Indiana OB-GYN Properly Reported 10-Year-Old's Rape And Abortion, So We Guess That's Over, Right? RIGHT?
Really nothing for them to 'investigate,' just like Benghazi. Oh shit.
It has been a rough week for rightwingers who've been trying to downplay the significance of that awful story involving a 10-year-old Ohio girl who became pregnant after she was raped, and had to travel to Indiana to get an abortion because Ohio's abortion ban doesn't include an exception for rape or incest. The story made international headlines, because it clearly illustrated the cruelty of such near-total abortion bans: Yes, 10-year-old rape victims really will be expected to carry their pregnancies to term. These really are forced birth laws.
Rightwing politicians and media quickly set out to undermine the reporting because it made so clear that their cherished dream of banning abortion isn't really about "life," but about controlling women's lives. So they suggested maybe the story was fabricated, because wasn't it a little too perfect in suggesting abortion bans are bad? And hey, wasn't the source of the story, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Indianapolis, just a publicity-seeking abortion advocate? Maybe she made it all up to promote more abortions!
The effort to label the story a hoax fell apart Wednesday, when Ohio officials announce the alleged rapist had been charged, and had confessed to raping the girl at least two times.
But Why Didn't The Doctor Report The ... Oh, She Did?
Without pausing, the very people who'd been calling the story a hoax switched to taking credit for pressuring authorities to solve the criminal case. They were happy to point out that the accused rapist was an undocumented immigrant, and then went right back to attacking Dr. Bernard, because maybe she hadn't properly reported the case as required by law. On his Fox News show Wednesday, Jesse Watters demanded to know whether Dr. Bernard would be arrested for abetting the rapist by not reporting the abortion as resulting from a rape.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican of course, went on Watters's show to announce he was investigating Dr. Bernard, calling her an "abortion activist acting as a doctor" and falsely insisting she already had a "history of failing to report" cases of child abuse, and by golly, "we're going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure. If she failed to report it in Indiana, it's a crime for – to not report, to intentionally not report."
If you read our headline, you know what happened to that claim: Yesterday, media outlets including Indianapolis TV station WXIN and the Washington Post (paywall-free gift link) obtained copies of the mandatory reporting forms that Dr. Bernard had filed shortly after the girl's abortion. She submitted them to the proper agencies, the reports indicated the pregnancy had been due to abuse, and Bernard even turned them in a day before the three-day deadline.
Looks like there may be very little for Rokita to investigate now. It'll be just like how, after some initial confusion, the facts about Benghazi came out pretty quickly and the story just blew over.
As the Post reports, Bernard's paperwork was all in order, as required by Indiana law. The "terminated pregnancy report" indicates that Dr. Bernard reported the abortion on July 2, two days after it was performed, and well within the three-day deadline for reporting an abortion for a patient under the age of 16. Also, the Post notes,
doctors must alert both Indiana’s department of health and department of child services — a way for authorities to quickly launch investigations into possible child abuse cases. [...]
According to the report obtained by The Post, Bernard alerted Indiana’s department of health and department of child services of the girl’s abortion on July 2, noting that she had been a victim of abuse.
You can view absurdly small images of the report in the WXIN story; they do not identify the patient.
OK, But What About Her 'History' ... Oh, That Accusation's Crap Too?
Another part of the accusation against Bernard has also largely been debunked; that's the claim that she had a "history" of failing to report terminations of pregnancy for underage patients. As we noted yesterday, Watters got that from a PJ Media story that repeated accusations made in a 2018 news release from Indiana Right To Life, listing Bernard among nine Indiana abortion providers who had allegedly not properly reported abortions in 48 cases in 2017 and 2018. That news release contained no specific accusations against Bernard, and didn't even link to the "consumer complaints" filed against the doctors.
You may be shocked to learn, dear readers, that the complaints appear to be a big pile of nothing, as the Post reports.
However, those claims appear to be stretched. They’re based on 48 instances where the doctors reported abortions on minors to the Department of Health but left blank a field asking for the date when the cases were reported to the Department of Child Services, according to a 2018 story in the South Bend Tribune.
Indiana Right to Life filed complaints against the physicians with the state health department and the attorney general’s office. The outcome of the state’s investigation into the complaints is unclear. A spokeswoman for the organization said “the State did look into it,” but when asked to share related documents, she referred The Post to the attorney general’s office, which did not address an inquiry about them.
While the Post wasn't able to get any response from the Indiana Department of Health or from Rokita's office, it does note that
A review of records from DocInfo — a physician licensure and disciplinary information data set from the Federation of State Medical Boards — and the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana did not show any disciplinary activity or license terminations against Bernard or any of the other doctors.
When WXIN asked Rokita's office for comment, the station received only a terse statement saying "As we stated, we are gathering evidence from multiple sources and agencies related to these allegations. Our legal review of it remains open."
Well sure, but now local and national media have already done the heavy lifting. And given all the paperwork involved in medicine, maybe Rokita's office may yet find some form that wasn't filled out perfectly and build that up into a scandal of some kind.
So 10-Year-Olds CAN Access Abortion If They're Raped? ... Oh.
Also yesterday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost repeated his dishonest assertion that the girl never had to travel to Indiana, because Ohio's abortion ban includes an exception allowing abortions to save the life of the pregnant patient — as long as it's a "medical emergency" and the patient is at risk of death or "serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." We addressed this yesterday, noting that while continuing a pregnancy is very risky for a 10-year-old, the language of Ohio's law is prohibitively narrow, so the girl wouldn't actually qualify for the "life of the mother" exception unless she really were likely to die right away — not simply facing risk months down the road.
But what the hell, Yost doubled down and tweeted out an "explainer" of the exception yesterday. Notably, Yost's tweet did not claim the exemption would apply to a pregnant 10-year-old, which is what he'd claimed Monday on Fox News. Wasn't that clever of him?
Ohio doctors were quick to point out that the law very narrowly specifies that the threat to a patient's life has to be imminent, requiring immediate intervention, or that it involve a medically diagnosed condition that might cause death or "substantial and irreversible impairment" — and that neither of those situations applies to an otherwise healthy 10-year-old early on in a pregnancy. (The law also explicitly prohibits abortions for the sake of a patient's mental health.)
Attorney Ken White explained in a Twitter thread that nothing in the "explainer"
would make a doctor reasonably confident that performing an abortion on a raped 10-year-old, absent a specific and documented issue about the particular raped 10-year-old.
Could a physician conclude that any 10-year-old faces a substantial risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function if they gestate and give birth? Maybe, so I hear from doctors. But is it clear that authorities will agree? Absolutely not. You’d be a fool, and commit malpractice, to tell a doctor they could rely on that argument. You’d be counting on the decency, fairness, and justice of the government.
And bear in mind this is the AG’s BEST STATEMENT to support the prior assertions that a 10-year-old could get an abortion in Ohio. If there were a clearer argument they’d make it.
The people telling you the 10-year-old could get an abortion in Ohio are ignorant or lying.
At Least Indiana Is Still ... Well, Shit, Just Get To The Bad News
For the moment, abortion in Indiana is still legal up to 22 weeks. But Jim Bopp, an Indiana lawyer and general counsel for National "Right to Life," wants everyone to know that under the model legislation he's drafted, that little girl would have to stay pregnant because God wants that. The Republican-dominated Indiana Lege is working on an abortion ban that hasn't yet been drafted, but which Politico reports is likely "to hew closely to Bopp’s model legislation." His bill has no rape or incest exception, but it does include one of those very narrow exceptions to protect a patient whose life is in immediate danger.
If the eventual Indiana bill does follow Bopp's model, then there's no question about the lack of options a pregnant 10-year-old would have, Bopp explained:
She would have had the baby, and as many women who have had babies as a result of rape, we would hope that she would understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.
Bopp didn't explain what the "benefit" of carrying a rapist's baby to term would be for a fifth-grader, but at least he's honest about the law's intent: You will have babies if you're raped, but maybe if you're on death's door, you might not have to carry the fetus until it can be delivered by caesarian section.
Bopp acknowledged some states might decide to include rape and incest exceptions, but he's not wild about it, since, "as heartwrenching as those circumstances are, we don’t think we should devalue the life of the baby because of the sins of the father.”
Good luck, Indiana.
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We don't want death panels, do we?
Louisiana is one of several states that has an abortion "trigger" law designed to ban virtually all abortions as soon as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. In fact, lawmakers in Louisiana, like those in a bunch of red states, were so thrilled at the prospect of criminalizing abortion (and competing to pass the strictest law) that they passed multiple trigger laws. They're currently on hold from going into effect, following a temporary injunction in a lawsuit brought by women's healthcare providers.
As in most states, Louisiana's trigger laws do include exemptions that purport to allow abortions that are necessary to protect pregnant people from death or severe injury if the pregnancy continued, but the lawsuit argues that the exceptions are too vaguely defined — and, because of the multiple laws, outright confusing — to actually provide any guidance to healthcare providers, who risk going to jail for years and paying enormous fines if they provide care that's later determined to have been illegal. Keep in mind that the vagueness is the point, to prevent as many abortions as possible, regardless of the death toll among women, who only count as baby delivery systems anyway.
Tuesday, a group of Louisiana healthcare providers filed a set of affidavits (PDF link) explaining that because the laws are so vaguely written, there's serious danger that doctors may in many cases decide to delay or deny care if they feel they might end up in prison for treating a patient who's not quite in enough crisis to meet the vague and contradictory standards in the trigger laws. If you have some time, just read through a few of them — they're chilling.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent (free gift link!) summarizes several of the affidavits, and since the PDF doesn't want to let us copy-paste from it, we'll go with Sargent's excerpts here. The running theme in the affidavits is that the trigger laws will force healthcare providers to weigh their oaths to do no harm against their understandable desire to stay out of prison and keep providing healthcare. And no matter what abortion opponents may claim, the dividing line between medically necessary emergency treatment and godless fetus-murder is not necessarily clear, particularly when the laws are intentionally vague:
[An] emergency room practitioner testifies that medical emergencies related to pregnancy will be much harder to evaluate. Medical pros will be working “under threat of prosecution for making critical, lifesaving decisions about how to treat patients with dangerous pregnancies and miscarriages.”
Still another warns that doctors will be reluctant to direct patients to seek emergency treatment amid pregnancy complications, for fear of being accused of “attempting to induce abortion,” possibly resulting in patient death.
And one gynecologist testifies to the fear that doctors will feel forced to “refuse necessary, appropriate care to avoid prosecution.” She notes that it’s unthinkable that she may be forced to “choose between my patients and my liberty.”
And as we will keep repeating forever, ALL these laws are written to be as strict as possible, not to provide any clear standards of care but rather to prevent what rightwing legislators are absolutely certain will be doctors and patients "cheating" to sneak abortions past the law, because women and doctors are all deceitful baby killers who must be threatened with punishment. The Cult of the Fertilized Egg demands nothing less, and if there are some casualties, well that's to be expected in a holy war.
Joanna Wright, one of the attorneys in the Louisiana lawsuit, told Sargent that
“Such draconian laws in states with trigger bans or other abortion bans make it difficult if not impossible to provide a standard-of-care to women.” [...]
Doctors will “stop practicing in these states, and we will see a kind of emptying out of high-quality medical professionals who can render lifesaving care to women,” Wright told me. “Because they don’t want to practice under the threat of criminal prosecution and penalties.”
That's the point, after all: driving practitioners out of business, because they're butchers. If some women die or suffer horribly as a result, that's fine, since "life" is being protected. Please ignore the minor detail that in many of these cases, the fetus simply isn't viable either. Again, acceptable losses to the "Life" crowd.
Louisiana, of course, is just one of many states with "trigger" laws, or multiple trigger laws, so this issue isn't going away any time soon. There are going to be tons of lawsuits, both before the laws go into effect and far more as states attempt to enforce them. Doctors will be prosecuted for attempting to provide care for their patients, and patients will die because they or their doctors are frightened into delaying or forgoing a necessary medical treatment.
And Jesus Fucking Christ on an e-bike in the rain, we haven't even touched on the inevitable threat of "bounty hunter" lawsuits from randos in states like Texas, Idaho, or Oklahoma that enforce their abortion bans by allowing private lawsuits against anyone involved in providing abortions.
Maybe Canada will invade after all. Please?
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Wonkette isn't usually a big Ball fan, but we'll give her this one.
We have written about the many idiotic things that Bill Maher said over the years on his journey to being a full-fledged conservative like Joe Rogan. But these moments where he received some pushback from guest Krystal Ball from last Saturday's "Real Time with Bill Maher" could not be ignored.
Flanked by James Kirchick and Maher himself, Ball spent most of the guest segment introducing some facts to the echo chamber on Maher's set. One of the biggest was when Kirchick and Maher tried to blame inflation on Biden "putting too much money into the economy." (Translation: We gave poor and middle-class people money instead of shoveling it at business owners, one time.)
While this type of bullshit is not surprising from a conservative writer like Kirchick, Maher's agreement and subsequent surprise when Ball fact-checked him is worth noting:
\u201cBill Maher has always been out-of-touch, and it\u2019s gotten worse, but to forget an entire stock market crash?! When even HE mentioned it in his own show?!!\u201d— The M3Writer (@The M3Writer) 1655739587
Pundits and politicians often talk about the short-term memories of voters, but for a "comedian," and one who also does political punditry, Maher forgetting there was a stock market crash just two years ago in 2020 seems ridiculous. While Ball implored Maher to "look it up" because he acted like it was a secret, it was reported at the time by many news outlets. We even included it in our 2020 Year End roundup! But what makes this moment seem so out-of-touch is Maher mentioning it on multiple monologues of his own show. Like this one the very week that the Federal Reserve injected $1.5 trillion dollars, easily found on his YouTube channel.
The conversation then moved to gas prices, which of course it did because conservatives like Kirchick try to pretend both that the president controls gas prices and that it wasn't also affected by the pandemic like the stock market before.
\u201cKrystal Ball dealing with some misogyny to get some gas price facts through to Bill Maher\u2019s audience.\u201d— The M3Writer (@The M3Writer) 1655738452
Ball made the best attempt to inject facts there while Kirchick kept throwing disingenuous bullshit about the Keystone XL pipeline and how we pissed off Saudi Arabia. Ball pointed out the hypocrisy of calling out Russia's human rights abuses while advocating to be nice to a country that kills journalists with bone saws. Ball then pointed out that despite conservatives mentioning these problems, they have done the opposite to fix them. But you can sense the misogyny and disdain from Maher having to deal with Ball when he mutters under his breath "let us finish what we're saying and then you can shit on it" after interrupting Ball fact-checking them again. Which, if Frank Luntz is to be believed, seems to be a cardinal sin on Maher's show.
Ball did, miraculously, get Maher to concede price gouging by oil companies who brag on earning calls about using inflation to their benefit. So ... yay, I guess?
But what Krystal Ball could never get Maher to concede is his obsession with progressives/"The Left"/liberals/Democrats and their damn "cancel culture."
\u201cMaher\u2019s obsession with his own \u201cvictimhood\u201d because he can\u2019t just say what he wants to without consequences, as he was promised white supremacy & patriarchy, is why he can sit there with a straight face and say Biden \u201cpanders too much to the Left.\u201d\u201d— The M3Writer (@The M3Writer) 1655739826
Because when Maher says President Joe Biden "panders too much to the Left," it's his 'cancel culture' grievances that he's talking about. As Ball explained, Biden's approval ratings show quite the opposite, since he polled highest when he moved to get progressive policies and his numbers collapsed when "Build Back Better" bill fell apart and it became clear we were hostages to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Biden rarely speaks on social issues and when he does it is mostly to uphold things we all should agree on. Things like respecting dignity and equality for everyone and striving for a "more perfect union," whether you are in the LBTQ community or Latinx or POC. These are not controversial ... unless you're a bigot or bigot adjacent like Maher has been for years.
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You probably just heard it wrong.
Fresh off announcing Monday that he was certain there was "rock solid" support for the bipartisan gun bill framework from at least 10 Republicans in the Senate — presumably including himself — Sen. John Cornyn, the lead GOP negotiator on the package, told a reporter Wednesday that all he wants in the world is for Democrats to please just make some sense to Republicans for once, please.
Cornyn noted that he and other members of the bipartisan group would meet Wednesday afternoon to nail down specifics of the bill, including a provision that would close the so-called "boyfriend loophole." Current federal law prohibits anyone from owning a gun if they've been convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse toward a spouse or former spouse, or toward someone with whom they've cohabited or had a child. The bipartisan framework announced over the weekend would extend that prohibition to non-married romantic partners who've been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence or stalking as well. The problem, Cornyn said, was that he and other Republicans were worried about the exact definition of who the new law would apply to.
Sometimes when people use the same word they mean it differently or people hear it differently. So getting it in writing is critical.
Cornyn explained that he's open to broadening the pool of offenders who might be prevented from owning firearms, but that
I'm begging [Democrats] to come up with something that I can get my arms and my head around right now because we need something very clear. And so far, we haven't gotten there yet.
Oh shit, this is about LGBTQ people isn't it? Cornyn didn't say that exactly, but I bet you a nickel it's at least in part about what kind of domestic abuse victims "deserve" protection. Or maybe he's worried that if non-married partners/former partners are kept from owning a gun over a little old misdemeanor domestic violence conviction, the law might keep firearms out of the hands of abusers who weren't really truly abusive, and just a little bit abusive? No telling.
Probably he's worried it might somehow help trans people. Just guessing wildly there.
Heck, maybe Cornyn's just setting up an escape route, so Republicans can vaguely blame "vague Democratic terms" if they decide to chicken out on passing even the mildest gun law.
Still, Sen Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), the lead Democratic negotiator, said there wasn't too much to worry about, saying he believed any issues in writing the bill seemed "overcome-able" and that “There’s always going to be some polite disagreements over how that turns into text."
HuffPost's Igor Bobic explains that while many Republicans had previously opposed closing the "boyfriend loophole" when it was included in renewals of the Violence Against Women Act, Cornyn told him that the measure was included in the new gun framework because it was “important to our Democratic colleagues.” That translates to Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), who pushed for it to be included, although closing the loophole has been a longtime project for many Democrats, most notably Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who introduced the first bill to fix the loophole in 2013.
The change really would make a lot of victims of domestic violence safer; as HuffPost reports,
Nearly half of all women killed in America are murdered by a current or former intimate partner, and research shows that access to a gun makes it five times more likely an abusive partner will kill his female victim. Every month in the United States, 70 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner, according to Everytown For Gun Safety. Women in the United States are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other wealthy nations.
And there is a strong link between domestic violence and mass shootings. Research from The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence found about two-thirds of mass shooters between 2014 and 2019 either killed a partner or family member or had a history of domestic violence. The perpetrators of the massacres of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, and of 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, both had histories of domestic violence.
It also really says something about America's culture of guns, violence, and misogyny that we have plenty of data with which to recognize such correlations, and now I believe it would be a good idea to lie right here on this kitchen floor for a while.
And of course we don't even have a draft bill yet. We won't be at all surprised if some Republicans announce that whatever shape the legislation takes, they simply can't bring themselves to support any of it because the very phrase "boyfriend loophole" has ever been said at any point in history by anyone, making the bill discriminatory against men and far too tainted to consider. And some clever "Christian" lawmaker will no doubt explain that if women want to be protected from gun violence, they should do the right thing and marry their abusers.
Why yes, there's room on the floor here, and the Roomba just swept.
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