Last Thursday, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) launched into a righteous tirade against the GOP’s attempts to derail a health care package for 9/11 first responders. His House floor antics became an instant viral video classic. Weiner and the House Dems were trying to pass a $7 billion health care assistance package for first responders, cleanup workers and others injured at Ground Zero in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, many of whom developed chronic and poorly-understood health problems as a result of their service.
The gentleman will sit down!
The original bill would have paid for the fund through a tax on foreign owned businesses operating in the United States. The Democrats were seeking a two thirds majority in House to prevent the Republicans from tacking on an amendment to pay for the package with money set aside for health care reform. Weiner exploded at his GOP colleagues for paying lip service to 9/11 heroes while refusing to pass the bill. The bill died, of course, and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) went back to rabble rousing about the proposed Islamic cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero.
Suspiciously, in the days leading up to the showdown in Congress, someone decided to open an investigation into a 9/11 firefighter who went on to compete in Mixed Martial Arts after being granted a disability pension in 2003 for asthma and PTSD. The New York Post whipped up a frenzy of outrage on the eve of the vote, painting a 9/11 firefighter as a malingerer, prior to any investigation.
As I reported for Working In These Times, it is entirely possible for elite athletes to suffer from asthma. Being a firefighter with smoke-triggered asthma is a whole different scenario. Try using a puffer in full turnout gear. It was almost as if someone was trying to provide political cover for the Republicans to vote against the bill.
Missouri attempts to block health care reform
Nick Baumann of Mother Jones reports that 70% of voters in Missouri’s heavily Republican primary voted for Proposition C, a resolution that purports to block the federal government’s ability to force individuals to carry health insurance. As Baumann explains, it’s a symbolic victory as The Affordable Care Act is federal law, and Missouri has no more right to opt out of the individual mandate than it does to print its own money. If Missouri tries to flout the individual mandate, it will face a quixotic constitutional battle.
This type of political theater is a hot new trend at the state level. Demagogues have discovered that passing state laws that blatantly contradict federal law is a great way to get publicity for for their views on health care and immigration (e.g. Arizona’s SB 1070). It’s like a 2-year-old discovering the word “no.” These laws will get struck down, at considerable expense to state and federal governments, but the ideologues will have made their point.
Combating misinformation from crisis pregnancy centers
Alexandra Tweten of the Ms. Magazine blog reviews the new documentary 12th and Delaware, by the makers of Jesus Camp. The new film profiles an abortion clinic across the street from a crisis pregnancy center (CPC). Staffers from the Woman’s World Medical Center square off daily against anti-choice volunteers from the Pregnancy Care Center.
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the anti-choice playbook. CPCs mimic real clinics in order to confuse women seeking abortions long enough to talk them out of it.
Charlotte Taft writes in RH Reality Check about the time an anti-choice group called White Rose set up shop across the breezeway from the abortion clinic she was running in Texas in the 1980s. The operatives liked to bombard the women with images of mutilated fetuses:
I could always tell when a woman had just come into our clinic from the White Rose because she would be standing at our front desk crying and shaking. She would have been waylaid there, sometimes for hours, before she finally figured out she was in the wrong place and had the courage to get up and leave. In nearly 40 years of working in the field of abortion I never got over seeing that kind of trauma and I never have. I was furious and literally could not believe that this fraud was allowed.
12th and Delaware
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviews 12th and Delaware filmmakers Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing. In the course of the interview Goodman plays a strikingly candid quote from the movie in which the head of the CPC, Anne Lotierzo, explaining how she tricks women seeking abortions into coming to her “clinic”:
“When she calls, and she says, ‘Do you do abortions?’ I say, ‘Are you calling for yourself, or are you calling for your friend?’ She says, ‘I’m calling for myself.’ I say, ‘Well, when did you have a pregnancy test?’ And we engage in conversation, because if she calls and says, ‘Do you do abortions?’ and I say, ‘No’—click.”
The CPC bait-and-switch
The stalemate at 12th & Delaware isn’t an isolated situation. There are more than 4000 CPCs nationwide, compared to just 2000 freestanding abortion clinics. Not all CPCs are across the street from clinics, but they all carry on the same bait-and-switch tactic promising health care and delivering propaganda. Shockingly, some CPCs even receive public funding, even though federal funding is blocked for most real abortion care.