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Bullying and Politics

Planned Parenthood: A Thug? Karen Handel Thinks So

Karen Handel, a former Komen honcho, goes for the jugular in a new book, naming the bishops, betrayers, and 'bullies' who she says conspired to create a debacle for the cancer-fighting charity. At the top of her list: Planned Parenthood. She talks to Abigail Pesta.

Karen Handel—a former big shot at Susan G. Komen, the giant, embattled breast-cancer charity—has some unkind words for Planned Parenthood.

She calls the organization “a bunch of schoolyard thugs.” She says Planned Parenthood has become “blatantly partisan.” But perhaps her harshest criticism is reserved for the group's president, Cecile Richards, who she says launched a "vicious mugging" of the charity, ultimately hurting women.


Handel is a former vice president of public policy for Komen, the charity that caused an uproar earlier this year when it decided to stop providing an annual grant to Planned Parenthood. Now, her new book offers an insider’s account of that decision—which has upended one of the most powerful cancer-fighting organizations in the world, responsible for raising some $1.9 billion to fight the disease.

On the Road

Planned Parenthood Gets Wired

The group's enthusiastic young social-media staffers are touring swing states, going to the party conventions, and spreading the word. Allison Yarrow reports.

A big pink bus—detractors call it “the Pepto bus of death”—is crisscrossing swing states and going from convention to convention, carrying members of Planned Parenthood's pink-shirted young political road team.


Women are Watching

At a Columbus, Ohio rally in a park named for the town's first doctor, Lincoln Goodale, who treated the poor at no charge, the staffers stand out because of their pink shirts, but also because of their youth—especially compared to the decades-older counter-protesters they call the “antis” who arrive moments after the bus stops. The pink shirts wield iPhones and cameras to capture the speeches—delivered to the crowd of nearly two hundred people, mostly women—by a rape victim, a new mother who was treated at a Planned Parenthood center for a condition that might have prevented her pregnancy and the group's charismatic president, Cecile Richards.

Nearby, in the grass, about a dozen antis gather, including Bryan Kemper, a well-known figure who's been coming out for decades to protest abortion groups, and members of the Abolitionists Society of Ohio. “We are the generation that will abolish abortion. Peacefully,” says Kemper. He and the others—mostly men, along with two women who coincidentally are also wearing pink shirts—hoist posters showing bloody baby limbs and shout at the rally-goers: “Abortion enslaves women!” and “You tear babies limb from limb!” They aren't filming or tweeting constantly the way pink shirts are—their message is directed entirely at the abortion-rights supporters.

Last Stand

Worry at Abortion’s Lone Outposts

A federal judge put a hold on a new law that would drive the state’s last clinic out of business. Why three other states’ sole providers are closely watching the battle.

Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic will remain open for now, while three other U.S. states with just a single clinic look on anxiously.

Abortion Mississippi

Abortion opponents Ron Nederhoed, center, and Ashley Sigrest, right, argue with the Jackson Women's Health Organization's administrator Shannon Brewer, right, over the opponent's trespassing onto the property of Mississippi's only abortion clinic in Jackson, Miss., Monday, July 2, 2012. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP Photo)

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dan Jordan III temporarily extended his block on a new Mississippi state law that would have shuttered the Jackson Women’s Health Center. The law, which was set to go into effect July 1, mandates that the clinic’s two out-of-state doctors possess permits that local hospitals are refusing to grant them, which not just delegitimizes their practice, but renders it illegal. Jordan deferred his ruling—whether or not he will grant a preliminary injunction, the clinic is seeking to allow it to operate as usual—to an unknown date, but it could come as soon as the next few days, plaintiffs say.

The delay will allow the judge to review the Mississippi Department of Health’s “promulgation of rules” of the law, if it were implemented, according the the Center for Reproductive Rights, a plaintiff in the case. The decision may hinge on whether closing the state’s only clinic forces “undue burden” on Mississippi’s women, which would violate the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. This distinction is critical, particularly for women without financial means, says CRR President Nancy Northrup.

Last Woman Standing

Mississippi’s ‘Abortion Queen’

She’s faced bombings, protests, and legal attacks. Now, as a judge decides the fate of her abortion clinic—the last one in Mississippi—Diane Derzis reflects on her decades of work.

After nearly four decades working in, running, and owning abortion clinics, both her champions and her opponents call her the “abortion queen.” That Diane Derzis, the owner of the state’s last abortion clinic, embraces that moniker is one of the myriad reasons Mississippi’s prolife absolutists want to put her out of business.

Abortion Mississippi

While abortion opponents pray (left), Jackson Women's Health Organization owner Diane Derzis poses at the gate of Mississippi's only abortion clinic in Jackson. (Rogelio V. Solis / AP)

Today they may have their chance. The Jackson Women’s Health Organization has been in court to stop the implementation of a law that would effectively close its doors. The law was temporarily blocked by District Judge Daniel Jordan, a George W. Bush appointee, before it could take effect July 1. And today that same judge will hold a hearing on whether the law should go forward.

While the suit to save her clinic started in June, Derzis has been fighting this kind of opposition since she first went to work at a clinic in 1973, the year Roe v. Wade was decided. The 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision opened the floodgates for states to regulate abortion, leading to the kinds of small-bore but potent restrictions that could lead to her Mississippi clinic’s closing. In 1998 an anti-abortion activist name Eric Rudolph nail-bombed and killed a security guard at the first clinic she owned, New Woman All Woman in Birmingham, Ala., which she had run for a decade. She owns the clinic, which was recently forced out of business by anti-choice efforts Derzis calls “an absolute witch hunt.”) She owns a small Smith & Wesson (“I’ve got a cute little holster for it”) and a couple of Tasers, just in case.


‘Vagina’ Out Of Order In Michigan House

Rep. Lisa Brown talks to the Daily Beast’s Allison Yarrow about her controversial floor speech.

Two female state representatives were banned from speaking on the Michigan House floor Thursday, one for invoking her “vagina” in an earlier floor debate about abortion.

Rep. Lisa Brown's controversial speech on the floor of the House

“Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested my vagina, but no means no,” Rep. Lisa Brown said Wednesday as she argued against the 45-page House Bill 5711, which later passed the chamber and would regulate abortion and provider clinics so stringently that Brown says many will simply close.

Thursday, she was banned from speaking on the floor.


The Strange Resurrection of Fetal Pain

A generation after Ronald Reagan planted the idea, states embrace a scientifically dubious concept as a way to limit abortion, reports Allison Yarrow.

A generation after President Ronald Reagan and the film The Silent Scream opened a new front in the abortion war by introducing the American public to the emotionally charged if scientifically dubious idea that fetuses could feel pain, the concept has returned with a vengeance.

While there’s no way to prove a negative, it’s “unlikely” a fetus can perceive pain before the third trimester since that’s when nerve fibers reach the cerebral cortex, where consciousness is understood to reside. Before that connection is made, what appears to be a pain response, like a fetus pulling back from a scalpel, is merely blind reflex, according to Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence, a 2005 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that reviewed 2,000 previously published medical journal studies articles on the subject and reflects the consensus among doctors and scientists on the issue. That paper was written as a direct response to the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act first introduced by Kansas Republic Senator Sam Brownback in 2004, and intended “[t]o ensure that women seeking an abortion are fully informed regarding the pain experienced by their unborn child.”

While that bill never became law, states have taken up the pain awareness fight and advanced it past mandating that doctors give women seeking an abortion information about fetal suffering into an outright ban on abortion after about 20 weeks—undermining the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision allowing for abortion through at least 24 weeks. Six other states and Washington D.C. are considering similar bills.


Ric Feld / AP Photos

Life Laws

Arizona’s Extreme New Abortion Law

Life now starts earlier in Arizona: In practice, the state has banned abortions after about 18 weeks.

Despite its name, critics derided the Women’s Health and Safety Act that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law today as cruel, dangerous, and hostile to women—likely to deter many Arizona women from seeking an abortion, and to distress those who nonetheless go through with one.

Arizona, which defines gestational age as beginning on the first day of a woman’s last period, has in practice banned abortions after about 18 weeks post-fertilization (20 weeks from the last menstruation) except in the case of medical emergencies. While that provision has been much discussed, abortions after that point account for only about 1 percent of the procedures currently performed.

The stipulation likely to be most widely felt is what experts are calling an effective shutdown of medication abortions. These nonsurgical abortions are usually performed within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, and account for between 17 and 20 percent of all abortions, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-rights advocacy group. While women often take the pills at clinics and in their homes, the bill now mandates that a medical provider must have hospital privileges within 30 miles of where the procedure takes place. Many times clinics or homes are not within 30 miles of hospitals, and the distance prevents providers from other cities or even states from caring for women, says Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. Another factor that could contribute to what Nash called a "shutdown" of medication abortions is that the law requires abortion pills to be administered using outdated protocols, confusing providers and obscuring proper use of the drugs.


The Geography of Abortion Access. View the interactive

Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary

America’s Abortion Rights: A History

The Daily Beast looks back at the evolution of abortion rights in America.

Personhood USA: Going for the Abortion 'Jugular'

Is an embryo a person? Pro-life organization Personhood USA is pushing to ban abortion through initiatives that make it illegal to kill an embyro—and gaining momemtum around the country. Newsweek & The Daily Beast's Abigail Pesta discusses her profile of the organization.