing practical assistance and resources to pregnant women facing difficult circumstances. It means educating and persuading the public. And it means enacting legislation to save as many lives as currently possible.

The success of this strategy is tangible. The number of abortions has dropped 47 percent in Minnesota since its peak in 1980. Abortions have fallen 28 percent since 2006. Yet 10,123 unborn children were destroyed in 2014. Much, much more work remains to be done.

MCCL will hold its annual March for Life on Friday, Jan. 22, the 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The purpose of the March is to commemorate the lives lost to abortion and to call for renewed respect and protection for all members of the human family, especially unborn children and their mothers. It is an opportunity to re-energize, remobilize, and refocus. MCCL will introduce its 2016 legislative agenda during the event.

The March for Life begins at 12 noon on the Capitol grounds in St. Paul, followed by a short program at 12:30. We hope to see you there.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Planned Parenthood annual report reveals abortion focus in MN

The following news release was issued on Jan. 19, 2016.

MINNEAPOLIS—With the recent release of the Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota (PPMNS) 2014 annual report, it is important for Minnesotans to know that abortion is the one area where it is growing its business. A Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) fact sheet comparing services provided by PPMNS in 2013 and 2014 shows that abortion was the organization's only significant growth area in 2014.

"The latest PPMNS annual report demonstrates what MCCL has been saying for years—that Planned Parenthood's focus is abortion, not health care," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "Fewer and fewer women are resorting to Planned Parenthood for non-abortion services. But greater numbers of women are being pressured to abort their unborn babies at Planned Parenthood."

The annual reports list eight services; among them, six saw declines in 2014 over 2013. For example, contraception units distributed were down 13 percent, and family planning visits fell 8 percent. PPMNS also saw a decline in its total number of patients (down 4 percent to 65,332) and total patient services (down 10 percent, or 62,040 fewer) in 2014.

Abortion was the exception among services, increasing fully 10 percent in 2014. A total of 5,500 unborn children were aborted at Planned Parenthood that year, according to its report. PPMNS expanded its abortion business by 10 percent in a year when the number of abortions in the state rose just 2.2 percent. PPMNS now commands more than 49 percent of the state’s abortion business, and it increases its market share every year.

Revenue rose significantly in 2014. PPMNS ended the year with total assets up 8 percent to $64.5 million and investment income quadrupled to $1.7 million. Even patient service fees increased 6 percent to $26.7 million. Despite diminished numbers of clients and services, 2014 was a very good year for PPMNS.

"Fewer patients and fewer services, more abortions and more revenue—that is the story of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota," Fischbach added. "Planned Parenthood is focused on dominating the profitable abortion industry, not on providing health care for women."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Why even many abortion practitioners refuse to perform dismemberment abortions

Vincent Argent is a long-time practitioner of abortion in the United Kingdom. But, as Sarah Terzo notes, he refuses to perform elective dismemberment (dilation & evacuation) abortions after 16 weeks. Argent writes:
In the full knowledge of what is involved in late abortions, and the widespread distaste for them among the medical profession, I would ... support an amendment proposing 16 weeks [as a legal limit].

I am not alone. Within the [UK's National Health Service], the majority of doctors are refusing to carry out late abortions. Three quarters of late procedures are now carried out by private clinics. At Eastbourne Hospital, where I worked for 19 years, the medical staff eventually decided we would perform no abortions on social grounds after 14 weeks.

When I was at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge we agreed on 16 weeks. When I worked as a consultant, and later as medical director for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, I maintained my stance, leaving any "social" abortions which went beyond 16 weeks for colleagues who did not share my qualms.

Now, with increasing specialisation in gynaecology, many younger doctors are avoiding abortion completely, preferring to go instead into areas such as IVF or cancer treatment. Abortion has become the part of gynaecology that no one wants to be associated with, and late abortion is the least popular type of work of all.
Click to enlarge 
Copyright © 2015 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc. 
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Why do doctors object to the dismemberment procedure? Argent explains:
For some doctors their objections are religious or ethical. Often, as with me, it is based on a distaste for carrying out a procedure which is so traumatic.

Most people do not realise just how distressing late abortions can be. The procedure remains the last taboo. While heart and brain surgery are regularly shown on television, the reality of a late abortion has never been seen on British screens.

There are two main types of procedure ... [T]he surgical procedure [dilation & evacuation] uses instruments to remove parts of the dismembered body from the uterus, limb by limb. It is hard to describe how it feels to pull out parts of a baby, to see arms, and bits of leg, and finally the head.
Even a firmly pro-choice doctor—who has personally performed abortions for decades—draws the line at this barbaric procedure.

Dismembering a 20-week baby is obviously inhumane. It undermines the integrity of the medical profession. And it ought to be stopped.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Congress votes to defund Planned Parenthood; Peterson only Democrat willing to protect the unborn

The following news release was issued on Jan. 6, 2016.

Congressman Collin Peterson (DFL, CD7) again today was the only Democrat to vote in favor of a pro-life bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The House took up a special fast-track bill (H.R. 3762, the "pro-life reconciliation bill") that would cut off nearly 90 percent of the federal funds that go to Planned Parenthood—about $400 million. Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) strongly supports the measure, along with the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC).

Minnesota Congressmen John Kline (CD2), Erik Paulsen (CD3), Tom Emmer (CD6) and Peterson voted in support of the Senate amendments to the Restoring Americans' Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act (H.R. 3762). Members of Congress Tim Walz, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison and Rick Nolan voted against the measure, which was approved in a 240-181 vote.

"We commend Representative Peterson for his longstanding commitment to life, and urge other Democrats to follow his lead," said MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "The cause of life must transcend partisan boundaries. Life is not a partisan issue but rather, most importantly, a human rights issue. Here in Minnesota we are fortunate to have pro-life Democrats and pro-life Republicans who are willing to cross the political divide to protect and defend human life."

The legislation would suspend funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, for one year. It would close the largest pipeline for federal funding of Planned Parenthood, Medicaid, and apply as well to the CHIP and the Title V and Title XX block grant programs. The amounts denied to Planned Parenthood in effect are reallocated to community health centers.

In addition, the Senate-passed H.R. 3762 would repeal many components of Obamacare, including the program that provides taxpayer subsidies to about 1,000 health plans that cover elective abortions.

The legislation will now be sent to President Obama, who has threatened to veto it.