The Onslaught Begins: Coburn, Wicker, DeMint Attack the Omnibus


The onslaught begins. 

Having decided that an old-worn out idea is better than no idea at all, Senate Republicans have turned to their tried and untrue baseless attacks on sexual and reproductive health programs in the FY 2009 Omnibus spending bill.  If the bill does not pass by Friday, March 6th, the government will have to operate under a "continuing resolution," leaving it without funding essential to a full economic recovery and without funding for programs urgently needed by those suffering from the current crisis.  But for the far right, apparently no ideological position is too shallow and no misrepresentation too outrageous to prevent them from wreaking havoc on this country or to mitigate against their purely political shenanigans.

Take the case of the amendment just submitted by Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.  This amendment seeks to strike the earmark in the omnibus bill for the "Affordable Birth Control Act (ABC)."

Only one small problem: the Act is not an earmark.

An earmark sets aside money for a specific program or purpose, like the earmark for more than $200 million dollars for disproven abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that has yet to make it to Senator McCain’s top-10 hit list of outrageous earmarks and for which no amendment to strike has yet been introduced.  I keep waiting.  

By contrast, the Affordable Birth Control Act, attached to the omnibus, is a no-cost provision.  There is no federal funding attached.  Hence no earmark to remove.

The ABC Act is instead a technical correction to an earlier piece of legislation, allowing pharmaceutical companies to offer nominally priced drugs to college and university health clinics and family planning health centers without penalty – as they had done for decades before a change to the law went into effect in 2007 and unintentionally affected access to birth control at these centers.  The Act does exactly what it says: It makes birth control affordable.  Affordable birth control leads to fewer unintended pregnancies which leads to fewer abortions.  Fewer unintended pregnancies reduce social and economic costs.  This type of provision would appear to be a favorite of both social and fiscal conservatives alike.  But…we’ve been here before.

As a so-called pro-life politician who might want to help women avoid unintended pregnancies, why is Senator DeMint wasting his and the country’s time on this?  Who knows. 

But the charade does not stop there.  Next is the case of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), another in the roster of favorite monsters under the bed of the far right wing of the GOP.

UNFPA is an international
development agency that:

"promotes the right of every woman, man and
child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports
countries in using population data for policies and programmes to
reduce poverty and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every
birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDS, and every girl
and woman is treated with dignity and respect.’

Speaking in favor of the Wicker amendment, Sen. Tom Coburn repeats debunked UNFPA accusations on the senate floor.

During the Bush Administration, the U.S. refused to fund UNFPA, claiming it was in violation of the Kemp-Kasten Amendment.  Passed in 1985, Kemp-Kasten denies federal funding to organizations or programs that, as determined by the President, support or participate in a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization.  Under direction from President Bush, the State Department argued that UNFPA was in violation of Kemp-Kasten as a result of its work in China, a country known for its violations of women’s rights.

But here is another small problem: UNFPA has never been found in violation of Kemp-Kasten in actual fact.  The Administration just made it up.  Honestly.

Just look at the State Department website.  In 2002, the Bush White House sent a blue-ribbon team to evaluate UNFPA’s work in China.  Upon its return, the team published a report, concluding:

"We find no evidence that UNFPA has knowingly supported
or participated in the management of a program of coercive abortion or
involuntary sterilization in the PRC.
"

And:

"We therefore recommend that not more than $34 million which has already been appropriated be released to UNFPA."

In fact, the same team–and others–found that in those areas of China in which UNFPA was operating, women had expanded choices for reproductive and sexual health care.  Moreover, and this is critical, UNFPA does not promote, support or provide abortions, making it difficult for the agency to participate in coercive abortion.  So we have consistently defunded on ideological grounds an organization the mission of which is to expand voluntary family planning and maternal health services in places where women have little or no access.

To immunize UNFPA against future political attacks such as these, the House appropriations bill contained language ensuring funding for UNFPA for specific activities, irrespective of what kinds of determinations might be made under the Kemp Kasten Amendment under different Administrations.  Funding would support UNFPA in:

  • providing and distributing equipment, medicine, and supplies,
    including safe delivery kits and hygiene kits to ensure safe
    childbirth and emergency obstetric care;
  • making available supplies of contraceptives for the
    prevention of unintended pregnancies and the spread of sexually
    transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS;
  • reestablishing maternal health services in areas where
    medical infrastructure and such services have been destroyed or limited
    by natural disasters, armed conflict, or other factors; and
  • promoting access to basic services, including clean
    water, sanitation facilities, food, and health care, for poor women and
    girls.

The bill notes clearly that none of these activities could be used to fund programs in China.

These facts did not stop Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi from introducing an amendment to the omnibus that would strike the House language enabling UNFPA to aid women seeking contraceptive or safe delivery services, nor Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma from completely twisting the facts on UNFPA in a statement on the Senate floor.

Coburn, a "family practice obstetrician" first misrepresented the State Department findings on UNFPA in his speech on the Senate floor. 

Appearing on Fox News Sen. Tom Coburn misinforms about UNFPA’s role in China and Bush’s midnight HHS “conscience” regulation.

Couching his comments in the rhetoric of "women’s right to choose," (which Coburn does not support), he went on to complain that the:

"United Nations family planning money — is going to be used for
coercive abortion and coercive sterilizations.  There’s no question that [UNFPA] will mix this
money and we will fund forced abortion in China."

On Fox News, he said:

"The bill we have on the floor right now takes American money and uses
it through the United Nations fund to perform abortions and
sterilizations in China."

Again, UNFPA does not fund, promote or provide abortion services, and no State Department or other investigation has ever proved that UNFPA supports coercion in China or aids and abets China’s policies.  Quite the contrary.  In fact, if anything, the fact that the Chinese government owns so much of our national debt might indicate we are funding the Chinese government family planning program directly, never mind UNFPA.  But that is obviously a different blog.

However, Coburn’s misrepresentation of the facts does not stop there.  In the same appearance on Fox News this morning, he touts his status as a physician to falsely portray the effects of reversing the HHS regulations put in place by President Bush last December and now being reversed by the Obama Administration, and comparing the situation of doctors under Obama’s proposed health care plan as that of physicians coerced by the Chinese government to perform procedures to which they are opposed.

In the interview, Coburn claims that physicians in programs accepting federal money will be forced to “give birth control pills to an 11-year-old girl” and to provide abortions against their will. In fact, laws already in place clearly indicate that no health care provider may be forced to provide abortions if they object. As for giving an 11-year-old girl birth control pills, well, the Senator and I disagree on what rights should be extended to the patient’s conscience and her assessment of her own health needs.

While this is now routine, it is incumbent upon all of us to ask these politicians: Where is all this getting us?  Is it reducing the number of unintended pregnancies?  Are these politics of obstruction and misrepresentation leading to prevention of even a single sexually transmitted infection?  Are these tactics preventing the spread of HIV, or enabling women to gain access to needed health care?

The answer, obviously, is no.  Which is why it is so increasingly obvious that the issue of abortion is a smokescreen for an agenda that is at its base about limiting the rights of women to make choices about sex, marriage, motherhood and ultimately about political voice and participation.

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  • invalid-0

    any doctor who refuses to treat a patient because of his or her beliefs should not be practicing in medicine at all. They take an oath! The heck with any stupid politicians rotten ideas or beliefs.

  • invalid-0

    When medical facilities that receive my tax dollars are legally required to give me a detailed report of their employees beliefs then they can have their damned conscience clauses. Honestly, I don’t want some far-right nut touching me. With the repression that so many of them suffer one can never be too sure where they have been.

  • invalid-0

    Far right cons like DeMint and Coburn hate government. Their utopia is to make government ineffective so that the “private sector” (read: transnational corporations and Rat Pobertson, the Vatican, et. al) can run the world. The easiest way for them to stop government is to raise (read: lie about) the spector of “earmarks” for “coerced abortion” in this country. Empowerment of women is a threat to the cons who want power in the hands of the few because it controls and disempowers the majority–especially women. When a few people have all the power, there is stability, predictability, and above all else–hierarchy. Democaracy, on the other hand, is organic, “uncontrollable,” “messy,” and empowers too many inherently “evil” people. Far-right cons are all about running interference so that the effectiveness of government by true blue Americans, like President Obama, can be blunted. They don’t want to prevent unwanted pregnanices or solve any other problem like the mortgage crises, the economy, a healthcare system gone wild, blood-sucking “defense” contractors providing out-dated warmaking stuff and overcharging us, etc. etc. A perfect example of a system that cons love is the old feudal system. In the Dark Ages, preists and “nobleMEN” lived the wet dream of modern day cons: Women knew their place, peons slaved only for the barest of essentials, and the powerful lived in luxury while convincing themselves that their wealth and power were signs of God’s blessings and the poor were inherently evil because they didn’t have power and wealth. I certainly hope that some of the reasonable anti-choice folks aren’t fooled by political hacks like DeMint and Colburn.

  • http://www.jillstanek.com invalid-0

    I find multiple problems with your article, which I’m sure doesn’t surprise you.

    I’ll just name one. You indicate UNFPA’s participation in coercive abortions and sterilizations is false information. You wrote, “The [Bush] Administration just made it up. Honestly.”

    No, Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002 confirmed the link. The State Department investigated this and found it to be true. UNFPA funnels money to fund China’s anti-woman forced abortion/sterilization policy.

    You say you’re pro-choice. This by no stretch of the imagination is the most anti-choice policy out there. It defies even your logic to support taxpayer funding of UNFPA.

  • jodi-jacobson

    But you are dead wrong. Read the report.

    It may surprise you to find out that the public pronouncements even of Secretary Powell and of Secretary Rice (remember the WMD presentation at the UN he later disavowed and her “mushroom cloud?”) did not always comport with reality.

    Read the report. It is on the State Department website.

    The Secretary of State under Bush always argued that it found UNFPA in violation, but as with the WMDs, they had and offered no proof. I would love to see yours.

    Moreover, UNFPA does not provide, support or fund abortion services. Makes it kind of hard to coerce people into having something you are not engaged in providing.

    The era of falsification of data that fueled your efforts through the early parts of this decade are thankfully coming to an end.

    Sorry. Jodi

  • invalid-0

    What oath do doctors take, and what does that oath require them to do?

    • otaku1960

      I know you are referring to the Hippocratic Oath. The orignal oath forbade giving a woman a "pessary" to obtain an abortion. Because I’ve done my research, I looked up the word and found a "pessary" referst to a vaginal implant, probably of herbs known to cause miscarriages.

      But as long as the doctor didn’t give a woman the pessary, he was not violating the oath. In any case, the Hippocratic Oath was changed in the early 1960s to reflect changing times: the original oath also forbade surgical procedures. Any mention of abortion was also removed from the oath,although it was still illegal in most states at the time.

      Your grievance shall be avenged.

  • http://www.jillstanek.com invalid-0

    Powell never retracted his statement and/or State Department findings on UNFPA, Jodi. And he’s pro-choice, as you’ll recall.

    By your last statement, even if I were to go to the trouble of finding that information, you would declare it “falsification of data” or from a source you don’t believe.

    I’m sorry, too, Jodi. My heart is broken, actually.

    Regards, Jill

  • http://.de.yahoo.com/ invalid-0

    Jodi Jacobson is absolutely right Jill. Read the Bill. The Bush administration lied about this topic, mislead & lied about the reasons for attacking Iraq, a nation that couldn’t and didn’t attack us; a nation that had no weapons of mass destruction or ties to binLaden, not to mention the fact that Bush & Cheney with the legal advice of Yoo and Addington almost trashed our Constitution. Bush to curry favor with the so-called religious right declared that the US Government would no longer fund stem cell research. That was a lie. The Bush team just did not provide additional funding for the research. These dear Jill are the facts. The fact that Senator Coburn appeared on Fox News (it is not News but Garbage) should have been enough to warn you of the validity (which it is not) of Coburn’s discussion and opinion of the Obama Bill.

  • invalid-0

    By your last statement, even if I were to go to the trouble of finding that information, you would declare it “falsification of data” or from a source you don’t believe.

    Someone call a waaaaaambulance. You’ll have to do better than link to a WorldNetDaily article.

    If you know of credible evidence of the UNFPA doing what you allege, then put up, or shut up. The work that Jodi and the UNFPA do is far too important to be hampered by disinformation.

  • steveinnyc

    We can’t let conservative senators get away with this. Everyone should call their senators through the Capitol Switchboard – the number is 202-224-3121 – and tell their senators to support the appropriations bill and oppose the DeMint amendment and the Wicker amendment.

  • http://www.jillstanek.com invalid-0

    Anon, Frank: Jodi’s premise was, “The [Bush] Administration just made it up. Honestly.”

    I responded that pro-choice Secretary of State Colin Powell reported UNFPA’s abuses, as determined by a State Department investigation. This investigation was updated annually because UNFPA funding was appropriated annually, and the findings remained the same.

    I’m not speaking of the War in Iraq. Stay on topic. It is up to Jodi to substantiate her claim: Prove that the WH made up its determination that UNFPA routinely funnels money to China to aid in coerced abortions/sterilizations, using objective sources.

  • invalid-0

    Jodi linked to a State Department document that shows an investigative team found no involvement of the UNFPA in coercive abortion policy.

    The assertion that “the White House lied” comes from the fact that they continued citing this alleged UNFPA misdeed even after the investigation found there was none.

    Then again, who knows? Maybe Jodi is wrong. Maybe the White House never did get a copy of that report, so they didn’t actually lie when they made statements contradicting its conclusions! STOP THE PRESSES!

  • invalid-0

    But Jill can’t read.
    Jodi correctly quoted the document- which I for one read.Jill has provided no authority for her statements. Hmmm, wonder why.

  • http://www.jillstanek.com invalid-0

    Anons,

    To return to Jodi’s premise: “The [Bush] Administration just made it up. Honestly.”

    Jodi needs to back this up. She quoted a report made before the Population Research Institute presented its investigative findings – including video and audiotapes of in-country testimony – to both the State Department (pro-choice Colin Powell) and Congress.

    Powell subsequently sent a State Department investigative team back to China and corroborated PRI’s findings.

    Until and after Powell left the State Department, he never backed away from those findings.

    Again, Jodi needs to support her statement that the Bush administration “made… up” its findings that UNFPA was involved in coercive abortions/sterilizations in China. History of events dispels her statement. Honestly.

    • invalid-0

      “The Virginia-based group is a spinoff of Human Life International, a hardcore antiabortion organization founded by Benedictine priest Paul Marx, a notorious anti-Semite known to blame Jews for abortion. In a 1993 HLI newsletter, Marx wrote, “Today, certain members of this people whose ancient religion and culture managed to survive Auschwitz and Buchenwald are presiding over the greatest Holocaust in the history of the world. American Jews have been leaders in establishing and defending the efficient destruction of more than 30 million preborn children in this country.”

      Marx started PRI in 1989, and according to an HLI press release from two years ago, HLI has invested more than $1 million in the group. In 1995, Marx hired Steven Mosher to head PRI.

      Mosher’s history is as checkered as Marx’s. He was thrown out of the anthropology program at Stanford University 19 years ago for what the university, quoted at the time by Science magazine, called “illegal and seriously unethical conduct” that “endangered his research subjects.” Mosher had been doing field work in his then-wife’s village in Southern China, and was accused of bribing local villagers and smuggling rare coins. Perhaps most seriously, he published pictures in a popular Taiwanese magazine of Chinese women undergoing late-term abortions without concealing their faces, which could have led the government to retaliate against them.

      Mosher claimed that by expelling him Stanford was caving to Chinese pressure and filed a lawsuit, which he later dropped. Since then, he’s become militantly antiabortion and anti-China — his most recent books are “Hegemon: China’s Plan to Dominate Asia and the World” and the techno-thriller “China Attacks,” co-written with Chuck DeVore. So he hooked up with the Population Research Institute, whose aim, according to a fundraising letter, is to “drive the final nail into the coffin of U.N. Population Fund abortionists.” ”

      HMMM, and this was the ONLY group to imply that UNFPA supported a Chinese forced abortion policy. (Bush and Powell had nothing else to rely on- ergo- they made it up. Or is this logic too advanced for you? ) if you) Oh come on now Jill, can’t you find something better than that to rely on??? Or are you now going to cite WorldNetDaily too?

      The State Department team did not corroborate PRI’s or Bush’s and Powell’s claim that UNFPA supported or facilitated forced abortions in China.

      I’ll stand by my comment- you can’t read. I can.

      And oh by the way, the fact that Powell never disavowed his letter to Leahy- ever hear the old conundrum that you can tell when a politician is lying- his mouth is moving??? But you know- in a sense Powell did disavow many of his positions, when he came out and endorsed Obama over the rabid anti- choice candidates McCain/Palin.

    • invalid-0

      “The Virginia-based group is a spinoff of Human Life International, a hardcore antiabortion organization founded by Benedictine priest Paul Marx, a notorious anti-Semite known to blame Jews for abortion. In a 1993 HLI newsletter, Marx wrote, “Today, certain members of this people whose ancient religion and culture managed to survive Auschwitz and Buchenwald are presiding over the greatest Holocaust in the history of the world. American Jews have been leaders in establishing and defending the efficient destruction of more than 30 million preborn children in this country.”

      Marx started PRI in 1989, and according to an HLI press release from two years ago, HLI has invested more than $1 million in the group. In 1995, Marx hired Steven Mosher to head PRI.

      Mosher’s history is as checkered as Marx’s. He was thrown out of the anthropology program at Stanford University 19 years ago for what the university, quoted at the time by Science magazine, called “illegal and seriously unethical conduct” that “endangered his research subjects.” Mosher had been doing field work in his then-wife’s village in Southern China, and was accused of bribing local villagers and smuggling rare coins. Perhaps most seriously, he published pictures in a popular Taiwanese magazine of Chinese women undergoing late-term abortions without concealing their faces, which could have led the government to retaliate against them.

      Mosher claimed that by expelling him Stanford was caving to Chinese pressure and filed a lawsuit, which he later dropped. Since then, he’s become militantly antiabortion and anti-China — his most recent books are “Hegemon: China’s Plan to Dominate Asia and the World” and the techno-thriller “China Attacks,” co-written with Chuck DeVore. So he hooked up with the Population Research Institute, whose aim, according to a fundraising letter, is to “drive the final nail into the coffin of U.N. Population Fund abortionists.” ”

      HMMM, and this was the ONLY group to imply that UNFPA supported a Chinese forced abortion policy. (Bush and Powell had nothing else to rely on- ergo- they made it up. Or is this logic too advanced for you? ) if you) Oh come on now Jill, can’t you find something better than that to rely on??? Or are you now going to cite WorldNetDaily too?

      The State Department team did not corroborate PRI’s or Bush’s and Powell’s claim that UNFPA supported or facilitated forced abortions in China.

      I’ll stand by my comment- you can’t read. I can.

      And oh by the way, the fact that Powell never disavowed his letter to Leahy- ever hear the old conundrum that you can tell when a politician is lying- his mouth is moving??? But you know- in a sense Powell did disavow many of his positions, when he came out and endorsed Obama over the rabid anti- choice candidates McCain/Palin.

  • invalid-0

    Jump, Jodi, jump! Just because Collin Powell didn’t retract his statement on Dubya administration’s findings about UNFPA doesn’t mean that those findings were not contrived. Powell would need at least several days to retract all the false data put out by that secretive, law-breaking administration. Besides, I believe Powell knew that his testimony before the UN was not factual when he was testifying. He had to at least know there were some very conflicting “intelligence reports.” But he was a good soldier and did what he was told. So, Jill, what other hoop are you going to ask Jodi to jump? Most anti-choice people are politically conservative, and conservatives hate anything the UN does because it’s too secular and multi-cultural, and America’s participation with it implies what—that America needs to play nice with the other nations of the world—or that America isn’t exceptional? So, Jill, if you think you are “winning” this argument because Jodi isn’t jumping your impossible hoop, you go girl. But you’re not changing any minds here.

  • jodi-jacobson

    to come…..

    Jodi

  • invalid-0

    My omission: The Article quoted is by Michelle Goldberg.I’m not sure of the date. http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2002/06/13/unfpa/index.html

  • invalid-0

    Abstinence-Only is an EARMARK, benefiting only religious right organizations that get the money, rejected by 17 states that know it’s a waste, and proven ineffective. The Action Center should be using this as an alert strategy – I’m sending an email to my senator, DeMint, asking why he is supporting this earmarks when he is so vocally opposing earmarks.

  • invalid-0

    Like OMG, are you implying that the self-righteous Repugs only use the term “earmarks” as a way to be onstructionist, get media attention, and up the manufactured outrage from their base? I’m shocked! Now you’re implying they’re hypocrits too. I’m fait … ing … fast.
    P.S. All irony aside, thanks for the enlightening post.

  • luisd

    In continuing to try to understand the root causes of the financial crisis, we find that the whole story just keeps getting more interesting. While lots of folks are trying to blame one single thing (free markets, regulations, greed, poor people, rich people, bankers, mortgage lenders, hedge funds, short sellers, the President, Congress, etc.), the truth is that almost all of those explanations aren’t just wrong, they’re highly misleading. The problems involve a whole bunch of different things that combined to create the incentives that resulted in this situation — and preventing it from happening again is hardly an easy proposition. It should be definitely progressing in turning the financial crisis into an opportunity for greater transparency. The E-Government Act of 2002 has made it clear that government organizations have to make their data available to the public, which is a great move towards greater transparency. Google Public Data is a new Google service where you can search for public data, such as unemployment rates and so forth.

  • http://www.mzcap.com invalid-0

    Isn’t it ironic that the far right preaches too much that the gov’t is invading people’s right to choose yet wouldn’t want to pass legislation geared at empowering people to make choices for their own well-being, e.g. reproductive health? How many more ‘Sarah Palin’ moms do they have to train before they’d realize ‘she’ just doesn’t work. stupid bigoted elephants!

  • http://www.yogibotanicals.com invalid-0

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