How hospice became big business. A new investigation in The New Yorker reveals an industry that at times puts profits before patients.
The number of battles over when and under what circumstances a woman can exercise her legal right to an abortion is growing. For low-income women, even basic family planning services may be becoming out of reach: In five states, Republicans are seeking to block women on Medicaid from obtaining health care services at Planned Parenthood clinics. Some Republicans in Congress say they’ll shut down the federal government unless funds for Planned Parenthood are cut, and a new report describes how abortion opponents hunt for details on abortions performed at clinics including personal patient data. We look at the latest debates over women’s health.
- Charles Ornstein Investigative reporter, ProPublica
- Jackie Calmes National correspondent, The New York Times
- Terry O'Neill President, National Organization for Women
- Carol Tobias President, National Right to Life Committee
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Opponents of abortion in Congress and several states have launched efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, a significant provider of health services to low income women. According to a new report from ProPublica, abortion foes have a new tactic, searching dumpsters for personal data on women who get abortions and their doctors.
MS. DIANE REHMHere to talk about the latest in the battle over abortion rights and women's healthcare, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times, Carol Tobias of The National Right To Life Committee, Terry O'Neill of the National Organization For Women and joining us from an NPR studio in New York City, Charles Ornstein of ProPublica.
MS. DIANE REHMI know many of you will want to join the conversation. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And thank you all for being with us.
MS. JACKIE CALMESIt's great to be here, Diane.
MS. TERRY O'NEILLThank you, Diane.
MS. CAROL TOBIASThank you.
MR. CHARLES ORNSTEINGood morning, Diane.
REHMCharles, if I could start with you, in a piece published today in ProPublica, you say trash is at the center of several disputes involving patient privacy and abortion. Tell us about this trash.
ORNSTEINWell, much of the nation is focused on the videos that are being sort of trickled out involved Planned Parenthood, but I think behind the scenes, there's a couple things that are receiving less attention that are also drawing attention to abortion and what's going on in abortion clinics. And one of them is what I reported on this morning, which is how anti-abortion groups have viewed dumpsters behind abortion clinics as a ripe territory in terms of looking for violations of patient privacy.
ORNSTEINAnd so I cite a number of examples where those who oppose abortion have gone through the trash and have found patient records that have been disposed of but not shredded, fetal remains, drivers license copies, sonogram pictures and they have taken those and filed complaints with various agencies, including the Office for Civil Rights, which is the federal agency that oversees patient privacy, but also state medical boards and health departments.
REHMSo you're saying that they're using this information to try to show that Planned Parenthood is not taking care of the information. Is that correct?
ORNSTEINWell, it's not just Planned Parenthood. In fact, none of the clinics that I cite in my story are Planned Parenthood, but a lot of abortion services are provided by non-Planned Parenthood clinics. So they are trying to show that these clinics are not taking steps to protect their patients privacy or are not appropriately disposing of fetal remains. And this is something that's been going on for a few years now, but hasn't really gotten the attention.
ORNSTEINNow, folks who support reproductive rights say that the anti-abortion advocates are, in fact, trespassing on private property, that some of these dumpsters are not on public property and in some cases, they say they're also, you know, breaking into locks that are -- some of these dumpsters are locked.
REHMAnd what sort of cases have arisen as a result?
ORNSTEINSure. So in Texas, their Operation Rescue launched a sting in 2010 to 2011 looking in the dumpsters of a number of abortion clinics and filed complaints with Texas regulators. The Texas environmental group regulator fined two different clinics for failing to properly dispose of fetal remains. There was a case in Michigan in which three different abortion clinics were cited by the Office For Civil Rights for failing to properly dispose of patient records.
ORNSTEINAnd then, most recently, there was a case in Oklahoma City in which, again, Operation Rescue filed a complaint with the attorney general relating to what they believe was failure to properly protect patient records. That lead to an undercover investigation by the attorney general's office and they found that an abortion provider -- they accused an abortion provider of providing abortion medication to undercover agents who were not pregnant.
ORNSTEINAnd that doctor's currently facing felony charges and has temporarily agreed to stop practicing medicine.
REHMBack to the women whose data has been disclosed. Do they have any recourse?
ORNSTEINWell, they may not even know this has happened. And this sort of goes to a much bigger picture which is the playbook of those that oppose abortion. And that includes a number of different things and not just dumpster diving. Part of it is also requesting records from state health departments, getting 911 calls when ambulances are called to clinics, seeking out autopsy reports if women die and filing requests for health department inspection reports and medical board charges and then publicizing that information.
ORNSTEINAnd so, you know, a lot of those who support reproductive rights say this is part of a broader campaign to intimidate women and scare them away from getting abortion, but even some of those I talked to said they weren't aware of just the number of cases across the country and the number of lawsuits that are pending or have recently been pending in which those that oppose abortion have sought details about terminations or pregnancy reports that are filed with the state and attempts to try to, you know, get details on individual abortions so that they could file complaints based on them.
REHMCharles Ornstein, he's an investigative reporter for ProPublica. Jackie Calmes, Congress is still out of session. Most legislators are off, but lots is going on with regard to women's health and abortion rights. Give us a sense.
CALMESWell, while Congress has been out of recess for this month and into September, there has been action on the -- in some of the states and it's a sort of mixed back in a lot of -- you know, this sort of goes back to the 2012 midterm elections when Republicans made big gains in the state houses as well as Congress. And since 2011, there's been a lot of legislation, hundreds of state laws, actually, restricting access to abortion in some ways, new standards for clinics that some are not able to meet so they've closed and, you know, waiting periods and the like for women seeking abortions.
CALMESSo you have that backdrop and now -- and already the House of Representatives had voted to zero out all family planning funds this year and then these videos started coming out, these undercover videos.
REHMTell me about the videos.
CALMESAnti-abortion activist David Daleiden in California has spent 30 months, he says, infiltrating Planned Parenthood and a company that procures fetal tissue and human tissue for researchers and universities globally and he and his supporters say that this shows that Planned Parenthood affiliates have -- are profiting, trafficking in fetal remains and selling them for profit and, in some cases, in late term abortions, not helping a live birth where that might have been possible.
CALMESPlanned Parenthood denies this and says that the fetal tissues are transferred to researchers by only a few of their affiliates, it appears to be mainly California and Washington. Oregon does placental tissue research transfers. And this is down, they say, only at cost and actually in the videos, the amount you hear from the Planned Parenthood officials range from $30 to $100, but they say covers their handling costs for the transfer to researchers through these companies that are middle men.
REHMAnd the patient, I gather, does get permission.
CALMESPlanned Parenthood says that the patients give permission and that in some cases, these programs started because patients had asked whether this was possible. The activists say they have evidence that's not the case. This is the anti-abortion opponent, the activists. So the states have moved in to investigate. Republican governors like Louisiana's governor, Bobby Jindal, who's running for president and other -- and Alabama's Republican governor.
CALMESSo Republican governors or Republican legislators have open investigations. Some have been quickly closed for lack of evidence in large part because these Planned Parenthood affiliates in other states do not do these fetal tissue transfer programs and more than half of the clinics don't even do abortions. And that's true in Louisiana, has two Planned Parenthood affiliates, clinics, and neither one has ever done abortions in 31 years.
CALMESSo that quickly closes the investigations in some of these states because there's nothing to investigate as has been determined in some cases. But other investigations are ongoing and currently, for instance, Bobby Jindal is in court in the state of Louisiana to cut off -- to break the contract with Planned Parenthood to serve Medicaid patients. The two clinics in Louisiana, for instance, saw 5,200 low income Louisianans last year for healthcare.
CALMESNot abortions, 'cause as I said, they don't perform abortions, and for four decades federal law has precluded any spending of public funds for abortion.
REHMDo we know how many Medicaid patients are covered -- are helped by Planned Parenthood?
CALMESWell, Planned Parenthood says that in the past year, 2.7 million people were seen by its clinics nationwide and of that amount, about half and it ranges to as high as maybe 60 percent or more in states like Louisiana where you have a poorer population. But about at least half are Medicaid patients.
REHMJackie Calmes, she's national correspondent for the New York Times. When we come back, we'll hear other voices and take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about new efforts to restrain the act of abortion in this country, primarily focusing in this hour on what's happening with Planned Parenthood. Among our guests, Terry O'Neill of the National Organization for Women and Carol Tobias of the National Right to Life Committee. And, Carol, I want to turn to you now. To what extent are the state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood linked with the objections to fetal tissue donation?
TOBIASWell, I think pro-lifers all over the country have been upset that our tax dollars are going to Planned Parenthood for many years, long before these videos came out. So there have been efforts, of course, to take that money away. Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the country, performing more than 330,000 abortions in their latest report. And they get almost half a billion dollars from government, state and, you know, local contracts and grants. And pro-lifers just really object to our, you know, the tax dollars going to an organization that kills unborn children.
REHMIs there any indication, in your mind, that crimes have been committed?
TOBIASWell, I think what Mr. Ornstein was talking about, where patient records have been thrown out, babies have not been disposed of properly after they have been killed. I'm glad that those are all being investigated because the abortion industry is not going to police itself. We saw with the Kermit Gosnell case where the grand jury talked about cat feces on the stairs, blankets with blood on them, instruments being used from woman to woman to woman without being cleaned. The National Abortion Federation knew about it. The local Planned Parenthood affiliate knew about it. Nobody did anything. The Pennsylvania State Health Department didn't do anything.
TOBIASSo I think that's why pro-lifers are concerned that, you know, we need to do something because some of the elected officials and some of the people that could know about this and could do something about it aren't.
REHMI gather there are some efforts statewide in Oklahoma and Kansas.
TOBIASYes. Yes. We have a bill that we've -- model legislation that was introduced this year in Kansas, and then passed in both Oklahoma and Kansas, that would say you cannot kill an unborn child using the dismemberment abortion method. You cannot tear the arms and legs off of the unborn child so that the child bleeds to death as the abortion process.
REHMSo would Oklahoma and Kansas, as those bills are written, would that effectively outlaw any abortion in those states?
TOBIASThere are other abortion methods. But the dismemberment abortion method is where you, you know, tear the baby apart, piece by piece, as the baby -- when the baby is still alive. So there are other abortion methods. But this is one that, you know, pro-lifers find particularly gruesome. So there is an effort to stop that procedure.
REHMAnd is there a new bill in Ohio that would prevent an abortion in the case of, for example, a Down Syndrome fetus?
TOBIASYes. Yes. The Ohio legislature is working on a bill that would say, if the child has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, that is not a reason to kill that child. And we know from studies that 60 to 90 percent of unborn children who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome have their lives ended. And we see that as discrimination against people with disabilities.
REHMBut on the other hand, do patients -- are they asked for a reason that they want or need an abortion?
TOBIASThat might vary from place to place. It's certainly not a requirement for the abortion.
REHMTo you, Terry O'Neill, take us back to the big picture here. What are the overall trends in abortion? And to Carol's point, how many occur annually?
O'NEILLOh, gosh. I actually don't know the number. I can get that to you quickly of how many abortions are performed every year.
TOBIASIt's a little over a million.
O'NEILLYou know, we do take...
O'NEILLN.O.W. does take the position that, because one in three women will have an abortion by the age of 45, abortion care is a common and necessary aspect of women's reproductive health care. And for that reason, what we think really is important is that abortion care, like any other form of health care, needs to be regulated with a view to the best interests of the patient. What is happening, if you get up at 500 feet and look at what's going on around the country, is the extreme politicization of abortion, the extreme stigma that right-wing abortion opponents try to attach to abortion, has made it very, very difficult both for legitimate doctors and for bureaucrats to actually police bad abortion providers.
O'NEILLTo give -- the case of Kermit Gosnell is a case in point. In fact, legitimate, reputable abortion providers had complained to the authorities in Pennsylvania repeatedly. There's another gentleman by the name of Brigham -- and I want your listeners to know, who might be considering abortion, do not use any clinic that is run by a man named Brigham, he's a bad guy -- there's a long investigative report that was made about him and about the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida authorities' failures to adequately protect women against this person.
O'NEILLOne of the worst ironies of the politicization of abortion is that it makes it harder for women who need abortions to find the good doctors. Many really reputable, excellent doctors providing care have been intimidated. The very people going through the dumpsters have a very scary history of violence against abortion clinics. One of the women involved in that effort with Operation Rescue was Cheryl Sullenger. She spent two years in prison on charges of conspiring to fire-bomb or to bomb an abortion clinic. More recently, she was in direct contact with the man who murdered Dr. George Tiller in Kansas.
O'NEILLSo what you have is ob/gyns and other providers, who are excellent care providers, are intimidated and women find it more difficult to find the good doctors. And our regulators are not regulating for health, they're regulating for politics.
REHMBack to you, Jackie Calmes. Do I understand correctly that 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's work is in the realm of abortion?
CALMESOn one level, that's correct. When you get into these numbers, both sides are somewhat playing with them. I would say that's a better number than you have some of the anti-abortion people, like senators on the floor during debate August 3 said, 94 percent of Planned Parenthood's pregnancy-related services are abortion. That's really a meaningless figure because Planned Parenthood's services are mainly avoiding pregnancy. It's about contraception. It's about treating -- testing for and treating sexually-transmitted illnesses and a range of wellness care like Pap tests for -- mostly for women, but for men as well.
CALMESAnd so -- but there -- it is a small number of, small percentage of their services are abortion. That -- and less -- about half of their clinics don't even do abortions. But it's a little higher -- it's got to be higher than 3 percent of patients getting abortions. Because when you say services, that counts everything. But a single patient might be going in and getting a pregnancy test and contraceptive care and getting an abortion and other things. But -- so it's hard to know how many of their patients get abortions but it's not 94 percent.
TOBIASWell, Jackie just mentioned the various services. If a woman goes in and she says I'm pregnant. I want an abortion. Hopefully, they're going to do a pregnancy test before they do the abortion. They'll do the abortion. They will, you know, probably do an STD test. They will give her contraceptives on her, you know, way out the door. That's -- they would consider that four services. But she came in for the abortion. Even The Washington Post said that Planned Parenthood will get three Pinocchios for using that 3 percent services because they're manipulating that number.
TOBIASWhat we do know is that of the -- when pregnant women who go into a Planned Parenthood facility, more than nine tenths of them -- more than 90 percent do get the abortion.
O'NEILLSo a woman who decides to terminate her pregnancy absolutely needs to have that abortion. And let me just say, Jackie mentioned earlier that the United States, in the United States Congress, the House of Representatives in this session has voted to cut off all federal funding for all family -- Title X family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood but not limited to Planned Parenthood.
REHMHow much money does Planned Parenthood get from the federal government? Does anybody know?
CALMESWell, the most recent, in the past year, was $528 million, most of which was for treating Medicaid patients. A much smaller amount is from Title X, the family planning program.
O'NEILLAnd that money does not cover the need. In fact, about half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. And here are some other -- what we know from unintended pregnancies is that in an area where you have a lot of unintended pregnancies, the rate of infant mortality is higher than it should be, the rate of maternal mortality and maternal morbidity is higher. And we know also, interestingly, unintended pregnancy is a key risk factor for domestic violence, homicide. So unintended pregnancies -- it's very important for women's health to keep that down. And yet, we have, in the House of Representatives, efforts to stop women accessing ways of prevented unintended pregnancies.
REHMSo, Carol Tobias, in your view, what would efforts to shut down Planned Parenthood clinics around the country mean for low-income women simply trying to seek information, trying to seek contraception, and all the other services Planned Parenthood provides?
TOBIASWell, I think what we will see coming out of Congress at least would be something like what the Senate was doing, saying that the money that would have gone to Planned Parenthood would go to other health service centers that would provide the same care. We have thousands of pregnancy centers all over this country who will help women with the pregnancy, with whatever services she needs. They have arrangements with local medical personnel to give her the medical care that she wants and needs. Many of them have gone into training parental classes, educational training so that she can get a job to help take care of that child. There are a lot of ways that the women can be helped.
CALMESThis is, you know, I just recently came back from Louisiana because I wanted to examine this very question of, you know, let's say Planned Parenthood disappears. Can other providers absorb -- meet the need? And I went to Louisiana because, like I said, they only have two clinics: one in New Orleans, one in Baton Rouge. Surely others could absorb it. And I found it's not as easy, to say the least, as it sounds. The senators from that state, Republican senators say there are 160 community health clinics versus the two Planned Parenthoods. Okay, so you start with that. But the problems are, like we've said, in Louisiana 60 percent of the Planned Parenthood accept -- are on Medicaid. It's very hard.
CALMESI talked -- while I was there, I talked to health-care providers: hospitals, clinics, ob/gyns. Most -- many do not accept new Medicaid patients. The payment rates, the reimbursement rates are just too low. And this is a problem across the country. Louisiana and a lot of states, especially in the South, are what are considered medically underserved states. There aren't enough doctors to start with and then you take from there that Medicaid -- a lot of them don't take Medicaid. And it's just -- there's a matter of geography.
CALMESSo people can go -- the other, Planned Parenthood doesn't charge much, if at all, if someone can't afford a treatment, I mean, say what you will. But they're like federally qualified health clinics, which are specifically subsidized to treat low-income patients, nonetheless have to charge something.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Carol, when you hear that, I mean, what's your reaction when you're talking about Medicaid, women who are on Medicaid trying to seek medical assistance? Where are they going to go?
TOBIASI have no problem with relooking at the entire medical situation so that the women can get help. I should make clear that if Planned Parenthood would stop killing unborn children, we would have no objection to them getting the money.
REHMGo ahead, Terry.
O'NEILLYou know, it's not the same care. Even if we could scale up to the level that Planned Parenthood -- of care that Planned Parenthood offers -- and may I say that Planned Parenthood is beloved around the country precisely because it provides reliably excellent reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion for women. And it does serve many, many low-income women. It also serves the daughters of many middle-class women who, for one reason or another, don't want to have that conversation with their parents when they're in high school or college. And Planned Parenthood is a well-known and well-respected and loved avenue for those young women.
O'NEILLOther clinics will not provide the same care. The medical -- I believe it's the American Medical Association, possibly ACOG, the American College of Ob/Gyns, that has standards of care for reproductive health care, including abortion and birth control -- those standards of care are not met in clinics that refuse to even inform women about the full range of their medical options.
REHMHow do we know that, Jackie?
CALMESWell, it's Terry's point, so I'll defer to her on that. I will say, you know, ACOG -- she mentions the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists -- has generally opposed these efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. But it -- going to the intimidation factor -- when I've tried to go to the organization and say could you give me the names of doctors who will talk to me about this, it's very hard for them to do so, they say, because doctors do not want to be associated with the abortion debate because it just brings on trouble that they don't need. And so I think that speaks to it.
CALMESBut I did talk to one, who was a -- a man, an ob/gyn in Louisiana that was referred to me -- was -- told ACOG he was willing to talk. And he said, he cited the Medicaid problem. He said, I could take more patients, but not if they're on Medicaid.
REHMJackie Calmes of The New York Times. When we come back, we'll open the phones, read your email. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Charles Ornstein, I'd like to turn to you for this first email from Peggy. She says, I'd like to know what hospitals do with fetuses. Do any of your guests know? Charles?
ORNSTEINThere are, you know, special rules, particularly that each state sets out for how tissue and fetal tissue needs to be disposed of, and so for example in Texas, the reason that the clinics were cited and fined down there a few years back had to do with the fact that they didn't dispose of it in accordance with the state law. I'm not familiar with the different rules in each state, but I think that they each do have rules that apply to clinics that are within their borders.
REHMHere's another email from Marty in Akron, Ohio. She says, I'm livid at the nonstop assault on women's right to control their own reproduction. This new attempt that would force a woman to carry a Down syndrome child to term is outrageous. What is the reasoning behind that statement, Carol?
TOBIASI think mostly it's an attempt by pro-lifers in Ohio to educate, that people with disabilities do not need to be killed just because they have the disability. You know, we cut out the sidewalks so that wheelchairs can go on, and we've got the ramps, and we've got elevators. We've got the Americans with Disabilities Act. I mean, we really try to take care of people with disabilities, and yet then we turn around and say but if you're going to be born with one, it would be better that you're dead. And I think that's kind of trying to make a point, that we shouldn't be treating people with disabilities differently. I mean, that quite frankly is discrimination.
REHMShe says, she goes on to say, who are they to say that someone needs -- that someone needs have a high-needs child to take care of for the rest of their life? Are there people who want to take on this burden? And if so, that's fine.
TOBIASThere are. There are people who will adopt special-needs children.
O'NEILLYou know, women, when they're asked about their priorities in terms of their reproductive health care, most of the time what women are thinking about is can I afford to bring another child into the world, can I afford to have a child come into this family, as is whereas -- and if the child would have Down syndrome or other kinds of birth defects, can I support that child.
O'NEILLAnother -- by the way, another polling of African-American women is showing that reproductive health care decisions are based very much on can I keep my child safe when he or she reaches teenage years in a country that it can be dangerous to African-American young people. But those are all decisions that are -- those are reproductive health care decisions that are for the woman to make with her family and the people she trusts the most.
O'NEILLNot for the bishops or politicians.
CALMESWell, the pros and cons of laws like this one, that would ban abortions to end a pregnancy in which the fetus had been diagnosed with Down syndrome, pros and cons aside, I don't -- it's difficult for me to see how you enforce those, given that abortion is and has been, for over 40 years, constitutional and legal and, in this country, up to the point of the fetus' viability, and there's -- it's hard for me to see that it would be constitutional, given past precedents, to mandate that a woman tell a doctor or be forced to tell what her reason is for getting an abortion and then limiting abortion rights on that basis under the current -- you know, this is, like I say, pros or cons of the proposal aside, just as a matter of enforcement and constitutionality, I just think it's a no-brainer that it's not.
TOBIASI don't know how it would be enforceable based on current law. Like I said, I think it's a great educational tool, that we should not be killing babies just because they have a disability.
REHMAnd to you, Jackie, what are the realistic possibilities that members of Congress could shut down the government on the basis of defunding Planned Parenthood?
CALMESI think that's a very real possibility. It nearly happened in 2011, and a lot's happened since then. There's been more Republicans elected both at the federal level and the state level, and the Republicans now control the Senate, as well as the House. And these videos have really incited the debate, and anti-abortion -- well, anti-abortion legislators are seizing upon that.
CALMESAnd you have four -- I guess the reason of all is you have four Republican senators who are running for president, and it's a very popular position with the Republican Party's base to defund Planned Parenthood. It's coming up a lot on the campaign trail.
CALMESAnd so, you know, but you have -- I mean, it's not going to succeed, but I think it could very well happen.
REHMCharles, what do you think?
ORNSTEINIt's hard to game this out, but I think, you know, the way in which this is taking place is you have this massive discussion about the videos taking place, and those are certainly garnering attention and getting a lot of attention sort of at the forefront, but I think that the information that's being given to members of Congress and senators from, you know, local anti-abortion folks are much more playing into their thinking.
ORNSTEINYou're seeing a lot of letters being written to health departments to investigate individual clinics, and I think you're going to see a lot more stories come out of those potential investigations.
REHMAll right, let's go to South Bend, Indiana. Shayna, you're on the air.
SHAYNEHello, thank you for taking my call.
SHAYNEI just wanted to make a comment. I'm part of a pro-choice clinic defense volunteer, and we see a lot of the anti-choice tactics to dissuade women from going into the clinic and dissuade us from acting as a buffer between them. I just wanted to describe some of their tactics with you. They take down license plate numbers of patients and make comments if they're been here before. They have children that yell at the patient, don't kill me mommy, I want to live, mommy.
SHAYNEThey, if they learn our names, which we try not to let them know that, they take every opportunity to call our names and comment on everything we're doing. And they just generally do very intimidating things to make women not come back to the clinic after their consultation. So it's very troubling.
REHMCharles, have you seen that in action?
ORNSTEINSo I have not witnessed these things, but you do hear about these things that are taking place, and you see that that's the point, right, is to raise the level of presence, of visibility, and to try to discourage women from going inside. If somebody turns around and goes home, they view that as a success. So I think that that is exactly what's going on, and then after the fact, really trying to get information about any woman who has a complication, publicizing that information, filing complaints, and one of the points made earlier was doctors not wanting to talk about this.
ORNSTEINI found that, as well. Doctors that are associated with providing abortions simply don't want to be in the news. They've been threatened. They feel intimidated. They saw what happened to George Tiller. They want to remain quiet. But -- so a lot of the voice and the public presence is given to those who oppose abortion, who are -- who I found are more than willing to talk about it.
REHMAnd to Ed in Phoenix, Arizona, you're on the air.
EDYeah, hi. I want to make a comment and ask the panel here, number one, in most of the states in the United States, it's illegal to surreptitiously record without another person's knowledge. In many cases, it falls under felony statutes and the same type of statutes dealing with wire-tapping, and we don't hear much about this on the media at all. And I wanted to see what's being done to the people who are doing these recordings, if anything, and why the media isn't bringing more attention to this.
ORNSTEINSo each state has its own rules. There is no federal rule with respect to recording without somebody else's permission. So in some states, it is legal to have only one party consent, meaning that the person who is doing the recording is the party who is giving the consent, and the other person doesn't know it. In other states, you have to have both parties to the conversation aware of this.
ORNSTEINIn order to investigate, you'd have to have a complaint, and one of the things that we saw with the trespassing complaints with clinic dumpsters is that it's just not a high-priority item for law enforcement. And so these are the types of complaints that don't get, you know, a whole lot of attention.
REHMAll right, to Gina in Tampa, Florida, you're on the air, go right ahead.
GINAThank you for taking my call. I'm a 28-year-old grad student in Tampa, Florida, and I go to Planned Parenthood every year for an annual exam. I have never gone in for an abortion. I've seen women go in for abortions, but that's none of my business. That's between her and her doctor. And as a millennial in this country who is part of the group that's going to be controlling this country in the next coming year, I'm appalled, excuse me, that we're still having these discussions and that they're political discussions because in other countries, granted they're socialist, and that's going to bring up another issue, which is ridiculous, their abortion standards or women's health standards are -- they run smoothly.
GINAIt's -- there are no problems, not like we have in the United States. And we can't even get it together. These are women's rights being confused with medical conditions. Pregnancy is a medical condition, and it should be between a woman and her doctor.
REHMAll right, Terry.
O'NEILLRight, I couldn't agree more, and I have to say that the presidential candidates that are avidly going after not only Planned Parenthood but all family planning are causing women to leave the Republican Party in droves. They have lost the millennial vote probably for decades, and it's a problem for women's rights advocates like me. I would rather have vigorous competition between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party for women's vote. As long as these presidential candidates are doing that, that's not happening.
O'NEILLThere is a piece of good news that can blunt the awful impact of these violent clinic protestors, their campaigns of harassment and intimidation, and ultimately it can end in violence, as we know, and that is a new organization in Austin, Texas, called Shift. It is -- it was opened by the woman who owns the Whole Woman's Health Clinic in Texas after her clinic was forced to shut down because of the draconian trap laws in Texas. She's using that space as a way of educating people about what abortion is and what it looks like. She has -- she has people come in, doctors, and anyone who -- but journalists, anyone who wants to go in, and they see the procedure. They -- she walks them through. If you needed an abortion, this is what we would have provided for you. She's one of the excellent care providers.
O'NEILLAnd her purpose with utilizing her now-closed clinic in this way is to reduce the stigma, to actually show that abortion is part and parcel of a woman's reproductive health care. As the caller said, it is about a woman's health, and we need to start thinking about reproductive health as health, not as ideology.
REHMTerry O'Neill, she's president of the National Organization for Women, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Carol, you wanted to comment?
TOBIASYes, a couple of times we've heard that this is a decision between a woman and her doctor, and I think that's quite ironic because the woman going into this abortion facility has never seen this doctor before. He is not her doctor, and she's never going to see him again, at least she hopes she doesn't have to. I would also like to comment that...
REHMExcuse me, unless she is a Medicaid patient who has been going to this clinic, perhaps on a regular basis.
TOBIASBut most women going into the Planned Parenthood facility for an abortion have not met this doctor before. I would also like to comment, though, on the millennials. Your caller said that, you know, she was part of the millennials who are going to be controlling this country soon. That's what we find so encouraging in the pro-life movement is that there are so many young people who are active an energized and willing to continue this battle to protect unborn children.
REHMAll right, a caller in Moscow, Idaho, David, you're on the air, go right ahead.
DAVIDYes, I'm actually grateful that you inserted me at this point. Thank you very much, Diane. I had a question because I was one of those people that they were trying to influence with those videos, and it was working. I was morally confused. I was trying to deal with it. And then in the Washington Post, Ben Carson gave an interview, Ben Carson who is pro-life gave an interview, which destroyed the arguments that were being made by these videos concerning the necessity of the fetal tissue research.
DAVIDThat took the wool away from my eyes and made me realize how disingenuous the argument was from the pro-birth. I refuse to call them pro-life because they don't care about a baby after it's born, just before. And I would like the panel to address the disingenuousness of these videos and of the tactics that were referenced earlier in your show. Thank you very much, Diane.
REHMAll right, let's talk about the videos first, Charles Ornstein.
ORNSTEINWell, I think the videos, what's become clear is that the organization that's putting them is putting out sort of snippets of the videos and also posting the full videos, and one of the things that groups like Media Matters, as well as Planned Parenthood, have said is that they are just a fraction of what's being said. They're being taken out of context. They're being spliced to make a particular point, but when you actually look at the full record and the transcript that they don't support the points that are being raised and that they take things out of context.
ORNSTEINSo I think, you know, that is a point that's being raised is that you can't just look at these, you know, one- or two-minute videos to draw conclusions about what's taking place.
TOBIASWell, I think because the full transcript and the full video is available, you can go, you can watch, you know, if you want a three-hour video. But the -- nobody has made the point, I don't believe, accurately or effectively, that what was in the eight- to 10-minute video shown was contradicted by the full video.
O'NEILLI think one of the most hypocritical aspects of those videos is that they claim that they want to talk about fetal donation versus fetal tissue sale. That's clearly not their intent. Their intent is to destroy Planned Parenthood. But one of the things that you don't hear very often is that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, is a strong supporter, at least was a strong supporter, of the federal fetal tissue donation program.
O'NEILLThis is a program that had strong bipartisan support in the United States Congress, and so that -- I think the caller's disgust at the hypocrisy of those videos is well-placed.
REHMLast quick word, Jackie.
CALMESWell, the -- Terry brings up the fact that this fetal tissue legislation from 1993 did have support of some Republicans who are still in Congress now, including on the House Energy and Commerce Committee that is investigating. It's just -- you know, it's a question of as long as there's abortion in this country, what do you do with the fetal remains, research or throw it away?
REHMJackie Calmes, Charles Ornstein, Carol Tobias, Terry O'Neill. We will continue to watch this debate. Thank you all so much.
TOBIASThank you Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
What troubles at Twitter say about the state of social media -- and why one tech watcher argues this could transform the industry in positive ways.
Political analyst Norman Ornstein on control of Congress, the red wave that wasn't, and other lessons from the midterm elections.