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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Mastermind’ Behind Abbott’s Draconian Texas Abortion Ban Is a Longtime Anti-LGBTQ Conspiracy Theorist

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Americans woke up last Wednesday morning to a new reality: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark legislation granting a woman a right to an abortion, was violently under attack through the passage of a new “heartbeat bill” in Texas.

That law—which bans abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy, makes no exception for rape or incest, and allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs or aids a woman in getting an abortion—is the first so-called heartbeat bill to have become law and actually be enforced. The Supreme Court did not swoop in and prevent the law’s enforcement as some had hoped: That evening, the top court allowed the law to stand in a 5-4 decision, with the five right-wing lawmakers firmly in camp against Roe simply claiming it was a procedural issue that abortion providers had not addressed, voting in effect for Texan women to lose the right to abortion provided under Roe.

For Janet Porter, the Texas law was a dream come true. The longtime religious-right activist took to Rumble, a posterboard of her book, “A Heartbeat Away,” propped up in the background as she announced the news. “That makes Texas the first state in the nation to actually enforce their heartbeat law of the 14 states who have passed them,” she told the camera.

“Grasp this for a moment,” she said, ecstatic, a smile spread across her face, her hands gesturing in excitement. “There is a place in the United States where nearly every child facing abortion is now legally protected. It is historic.”

“Today in Texas, if a heartbeat is detected, the baby is protected,” she said. “Soon, the nation will follow.”

Porter is often seen as the mastermind behind so-called heartbeat legislation, which bans women from having abortions after a “heartbeat” is detected—as early as six weeks in some cases and, for many women, before they’re aware that they are pregnant. Medical experts say the term “fetal heartbeat” is scientifically inaccurate, noting that at six weeks, the embryo—which is not yet a fetus—will have not yet developed a heart. But the term “fetal heartbeat” pulls at heartstrings, and its marketability, for a lack of better term, has Porter to thank.

While Porter has made restricting access abortion her main priority, the longtime religious-right activist’s extremism has been well documented on these pages. As Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, Porter took to her radio program to spread the racist birther conspiracy theory championed by Donald Trump. Once Obama was elected, the conspiracies didn’t stop: As Right Wing Watch reported, she falsely claimed “Obama would orchestrate food shortages to starve conservatives to death, use a swine flu outbreak as an excuse to lock them up in concentration camps, and use Obamacare to deny them healthcare and eliminate them.” On the pages of World Net Daily, a far-right conspiracy website, she frequently penned columns—her last, published Dec. 11, 2020, refused to accept Trump’s loss in the 2020 election.

When she wasn’t spreading noxious conspiracy theories, the activist was attempting to beat back the advance of gay rights, claiming Christians would be labeled criminals, rounded up, and tossed in jail if gay people had rights. She also trumpeted “conversion therapy,” a range of dangerous and discredited practices meant to change one’s sexual orientation, and was labeled the “The Architect of the ‘Conversion Therapy’ Campagin” by the New York Times. The activist, purportedly so concerned about the lives of children, even served as a spokeswoman for Roy Moore, the former Alabama chief justice who unsuccessfully ran for Senate, defending him after he was accused of child molestation and attacking the woman who accused him.

At the heart of Porter’s activism is an effort to spread a fundamentalist version of Christianity. In 2010, her views became so extreme that VCY, the Christian radio station broadcasting her show, canceled it, citing “the drift of the program toward ‘dominion’ theology”—that is, the idea that Christians are called to take complete control over every aspect of human life in order to bring about the return of Christ. Among those aspects of human life: abortion and women’s bodies.

And so in 2011, Porter, working as the head of anti-choice group Faith2Action, found an Ohio state legislator, Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, to champion legislation she had drafted to restrict access to abortion. The Ohio bill was the first “heartbeat bill” of its kind and so extreme—limiting abortion at the detection of a “heartbeat,” making no exceptions for incest or rape—that other anti-choice groups and legislators balked at it. Questioning the constitutionality of such a measure, they wondered whether the legislation would do more harm than good for their cause. Supporters of the bill said incremental steps weren’t working and were eager to directly challenge Roe. Porter herself was explicit about her goal, stating in 2017, that her “heartbeat bill” was “the foot in the door” to totally outlawing abortion.

“It was not my original idea, but I’ve been a pro-life leader here in Columbus for 26 years, and I’m committed to pushing the courts as far as we can go to protect human life, and that’s clearly what this bill is all about,” Wachtmann stated in February 2011 shortly before he introduced the bill.

At that point, Faith2Action already had a full-throttle pressure campaign underway to get the legislation passed. Under Porter’s leadership, the group urged its supporters to send heart-shaped red balloons to the Ohio governor and state representatives ahead of Valentine’s Day, “encouraging their support of the Heartbeat Bill” and to “Have a Heart!”—a message Porter repeated in a column for the far-right WND site. The bill passed in the state House later that year.

When the legislation stalled in the state Senate in 2012, Faith2Action took out a full-page ad in the Columbus Dispatch and made thousands of robocalls asking its supporters to contact state senators. That ad featured Dr. John Willke, founder of the National Right to Life and another sponsor of the bill. Revered in anti-abortion rights circles, Willke had perpetuated the false myth that a woman’s body can resist conception in rape, which may be among the reasons why the bill did not provide exceptions for abortion in case of rape. Another is that Porter doesn’t think women should be allowed to have any abortion, stating in 2017, “We’re not for killing any child, especially an innocent child for the crime of his father.”

The bill had wide support among religious-right figures both in state and out of state. An archived version of Faith2Action’s site for the bill lists E.W. Jackson, Samuel Rodriguez, Mat Staver, James Robison, Rick Joyner, Wendy Wright, Ken Blackwell, Jay Sekulow, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and Frank Pavone as supporters. It also featured a list of current and former elected officials: former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Jim Jordan (then an Ohio state legislator), Rep. Louie Gohmert, former Sen. Rick Santorum, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Rep. Michele Bachmann, then Rep. Steve King, and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

When the bill did reach then Gov. John Kasich, he vetoed it twice, preferring to sign another strict abortion ban at 12 weeks and citing constitutionality issues with the “heartbeat” legislation. But the bill found a champion in his Republican successor, Gov. Mike DeWine, who signed Ohio’s “heartbeat bill” into law in 2019 before Planned Parenthood and abortion clinics represented by the American Civil Liberties Union sued. A federal judge issued a temporary stay on the abortion ban and extended it again this spring.

A slew of red states followed suit, passing their own “heartbeat” abortion bans. The legislation mostly faced the same fate as the Ohio law—that is, except for Texas.

The Texas law provides a loophole those others did not: Instead of the state attorney general or other state officials enforcing the law, the law explicitly prevents state governments from enforcing it and essentially deputizes every citizen to sue anyone who performs an abortion or aids a woman in getting one. That leaves abortion clinics at a loss of who to sue. The purpose by the law’s drafters: to prevent intervention from federal courts.

So when the Supreme Court had a chance to stay the legislation, the conservative majority essentially said that the nation’s top court had its hands tied, that abortion providers in the state had not addressed the “complex and novel” procedural questions and would have to do so before the Supreme Court would take it up.

The Texas law also provides a bounty to incentivize enforcement: Any person who successfully sues would get $10,000 and their legal fees covered. Defendants who are successful are not entitled to have their legal fees covered, and anyone who aided a woman in getting an abortion could be sued multiple times. The effect is that most if not all clinics in the state have stopped providing abortions after six weeks for fear of bankruptcy.

The Texas law was sponsored by Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes, who asked conservative litigator Jonathan F. Mitchell how anti-abortion legislation could avoid the fate of other “heartbeat bills” that languished without enforcement after federal judges issued injunctions. Mitchell, a former Texas solicitor general and active member of the Federalist Society, was already steeped in the religious-right effort to overturn Roe, representing towns sued by the ACLU over their ordinances that made abortion a crime. In 2017, while working alongside with Alliance Defending Freedom on a case about religious freedom, he trotted out a theory that he’d go on to use in Texas, claiming that no matter how unconstitutional a law was, if it did not charge a state official with the duty of enforcement, it couldn’t produce a federal lawsuit. Mitchell would become the primary architect of the Texas abortion law’s private-enforcement provision.

“We knew we had to have another way,” said Hughes, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We were going to find a way to pass a heartbeat bill that was going to be upheld.”

It’s unclear how much Porter, who was a supporter of the Texas law, had to do with this particular loophole, but the drafters of that particular bill have Porter’s popularization of the “heartbeat bill” to thank and the religious right’s decades-long campaign to overturn Roe of which she was a part.

National religious-right organizations, like ADF, have championed a state-by-state approach to chip away at the landmark legislation. This spring, the Supreme Court announced it will hear a case about a Mississippi law banning abortions at 15 weeks, a law that was based on ADF’s model legislation and a major threat to a woman’s right to an abortion. But so far, no effort has dealt as big of a blow to Roe as has Porter’s “heartbeat” legislation. Already, other states are considering a law based on Texas’ version of the “heartbeat bill.”

As she celebrated last Wednesday, Porter, too, looked forward.

“The National Association of Christian Lawmakers just adopted the Texas version of the heartbeat law as their model legislation,” she said, a smile dancing across her face between sentences. “That means we’re about to see a lot more heartbeat bills become law and actually get enforced.”

 

This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission .

Image: Screenshot via Right Wing Watch/Twitter

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Bioweapons? FFS’: House Oversight Chairman Mocked for Pushing Unfounded Balloon Conspiracy Theories

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House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer is pushing baseless conspiracy theories about the Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon floating over the United States – currently, over Montana – that the Pentagon is tracking, and he’s being widely mocked for his unfounded fear-mongering.

Fox News host Harris Faulkner set the stage perfectly for the far-right Republican from Kentucky, declaring the balloon is “the size of three buses” and that “China says was taken by wind – wind that we can’t substantiate.”

The Kentucky congressman who has falsely described President Biden as “compromised,” and stated he is going to target and investigate him, told Faulkner, “I have concern this is going to be another example of the Biden administration’s weakness on the national scale.”

READ MORE: ‘Ran a Bribery Center Blocks From the White House’: Comer Mocked for Claiming No Evidence of Trump Influence Peddling

Comer, 50, a former agriculture commissioner, lamented about Biden’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, claiming it hurt the reputation of America’s military and Commander in Chief.

The balloon, he said, should “never have been allowed” to cross over into the United States.

“My concern is that the federal government doesn’t know what’s in that balloon. Is that bioweapons in that balloon? Did that balloon take off from Wuhan?” he asked, pushing unfounded theories while echoing the far-right’s false claims the COVID-19 virus was developed as a bioweapon and escaped the lab in Wuhan, China.

After suggesting it might have bioweapons, he then said it was “very concerning” the balloon was not shot down before reaching the U.S. – which could have spread the alleged bioweapon.

Faulkner, seen by some as a propagandist, then jumped in to exhibit her surprise that “people on Capitol Hill were not briefed” about the balloon.

READ MORE: Trump Spent 2020 Attacking Ballot Drop Boxes – but Now He’s Demanding They Be Deployed in Churches

“Calling for the president to ‘shoot down’ the craft,” The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona adds, “some in the GOP called the president ‘Beijing Biden’ while claiming this is further proof that ‘Communist China’ doesn’t ‘fear or respect’ Biden.”

“Honestly,” communications strategist Doug Gordon noted, “just surprised he didn’t find a way to include Hunter’s laptop into that conspiracy theory.”

“Actually, he did later on,” Baragona replied.

National security expert Denver Riggleman, the Republican former U.S. Congressman from Virginia who assisted the Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, tweeted: “Bioweapons? FFS”

Referring to Comer’s unfounded bioweapons claim, one Twitter user observed, “Isn’t that more reason not to shoot at it? I’m not saying I know what to do, but logic would dictate ‘don’t shoot at balloons full of bioweapons.’ Right?”

Another noted that the Oversight Chairman should have been listening to the Pentagon’s briefing “taking place now instead of running to get on Fox to talk about something he has no expertise in.”

READ MORE: ‘When Was Your Most Recent Period?’: Student Athletes in Florida May Be Required to Share Menstrual History

And yet another, wholly mocking Comer, who holds far-right anti-LGBTQ beliefs, said: “Or worse, what if it has woke trans undocumented drag queen athletes?”

Another, mocking Comer, noted: “If they were sending a bio weapon, why would they park it over sparsely populated Montana? *rolls eyes*”

Watch the video above or at this link.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

GOP’s New ‘Bizarre Obsession’ Shows It Has ‘Gone Crazy’: Morning Joe

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MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough ripped the Republican Party for focusing on a “bizarre obsession” to stoke a culture war that targets vulnerable teenagers.

A proposed draft of a Florida physical education form would require all high school athletes to provide information on their menstrual cycle to state athletic officials, which the “Morning Joe” host bashed as an unnecessary and cruel attack on a minuscule number of transgender teens who play sports.

“The percentage is so small that they’re doing this to every girl in Florida schools?” Scarborough said. “Talk about overkill. Just stop already.”

“I mean, let’s talk about that Florida law,” Scarborough continued. “Can you imagine doing that as a young girl when you were, like, in high school, middle school? Come on, talk about, again, the obsession over 0.003 percent of the population, and then the unbelievably small number of transgender students who are playing sports. The Florida Republican Party has gone crazy. They sent out tons of mailers on this, the obsession, and now they’re making young girls self-report on menstrual cycles because of this bizarre obsession?”

READ: America finally facing politician who has Mussolini’s guile, ruthlessness and willingness to see people die

“This is stupid,” he added. “This is another stupid extension of a culture war where he’s trying to create a culture war around something where there is not a war.”

Watch the segment below or at this link.

 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Absolutely Repulsive’: Some House Republicans Are Now Wearing an Assault Weapon Lapel Pin

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At least three House Republicans this week began wearing pins in the shape of an assault weapon on their clothing. U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY), U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), and U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) were all caught on camera with the pins, leading some to express outrage.

U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) was among the first to circulate images of the two Republicans wearing the pins.

“Where are these assault weapon pins coming from? Who is passing these out?” he asked.

Aaron Fritschner, the Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), captured an image of Congressman Clyde wearing the pin on his tie.

“Absolutely repulsive,” Duke University Professor of Global Health and Public Policy, Gavin Yamey said in response to the assault weapon pins. “We have mass shootings almost daily, and the Republicans are wearing assault weapon pins FFS.”

READ MORE: Watch: Angry, Santos Reacts to News DOJ is Investigating His Alleged ‘Ghosting’ With $3000 Raised for Veteran’s Dying Dog

One of the Members wearing the pins, Congresswoman Luna, on Wednesday also participated in a House Natural Resources panel debate to push back on Democrats’ attempt to ban firearms inside the Committee’s hearing room.

She tweeted later, “The same Democrats who are voting to send firearms to Ukraine are telling me I can’t carry one.”

Politico reports the meeting (video below) was “raucous.”

Sociology professor and author Samuel Perry observed, “Republican members of congress are wearing AR-15 lapel pins. That’s not just tone deaf. We find Republicans value gun rights more than any other right, including freedom of speech or religion. No need for a flag or cross pin. The gun is both their patriotic & religious symbol.”

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) called wearing the pins “freaking sick,” and noted “they are doing it during #GVSurvivorsWeek,” the hashtag for National Gun Violence Survivors Week.

READ MORE: Hunter Biden Is Fighting Back

U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) also pointed to National Gun Violence Survivors Week.

“While gun violence continues to be the leading cause of death for children in our country,
@GOP members are wearing assault rifle pins during #GVSurvivorsWeek. Shameful.”

American historian of Christianity Diana Butler Bass did not mince words: “Always said it was just a matter of time before the GOP replaced the cross with an assault rifle. Guns are their god.”

Democratic Texas state Rep. Gene Wu said the GOP “has stopped playing coy and is now openly and unabashedly praising mass shooters. Will there be special versions to celebrate specific mass shootings?”

Professor of International Relations Nicholas Grossman said: “Legislators from party that defends recent coup attempt by their up-til-recently—and possibly still—party leader replace traditional patriotic flag pin with a pin depicting a rifle.”

California state Sen. Dave Min weighed in, saying, “The debate over 2A [the Second Amendment] has never been about 2A. It’s about ‘disrupting’ civilized society as we know it, and trolling the ordinary Americans concerned about our insane levels of gun violence. That’s why it’s the biggest assholes who are most loudly touting irresponsible gun access.”

The addition of the assault weapon pins to Republican Members’ clothing comes on the heels of U.S. Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) distributing grenades to fellow Members last week. In a note he declared they are “inert.”

See video and photos above or at this link.

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