When the Supreme Court formally overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion will be banned in Louisiana thanks to a 2006 trigger law putting such a ban in place as soon as the court allowed. But that’s not enough for some Louisiana Republicans—they’re pushing a bill that would not just criminalize abortion but treat it as homicide.
The state House Appropriations Committee moved the bill forward on a 7-2 vote despite one of the lawmakers voting in favor admitting that it was unconstitutional, and despite the imminent Supreme Court decision allowing Louisiana’s trigger law to go into effect. “We can't wait on the Supreme Court,” said the bill’s author, despite the fact that the wait for the Supreme Court is likely to be a matter of weeks.
For years, people warning that Republicans really did want to overturn Roe v. Wade and that Republicans really did want to criminalize abortion have been mocked as partisans dishonestly seeking advantage or condescended to as alarmist, but here we go: The Supreme Court is poised to allow states to ban abortion, and Republicans in one state are moving forward with a bill that would allow abortion providers and their patients to be prosecuted for murder.
A bill criminalizing abortion in this way could also criminalize in vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control—already, many of the people most loudly opposed to abortion describe some forms of contraception, including IUDs and emergency contraceptives, as abortifacients. And even if miscarriage is not technically criminalized, in a world where abortion is a crime, miscarriage will become a highly suspicious event, particularly for already vulnerable people.
And this isn’t a case where the one fringe Republican who all the other Republicans kind of wish would go away introduced a bill that everyone is ignoring. This passed out of committee and it wasn’t even close.
Meanwhile, in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft striking down Roe, Republicans are still trying to portray people worried about what comes next as dishonest or hysterical or both. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is circulating a memo, obtained by Axios, calling on Republicans to “Forcefully refute Democrat lies regarding GOP positions on abortion and women's health care.” Those so-called lies? That Republicans want to take away contraception. That Republicans want to take away mammograms. That Republicans want to “throw doctors and women in jail.”
And yet. In addition to this Louisiana bill calling for doctors and women to be thrown in jail for one of the most serious crimes there is, just a couple months ago, all three Republicans running for Michigan attorney general said that Griswold v. Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court opinion striking down bans on contraceptives for married people, was wrongly decided. As for mammograms, it’s not a common claim in the context of abortion that Republicans are trying to take them away, and while Republicans aren’t yet specifically targeting them, that would fall under the more general category of Republicans making any and all health care difficult to obtain. The Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover mammograms and other preventive care with no out-of-pocket costs for the patient, and we know Republicans feel about the Affordable Care Act.
This is the next step. Probably all the people who said that Roe wasn’t really in any danger will also line up to say that criminalizing abortion isn’t really going to happen. But this week, we know how to assess their judgment of what’s possible.
The image above is from Russia’s practice for the upcoming May 9 parade. For weeks, Russian troops have been marching around the town, showing off their parade uniforms and driving some cleaned up, and hopefully decently maintained, vehicles along the streets, prepared to bring Moscow some of that military pomp so beloved of Soviet leaders and Donald Trump. This particular group is being lead by a new T-90M tank. It’s a 2017 update of Russia’s latest in-production tank.
The most notable upgrade to the T-90M is that it carries a new generation of Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) that’s designed to stop incoming missiles and shells in their tracks. Its armor was specifically designed with the promise that it would stop anti-tank weapons, and even survive multiple incoming weapons striking at the same time. And you can see exactly how well that worked in practice by checking out the T-90M below.
As far as anyone is aware, the number of T-90Ms sent to Ukraine so far would be one. The number still in operation would be zero. Overall, Russia has managed to roll out about 20 of the T-90M upgrades, but the remaining ones are apparently being held close to Moscow at the moment. After all, they’re needed for critical parade duty.
The same goes for Russia’s T-14 Armata. This angular next generation tank has been appearing in Moscow’s May 9 parades since 2015. However, to date it seems that fewer than a dozen have actually rolled off the line, with changes still being made and reported issues with multiple systems. A couple of them have at least been allowed to get dirty.
If a T-14 shows up in Ukraine, don’t take it as a sign that Russia has confidence in its super tank. Take it as a sign of desperation.
After all, Russia is just four days away from a parade where it expected to celebrate its easy victory over Ukraine. Vladimir Putin fully believed that he would be standing in the bleachers, saluting the victors of the in Battle of Kyiv, maybe with a few acolytes from his new Ukrainian puppet government looking on for good measure. Even when it became clear that the parade was not going to feature Volodomyr Zelenskyy being dragged along in chains, there was still the hope that sticking all of Russia’s forces into the Donbas would allow them to overwhelm Ukraine, and push to the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in time for the parade to start. Only … nope.
That’s okay. They could always bring in Belarus to drag Ukrainian forces to the west. Or how about a referendum in Kherson that would form a new “people’s republic?” Or an attack from Transnistria? Or Azovstal! They could at least finish off Azovstal and celebrate May 9 by declaring that Mariupol, so beautifully remodeled by Russian artillery, was eager to join up. Azovstal, yes!
On Monday, Russian forces resumed hitting the Azovstal complex with both artillery and hundreds of dumb bombs dropped by strategic bombers. Russian ships in the Sea of Azov joined in, blasting the site with massive shells.
Before the smoke had even cleared, Russian forces attempted to storm the Azovstal complex, entering its maze of tunnels and chambers to root out the unknown number of remaining Ukrainian fighters from their positions deep underground. Throughout the day, there were reports of hand to hand fighting, and “bloody conflict.” On the surface, structures were blasted with explosives and set on fire in an attempt to burn every building remaining on the site to the ground.
For three days now, that fight has continued above ground and underground. Russian sources insisted on Monday that Azovstal was in “its final hours.” But they’ve said that before.
With four more days remaining, it’s entirely possible that Putin will get the only peace he wants in Mariupol in time for his parade: the peace of the grave. After all, there is always gas that could be used against the defenders still evading his forces underground. There is always all that rubble available to block all the potential exits. If Putin wants everyone in the complex dead—including the forces that are not part of the Azov regiment, including the wounded who were not allowed to leave the hospital on the site, and including the civilians still trapped there—he can almost certainly have it.
On May 9, it’s almost certain that some selected “victors of Mariupol”—or some nice, tall, appropriately photogenic roleplayers—are going to join Putin’s parade. And that really would be appropriate. They can celebrate the butchery of Bucha, the 600 women and children who died in the basement of Mariupol’s theater, the thousands of civilians buried in still-undiscovered mass graves, and the tens of thousands of Ukrainians being enslaved in Russian labor camps a continent away from their homes. They can celebrate the destruction. They can celebrate rape. They can celebrate a second Holodomor.
Thursday, May 5, 2022 · 11:00:16 AM EDT · Mark Sumner This translation of Russian soldiers coming to Popasna ready to rock, then finding themselves fed into a meatgrinder, gives some idea of what Ukrainian forces are doing there that makes taking this small town right on the edge of territory Russia has occupied for eight years so difficult to take.
In preparing for this situation, Ukraine has created a series of heavy concrete bunkers with windows they can open to use machine guns when Russian forces are approaching. Then, when Russian forces surround them, they close those shutters and call in an artillery strike on their own positions.
This allows Ukraine to keep their artillery back outside the range of Russian shells. Russia advances, moves into the town, then Ukraine closes the shutters and shells the town until nothing moves. Then it opens the shutters again. And waits.
It’s entirely possible that Popasna will be overrun at any time. But the cost to Russia of just this one small town on the map of Ukraine has been incredible.
Thursday, May 5, 2022 · 12:14:24 PM EDT · Mark Sumner Early on Thursday, Telegram started lighting up with reports that Ukrainian forces were pressing a counter-attack into the Izyum salient, with several reports suggesting Ukrainian forces were striking from the area of Bazaliivka.
Thursday, May 5, 2022 · 12:46:05 PM EDT · Mark Sumner NASA’s FIRMS fire map activity on Thursday certainly indicates that something is happening in the area west of Izyum. Frankly, from the position of these strikes, it looks like both sides flailing away. The area on the east side of this map represents Russian shelling of Ukrainian positions in that valley south of Oskil. They’ve been getting pounded like this for days.
But all that activity west of Izyum is new. It’s widespread and there’s a lot of it.
Here’s some additional data from FIRMS in the area directly northeast of Kharkiv. You can see that Ukraine is blasting away at the two towns (Shestakove and Fedorivka) that are on the main road connecting Kharkiv and Staryi Saltiv. Clearing these locations would solidify Ukraine’s hold on this area.
What I’m not seeing at the moment is any suggesting that Ukraine is actually moving directly east in the area north of Izyum as many posts had indicated … stay tuned.
Thursday, May 5, 2022 · 1:29:11 PM EDT · Mark Sumner There are reports that Russian forces have withdrawn from the town of Ruski Tyshky north of Kharkiv. However, the bridge between this town and the neighboring Cherkaski Tyshky has been destroyed, so it’s unlikely Ukrainian forces will be occupying the site in strength before a clear route is located.
On Jan. 6, after the mob receded from the Capitol, Oath Keeper Wiliam Todd Wilson sat in a hotel room less than a mile away and listened as Elmer Rhodes attempted to call someone who he thought could connect him to then-President Donald Trump.
After a violent, failed day, the leader of their extremist network implored this individual to tell Trump that groups like theirs were on the ready to forcibly stop the nation’s transfer of power.
.......... This is the account of William Wilson, the leader of the Oath Keeper’s North Carolina division. On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding for his part in what Department of Justice prosecutors have described as a well-orchestrated, fully weaponized conspiracy.
Rhodes has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial. Around him meanwhile, his former compatriots are turning their backs to seek reduced sentences at an increasing clip. Wison’s plea marks the third Oath Keeper to flip and subsequently up the ante on Rhodes who is facing possible decades in prison should a jury convict.
According to the 45-year-old Wilson, during the call with someone appearing to serve as a Trump intermediary—the individual was not named in court records—Rhodes was left flat.
He would not be patched through to Trump. Wilson recalled that an apparently tense Rhodes turned to his fellow Oath Keepers gathered at the Phoenix Hotel and remarked: “I just want to fight.”
Wilson’s guilty plea is added to those entered by fellow Oath Keepers Joshua James of Alabama and Brian Ulrich of Georgia in the seditious conspiracy case. Wilson, however, was not indicted by a federal grand jury first, unlike James and Ulrich. Instead, he flipped voluntarily. This is a strong indicator that Wilson has been cooperating with the Justice Department for some time.
Wilson was one of many Oath Keepers from neighboring states who arrived in D.C. in advance of Jan. 6 and prepared to lay siege.
He arrived in Vienna, Virginia, on Jan. 5 and stowed weapons at the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel including an AR-15-type rifle, a pistol, ammunition, and body armor. Wilson also carried a pocket knife and chemical irritants like pepper spray and brought along a large wooden stick he intended to use as a weapon.
When coming to Washington, he traveled with Rhodes. During the rioting, Wilson has admitted to charges that he plowed through the west side of the Capitol only to force open the Rotunda doors and usher in a column of Oath Keepers to join the fray.
The Justice Department argues that this moment had been in the works since right after the 2020 election. Enraged over Trump’s lies about rampant fraud in the results, Rhodes, his indictment noted, wanted Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act.
If he did, the Oath Keepers would have a series of “quick reaction force” teams lined up in nearby hotels with weapons to aid him.
Between Jan. 4 and Jan. 6 alone, Wilson said he and Rhodes spoke dozens of times with their co-conspirators to finalize their plans. As Wilson made the drive, he texted members of a “DC Op Jan. 6 21” encrypted channel.
“It’s going to hit the fan tonight!” he wrote.
In fact, it would take a few more hours yet.
Once they breached the barricades on Jan. 6, Wilson said he and Rhodes, and others steadily advanced through a chaotic scene. Rhodes told the group they were “in the midst of a ‘civil war” and moving in a stack formation, the Oath Keepers attempted to force their way deeper inside the building. Wilson, at times, filmed the assault.
When it was over, and Wilson, Rhodes, and other co-conspirators found themselves back at the Phoenix Hotel, the inability to connect with Trump directly seemed to fill the ringleader with a new rage.
In an encrypted Signal chat seized by prosecutors, Rhodes warned that “patriots entering their own Capitol to send a message to the traitors is NOTHING compared to what’s coming.” [Emphasis original]
After meeting for dinner to discuss the longer fight ahead—what Rhodes allegedly said was going to be akin to the American Revolutionary War—the Oath Keepers agreed to destroy any incriminating evidence and scrub their devices. They went their separate ways.
Weeks later, after Wilson had returned to North Carolina, he told prosecutors he chucked his phone into the ocean.
At present, Rhodes and nine other defendants charged with seditious conspiracy have pleaded not guilty. But they are far from the only Oath Keepers involved or charged with crimes connected to Jan. 6. There is another group of seven Oath Keepers and their affiliates also poised to face trial for conspiracy. The Rhodes group goes to trial in July; the second group is expected to go to trial in the fall.
Rhodes has maintained that Oath Keepers who were in D.C. on Jan. 6 and charged with violence went off-script. He has argued that they were there if Trump invoked the Insurrection Act, but also to provide security details to Trump’s associates like Roger Stone.
A new audio recording of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has reportedly captured him weighing whether to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove then-President Donald Trump from the White House two days after the assault on the Capitol.
With much attention largely trained right now on the Supreme Court after the leak of a draft opinion poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, McCarthy has managed a slight reprieve from the headlines.
It was just over a week ago that a different series of audio recordings featuring the House GOP leader went public and he was heard, in his own words, telling members of his party that he was prepared to call for then-President Donald Trump’s resignation.
When the aide said that the 25th Amendment would “not exactly” be an “elegant solution” to removing Trump, McCarthy is reportedly heard interrupting as he attempts to get a sense of his options.
The process of invoking the 25th Amendment is one not taken lightly and would require majority approval from members of Trump’s Cabinet as well as from the vice president.
“That takes too long,” McCarthy said after an aide walked him through the steps. “And it could go back to the House, right?”
Indeed, it wasn’t an easy prospect.
Trump would not only have to submit a letter overruling the Cabinet and Pence, but a two-thirds majority would have to be achieved in the House and Senate to overrule Trump.
“So, it’s kind of an armful,” the aide said.
On Jan. 7, 2021, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the president’s allies to divorce themselves from Trump after he loosed his mob on them, Capitol Hill staff, and police.
“While there are only 13 days left, any day could be a horror show,” Pelosi said at a press conference where she called for the 25th Amendment to be put in motion.
Publicly, McCarthy would not budge.
The House voted 232-197 to approve a resolution that would activate the amendment on Jan. 13. McCarthy called for censure instead of impeachment through the 25th Amendment. Then, from the floor of the House, McCarthy denounced Trump.
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” McCarthy said.
During the Jan. 8 call, the House GOP leader lamented that impeachment could further divide the nation. He worried it might also inspire new conflicts. He also told the aide he wanted to have Trump and Biden meet before the inauguration.
It would help with a smooth transition, he said.
In another moment in the recording after discussing a sit-down with Biden where they could talk about ways to publicly smooth tensions over the transition, McCarthy can be heard saying that “he’s trying to do it not from the basis of Republicans” but rather, “of a basis of, hey, it’s not healthy for the nation” to continue with such uncertainty.
Yet within the scant week that passed from the time McCarthy said Trump bore some responsibility for the attack and the impeachment vote, McCarthy switched gears again.
He didn’t believe Trump “provoked” the mob, he said on Jan. 21.
Not if people “listened to what [Trump] said at the rally,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy met with Trump at the 45th president’s property in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, a week after Biden was inaugurated. Once he was back in Washington, the House leader issued a statement saying Trump had “committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022.”
They had founded a “united conservative movement,” he said.
We are about to see a new wave of anti-abortion terrorism and violence, thanks to a Supreme Court majority that believes individual rights not only ought to flip around according to the whims of each new election but that if the U.S. Constitution makes things awkward, the states can designate private-citizen bounty hunters and evade whatever else the courts might say about it. Sen. Ron Wyden is dead right when he warns that we're about to see a new era in which women who seek abortions or who might seek abortions are going to have their digital data hunted down. Much of the hunting will be by Republican-state prosecutors looking to convict women who cross state lines into better, less trashy states to seek abortions that are now illegal in New Gilead. But in states like Texas, it's likely to be private anti-abortion groups gathering up that data—not just to target women seeking abortion, but as potential source of cash. The $10,000 bounty on Texas women who get abortions after six weeks turns such stalking into a potentially lucrative career.
Sen. Wyden to Gizmodo: "The simple act of searching for ‘pregnancy test’ could cause a woman to be stalked, harassed and attacked. With Texas style bounty laws, and laws being proposed in Missouri to limit people’s ability to travel to obtain abortion care, there could even be a profit motive for this outsourced persecution."
It's not just that Republican prosecutors can subpoena data records of pregnant women looking for, for example, evidence that they might have looked up "pregnancy test" or "abortion pills" or "my remaining civil rights." All of those would constitute "evidence" that woman who had a miscarriage might not have "wanted" her pregnancy—thus paving the way for criminal charges. It's happened before, despite Roe, and after Roe falls will likely become a rote fixture of red-state prosecutions.
We're likely to to see such subpoenas become a primary way for conservative state prosecutors to "prove" that American women crossing state lines did so to obtain now-criminalized abortions. "Even a search for information about a clinic could become illegal under some state laws, or an effort to travel to a clinic with an intent to obtain an abortion," Electronic Privacy Information Center president Alan Butler told The Washington Post.
Republican states have already been examining ways to criminalize such travel. It's coming, and American women will find that the phones they use to look up reproductive health questions can also be used by prosecutors to hunt them down for asking the wrong questions.
Bounty hunters looking for women to target may not have those same subpoena powers—though heaven knows what the future will bring, in a theocratic state that finds its best legal wisdom from colonial era witch hunters—but they will have the power of extremely amoral data tracking companies on their side. It was revealed just days ago that data broker SafeGraph, slivers of which may be hidden on your own phone inside apps that quietly collect and sell the information they gather on you, specifically offers tracking data for phones visiting Planned Parenthood providers—including the census tracks visitors came from and returned to.
For just $160, SafeGraph has been selling that data to anyone willing to buy it. It's a trivial investment for bounty hunters eager to cross-reference such clues to find who to next target. It's also a valuable tool for would-be domestic terrorists, of the sort that are going to be once again emboldened by a Supreme Court nod to their beliefs that not only should abortion be banned, but that activists are justified in attacking those that think otherwise. Nobody can plausibly think far-right violence will decrease, in the bizarre landscape in which they have finally achieved victory in half the states while being rebuffed by the others. It has never happened that way. It never will.
........ Thursday, May 5, 2022 · 3:15:16 PM EDT · Hunter Another data miner, Placer, tracks Planned Parenthood visitors to their homes and provides the routes they took. Among the apps mining data for Placer is popular tracking app “Life360.”
Officials across the country have vowed to protect abortion rights following a leaked Supreme Court opinion draft decision that would reverse the 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade. In the draft, the highest court defended its decision to rule in favor of Mississippi’s abortion ban—ultimately allowing for several states to pass anti-abortion laws of their own, as reproductive rights will no longer be protected at the federal level. As a result, legislators across the country have reiterated their commitment to reproductive rights, noting that whether SCOTUS decides to reverse the landmark case or not will not impact their decision to fight against abortion bans.
Following suit, some Michigan prosecutors shared this week that they will not pursue criminal charges should SCOTUS’ decision cause the state to revert to a pre-Roe abortion ban in the state, originally enacted in 1931.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy was one of the first noting that she will not prosecute any abortion cases in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned, including against those who seek abortions and those who provide them.
“I feel like I am living in The Twilight Zone,” Worthy said, reports the Metro Times. “I have three daughters. Now more than ever I must stand to protect them and their reproductive rights. This is not just for my daughters, but for every single person in America so that they can decide what to do with their bodies.”
She added that getting an abortion is a personal, not a government decision.
“Only those who are invited into their decision-making process should have any say,” Worthy added. “And beyond that, as someone who has looked into the eyes of hundreds of sexual assault and incest victims, how dare anyone enter into their trauma dictating what they should do with their bodies.”
Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit also tweeted that he would not go after a doctor or patient this week.
“I will never, ever prosecute any provider or patient for abortion in Washtenaw County,” Savit said.
This is not the first time Michigan prosecutors have shared their commitment to abortion access. According to The Detroit News, prosecutors in at least three counties issued a joint statement emphasizing their commitment to abortion access in April, days before the SCOTUS opinion was leaked.
When the state's anti-abortion laws were passed, "there were no women serving in the Michigan legislature," the prosecutors wrote. "Those archaic statutes are unconstitutionally and dangerously vague, leaving open the potential for criminalizing doctors, nurses, anesthetists, health care providers, office receptionists—virtually anyone who either performs or assists in performing these medical procedures. Even the patient herself could face criminal liability under these statutes.”
They added: ”We cannot and will not support criminalizing reproductive freedom or creating unsafe, untenable situations for health care providers and those who seek abortions in our communities. Instead, we will continue to dedicate our limited resources towards the prosecution of serious crimes and the pursuit of justice for all."
The statement was signed by Worthy, Savit, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton, Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon, and Marquette County Prosecutor Matthew Wiese.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also weighed in on the leaked opinion noting the impact overturning Roe v. Wade would have on her state. According to ABC News affiliate WXYZ, Whitmer filed a lawsuit last month to overturn Michigan’s 1931 law that makes abortion illegal. Should Roe v. Wade be overturned, the law would go back into effect because it was never repealed.
Whitmer’s lawsuit demands the Michigan Supreme Court deem the old law unconstitutional.
"We surveyed the tools I have as governor and filed this lawsuit over a month ago because we saw the direction that it looked like that the United States Supreme Court was taking and we thought it was important to take this case straight to our state supreme court and ask them to rule that the Michigan Constitution confers a women's right to abortions and right to make her own health care decisions," Whitmer told CNN Tuesday.
Whitmer also supported the prosecutors in their views that individuals should decide whether or not to have abortions, not the government.
"You don't start by taking agency away from making their own health care decisions. This is something that shouldn't be up to politicians, it shouldn't be up to judges, frankly. It should be squarely a women's determination with some advice from a trusted health care professional and that's precisely what we are fighting for," she said.
Susan Collins and Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom lied about abortion rights being the law of the land.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has scheduled a Senate vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) to codify federal protections for abortion rights. The cloture vote will be next Monday, setting up a Wednesday vote. Or it would set up a Wednesday vote, if there wasn’t that pesky problem of the filibuster.
There will not be 10 Republican votes for it to gain the 60 votes needed to get past that procedural hurdle. There is only conceivably one—Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—and she’d probably be offset anyway by Democrat Joe Manchin, a forced birth proponent. The only other supposedly pro-choice Republican is Susan Collins, who has predictably bullshit “concerns” about the bill.
It doesn’t have a “conscience” clause, she says. So she’ll vote no. She told reporters the WHPA is too broad and “doesn’t protect the right of a Catholic hospitals to not perform abortions. That right has been enshrined in law for a long time.” Yes, it has. But her objection is absolutely ridiculous. Because there is nothing in the bill that would compel Catholic hospitals or any provider with religious convictions to perform abortions. Just like under Roe v. Wade.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) pointed that out. “There is nothing in this measure that detracts in any way from existing protections based on conscience or religion. It doesn’t mandate that a hospital or a doctor or any other provider do anything that is against religious principles,” he clarified. Just like under existing law: no hospital, no clinic, and no provider would be compelled to do abortions.
If Democrats said, “Okay, Susan Collins, we will put in a very specific conscience clause just for you, will you help us break the filibuster and uphold abortion rights like you’ve always said you are committed to doing?” she wouldn’t. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t let her, because he’s in charge of her conscience. McConnell only allows her to act on her principles when it doesn’t matter.
There’s a compelling religious freedom argument to be made for abortion rights, and 132 faith-based, religious, and civil rights groups have made it. “We affirm our nation’s founding principle of religious liberty, which is integrally bound to reproductive freedom,” the groups wrote in an open letter to the U.S. Senate. “Religious liberty includes the right to follow one’s own faith or moral code in making critical, personal reproductive health decisions, without political interference.”
“While we respect the right of every individual, including our lawmakers, to hold their own personal and religious beliefs, our country’s Constitution demands that no one impose a single religious viewpoint on all through civil law or regulation,” they continued. “The Women’s Health Protection Act is essential legislation that embodies these shared ideals.”
Collins must not have gotten her copy of the letter.
The WHPA is not going to overcome a filibuster, with or without Collins, because Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have already said they won’t do it. Nevertheless, the vote needs to be taken and Republicans—and Manchin and Sinema—have to be held to account with that. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was particularly sharp on that point in his floor statement Thursday.
“Senate Republicans spent years packing our courts with right-wing judges. Will they now own up to the harm they’ve caused or will they try to undo the damage?” Schumer said Thursday. “Republicans spent years under Leader McConnell pushing right-wing judges to lifetime appointments to the bench. They stole the nomination of Merrick Garland, changed the rules of the Senate, and rammed through three hard-right, hard ideological justices to the bench.” He went on to point out that the Mississippi law the leaked decision is about “has zero—zero exceptions for rape or incest, a position that would have been regarded on the extreme of the extreme not too long ago.”
“This, it seems, is what the hard right wants: forced pregnancies,” he continued. “No exceptions for rape. No exceptions for incest. Republican politicians are telling America’s women ‘your body, our choice.’” Republicans will have to own that, he said. “The vote will tell. Next week, America will be watching.”
That’s fantastically sharp language, and it’s refreshing that Schumer didn’t shy away from the word “abortion,” saying at the outset, “Today I am announcing that next week, the U.S. Senate is going to vote on legislation to codify a woman’s right to seek an abortion into federal law,” and then repeating it. That’s great, but knowing that the legislation won’t pass means that Schumer and Senate Democrats have to have the next step teed up.
That needs to be dealing with that rogue court he railed against in his statement. Momentum is building among Democrats to do that. Here’s Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), part of the House leadership team as a committee chair:
That’s the next fight, the essential fight. Because even if the WHPA were to pass, it would immediately come up against Trump- and McConnell-packed courts. It wouldn’t be allowed to stand.
Will an effort to expand the court make it past Sinema and Manchin? No. Will seeing that Democratic leadership is committed to fighting like hell to secure our rights compel the base to come out in November to grow the Senate majority and make Sinema and Manchin irrelevant? We don’t know that for sure, either, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt to try.
While some congressional Democrats are still weighing the politics of the Supreme Court's impending decision on abortion, a groundswell of energy at the local level appears to be there for the taking.
In Allentown, Pennsylvania, for instance, a "raucous Tuesday abortion-rights rally" sprung up in downtown the day after news surfaced of the draft opinion gutting Roe v. Wade.
One middle-aged woman held a sign reading, “Do rapists have parental rights?” according to Politico. An older woman waved a coat hanger, while an older man donned a shirt depicting the TV show “Handmaid’s Tale.”
But Democratic Rep. Susan Wild, who faces a tough cycle after redistricting gave her seat a redder hue, is still feeling her way through the political moment.
“I’m trying really hard not to make this about whether this will help us win in November, because it’s so important an issue that it transcends the election,” Wild, who attended the rally, told Politico. But, she added, “People are pissed.”
Wild's Democratic counterpart in the Pennsylvania State House, however, pulled no punches when she addressed the crowd.
“Someone asked me this morning, what’s your plan? I said my plan is Tuesday, November the eighth!” thundered state representative and Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, as chants of “Vote blue in 2022" broke out.
The difference in approach between Wild and McClinton appears to be playing out more broadly. The closer to Washington a Democrat is, the more hampered they seem to be by the strategic considerations of congressional leadership. Democratic leaders in Washington are apparently fighting the abortion battles of decades past and dragging down their caucus in the process. Thus, Wild's hesitation, while McClinton, the top Democrat in the Pennsylvania State House, knew exactly what to do.
The same is true among Democrats running for statewide seats. In a straight-to-camera video on Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vowed to "fight like hell" for abortion rights, touting her administration's legal efforts to secure statewide protections.
With similar urgency, Georgia Democrat and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams announced an immediate pause in her wildly successful fundraising operation in order to redirect money to groups working to secure abortion rights.
Her fundraising machine will instead be collecting donations on behalf of The Feminist Women’s Health Center, SisterSong, ARC Southeast, Planned Parenthood Southeast and NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“This moment demands action, so I will be blunt: The abomination of that leaked opinion is coming to find every one of us,” Abrams said Wednesday in a campaign email. “Women in Georgia and across this country. LGBTQ+ and disabled people. And particularly those of color or low-income. This is a terrifying time for our nation.”
This moment demands action.
They're coming for everyone of us: Black, brown, female bodied, LGBTQ, disabled, immigrant.
This is a terrifying moment and, dammit, I'm going to do everything in my power to prevail.
In January, just 24% of Georgia voters said they wanted the Supreme Court to overturn Roe, while 68% opposed it. In 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill that bans all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, with a rape/incest exception only if it's been reported to authorities. That bill registered 38% support in the January survey, while 54% opposed it.
The point is, the politics of this for Republicans are horrible. Every past poll that suggested people who favor abortion rights don't vote on it was not taken in an environment in which the highest court in the land was preparing to declare open season on abortion rights. The game-changing nature of that reality will be as explosive in the suburban swing districts that will likely decide control of Congress as it will be in statewide races in battlegrounds like Georgia and Michigan.
The tide has turned. The Democratic grassroots know it. Democrats outside of Washington know it. And it's time for Democrats in Washington to catch up. They usually do when they are left with no choice.
The right-wing extremists—Proud Boys and white nationalists and far-right populists, some of them associated with Trumpist Kari Lake’s GOP gubernatorial campaign—who turned out to counter-protest abortion-rights protesters in Phoenix on Tuesday were not just there to cause violence and threaten women and “leftists,” though they succeeded well enough at that. They were also packing heat.
One of the men—Michael Merritt Graham, 34—was carrying a .45 caliber Glock 36 pistol when state troopers arrested him after observing him punch two protesters. Arizona Mirror reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy reported that Graham had tucked the pistol into the waistband of his pants, out of view, but also witnessed other counter-protest “openly carrying firearms.”
This was not an anomaly, but rather fits a growing pattern of violent and threatening authoritarian aggression directed at women’s rights activists—along with an increased animus directed at the LGBTQ community—that has broken into the open since the news this week that the Supreme Court is preparing to gut abortion rights in the U.S. Right-wing extremists not only are avidly celebrating the news—they are openly planning violence in response to the predictable protests in defense of abortion rights.
Graham was wearing an InfoWars T-shirt with the slogan “Baby Lives Matter” on it. Before the violent confrontations, he and an anti-LGBTQ/anti-masking provocateur named Ethan Schmidt-Crockett had brandished bullhorns to harass the protesters, who had turned out by the thousands to protest the imminent demise of the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. They were joined by a cluster of about 20 other young men who mocked the protesters from the edge of the crowd.
Graham was among roughly 20 counter-protesters who showed up to the event where over one thousand protesters marched in support of abortion rights in the wake of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark court decision of Roe v. Wade and strip the right of women to seek an abortion that was established nearly 50 years ago.
The men had attempted to provoke violence throughout the evening; at one point, Schmidt walked straight into the crowd while recording video and mocking the protest in a blatant attempt to create a confrontation. Eventually, they succeeded when Graham ripped a protester’s sign out of his hands and threw it to the ground; according to state troopers, when the protester reached down to retrieve it, Graham punched the man in the face and bloodied him.
As he attempted to leave, Graham “sucker-punched” another protester named Jace Robert Denis, 20, who responded by chasing after Graham. The troopers then arrested both men. Schmidt was also briefly arrested but then released with no charges.
Nick Martin reports that Schmidt-Crockett has developed a social-media following as a far-right provocateur, primarily for harassing people in various public settings for wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has filmed himself harassing cancer patients—who he describes as his favorite targets, since they are “weak and vulnerable and easy targets.”
He recently filmed himself harassing churchgoers at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, and was asked to leave multiple times but refused. This is consistent with his criminal record, which includes third-degree criminal trespass for refusing to leave businesses when requested, for which he then violated probation multiple times. He was arrested last June for extreme drunken driving, posted video showing his ankle monitor and telling the audience, “I drive better when I’m drunk.”
Schmidt-Crockett proudly promotes his antics in online videos. In one he can be seen throwing up a Nazi salute while confronting Black lawmaker wearing a mask, telling him it’s a “slave muzzle.” In another, he rants at length about his support for Russia in its war on Ukraine, calling for the assassination of Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelenskyy. At the end, he throws up another Nazi salute and shouts, “Heil Putin!”
More recently, he’s become threatening and aggressive toward the LGBTQ community. In one of his videos, he can be seen attacking a Pride display in a Target store, calling it “disgusting … it’s devil worship.” He’s also posted videos and texts saying he’s “going hunting for LGBT pedophiles” and “non binaries,” saying ominously: “We’re hunting for you.”
Joining Schmidt-Crocket and Graham in the crowd of counter-protesters were members of the American Populist Union (APU), a white-nationalist group closely aligned with Nick Fuentes’ America First and its “Groyper army.” Kyle Clifton, who posts white-nationalist propaganda on Instagram, was one of the APU members present.
According to MacDonald-Evoy, Clifton arrived with a group of staffers from far-right GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s campaign, some of whom handed out Lake campaign signs. Matthew Martinez, Lake’s field manager, was among them.
The APU’s Twitter account has recently embraced the Supreme Court’s imminent ruling with typically ominous rhetoric:
Roe v Wade must be overturned, but let's stop pretending that abortion is a "states' issue." Abortion is murder, and it should be federally illegal in all 50 states. Overturning Roe v Wade is just the beginning, not the end.
Elsewhere, Proud Boys could be seen hovering around crowds of angry abortion-rights protesters. Outside the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., Proud Boys were spotted trolling protesters who had arrived to voice their anger, but no violence erupted.
These same violent neofascist elements have exploded with joy and anticipation online, as Tess Owen reports for Vice—eagerly awaiting fresh opportunities to target their “leftist” enemies. Most of them, unsurprisingly, are dipping into the usual cesspool of misogynist and violent language about women and sex, particularly on Telegram.
“Hahahaha **** you whores,” wrote Tulsa’s Proud Boy chapter.
“BEGIN PREEMPTIVELY ROASTING HOES NOW,” Nick Ochs, who founded Hawaii’s Proud Boy chapter, posted.
“Happy ‘whores on suicide watch’ day, boys!!!!” wrote someone in a white nationalist channel.
At other extremist platforms like Gab, the story was the same. “The same people who openly want vaccine mandates are the same people who want to normalize pedophilia, are the same people who want to legalize baby murder,” wrote one verified Gab user. “Leftism is literally satanism.”
The eliminationist references to Satanism and witches were everywhere. On Twitter, one user with a crucifix and an American flag in his handle wrote: “Witches (many beyond their child-bearing years) are in absolute despair at the prospect of fewer child sacrifices occurring in America. Abortion is their most unholy sacrament with Satan, their husband.”
QAnon cultist Lauren Witzke, the former GOP nominee for Delaware’s Senate seat, posted an image from the protest outside the Supreme Court to her Telegram channel, urging readers to “check out the witches gathering.” Another leading QAnon figure, Ghost Ezra, has also been posting voluminously since Monday on the repeal of Roe v. Wade, as Alex Mendela reports. Notably, Ezra’s posts are typically dripping with antisemitic paranoia, claiming that only Jews were upset by the decision—and connecting abortion with the Canaanite god Moloch and Ba’al, which references a core belief of the racist Christian Identity movement.
The appearance not merely of Christian Nationalist beliefs within the ranks of the online far right, but of Christian Identity—the bigoted theological movement claiming that white people are the true “Children of Israel,” that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan, and that all nonwhite people are soulless “mud people”—has been a building trend in the past couple of years, and now appears poised to break out in far-right civil violence over abortion.
Many of them are clearly eager for just that. When the news of the ruling broke on Monday, a Nevada Proud Boys chapter exulted on Telegram: “BRO LET'S ****ING GOOOOOOO.” They contrived a poll asking whether any protests that break out over the collapse of abortion rights should be called “Hoe rights,” “Slut riots,” or “Baby Save Bash 2022.”
This is not a new thing for the Proud Boys, who are better known for deliberately creating violence targeting urban leftists, particularly the antifascists who turned out to oppose them at various provocations/rallies. Less than 10 days ago—but before news of the ruling had broken—they turned up at a Sarasota, Florida, women’s rights rally to harass people attending the “March for Our Futures” there, which featured a number of pro-LGBTQ groups as well.
A dozen uniformed police kept them away from the marchers. Marcher Kate Tardif of Naples, a self-described “60-soomething,” told a reporter: “It was a little scary walking through [the Proud Boys] to get where we were going, and there were a lot of police.”
The Proud Boys’ signs conflated women’s rights with child sex abuse, comparing the discussion of LGBTQ-friendly topics with young children to “grooming” them. One cardboard sign read: “Stop grooming children! Respect a parent’s rights!” Another read: “No groomers in Florida!”
We have known for some time that violent street groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have shifted their post-Jan. 6 strategy from a focus on large national events to small, mostly local opportunities to attach themselves to various right-wing causes. These events are generally organized as right-wing protests related to COVID-19 restrictions, or the supposed infiltration of critical race theory (CRT) into school curricula, or abortion rights—generally any cause will suffice. Once attached, the thuggish elements bring threats, intimidation, and actual violence.
One of their chief avenues for this strategy is to hook up with Christian-nationalist groups organizing religious events of various kinds, ranging from anti-pandemic-health-measure protests to anti-abortion “Church at Planned Parenthood” gatherings, which themselves are an aggressive and invasive form of protest. Proud Boys also have found opportunities to harass school boards, health boards, and city and county councils as part of their explicit assault on American democratic institutions in the name of “patriotism.”
Unsurprisingly, it’s exploded into violence, as it did July 14, 2021, in Salem, Oregon, when a group of about 20 Proud Boys, armed with holstered handguns, paintball guns, bats, and body armor gathered to protest outside a Planned Parenthood clinic to protest abortion laws, and were met by a crowd of at least 40 counter-protesters. The opposing sides ended up brawling, and Salem police arrested two people.
The threatening language now emanating from the “Patriot” movement and its acolytes in places like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho—where a militia-oriented biker group’s members have vowed to “go head to head” with the city’s Pride event in June, though a spokesman recently tried to backpedal on the threat—reflects how widespread this kind of anti-abortion extremism has become, primarily through neofascist movements like the Proud Boys and the Groypers whose racial and ethnic animus have often been considered defining features, but for whom in reality misogyny and a reflexive loathing of women is even more foundational.
Misogyny has always been a central component of fascist politics, and so the manosphere has long played a key role in organizing some of the most vicious violence that has emanated from the extremist right over the past decade. The trend has seemed to spiral into an even more toxic phase over the past couple of years, fueled in part by the public’s increasing time online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. An MIT study published last year found that there appeared to be a serious spike in interest in so-called “incel” (“involuntary celibate”) groups that promote a nihilistic view of society.
As Helen Lewis explained in The Atlantic in 2019, the realm of online misogynists is in many regards the beating heart of the radical right, since they generate many of the core ideas of white nationalism and other extremist belief systems, including the belief that “feminization” is destroying Western civilization and that women need to be subservient to men in order to create a strong society. They also all promote the idea that the world can only be saved by strong men committing acts of violence.
This is why, as they prepare to take to the streets in protest of the loss of abortion rights, progressive factions need to make careful preparations for the likelihood they will be targeted by these neofascists. The calm before the storm we’ve been experiencing may be about to expire.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand slammed the Supreme Court justices named in the leaked draft opinion for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, calling them out for lying about their positions. The New York lawmaker told reporters on Thursday that she’s hoping SCOTUS is investigated over the justices’ decision to attack reproductive rights. It was her speech on the possible elimination of Roe v. Wade that truly gets at the heart of this issue, however. Gillibrand said it’s about a right to privacy and bodily autonomy and that any threat to those things constitutes a threat to our freedom. “We deserve to be able to make decisions about when we are having children, under what circumstances we are having children, how many children we are having, and at what time we are having children,” Gillibrand said.
“It is an outrage that we have five justices on the Supreme Court who lied, lied in their confirmation hearings, in order to be confirmed,” she continued. “It is an outrage that in America today, that our judicial system is so corrupted and so politicized and no longer representative of the will of the people. Five justices said they respect precedence, five said that Roe v. Wade was established precedent, five said they would never undermine established precedence. It is unconscionable what this decision will do to the American people. I do not think that 50% of America should be told that they have to put their bodies at risk of life or death without their consent.” Even prior to this leak, Pew found that 84% of Americans didn’t want justices’ biases influencing the court’s decisions. And a more recent poll from ABC News and TheWashington Post found that 58% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most cases.
Gillibrand called the threat to reproductive rights “barbaric” and “inhumane.” “It is unacceptable and I hope every human being in this country understands that when you take away a woman’s right to make her decisions about her health and well-being, she is no longer a full citizen. She no longer has freedom, she no longer has bodily autonomy, she no longer has basic civil rights or civil liberties,” Gillibrand said. “That is what this decision would do in America today. Make no mistake, equal rights, constitutional rights to privacy, the ability to make your own decisions about your own life and your own death are on the ballot in November. I hope there is no one who’s confused about this. It may happen to your daughter, it may happen to your wife, it may happen to your mother, it may happen to your transgender friend, it may happen to anyone and it’s not acceptable.”
Overturning Roe v. Wade has damning consequences for some of the most vulnerable people in the U.S. and will disproportionately harm people of color. Fighting for the rights of those who can get pregnant doesn’t just come down to women’s rights. Reproductive rights are an intersectional issue and one of the most consequential, not just for those who can become pregnant but for anyone interested in equality. As Gillibrand says, “This is a life or death moment and we need to fight like it is.” Democrats are introducing a measure next week to codify Roe v. Wade, with a Senate vote expected to take place on Wednesday.