No-brainer: Planned Parenthood PAC endorses Culver

To no one’s surprise, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s political arm, called the Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC, endorsed Governor Chet Culver’s re-election bid today. Planned Parenthood’s PAC (at that time called the Freedom Fund) supported Culver during the 2006 Democratic gubernatorial primary and in that year’s general election against Jim Nussle, and the PAC’s statement issued today explains the decision to back him again:

“Governor Chet Culver has done more to reduce the need for abortion and increase access for women’s health care than his opponent ever will,” said Jill June, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. “During the primary debates, Terry Branstad has made it clear that he would cut basic health care services to more than 50,000 Iowan women by choosing to cut Planned Parenthood as a service provider.”

PAC chair Phyllis Peters cited Governor Culver’s record. “Governor Culver has strongly supported the health care needs of women in many different ways. He has supported vaccine coverage for the HPV vaccine, the only vaccine to prevent cervical cancer; funded the state match to the Medicaid Family Planning Waiver to provide contraception to low income women; supported medically accurate sexuality education in our schools; and supported extending the age a woman can qualify for family planning services. Women in Iowa can count on Governor Culver to listen, understand and respond to the very real health needs of women.”

In the primary campaign candidate Terry Branstad indicated that he would support an Iowa law similar to one just passed in Oklahoma, which would require an invasive sonogram for women who seek abortions. Unlike sonograms currently used in Iowa, this would require a sonogram where a probe is inserted in the woman to show the image of the fetus, even for victims of rape and incest.

“Terry Branstad believes in using intimidation tactics to prevent women from their legal rights. That’s not what Iowan’s believe or want in our state,” said Jill June. “The Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC is speaking out against these tactics of discrimination and intimidation, as we show our support for Governor Culver.”

Branstad generally avoids mentioning Planned Parenthood by name, but this spring he repeatedly said Iowa “should not provide funding for organizations that provide abortion services.” That wording left the misleading impression that state funding pays for abortions, but no government money pays for any abortions at Planned Parenthood clinics. Most of the state funding to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland covers contraception and is matched on a 9:1 basis by the federal government through the Medicaid family planning program. (That is, every dollar from the state budget is matched by $9 from Medicaid.)

It’s outrageous that Branstad, the former president of a medical school, would support an Oklahoma abortion law that lets the government dictate how some doctors should care for their patients and even how they should talk to their patients. So much for government not getting between you and your doctor.

Culver slammed the Oklahoma approach in this statement his campaign released today:

“I am so pleased to receive the endorsement of Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC. I’ve worked very hard in my first term to maintain and improve family planning and women’s rights in the state of Iowa and I am proud to have their support in this election.  By contrast, Terry Branstad doesn’t trust the women of Iowa to make their own health care decisions.

“What’s ironic is that the women and men of Iowa cannot trust Branstad on health care. When he was at Des Moines University, he supported mandates. When he was campaigning  in the Republican primary, he opposed mandates. Iowans can only guess as to his position tomorrow. What is clear is that he thinks requirements such as allowing adult children to continue to be insured on their parents’ policy or prohibiting people from being denied insurance for pre-existing conditions is too intrusive but forcing victims to have invasive procedures is all right.

“Branstad even campaigned on enacting a law similar to the one passed in Oklahoma. The law requires a woman to have an invasive and expensive sonogram, for no medical reason, prior to receiving some services, forcing women who are victims of rape or incest to re-live these horrifying violent crimes. Well, I believe that is wrong.

“Terry Branstad is out of touch on this issue. He even refused to comment on the endorsement today because he knows that he’s on the wrong side of women’s issues.

“I have worked hard to invest in a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her health care and I will continue that investment.”

Click here for background on Branstad’s inconsistent stand regarding a proposed individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

No doubt we’ll hear more this fall about Branstad opposing reproductive rights, because it fits Culver’s message about Branstad pushing failed ideas of the past.

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Republicans put government between women and their doctors

Remember last year when Republicans claimed health care reform would put government bureaucrats between patients and their doctors? It was a hypocritical talking point to begin with, given how often insurance companies overrule doctors’ orders, in some cases denying sick people access to life-saving medical care.

The hypocrisy is especially apparent now that Republicans are cheering two new laws passed in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Legislature voted Tuesday to override the governor’s vetoes of two abortion measures, one of which requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion.

Though other states have passed similar measures requiring women to have ultrasounds, Oklahoma’s law goes further, mandating that a doctor or technician set up the monitor so the woman can see it and describe the heart, limbs and organs of the fetus. No exceptions are made for rape and incest victims.

A second measure passed into law on Tuesday prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb.

To clarify: Republicans passed a law dictating the way doctors communicate with patients and how they must proceed with every woman seeking an abortion, regardless of her individual circumstances. According to the New York Times, the Center for Reproductive Rights has already filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of the ultrasound law, claiming it “violates the doctor’s freedom of speech, the woman’s right to equal protection and the woman’s right to privacy.”

The second law is in some ways more offensive, because the government is shielding doctors who deliberately do not level with their patients. I have close friends who have learned while pregnant that their future child has serious medical problems. To give doctors license to deceive women in that situation is unconscionable. Pregnant women must be able to make informed decisions regarding all medical care. Who’s to say that doctors will stop at “merely” hiding birth defects? Maybe some will decide it’s better not to tell women they have cancer or some other disease that might prompt them to terminate a pregnancy.

The new laws are similar to two anti-abortion laws the Oklahoma Supreme Court already struck down. Clearly Republicans won’t let a little thing like the state constitution get in the way of their desire to intimidate women and interfere with the information they receive from their doctors. I agree with Charles Lemos: this is a sign of how extreme today’s Republican Party has become.

Iowans who don’t take reproductive rights for granted may want to know that Arianna Huffington is coming to Des Moines next Tuesday to help raise money for Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (formerly Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa). Click the link for event details.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread. I recommend this post from the Ms. Magazine blog on the 10 worst myths about abortion in the United States.

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Obama in Iowa City and events coming up this weekend (updated)

The big event of the week is President Barack Obama’s visit to Iowa City today. Approximately 16,500 people requested tickets for the event, where the president will tout the benefits of the health insurance reform law he signed on Tuesday. Some 150 to 200 people showed up for last night’s Republican event opposing the new law.

I hope some Bleeding Heartland readers will post comments or a diary about today’s presidential visit.

UPDATE: Scroll down for the full text of Obama’s remarks in Iowa City, as prepared. What he said about children with pre-existing conditions being able to get insurance coverage this year isn’t accurate, unfortunately.

I’m excited about a couple of other great events for progressives this weekend. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (formerly known as Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa) holds its spring book sale from March 25-29 in the 4-H building at the State Fairgrounds. It costs $10 to get in on opening night, but admission is free for the rest of the weekend. You will find a huge selection of books in almost every category you can imagine, as well as some CDs, DVDs, comic books and posters. Mr. desmoinesdem and I always find some wonderful out-of-print children’s books. Click here for opening hours and more details. Proceeds from the book sale support Planned Parenthood’s education programs in Iowa and Nebraska.

Another free event worth checking out this weekend is the Natural Living Expo at the Polk County Convention Center in downtown Des Moines Saturday from 10-6 and Sunday from 11-4. About 150 local businesses and non-profit organizations will be represented at the expo, including Iowa farmers, green home remodelers, and cloth diaper sellers. Francis Thicke’s campaign for secretary of agriculture and Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy will have booths too. Click here for a list of vendors, free lectures and panel discussions. If you have children, bring them along, because they may enjoy the storytelling, art and activities like hula-hooping and yo-yos in the kids’ area. I’ll be helping out a couple of non-profits at the expo, so I may see you if you stop by, but I won’t be wearing my “desmoinesdem” hat.

More events coming up this weekend are listed after the jump.

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Weekend open thread and events coming up during the next ten days

This thread is for anything on your mind this weekend. After the jump I’ve posted details about lots of upcoming events in early February.

If you want to watch Senator Chuck Grassley do the “Friday Happy Dance” on WHO-TV, head on over to Dave Price’s blog.

The Polk County Democrats need more submissions of original recipes for the “Liberally Seasoned” cookbook they are compiling. By February 6, send polkdems AT gmail.com a word document including your full name and precinct, a paragraph about the dish, and a picture of the dish or yourself if possible. Categories: salads, appetizers, main dishes, vegetarian, desserts and drinks. They plan to have the cookbook ready by the Polk County Convention on March 12. For questions, call 515-285-1800.

DAWN’s List, which works to elect Democratic pro-choice women in Iowa, is seeking nominations for awards that will be given in five categories. Details are below, and nominations are due by the end of the day on February 1.

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Des Moines Rotary members blackball Planned Parenthood employee

Des Moines Rotary voted down an applicant for the first time in the chapter’s history, Rekha Basu reported in her Des Moines Register column on Friday. Susy Robinette is well-known in the community as a former news anchor for Des Moines’ NBC affiliate and a former reporter, anchor and news director at the Fox affiliate here. Apparently 11 members of the club rejected her application because she is now the chief development officer at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (previously Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa).

Therese Wielage is club president and a personal friend of Robinette’s. “I think Susy would be a good member for any club, but I respect that she’s representing an organization that some people in the club have issues with,” Wielage said. […]

It only takes 11 “no” votes out of 334 members to torpedo a nominee, and that’s just what Robinette got. That disturbs member Joy Corning, the former Republican lieutenant governor. While calling the Rotary a wonderful organization that does good work in the community and world, she said, “It is very unfortunate that a very small minority has inserted their own personal convictions into the process and has done a hurtful thing to a notable woman who works for one of the outstanding non-profits in our community.”

Member Janet Phipps Burkhead, a lawyer and general in the Iowa National Guard, who sponsored Robinette, says she’s embarrassed for the club. “I don’t think that what took place is in the spirit of Rotary,” she said.

[…]The immediate past president of another Des Moines Rotary club, the Rotary Club of Des Moines, A.M., said though its members are conservative, they’re “very open.” In fact, said Dennis Linderbaum, president of the Iowa Health Foundation, he’d happily sponsor Robinette for membership there. He calls Planned Parenthood “a very important organization in regard to women’s health and to the strength of families.”

KCCI-TV reported on the story here. Officials would not release the names of the members who voted against Robinette, but Wielege said they are reviewing by-laws that allow 11 out of 334 members to block an application.

If you know anyone in Des Moines Rotary, you might want to mention that you were disappointed to learn that a small minority of people who dislike Planned Parenthood’s mission took it out on Robinette.

If you know anyone in the Rotary Club of Des Moines, A.M., you might want to mention that it would reflect well on them to welcome Robinette as a member.

Alternatively, please consider donating to Planned Parenthood in Robinette’s honor.

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Events coming up during the next two weeks

I’m looking forward to the Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner this weekend. It will be live-streamed for those who can’t be there in person. The Iowa branch of Organizing for America is having a grand opening on Saturday as well, right before the JJ dinner.

Details for those and other events are after the jump. Post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know if something I’ve left out.

Linn County Dems: Don’t forget that November 24 is the special election in Iowa House district 33.

One more “save the date”: the Culver-Judge campaign’s holiday party will be on Saturday, December 5 at the Val-Air Ballroom in West Des Moines from 7:30 pm to 11:00 pm. Tickets are just $35 for an individual, $10 for students and $50 for a family. Call 515-244-5151 or go to www.chetculver.com for more information.

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