Author Archives: Reproaction

Action Report: Why Didn’t Joe Manchin Denounce Anti-Abortion Terrorism?

By Shireen Shakouri
Campaign Lead

Earlier this month, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia met with David Daleiden. This is totally unacceptable. Daleiden leads the Center for Medical Progress, which used fraud and deceptive editing to start releasing sham sting videos about Planned Parenthood beginning in 2015. The false narratives Daleiden pushed spurred an increase in violence against abortion clinics, including the November 2015 mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood health center in Colorado Springs that left three dead and nine injured.

Manchin’s meeting with Daleiden would never be appropriate – his ‘work’ should not be legitimized. Further, this happened when a number of other so-called progressives are appearing to encourage anti-abortion rhetoric in what they are calling a “big tent.” So, we decided we couldn’t stand for this #BigTentSellOut and we needed to let our concern be known in person. We developed a plan to head to Manchin’s office unannounced and personally deliver a letter expressing our anger and affirming our promise that we will hold anyone accountable who appears to condone anti-choice terrorism.

So yesterday a group of 11 activists met up by the Capitol and did a Facebook Live video to warm up. We talked about our concerns about leaders on the left making a variety of troubling comments that appear leave reproductive rights behind, and why we won’t stand for that. Then we made our way to Manchin’s office.

As we were heading through the security checkpoint in the entrance to the Hart Senate Office Building, I noticed Manchin and some of his staffers on their way out. I alerted our team and we scrambled back outside and up the street, and I quickly fussed with my phone to set up the livestream on our last live video of the action, which you can see here. As we spoke to Senator Manchin on the sidewalk, there was palpable reluctance from him and his staff initially, but he eventually engaged with us. It seemed he had a tough time understanding why we were upset that he held meetings with someone whose work promotes anti-abortion terrorism.

As the conversation unfolded, I was almost as frustrated by his politicking as I was by his inability to denounce self-described “pro-life” terrorists. Manchin blamed his sense of politeness and kind upbringing for the meeting with Daleiden, saying he takes a meeting with anyone who walks through his door. When asked if he draws the line at anti-abortion terrorists, he said, “I’m a public servant, I meet with everyone,” which appeared to me as a weak and transparent plea not to denounce Daleiden and ruffle the feathers of Daleiden’s extremist anti-abortion followers.

It is unacceptable to take meetings with the terrorist wing of the anti-abortion movement. Reproaction will continue to take direct action to ensure that propagators of anti-abortion terrorism have no place in the public policy discussion about reproductive health care. We will also continue to take direct action to ensure that abortion access and reproductive justice are taken seriously as integral to economic justice – support for abortion rights is part of what it means to be progressive.

The False Rape Narrative has No Place in Feminism, Including Fake Pro-Life Feminism

By Jessica Ensley
Campaign Coordinator

The pro-life movement has once again proven that pro-life feminism is a lie, and just another cynical right-wing tool for controlling women and their sexuality. Feminism is the fight for social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. This stands in contrast with the latest remarks of Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life.

Here’s what she said Wednesday on EWTN’s Morning Glory: “I still find it problematic that schools are put in the position of acting as judge and jury against men who are sometimes falsely accused of rape.”

The false rape narrative is a tool of patriarchy. Rape is actually underreported, and that holds true in schools as well. Only 20 percent of female students report their rape. If Foster wants to have a feminist conversation about false rape accusations, she should actually examine racism in the United States. In our country’s history, false rape accusations by white women against Black men were used as excuses for lynchings.  

Today, the false rape narrative is largely an illusion to sweep rape and sexual harassment accusations under the rug. There is plenty of room for Foster to explore these issues within the conservative movement that her organization belongs to. From Roger Ailes, to Bill O’Reilly, to our very own President Donald Trump, victims are accused of lying. In fact, many people believe this narrative, with college students believing that half of all rape accusations are false.

There aren’t statistics for false rape accusations, but there are for unfounded cases. Let me be clear: An unfounded rape does not equal a false rape. An unfounded rape includes people who report rape, and later recant their story out of fear. A case could be considered unfounded because there simply was not enough evidence to convict. The actual number of unfounded rape accusations? Around two to eight percent.

Back at the Feminists for Life interview, Foster touted the false rape narrative while discussing her belief that rape survivors should not have an abortion. In this, she is hitting two birds with one stone: using the word “feminist” to reduce women’s autonomy and perpetuate rape culture.

Pro-lifers continue to co-opt progressive language by claiming they are “pro-woman” and saying “unborn lives matter.” For decades they have used what they believe is a mixture of civil rights and feminist messaging to try to restrict the right to abortion. This is offensive.

Feminism without abortion rights doesn’t work because feminism’s core value is equality, and you can’t have equality without autonomy. The pro-life movement wants to cement inequality for women and now, too, shame survivors with the false rape narrative. As we have said time and time again, you cannot be pro-life and feminist.

If the pro-life movement were really advocating for life and feminism, they would speak out against the false rape narrative, not perpetuate it. They wouldn’t shame survivors of rape and sexual assault. They would address toxic masculinity and victim-blaming, which are at the core root of rape culture. They would encourage consent and comprehensive sex education instead of telling women to remain abstinent. They would support reproductive health care including STI testing, contraception, and abortion services.

But the pro-life movement has done none of that, and its work is certainly not feminist.

Operation Rescue Offers “Assistance” to Department of Justice

By Erin Matson
Co-Founder and Co-Director

Operation Rescue offered to assist the Department of Justice. Attorney General Jeff Sessions must say no.

Today Operation Rescue, a hateful anti-abortion organization led by Troy Newman, congratulated Attorney General Jeff Sessions on his confirmation and offered to provide support to the Department of Justice.

Attorney General Sessions must publicly and forcefully decline the offer of partnership between Operation Rescue and the Department of Justice.

In a statement written by Cheryl Sullenger, who served two years in prison after being convicted for attempting to bomb an abortion clinic, Operation Rescue President Troy Newman is quoted as saying, “We congratulate Attorney General Sessions on his confirmation and stand ready to assist him with access to our research and documentation.”

This is chilling. In Troy Newman’s book, Their Blood Cries Out, he advocates for the murder of abortion providers and what he believes is the federal government’s responsibility to execute abortion providers.

“The United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty,” he wrote. “This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people.”

When asked during his confirmation hearing whether he would “disavow Operation Rescue’s endorsement of you,” Attorney General Sessions refused to do so directly while also attempting to distance himself from anti-abortion violence.

It is because of this ambiguity that it’s critical for Attorney General Sessions to explicitly make clear that the Department of Justice will not partner with, rely upon information from, or in any way accept assistance from Operation Rescue and its leadership.

Less than two years ago, the Australian government barred Troy Newman from entry based on his concerns that his presence would stoke violence against abortion providers and people who seek abortion. The Department of Justice exists to enforce the law, to ensure public safety, and to ensure justice for all.

Attorney General Sessions must explicitly bar Troy Newman and Operation Rescue from any form of affiliation or partnership with the Department of Justice and our government.


I Attended the March for Life

By Jessica Ensley
Campaign Coordinator

People on both sides of the political spectrum complain that the other side lives in a “bubble.” Recently I broke my bubble by attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Attending the March for Life as someone who staunchly believes in reproductive justice was something I knew would be difficult. Walking amongst the crowd I noticed just how white it was. Not only did I see few people of color, I saw no one wearing head coverings suggesting non-Christian faiths. I don’t imagine people wearing them would receive a warm welcome from the countless Trump supporters in attendance. There were quite a few “All Lives Matter” signs and shirts, yet pro-life organizations have been silent in the president’s recent executive order instating a Muslim ban and have continued to remain silent on police violence against Black people.

All Lives Matter T-shirts for sale at the March for Life











The March for Life seemed to be yet another celebration of the new administration by and for the right wing. Vice President Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway spoke and made history as the highest-ranking White House officials to speak at the March for Life. Conway encouraged people to “protect and to promote the most precious gift in the world: the gift of life.”

Conway and Pence received thunderous applause from the crowd. Many people started to leave the National Mall after hearing Pence speak, which is a testament to just how much the pro-life movement is operates as a front for Trumpism these days.

The NFL’s Ben Watson was a speaker, and got across the main driving point of the March for Life and for the pro-life movement in general: Men need to be in charge.  According to LifeSite, a pro-life ‘news’ platform, Watson said men have to “rise up and lead the charge” and “it is past time that (men) be the leaders, caretakers and providers that we were meant to be.”

The hyper-masculinity of the event was apparent not only through Watson’s speech. I saw many young groups of women being led by men, whether they were fathers or religious leaders. The most graphic signs, including one stating women who have abortions should be arrested, were held by men.

It wasn’t until I joined the abortion rights supporters’ counter protest that I realized just how aggressive some of the pro-life people would be.

Sign at March for Life with an image of men getting arrested











Men made up the majority of the people who walked up to our counter-protest group. One man went up to another man in our group and said “Can I ask you a question, man to man?” The pro-abortion counter-demonstrator said he could ask any number of the women around and the pro-lifer said no, this was a man’s issue.

When the pro-lifers started to use signs to box in our group, it was the men who got into our personal space. It was the white men who asked the racist questions to the woman of color counter-demonstrating. It was the men who shoved their pro-life signs into our faces. When asked to get out of our personal space or stop talking to us, they said no. When they talked to us, they demanded a response. They saw it as their right. They became angry and agitated toward us.

The message was clear: not only was this a pro-Trump rally, this movement should be led by men. Orange, mean, aggressive men.

Women were of course in attendance, and I saw a few signs that stated they were anti-Trump and pro-woman. However, when your cause is rooted in removing autonomy from people, it is not “pro-woman.” When your cause is supported by our misogynistic president who brags about sexual assault and routinely trades in derogatory stereotypes, you are on the wrong side of history.

By going to the March for Life, I stepped outside my bubble and into another where “all lives matter” until that life is born. Where children are the future unless their skin is not white or they are born into a religion other than Christianity.

If living in my bubble means being alongside those who stand with justice, including reproductive justice, then I will happily live in my bubble. Of course we need to be aware of what happens outside our bubbles, which is why I went. But we do not have to accept taking away basic human rights, including the right to abortion. Eliminating access to abortion is not a matter of differing opinions – it is injustice.

Abortion Won at SCOTUS, But Frightening Laws Remain

By Jessica Ensley
Campaign Fellow

There are still restrictive and even blatantly unconstitutional anti-abortion laws on the books, even though abortion rights won big with the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt decision last summer. The fight continues: Planned Parenthood, along with the ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights, is filing a lawsuit against restrictive anti-abortion laws in North Carolina, Alaska, and Missouri. Missouri has legislation similar to that struck down in the recent Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court said clearly in a 5-3 decision that restrictions on access to abortion must have a benefit, as the Texas House Bill 2 did not. The unconstitutional abortion clinic closure law  required abortion facilities to meet hospital-like standards. It also required doctors to have admitting privileges to hospitals within 30 miles.

Requiring abortion facilities to have hospital-sized rooms and hallways and doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospital are nothing more than thinly guised attempts at shutting down access to abortion. After HB 2 went into effect, nearly half of the abortion clinics in the state had to shut down. This left many people needing abortions without access to a nearby clinic.

The Supreme Court stated that these laws “place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking an abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and therefore violate the Constitution.”

After the ruling, I took a look to see if there were states still holding onto anti-abortion laws that have been ruled unnecessary and unconstitutional. What I found was appalling. While many states had laws similar to that in Texas, only Arizona, Indiana and Utah have laws remaining that have not yet been challenged at the state level.

I also looked at a number of additional types of abortion restrictions, and what I found was unfortunately not surprising. The strictest abortion laws are in states that have a majority of conservative legislators. Some states, such as South Dakota, have trigger laws in place to ban abortion, except in cases where a physician deems it necessary, if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court — a possibility welcomed by president-elect Donald Trump. Other laws explicitly state they will ban abortion to the fullest extent allowed under federal law.  

It’s important to note that the attacks on abortion rights keep mounting. New Jersey proposed 20 anti-abortion bills in 2016. Iowa proposed 15 anti-abortion and religious freedom bills in 2016, many attacking LGBTQ rights. There is every reason to expect 2017 will be worse.

Most disheartening is how murky these laws can be to find and understand. Anti-abortion laws threaten everyone, especially the one in three women who will have an abortion in their lifetimes. These laws should not be this difficult to track down and comprehend. State websites can be tough to navigate, and the language of policy can be difficult to understand. Once you actually find the laws you’re looking for, the next challenge is trying to understand what they mean.  Laws are changing every year as more and more anti-choice groups and legislators attempt to pass bills that take away the right to our own bodies.

One of the most notable — and frankly, terrifying — new state laws is once again in Texas. The law, now challenged in court and blocked by a federal judge, would require abortion facilities to pay for the cremation or burial of aborted fetuses. It is an insult to the autonomy and dignity of people who have abortions, and it will raise the cost of abortion care by hundreds or thousands of dollars. This new law, along with the countless others across the states, prove how much work there is to be done in the name of reproductive justice.