A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
During his campaign, President-elect Donald trump pledged to defund Planned Parenthood and nominate Supreme Court justices opposed to abortion. Now, he’s preparing to take office in January with a Republican-controlled Congress and abortion opponents in his cabinet. Among them: incoming Health Secretary Tom Price, who also wants to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. This is likely to reopen emotional debates over issues like abortion and the role of government in health care – at the federal level and within state legislatures. What Trump’s presidency could mean for reproductive rights and women’s health.
- Beth Reinhard National politics reporter, The Wall Street Journal.
- Julie Rovner Senior correspondent, Kaiser Health News; author of "Health Care Policy and Politics A-Z"
- Ilyse Hogue President, NARAL Pro-Choice America
- Carol Tobias President, National Right to Life Committee
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. After winning the White House last month, President-elect Donald Trump told "60 Minutes" he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and send decision-making on abortion back to the states. It's one of several positions help by Trump, his cabinet and members of Congress that could change women's access to reproductive healthcare in America.
MS. DIANE REHMHere to look at what we're likely to see under a Trump presidency, Beth Reinhard, national politics reporter at The Wall Street Journal and Julie Rovner, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News. You can join the conversation by calling us at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us in Facebook or send us a tweet.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd welcome Julie and Beth.
MS. BETH REINHARDThank you.
MS. JULIE ROVNERThank you.
REHMBeth, tell us about some of Donald Trump's promises about abortion, women's healthcare during the campaign.
REINHARDSo he made several commitments to anti-abortion groups during the general election part of the campaign. Of course, we know, and this was pretty well publicized, he talked several times about how he would appoint prolife justices to the Supreme Court, justices that oppose abortion. He released a list of several potential contenders that, you know, were all well known conservatives and that went a long way in sort of appeasing the concerns that anti-abortion groups and also other social conservatives, Evangelicals had about Donald Trump, a guy who once called himself very pro-choice, who's been married three times, who ran casinos, who is not sort of a natural fit with that group.
REINHARDI think the appointment of Mike Pence also went a long a way in easing their fears about Donald Trump. But as far as promises, he made some other ones that were not as well publicized. He promised to make what's known as the Hyde Amendment permanent, which is the part of -- it's a federal law, essentially, that says that taxpayer money cannot go for abortions. And this is something that is reauthorized as part of the budget process. And, you know, anti-abortion groups and some Republicans have been pushing for this to just become something that would be built in.
REHMYou know, it's interesting because do we know exactly when Donald Trump changed his position regarding abortion? Was it when the campaign began? Was it earlier? Do we know when?
REINHARDWell, as with a lot of parts of Donald Trump's biography, because he was not running for public office, there are large gaps. So we know that in 1999, when he was interviewed and he called himself very pro-choice. Somewhere between then and when he ran for president, he changed his mind about abortion. The moment that that happened, I don't think is clear. It's kind of like the debate over whether he opposed the war in Iraq because unlike most candidate who have ran for president or for office, they're asked these questions, you know, pretty regularly.
REINHARDDonald Trump was not regularly interviewed about the issues of the day. He was talking about "The Apprentice." So there's a gap in his -- in sort of the public record on his views when it comes to abortion. The other promises he made regard legislation that anti-abortion groups have been pushing that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This was something they tried to do unsuccessfully a couple years ago. And he's also said that he would defund Planned Parenthood if they continue to do abortions, which I think that's part of -- a big part of what they do.
REINHARDI don't think there's -- they're going to get out of that business and so they're -- he will be held also to that promise.
REHMSo Julie Rovner, every single time you have a new administration come in, you have threats or promises of changes. Give us a little background, history on this.
ROVNERWell, it's a quirk of the calendar that the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is January 22nd, two days after inauguration day. I think once it was one day after because inauguration day was on a Sunday. So inevitably, every time there is a change of party in the White House, new president comes in and usually on that anniversary, which is the first or second day in office, put out a number of executive orders that change policy. The two most common that have flipped every time since Ronald Reagan, both have to do with international family planning.
ROVNEROne of them is called the Global Gag Rule or the Mexico City Policy. That started in 1984 and it -- when it is in effect, it banned U.S. funding to international family planning organizations that either perform or advocate for abortions. So that includes many that even mention abortion as an option. So that's been in effect. Bill Clinton took it out. George W. Bush put it back. Obama took it out. One expects Trump will put it back.
ROVNERThe other one has to do with U.S. funding for the United Nations population fund, another family planning group. That was mostly a fight over forced abortions in China and that went on for some years. I'm not positive that one's gonna come back. Most of these other things will have to be done by Congress.
REHMWhat about sales of over-the-counter birth control pills?
ROVNERThat -- I've actually been looking at that. That was done by the FDA under some duress, under a court order. So it's not clear how easy that would be to undo because remember, it was a federal district judge who ordered the FDA to do that.
REHMAnd what about the so-called morning after pill? Same thing?
ROVNERWell, that is the morning after pill.
REHMWell, but I was talking about birth control pills.
ROVNEROh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I was talking about -- yeah, that was done under a court order. Over-the-counter birth control is not yet law or is not yet FDA policy. It's being done by a couple of states so it's not clear. That's being done mostly on a state by state basis. That's not a -- there is no federal over-the-counter birth control.
REHMOkay. And speaking of done by states, isn't that what Trump wants to do, turn everything back to the states on abortion rights, on how you -- Planned Parenthood? Is he going to go out of business because of what Trump is saying about turning it back over to states?
REINHARDThis is one area where Donald Trump does line up with sort of what has become Republican orthodoxy and in championing state rights. It's also sort of a way to get around responsibility saying, well, if he has said, you know, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, he said it would automatically go back to the states. So that allows him to say, I'm not the one taking abortion away. That's a state by state decision. So it's sort of an end run, I think, for politicians on the federal level.
ROVNERAlthough a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks would not -- would affect all of the states.
ROVNERYeah. So there's, you know, on the one hand, he -- I think what Trump was saying and he was correct, was that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, it would go back to the states. But if he's also going to support the anti-abortion cause, he's going to support a number of rather stringent federal policies that would affect all of the states. Codifying the Hyde Amendment, for example...
ROVNER...would affect every state.
REHMSo let's talk about the Supreme Court and how likely it might be that Roe v. Wade could be overturned.
REINHARDWell, we know that he's going to have at least one replacement to appoint, but that's not going to be enough to overturn Roe v. Wade. There were five votes in, you know, the most recent landmark decision on abortion was the case involving the clinics in Texas and we saw five justices agree that those restrictions on abortion clinics were too onerous. And so I think that the consensus is that you're going to need another seat, another retirement on the Supreme Court or, you know, another passing.
REHMAnd you've got two potentials for retirement on the Court.
ROVNERReally, three. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer and Judge Kennedy who's traditionally been the swing vote on abortion.
REHMHow old is Judge Kennedy?
ROVNERI think he's -- I think they're -- Justice Ginsberg is 83 and I think Breyer is 80 and I think Kennedy 79. It's all right around that. They're all either almost 80 or over 80 so there's some question about -- and, of course, Justice Kennedy, you know, unlike sort of committed liberals, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Steven Breyer, who would probably like to try to wait out a Trump presidency, Justice Kennedy might retire whenever Justice Kennedy feels like it's time for him to retire.
REHMSo you don't feel that he has that I'm going to stay no matter what sensibility.
ROVNERWell, he was appointed by a Republican, so there's not that sort of incentive to necessarily stay on.
REHMNevertheless, he's taken some other opinions. I mean...
ROVNERAbsolutely, he has. I'm just saying that unlike the liberal -- the sort of the four core liberals who would be expected to try everything they could not to step down to give Donald Trump an appointment, I'm not sure we can say that about Justice Kennedy.
REHMSo the likelihood that that could happen in a Trump administration more likely than less?
REINHARDYeah, you know, they say elections have consequences. The Supreme Court was certainly talked about quite a bit during the election. It was, I think, a driving force for a lot of conservatives who voted, you know, somewhat reluctantly for Trump.
REHMBeth Reinhard, she's national politics reporter at The Wall Street Journal. We'll take a short break. When we come back, we'll hear from two people, one who is pro-abortion, the other who is anti. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. joining us now by phone is Ilyse Hogue, she's president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, which is in favor of the right to abortion. Ilyse, explain to us your concerns about abortion rights under a Trump administration.
MS. ILYSE HOGUEWell absolutely. I think it's important for listeners to understand that first off, you know, from where we sit, this election was in no way a referendum on abortion rights. In fact Hillary Clinton ran a very unapologetic campaign in terms of woman maintaining the right to make our own decisions about how and when we grow our families and having all the tools and services available to do that safely and legally, and yet not a single ad was run against her by Donald Trump and his administration or -- and his campaign or any party committee because I think that their internal polling shows what we know, which is that the majority of Americans actually support the legal right to abortion.
MS. ILYSE HOGUEAnd yet we are disturbed. We're disturbed by his choice of Mike Pence as vice president, who has one of the worst anti-women, anti-choice records in the country, and we think that they very might -- very well might move to make abortion almost impossible, if not impossible to access in this country. And what we know from around the world is that when abortion is hard or impossible to access, the number of abortions do not go down, but the number of deaths and injuries to women go up.
REHMWe've talked a lot here about what might happen at the federal level. What are the trends you see at the state level?
HOGUEWe've certainly seen since 2010 not such an increase in anti-choice bills introduced into the state legislature but certainly an increase in anti-choice bills passing at the state level. In my home state of Texas, of course, which is most famous for Wendy Davis' filibuster, you know, again it's important to note that they had to go into two special sessions, changing the rules to institute the 20-week abortion ban because they were -- they couldn't do it through the regular route.
HOGUEWe think that, you know, even if not a single other anti-choice law was passed at the state level, so many state legislatures have been hostile that, you know, immediately if there are federal threats, we leave women with no options at the state level.
REHMAre there, in your view, certain populations, certain areas of the country that are likely to be hit harder than others by those kinds of changes?
HOGUEAbsolutely. I mean, the populations that will be hit the hardest are the ones that need our support the most. It's the poor women, women of color disproportionately who have already been hit hard under the current state regime who will not have solace through federal protections. And, you know, it -- one of the things I find shocking is that anti-choice legislators, including Mike Pence, have shown that they are not only interested in eradicating a woman's right to a safe and legal abortion but they are not helping women prevent unintended pregnancies by making contraception harder to get.
HOGUEThey are not making life easier on the six in 10 women who seek abortion who are already mothers by having family friendly policies that they support and helping women take care of the children that they already have.
REHMNow do I -- tell me about what's going on in Texas. One bill that passed last week to require that all fetal remains to be buried or cremated, tell me what that's all about.
HOGUEI mean, I'm not in the mind of these legislators, but I can certainly posit that what it's about is trying to create a culture of intimidation and shame for woman exercising their constitutional right and following their own conscience. It is a way to try and extend, you know, a greater sense of personhood to fetuses, which the country has roundly rejected every time personhood has been on the ballot.
HOGUEBut really it is much like what we've seen in terms of other medically unnecessary laws around abortion like mandatory invasive ultrasounds and waiting periods, which really just seek to humiliate and shame women. And, you know, the challenge there is that women put a lot of thought into their family planning, and they deserve to do so with dignity, and often you're actually creating more pain for the people that you claim you want to help.
REHMWhat about the regulation Vice President-elect Mike Pence signed into law in his home state? I gather a federal judge blocked it from going into effect last summer. What might that have done?
HOGUEWell certainly that would have continued the trend in Indiana under Mike Pence, where not only are woman actually being punished for seeking abortion, and doctors who already live in a climate of fear would live under more threat and more intimidation, which is an attempt to drive doctors out of doing the work that they know is necessary for women's health, but it would spark even more of a public health crisis that we've seen in Indiana as the women's health clinics have closed there.
HOGUEAnd again Diane, as you said, the ones that serve the most vulnerable populations, the rural women, the poor women, that not only has it actually created consequences in terms of abortion access, but we've actually seen things like maternal outcomes go down and HIV rates spike because these health clinics provide basic health care.
HOGUEAnd so it's concerning us that people who claim to care about health and care about women are actually doing policy that creates the exact opposite effect.
REHMIn Indiana there was a bill that would actually criminalize abortion. Didn't Donald Trump say something during the campaign about not only criminalizing the action by doctors but the women who tried to get abortions?
HOGUEHe did. I mean, one of the most, I think, flashpoint moments that created such significant backlash in his campaign was when he actually said he wanted to punish women to -- who sought abortion. And, you know, I think it's fascinating because a lot of those who work in the anti-choice movement sort of freaked out about that because what Donald Trump was saying was definitely off-script for them, but it was a reflection of what's actually happening to women in these states.
HOGUEAnd, you know, it's important to recognize, although it was -- the sentence was recently overturned, that while Mike Pence was governor, a young, poor woman, who was an immigrant, named Paria Patel (sp?) was serving 20 years in prison for what was a home abortion. So women are actually being punished. Donald Trump spoke what he saw out there, and the anti-choice movement would like to actually not have that conversation because most people in America really do not want women punished in any way.
HOGUEThey want women to have all options, and so it's important that we look at the truth and that we recognize that there is a reason that Donald Trump suffered, you know, in the polls after that moment because that is not what people want in our country.
REHMIlyse Hogue, I want to thank you so much for joining us.
HOGUEThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd now joining us, pardon me, by phone is Carol Tobias. She's president of the National Right to Life Committee, and of course that group opposes abortion rights. Carol Tobias, what opportunities do you see in this political environment that we'll have in 2017?
MS. CAROL TOBIASHi Diane, thank you for having me on.
TOBIASI am very excited and optimistic about what the next couple of years could bring. I think the top priority for pro-lifers in this election was the Supreme Court and the federal judgeships because, you know, we've been passing a lot of pro-life legislation at the state level, and much of it has been overturned by federal judges appointed by pro-abortion presidents. So I think we have an opportunity not only to replace Antonin Scalia with a good justice but also have an impact on those various levels of district judicial benches.
REHMSo at the Department of Health and Human Services, which up to now has really been a stalwart defender of Planned Parenthood, I gather you're hoping to see change there.
TOBIASYes, we really are. In some of the states the legislatures and the governors have enacted legislation or policy to not allow abortion providers, and usually it's directed at Planned Parenthood, to receive tax funding for their services, and under President Obama's administration, the HHS has just kind of bypassed the states and said, okay, Planned Parenthood can come directly to us for reimbursement.
TOBIASAnd I certainly expect that to end. HHS is also of course over Obamacare, which is providing federal tax dollar subsidies for policies -- insurance policies that cover abortion. I think that is going to end. So this HHS department will have a huge impact on the future lives of unborn children.
REHMTell me about the Unborn Infants Dignity Act, what that's all about and why you feel it's so important.
TOBIASWell, I think there's probably various names. I'm sure you're referring to something, you know, like you had mentioned in -- with Ilyse previously. There are some pro-lifers who are working to get legislation or even statutes passed that would say you have to show some respect to the remains, the bodies of the unborn children who were killed by abortion. I think that is an effort to put humanity onto, you know, those bodies.
TOBIASThese are human beings who have been killed. Now my focus and the focus of our organization is going to be to try to prevent that death in the first place. We would rather those children live, that they survive, rather than just, you know, making sure that they are provided a proper burial, but I think it's an effort to show that these are human beings, and their lives have dignity and should be treated as such.
REHMI wonder if that wouldn't cause even more pain and even disruption to a family if that rule were enforced.
TOBIASWell I think this is something that the abortion providers would have to deal with as to how they take care of the remains. You know, the woman who has gone through an abortion is going to live for the rest of her life with the fact that she killed her child, her unborn child, and I think that -- you know, I already know that that is such a tragic impact, has such a tragic impact on the lives of these women already that I don't know if this next step is going to really have that much more of an impact.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. I wonder about Mike Pence, Carol Tobias, and since this election he is the vice president-elect. Tell me what you think he means to this issue.
TOBIASMike Pence is a strong advocate for protecting the lives of unborn children. I think he is going to play a critical role in kind of coordinating between the executive branch, the congressional branch. I have complete trust in him. I think he is a solid individual, he is a solid leader, and I am thrilled that he is going to be involved in a lot of different decisions that will be made that will have an impact on this very critical issue.
REHMSo the other aspect of this is interestingly that the number and rate of abortions tallied by federal authorities has actually gone down to its lowest levels in decades. So why is regulating them now a priority for Republicans?
TOBIASWell the numbers of abortions are down to early 1970 rates. The CDC came out with their number showing well under a million abortions per years. Their numbers do not include California, New Hampshire and Maryland, the states that do not report, but it is down, and that's I think a tremendous credit to the pro-life movement in a lot of ways, first of all making sure that people realize we're talking about human beings. For every abortion that is undertaken, the life of a human being is destroyed.
TOBIASWomen are dealing with this constantly. Pregnancy resource centers are there to offer support to women who are, you know, pregnant but not sure how they want to handle the pregnancy or what they're going to do with their baby.
TOBIASI think the pro-life has been very involved, but that still means there are almost a million babies every year that still die. That's why we are still working on legislation to try to protect those lives.
REHMI wonder whether the availability, however, of birth control measure and the morning after pill has helped those rates go down.
TOBIASI think it all contributes, certainly.
REHMAnd are you in any way opposed to the over-the-counter sale of birth control pills or the morning after pill?
TOBIASWe do not have a position on birth control or contraceptives. That is going to be a decision that each, you know, woman or couple is going to make. Where we would be concerned and of course try to stop is any pill that is marketed as a contraceptive but instead ends the life of that new baby after that life has begun. That's where, you know, we want to make that clear distinction, and if there is some method that a woman is considering, we would encourage her to talk to a doctor and find out if this is a true contraceptive, and it's going to prevent her from getting pregnant or if it is going to actually end a life that has already started.
REHMCarol Tobias, she is president of the National Right to Life Committee, thanks for joining us. Short break here, and we'll be right back.
REHMWelcome back. It's time to open the phones, as we talk about reproductive rights for women and how they will or could be changed during a Trump administration. First to Orlando, Fla. Hi, there, Liz. You're on the air.
LIZHi, Diane. Thank you very much for taking my call.
LIZWell, my questions is, is if we have separation of church and state here in the United States, why are laws being made based on a certain religion? Or what would be the main excuses, I mean reasons, to make abortion illegal, other than religion?
ROVNERWell, the argument -- and of course, this goes saying this goes further into contraception also. Because particularly Catholicism doesn't believe in artificial contraception. But, you know, the argument that will be made by those who wish to ban abortion are the, you know, the humanity of the fetus. And they're saying that these are people deserving of constitutional rights, that it's not a religious idea, that it's a constitutional idea. Of course, then the question becomes when does life begin? And that is really the question.
ROVNERBecause most very vehemently anti-abortion forces will say that life begins at that moment of fertilization. Well, that would make many contraceptives abortifacients. We've seen this argument go on and on with the morning after pill, which recent studies have shown probably doesn't act as preventing that egg from implanting in the uterus and probably only acts by preventing ovulation. So there's this sort of place where science and belief and religion all cross. And that's basically what the abortion debate and the contraception debate are about.
REHMAnd talk about where Tom Price is. He's the Georgia representative who's going to be secretary of Health and Human Services. What do we know about him, Beth? What positions is he likely to take?
REINHARDHe's a down-the-line abortion opponent. He's also opponent -- an opponent of the Affordable Care Act's coverage of contraception. When he was…
REHMExcuse me. Here's what I don't get. If people are opposed to abortion, why would they be opposed to providing pills that help a woman prevent herself from becoming pregnant?
REINHARDWell, I suppose you'd have to ask Congressman Price that question.
REHMI hope to. I hope to.
REINHARDI imagine they would say, you know, that the government shouldn't be in that area, but I think you're right. There's some questions there. When Congressman Price was asked once about access, well, you know, what about women who don't have access to contraception. His response was bring me one. He was dubious of the idea that there are women who do not, you know, know how or can afford contraception. So…
REINHARDWhat happened to him?
REHMDid someone come forward, Julie?
ROVNERThis is actually sparked a Twitter handle called #Priceiswrong, of women who have not been able to afford contraception until the Affordable Care Act.
ROVNERBecause of course the Affordable Care Act did not -- does not just provide no copay contraception to women in individual plans, but it also requires it for most employer plans.
REHMSo he did not believe that there were any women?
ROVNERWell, that's what he said. I don't know…
REINHARDThat's what he said.
ROVNERYeah, I don't know whether he believed it, but he -- I think he, he fundamentally believed that women being able to afford contraception was not a problem.
REHMAll right. Here's an email from George, "What about a basic constitutional consideration? Freedom for women means allowing women to make their own decisions regarding health matters." Beth?
REINHARDWell, certainly that's the argument that we've been hearing for years from the abortion rights movement, that this is a woman's right, a civil right to have control over her body, over her reproduction. And I think that we're gonna be having that debate all over again. You know, it was interesting that we haven't heard Donald Trump talk much about abortion, or really anything since he was elected. But in that one "60 Minute" interview he did talk about, briefly, about abortion.
REINHARDAnd he called the -- what is it two-year-old or one-year-old marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court a settled law, but then suggested Roe v. Wade was not and was open to be overturned. He also said, as you mentioned earlier, that women would have to go to other states if Roe was overturned. Well, you know, traveling is already the reality for many women, as I think Ilyse Hogue said earlier, you know, if you're in a rural area, if you live in a red state, you may not have an abortion provider in your county.
REINHARDYou may have to take a bus or, you know, find some other transportation. And so those hurdles already exist. And so what we have now is sort of this patchwork of red states and blue states, where if you're in a rural red state, it's gonna be a lot harder for you.
ROVNERAnd, in fact, that was one of the exact holdings in the case that the Court decided last year, which is that there would not be enough capacity in Texas to let women exercise what the Supreme Court -- the majority of the Supreme Court said is still a constitutional right, to end a pregnancy. And because the distances were going to be so long, that was one of the main reasons that they struck down that provision.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Eric in Bethesda, Md. You're on the air.
ERICThank you. Two quick questions. The anti-abortion rhetoric, it's -- from listening to it it seems like there's millions and millions taking place every week. And I'd just like some actual figures. And my second question is also anti-abortionists, they seem to be also anti-sex education. I mean, every time they mention one it seems like they mention the other. They counsel women that, gee, if you have sex, a child is possible. And…
REHMDo we know exactly how many abortions take place in a year? We heard one million.
ROVNERRight. Although, that doesn't -- as Carol Tobias pointed out correctly, the CDC figures don't include numbers from California because it's not required to report. So both sides actually usually go by the Guttmacher Institute. They do a survey of abortion providers I think every four years. It is around a million. It is down considerably. Most people believe it is down because of the rise of long-acting contraception, the more reliable uses of contraception.
REHMAnd do we have any idea how many of that million may have been done for medical reasons?
ROVNERI don't think the numbers are broken down in that way.
REHMThey don't break that down?
ROVNERI mean, later -- abortions after the…
REHMIt would be useful.
ROVNERAbortions after the first trimester are, I think, largely done for medical reasons. I don't -- I have not -- I don't know that it's broken down that way.
ROVNERThe CDC numbers may be broken down that way.
REHMAnd the issue of sex education?
REINHARDWell, I think what the caller's getting at is sort of this lens of morality that some conservatives are bringing to all of these issues, abortion, sex education, birth control. I think one of the reasons some people oppose the contraceptive provision and -- of the Affordable Care Act is that they see it as encouraging sexual activity on the part of women. You know, if you want to have sexual activity and not get pregnant, like we don't want to be in the business of facilitating that.
ROVNERI think one of the many fights that we've had, have been fought over the years that I expect to see come back, is the fight over federal funding for sex education. It's been mostly a fight over comprehensive sex education versus what's called abstinence-only education. Only basically teaching, you know, young people to wait until marriage to have sex. And there's been many, many, many, many fights and many, many studies about this over the years. I expect to see that reemerge as a fight.
REHMAll right. And let's go to Fayetteville, Ark. You're on the air.
CALLERHi, Diane. Yeah, I've got a pretty simple one here. Donald Trump, during his interview had already stated about the gay marriage or equality of marriage act that the courts have already ruled on. So why are we even debating on whether Roe v. Wade could be turned over or restrictions can be put on it? I mean, is this just another example of just kind of going back on picking whatever he wants? Does Mike Pence's view really even matter on this? The courts have already ruled. It's a done and decided deal.
ROVNEROh, many things can be overturned. Even, I mean, Roe v. Wade is about to turn 44, but obviously, you know, the right to abortion as defined by the Supreme Court has been changed over the years. And depending on how many, you know, it's pretty clear that there are at least three justices right now, probably there will be four when Scalia gets replaced, who would -- we would -- if they got the right case, would be happy to overturn Roe v. Wade. So it's definitely still a live issue.
REHMAnd very much a vulnerable issue.
ROVNERWell, if Donald Trump were to get another Supreme Court pick in addition to the replacement for Justice Scalia, yes, it could be -- it could definitely be vulnerable.
REHMAll right. To Ian in Indianapolis. You're on the air.
IANHi, Diane. Thanks so much for having me.
IANMy comment is just basically a plea to all men, with the exception of, you know, those who are, you know, physicians and OB/GYNs, etcetera, really, I feel the only appropriate opinions a man could ever have on women's reproductive rights is to have none. Particularly, I'm saying this go double for lawmakers, particularly, you know, being from Indiana, I'm familiar with Mike Pence's horrible track record when it comes to women's rights and reproductive rights in particular. So to have an opinion in the first place, I feel for him is offensive.
IANAnd two, I would like to add what I'd like to hear you, your panel and, you know, media at large to talk about more is the fact that, you know, implicated here is really a widespread misinterpretation of not only certain passages from the Holy Bible, but apparently many holy texts the world over that prevent women, in fact lead them to, say, in the last election cycle here in the States, they literally -- by choosing people like Trump and Pence at the ballot, you know, booth, they're literally voting to impose a shrinking, not an expanding, of their own reproductive and other rights. And it…
ROVNERWell, you know, in fairness to abortion opponents, there is the question of the potential growing human life. And, you know, there are, as I mentioned, different religions view this differently, at what point, I mean, over many, many, many millennia at what point is it appropriate to terminate a pregnancy. You know, whether you believe that life begins at that single moment, you know, when sperm meets egg or whether you believe that perhaps after viability, which is currently the law, or somewhere in between, there is definitely an argument beyond the sort of rights of women. And that's why we're still having this fight after so many years.
REHMHere's an email from Sarah, who says, "The governor and lawmakers here in Texas say they want to protect women and babies, but all they do is pass anti-choice laws. If they truly cared about women and children, they would expand Medicaid under the ACA, provide better public education, make contraception easier to obtain, punish rapists more harshly, jail domestic abusers and implement other laws that would actually help women and children." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." It does seem as though a great many men are in control here.
ROVNERYou know, Barney Frank, Congressman Barney Frank once famously said on the House floor that abortion opponents believe that life begins at conception and ends at birth. And Henry Hyde, for whom the Hyde Amendment is named, actually took that somewhat to heart and in some of his later years worked with Henry Waxman, a very liberal congressman from California, to work on infant mortality and early childhood education and some other, to, you know, try to say, no, actually, I do care about these children after they're born.
ROVNERBut that -- and that's, in some ways, sort of the exception to the rule. But there are definitely some places where, you know, where some of these abortion opponents will then come forward and say, yes, I do care about children's health and women's health.
REHMAll right. And to Chip in San Antonio, Texas. You're on the air.
CHIPThank you. I will very much miss you when you're gone.
CHIPAnd I do appreciate the podcasts. So I'm trying to keep track of that.
CHIPMy comment is this, if this is about the conveyance of dignity, then where is the dignity being conveyed to the people who have to make the decisions about the termination of a non-viable pregnancy, the people who have lived through the results of multiple miscarriages?
REHMYou know, it's such an interesting point, Beth.
REHMAnd so poignant.
REINHARDYes. And, you know, the caller makes me think, you know, we didn't talk in more detail about this potential 20-week abortion ban. One of the reasons pro-abortion rights see that as so dangerous is that that is exactly the moment when some women have the ultrasound that very late in the pregnancy, unfortunately -- because you have to wait 'til certain organs develop to see if there are going to be problems -- that is the moment when they find out that their fetus is -- that it has some kind of horrible defect.
REINHARDAnd so it puts women in excruciating positions. And many of the laws that we see on the state level include -- and the legislation that passed Congress a couple years ago, do not include exceptions for fetal abnormalities. So you would be essentially forcing a woman to carry to term a baby that may have profoundly, profound disabilities.
ROVNEROr even incompatible with life. The other thing is that the laws we were talking about earlier, the state laws about -- regarding how you dispose of fetal remains, those are not just -- apply to abortions, they also apply to miscarriages and stillbirths. So now you're putting on women who are having miscarriages a requirement for them to somehow legally dispose of those remains.
REHMAnd where's the money gonna come from?
REINHARDWell, I was just gonna say that. I think other -- earlier in the show Ilyse Hogue talked about, you know, shaming the women, that that would be the effect of having those kind of requirements. But it also increases the cost of an abortion, which is already, you know, a pretty expensive procedure.
REHMSo right now, where in this country are abortions available from Planned Parenthood or individual doctors, Julie?
ROVNERWell, they're mostly independent abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood. They're available, actually, I think it's now a minority of counties. But in major metropolitan areas. I mean, that -- the big divide is really urban and rural right now. That in urban areas it tends to be -- abortion tends to be available. In rural areas, much less so.
REHMAnd have the providers of birth control measures been limited in those same areas?
ROVNERI think to a little bit less of an extent, because you can get contraception from community health centers. But there's, you know, a question about whether Congress wants to get rid of Title X, the federal family planning program, which has been a Republican target in years past.
REHMJulie Rovner, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News. Beth Reinhard, national politics reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Thank you both for being here.
REHMThanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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