Monday, September 26, 2022

How the U.S. Supreme Court Unleashed a Corporate Criminal Takeover of This Country by Thom Hartmann


Republicans in the Senate [on September 22nd]  killed legislation passed through the House that would require “dark money” to be publicly disclosed: not a single Republican voted for it, although every Democrat in attendance did. Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, we learned Wednesday, is going to spend $42 million on the midterm elections, focusing on flipping evangelical Hispanics toward the GOP.

Leonard Leo, head of The Federalist Society so famous for providing Trump and McConnell with rightwing judges to pack federal courts and the Supreme Court, recently received a $1.6 billion contribution, tax-free. So much money is sloshing around in our political system — both what we know of and the billions in truly dark money that we know nothing about — that honest politicians are buried and actual criminals are stepping up.

Donald Trump‘s phone call to Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was probably the clearest illustration of this recent incarnation of his lifelong criminality. Although it’s rapidly being eclipsed by his theft and probable sale to foreign dictators of classified documents.

Over the last 40 years, career criminals like Trump have increasingly moved out of the business world and the streets and into politics, something for which we can thank the Supreme Court. There are, among us, a small number of individuals who are career criminals. They have literally spent their entire lives skirting or outright breaking the law, and not only believe the law doesn’t apply to them, but actually delight in getting away with their crimes.

Because all of us have, at one time or another in our lives, broken a law or told lies; we tend to assume that these career criminals are just like us but only got caught in that one unlucky moment, like that time you drove home after a second glass of wine, or made up an excuse to tell your boss. 

But they’re not like you and me. There’s something fundamentally different about these people. And the failure to recognize that goes to the core of the crisis within the Republican Party and our overall political system today.

Back when I was in my late teens, I got a job as a manager of a GNC store in a mall in Okemos, Michigan. There was a test that I had to give to all job applicants to determine their “honesty.” The test asked really weird questions, along the lines of: “One of your very best employees just came to you to return some money to the till, money that she had borrowed from the till because a few months back she needed it to help pay for an emergency medical procedure for her child. She has saved up to pay the money back, and is now trying to do so. What do you do?” Or: “Your mother just called and told to you that she’s been shoplifting at the local store when her food stamps run out and your younger sister is really hungry. What do you do?”

The test, from a national testing chain, went on with 20 or 30 similar questions. In almost every case, the only correct answer to the multiple-choice test was, “call the police and send them to jail.” I protested to my district manager, saying that I would’ve flunked the test, or would’ve had to lie to pass it. There’s no way I turn in my mother or call the police on somebody with a sick child.

My manager pointed out to me that the only way to pass the honesty test is to lie on it, and it was actually designed that way. They expect people to say that they will call the police even for the tiniest of crimes. I protested that I thought that was crazy, that we were requiring people to lie to pass an honesty test, and that made no sense at all to me.

What he explained was that there’s no test in the world that can tell if a person really and truly will or will not call the police on anyone. But the test does tell whether a person understands the difference between right and wrong. “I know it’s hard for you to realize or believe,” he said as I recall, “but there are some people who literally don’t know what is right and what is wrong. And the people who don’t have that basic understanding, or do know but don’t think the rules apply to them, are the ones most likely to steal from us or let their friends go shoplifting.

“The test expects people to lie by representing themselves as being honest, because to lie on the test they would first have to know the difference between right and wrong, so they could lie and say that they would always do the right thing.”

One of the big challenges the American media and our political system have with Donald Trump and a number of his enablers is that, like the people I was testing to filter out from our potential pool of employees, they are actually career criminals with no deep understanding of, or respect for, right and wrong. They may know the words and concepts, but truly believe they don’t apply to them.

Donald Trump has been scamming, grifting and stealing his entire life, going all the way back to stealing his father’s money from his parents and his siblings. He is a career criminal. Many of the people he surrounded himself with are, similarly, career criminals even though they appear to have had high-profile, high-powered positions in government or industry.

Even Forbes magazine called Trump’s commerce secretary, billionaire Wilbur Ross, a professional “grifter” for all the scams he has perpetrated in his career, and now we learn that Clarence Thomas’ wife was allegedly in on trying to overthrow our democracy.

While fundamentally dishonest people have been a problem for our society and business community for centuries, it has particularly become a problem in our political world since 1976 and 1978. That was when the Supreme Court explicitly ruled that billionaires or corporations giving massive amounts of money to politicians and political parties is no longer considered bribery or corruption but, instead, is “free speech“ protected by the First Amendment. 

Never before in all of American history had bribing politicians been considered free-speech, until the Buckley v Valejo and First National Bank v Belotti Supreme Court decisions as I laid out in The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America. 

In 2010, conservatives of the Court doubled down on these decisions and even expanded their scope with Citizens United. The result after these SCOTUS decisions was an ocean of corporate and billionaire money flowing into politics, sweeping Ronald Reagan into the White House on a tsunami of cash from the fossil fuel industry.

In the 40+ years since then, billionaire and corporate bribery of politicians has become the norm, and even institutionalized with national and state-based “policy networks,” PACs and SuperPACs, and dark money groups like the ones affiliated with Mitch McConnell that just poured tens of millions into this year’s elections.

All this money now sloshing around in our political system has produced the result the dissenting Supreme Court justices worried about. It’s become a giant magnet that draws career criminals and authoritarians into politics, and then helps them become fabulously wealthy as they do the bidding of the corporations and wealthy people who fund their elections and careers.

It’s normalized the “revolving door” where people go into government positions, particularly in regulatory agencies, and make decisions that benefit giant corporations while drawing a modest government paycheck, only then to leave government and pick up multi-million dollar a year jobs in the industries they were regulating.

Trump is a career criminal, and he has surrounded himself with career criminals. Just look at their mob-like meeting just a week or so ago on one of his golf courses: it was right out of The Sopranos. 

But he and many of his criminal Republican allies could never have gained power if the Supreme Court, back in the 1970s, hadn’t struck down the “good government” laws that came out of the Nixon bribery scandals and other laws to keep money out of politics, like the Tillman Act that dates back to 1907.

Because of these Supreme Court decisions equating money with free speech, our political system is now overrun with grifters, con artists and career criminals. Even worse, this dark money spree Republicans are enjoying courtesy of rightwing billionaires and giant corporations is also empowering the recurrent criminal underbelly of the political world itself: authoritarians.

Authoritarians like Mussolini, Hitler, Pinochet, and Trump each came to power through manipulating the political system in ways that, if not overtly in violation of criminal statutes, were certainly so dangerous to democracy that they’re rightly described as “crimes against the nation.” Job one of the new Congress must be to overturn these corrupt Supreme Court decisions and get big money — and the criminals it draws and empowers — out of American politics.

-Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and the author of "The Hidden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream" (2020); "The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America" (2019); and more than 25 other books in print.


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

2023 TRAIL Changes | What You Need to Know


Beginning January 1, 2023, your new medical and prescription drug plan will be the Aetna Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug (MAPD) PPO Plan. This new plan will replace your current plan, whether you’re currently enrolled in the UnitedHealthcare MAPD Plan or one of the MAPD HMO Plans (Aetna, Health Alliance, or Humana).

While your carrier for medical and prescription drug coverage is changing, your dental carrier—Delta Dental—and vision carrier—EyeMed, if applicable, will remain the same.

No action is required unless you want to opt out of the Aetna MAPD PPO Plan, add or remove dependents, or change dental/life coverage, if applicable. If you and your Medicare-eligible dependent(s) are currently covered under the UnitedHealthcare MAPD Plan or a MAPD HMO Plan, you and your Medicare-eligible dependent(s) will be automatically enrolled in the Aetna MAPD PPO Plan with coverage beginning January 1, 2023.

To learn more about this change, click here.


Sunday, September 18, 2022

DeSantis Should Be Prosecuted


In recent months, Republican governors in Texas, Arizona, and Florida have been transporting undocumented immigrants northward to cities like New York, Washington, and Chicago. This included busing about a hundred people to the vice president’s residence and dumping them on the street.

Governor DeSantis took this despicable practice of using vulnerable men, women, and children as political props to a new low this week when he paid for two planeloads of Venezuelan migrants to be sent to Martha’s Vineyard.

As has been reported, the Venezuelans that DeSantis paid to transport were actually recruited by a coconspirator in San Antonio, Texas, not in Florida. As reported, this coconspirator, “Perla,” promised the migrants transportation to Boston and expedited work permits. All of it was a lie.

Various news entities have described DeSantis as engaging in a “stunt.” That characterization is a troubling understatement of the gravity of DeSantis’ conduct.

The truth is that DeSantis — apparently unconcerned about the immorality of his actions — and those conspiring with him appear to have acted criminally under Texas law. Title 5, section 20 of the Texas Penal Code defines the crime of unlawful restraint.

Under the statute, a person is restrained if their movement is restricted without their consent by, among other mean, moving the person from one place to another. Restraint is without consent “if it is accompanied . . . by deception.”

Under the statute, the violation is a Class A misdemeanor, unless the person restrained is under seventeen, in which case it is a felony. According to reporting, there were children among those criminally transported to Martha’s Vineyard.

That’s not to say that DeSantis and other Republican governors have not violated a host of other state or federal laws by deceptively transporting migrants across the country.

Some have called for US attorney general Merrick Garland to open an investigation. The attorney general should. Unfortunately, while describing DeSantis’s conduct as shameless, the White House refused to commit to a thorough investigation of the abduction of the Venezuelan migrants, the violation of their civil rights, and whether DeSantis, Texas governor Greg Abbott, and Arizona governor Doug Ducey acted unconstitutionally by interfering with the federal government’s authority to manage immigration.


The Texas state attorney with jurisdiction should also open an investigation and empanel a grand jury. The fact that DeSantis is the governor of a sister state is no defense for breaking the law in Texas. And while they are at it, they should investigate whether Governor Abbott engaged in any similar deceit or other illegal conduct. He is also not above the law. The same is true for state attorneys in other affected states.

And where are the Republicans who only recently were asking that Venezuelan migrants in the United States have their temporary protected status extended? The hypocritical silence of figures like is Marco Rubio deafening.

Finally, for all the Democrats who are so afraid of the immigration issue, this is not about whether one supports or opposes this or that immigration policy. Like Donald Trump’s family separation policy, this issue runs much deeper. It’s about inhumane and illegal conduct toward vulnerable people that is an affront to the values of every decent human being.

Progressives owe the country — which endured four years of lawlessness under Trump — to tell the truth about Ron DeSantis — an aspirant to the highest office in the land. He has demonstrated that, like Trump, he is willing to break the law to achieve political power.

What DeSantis did is not a political “stunt.” It’s a clear warning that, as president, he, like his Republican predecessor, would view the rule of law as a principle that is expendable when political expediency calls. And it’s a crime. He should be prosecuted for it. 

-Jeff Weaver, Jacobin


Saturday, September 17, 2022

Today Is Constitution Day, and Our Democracy Depends upon the Rule of Law


Re: Sedition and Treason:

On January 6, 2021, pursuant to the 12th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, the House of Representatives, and the Senate met at the United States Capitol for a Joint Session of Congress to count the votes of the Electoral College. In the months preceding the Joint Session, Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State or Federal officials.

Shortly before the Joint Session commenced, Trump, addressed a crowd at the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. There, he reiterated false claims that “we won this election, and we won it by a landslide.” He also willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged — and foreseeably resulted in — lawless action at the Capitol, such as: “if you don’t fight like hell you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

Thus incited by Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive and seditious acts.

Trump’s conduct on January 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election. Those prior efforts included a phone call on January 2, 2021, during which Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia Presidential election results and threatened Secretary Raffensperger if he failed to do so.

In all this, Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Moreover, the recent unsealing of a court filing revealed that the August 8 search at Mar-a-lago turned up more than 11,000 documents or photographs that were not classified, 31 documents marked CONFIDENTIAL, 54 marked SECRET, and 18 marked TOP SECRET. In addition, agents found 48 empty folders marked CLASSIFIED, and 42 empty folders marked to be returned to a military aide. Those documents were not filed with the envelopes.

Re: the Illinois State Legislature, the Illinois Policy Institute, Crain's, Chicago Tribune, et al.

To anyone still attempting to amend the Pension Protection Clause through so-called pension reform”: read Article XIII, Section 5: “Pension and Retirement Rights” of the Illinois Constitution. Read Article 1, Section 16: “Ex Post Facto Laws and Impairing Contracts” of the Illinois Constitution. Read Article I, Section 15: “Right of Eminent Domain” (the Takings Clause) of the Illinois Constitution.  Read Article I, Section 2: “Due Process and Equal Protection” of the Illinois Constitution. Read Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution: “No State shall… pass any… ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts…” Read Amendment V, Section 1 of the United States Constitution: “No person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” and read Amendment XIV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution: “Due Process and Equal Protection.” To ignore the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and change laws that protect one group of people is to ignore due process and equal protection of the laws that guarantee contractual agreements as well. Read the Illinois Supreme Court ruling: docket number 118585, filed on May 8, 2015!   

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Orion Nebula

The earth is a speck of dust in the universe.

Is it logical for us to believe that a god created the entire universe, but its chief concern is whether we worship it or not here on earth, and that our sins have some sort of “cosmic significance” in a universe that contains billions of galaxies, each galaxy with billions of stars, and each star with perhaps a planetary system and other possible life forms?  Our religious belief in our significance is absurd.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

"Aetna Medicare Advantage plan will officially be the only health insurance option for roughly 140,000 retired state workers for the next five or more years"


IRTA Members,

The Illinois Retired Teachers Association would like to make our members aware that according to a recent article, Aetna Medicare Advantage PPO will be the sole insurer offered to Illinois retired state workers and retired teachers. This means that, in addition to removing United Healthcare, the State is also removing all HMO options from retired teachers. IRTA understands that in some areas, members will not be able to continue to see their current healthcare providers at the same cost. 

The attached article makes it clear that this will be true in the Champaign area, but your area could be impacted as well. You may want to check with your healthcare providers about how the State’s decision to contract Aetna as the sole provider could impact your benefit.

Open enrollment for retirees has been pushed back to November 1st from the typical October 1st start date. The new plan will go into effect for enrollees January 1, 2023. Communication regarding the change will begin within the next couple of weeks. To read the full article, please click here [or continue reading].


Jim Bachman

IRTA Executive Director


CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — “I feel like this is a real slap in the face to teachers,” retired Paxton-Buckley-Loda teacher Vicki Good reacted to Monday’s news that an Aetna Medicare Advantage plan will officially be the only health insurance option for roughly 140,000 retired state workers for the next five or more years. It’s an outcome seniors in Champaign and surrounding counties feared for months.

United HealthCare, the company that previously held the PPO contract that Aetna will step into Jan. 1, appealed the decision by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) in July. The state’s Chief Procurement Office denied the protest, CMS confirmed late Friday.

Previously, there were a handful of companies for state retirees to choose between but that is set to sunset at the end of the year. Aetna will be the sole insurer after selling the state on a group PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) plan that the company has not previously offered in Illinois.

Aetna and state representatives were confident in the upcoming plan’s ability to provide an adequate network of doctors under federal network adequacy standards. Some current Aetna members were more skeptical. “So I’m still upset,” Good began in a Monday morning interview. “It doesn’t give you any sense of security.”

We first met the retired teacher back in March. For years, she’s been enrolled in the Total Retiree Advantage Illinois Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug program (TRAIL MAPD). Good is on Aetna’s existing state-contracted Medicare HMO plan.

She’s been struggling to find various doctors that would be covered under her plan since early this year when Aetna Medicare plans stopped being accepted at Carle Health facilities within an hour of Champaign, including a network of more than 500 doctors.

“I am concerned about Aetna,” she said. “They’re making it sound like that they have all these people to help us, all these doctors that can help us. And yet, when you actually try to find something, it isn’t what it looks like on the surface.”

These days, Good is looking at needing multiple hand surgeries for carpal tunnel, including a joint replacement. All of the above require a hand surgeon, which is a specific type of orthopedic specialist. “[My primary care doctor] said, ‘I know a good one at Carle, but you can’t go to Carle because of, you know, because you’re with Aetna,'” she explained. “So he is sending me to Springfield.”

In the meantime, Good said she called Aetna to see if there happened to be any closer options. A representative on the phone sent her a list of 27 doctors. The first three were the wrong type of specialists, a spine specialist, a hip and knee specialist, and another that handled only shoulder and knee replacements. “And then the next 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 that they sent me were walk-in clinics, they’re Christie walk-in clinics,” she continued. “I don’t think I want to go to a walk-in clinic looking for a hand specialist.” The remainder of the list was more of the same or repeated names.

Aetna’s upcoming Medicare PPO plan should, in theory, come with more options than the Medicare HMO plan she’s on. Because of a federal waiver, the PPO-ESA (or Extended Service Area) plan allows patients to see some out-of-network doctors at an in-network rate if the doctor’s office or hospital chooses to see that patient.

A representative with Carle Health — the ‘major provider’ of Central Illinois and a staple for a concentrated population of state retirees in-and-around Champaign County — said late Monday that Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana and Carle Physician Group (those 500+ doctors) are still evaluating their “ability to support these passive PPO members,” citing cost concerns and “awaiting a formal announcement of a payor contract decision from the State.”

“If an out-of-network provider is willing to see a member and is eligible to receive Medicare payment, Aetna will pay 100% of the Medicare allowable rate for covered services,” an Aetna representative responded Friday, claiming “the member will pay in-network co-pays” regardless of what an out-of-network provider charges.

The CVS-owned insurance company called on Carle Health to “maintain their focus on the health and well-being of Illinois retirees by continuing to see them as patients as they do today.” The Carle communications official called the assumption by CMS and Aetna that Carle doctors ‘should’ be available in the same way they have been for retirees on the state’s current United HealthCare PPO plan “broad and misleading.”

“It is our understanding that if a member in question is seen by an out-of-network provider, the cost to the member will be the same as it would be if they saw an in-network provider. BUT, ultimately that is dependent on the out-of-network benefit design by the insurer,” she said.

“It’s very unfortunate that individuals in our communities have been and likely will be placed in a situation in which they will have to find an out-of-network provider locally or travel outside the region as a result of the passive PPO offering and the lack of contracted providers offered,” an email from the Carle representative late Monday read.

Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Physician Group don’t have contracts with any Medicare Advantage plans, including the currently state-contracted United HealthCare plan. Aetna Medicare was the last chip to fall. Because of the aforementioned federal waiver, Carle chooses to accept some Medicare Advantage insurance plans. Right now, that includes the United HealthCare group PPO plan that more than 100,000 retirees are on.

“As insurers are becoming increasingly more difficult for providers to deal with, making it more costly for providers, creating more administrative hoops to jump through, and denying payment for services rendered, providers across the country are reconsidering who they contract with and whether they will be able to afford to continue to see out-of-network members,” Carle Health communications said in response to a question of why the facilities and provider group no longer contract with Medicare Advantage plans.

There’s been no response from Aetna regarding the nature of contract negotiations with Carle Health, only that the company says it’s open to revisiting the conversation. “I was very seriously considering switching to United Health[Care],” Good said. “Of course, now there’s no United Health option. It’s only an Aetna option, and that seems to be almost like a monopoly to me.”

Cutting the HMO option for retirees could pose a legal concern for CMS. The state’s labor contract with AFSCME Council 31 — the Illinois branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — specifically states that “the State shall continue to offer enrollment in HMOs.” Whether that extends to retirees is unclear from an email statement from AFSCME in response to contract questions.

“The terms of the retiree health insurance program are set forth in our collective bargaining agreement and must be met for the upcoming 2023 plan year,” Martha Merrill, Director of Research and Employee Benefits for AFSCME Council 31, said.

But why did CMS cut out options? Because 90 percent of enrollees already choose the PPO plan, according to Cathy Kwiatkowski, deputy director of communication and information at CMS. The remaining 10 percent enrolled in the HMO options is nearly 20,000 people.

Aetna also offered the state a $0 premium for the initial five-year contract term, Kwiatkowski cited in support of the singular option. It doesn’t appear retirees or employees will get a $0 premium. Although the plan will come with a “significant reduction” in contributions for retirees and dependents, Kwiatkowski said.

For the dozens of retirees who’ve called, emailed and messaged WCIA 3 News, it’s not about the money. It’s about keeping the doctors they’ve grown to trust at a critical time in their lives for medical care. “I didn’t make big bucks when I was teaching, but I taught because I loved it. And part of teaching, I always knew that there was going to be a pension there for me, and I would have health care,” Good said summarizing her remaining fears and frustration. “And now they’re just kind of reneging on their promises to us of, you know, what they would provide for us after we retired.”

Some state lawmakers have also been puzzled by the bidding process, including COGFA Co-chair Sen. Dave Koehler, (D) who said Monday that retirees should have options. Sen. Koehler said CMS is required to present the new contract to lawmakers on the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, but that meeting isn’t expected until the spring, too little too late for any change.

COGFA’s role is solely advisory, Koehler said. CMS can “take or leave” the advice. Koehler, after learning reporter questions and retiree concerns were going largely unanswered, penned a letter to the state agency in September asking, in part, “How did CMS determine adequate network coverage” during the TRAIL MAPD bidding process?

“Offerors to this Request for Proposal (RFP) were required to demonstrate compliance with standards set by the authority having jurisdiction, the Federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services,” CMS responded in writing. If our previous reporting and Vicki Good’s hand surgeon list are any indication, independent verification of insurer-provided networks has revealed a plethora of inaccuracies.

CMS did not respond when Target 3 reporters asked directly if independent verification was a part of the process. Open enrollment for state retirees has been pushed back to Nov. 1 from the typical Oct. 1 start date. The new plan will go into effect for enrollees Jan. 1.

“Communication regarding the change to the MAPD PPO plan will begin within the next couple of weeks, with open enrollment decision guides mailed by the end of October. Members will also receive communications directly from Aetna and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The State of Illinois will be issuing several communications to retirees, detailing the changes, including announcement home mailers, letters, emails, and in-person seminars during the open enrollment period,” Kwiatkowski added.

Aetna’s contract lasts at least an initial five years “with a guaranteed $0 premium for the initial term,” Kwiatkowski explained. “There are an optional 5 years of renewals.” State retirees are not involved in the decision-making process, another source of complaints over the past several months. Contacting state legislators via phone or email is the most local way to share complaints.

Medicare complaints are filed here with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. United HealthCare did not respond to request for comment as of this report.

This article has been updated to clarify that Carle Foundation Hospital and Carle Physician Group do accept certain Medicare Advantage plans, but do not contract with any.


The Perverse, Potentially Lethal Consequences of Lindsey Graham’s Federal Abortion Ban


On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham unveiled a bill that would impose a federal ban on abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy with a few very narrow exceptions. The senator, reversing his prior position that abortion should be left to the states, now seeks to override blue states’ more liberal laws by establishing a nationwide cutoff.

If enacted, Graham’s bill would criminalize abortion at the exact moment in pregnancy when dangerous fetal anomalies and maternal health problems come to light. It would force many patients with high-risk pregnancies and severe fetal defects to flee the United States in search of legal termination.

It would condemn countless sexual assault victims, including children, to bear their rapist’s child. In short, Graham’s measure would spread the tragic, potentially deadly consequences of red state abortion bans to the entire country.

Although Republicans have sought to cast a 15-week limit as the moderate alternative to an absolute prohibition, it actually federalizes some of the most extreme and unpopular aspects of state-level bans. Like those laws, the Graham bill allows abortions only when “necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman,” rejecting a broader exception for maternal health. It includes no exception for fetal anomalies, no matter how grave.

Unfortunately, many genetic and physical defects can only be detected after the 15th week of pregnancy. As The 19th reported in August, the earliest point when doctors can detect anomalies is between 15 and 22 weeks, when scans show fetal organ structures.

Certain abnormalities detected at this stage, like Trisomy 18 and anencephaly, render fetuses “incompatible with life,” meaning they will die during birth or shortly thereafter. At most, if carried to term, these children will live just for hours or days in immense pain. And continuing the pregnancy often puts the patient at heightened risk of medical complications.

The lack of an exception for fetal anomalies in Graham’s bill is intentional. For years, the anti-abortion movement has sought to outlaw abortions due to fetal “disability.” Before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wadeat least nine states had passed these bans. Three states also gagged doctors from even raising the possibility of termination with patients after diagnosing fetal abnormalities.

These bans are largely irrelevant now that most of those states have passed laws outlawing abortion across the board. But conservative activists are fighting to ensure that federal legislation includes no carve-out for abnormalities. The anti-abortion Lozier Institute rejects the very concept of an anomaly that’s “incompatible with life,” arguing that patients should be forced to give birth if there’s a possibility that the child might live for minutes or hours. The institute argues that patients must undergo induced labor or a C-section—both of which are exponentially more dangerous than an abortion—so “a grieving family” can “show love and say good-bye.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen and Danielle Herman recently reported a devastating story that illustrates the inhumane ramifications of the Graham approach. They profiled Kailee DeSpain, a Texas woman forced out of state to terminate her pregnancy. DeSpain and her husband desperately wanted to have a child.

After suffering three miscarriages, they were thrilled to learn that a seemingly healthy boy was on the way. But in the second trimester, the couple discovered that the fetus had a lethal anomaly called triploidy. This genetic disorder causes serious defects in the fetus’ heart, lungs, brain, and kidney, ensuring (at best) a brief, painful life outside the womb. Triploidy can also kill the patient in the third trimester.

Because of Texas’ draconian abortion ban, however, DeSpain could not terminate immediately. Instead, she drove ten hours to New Mexico to get the procedure at 19 weeks. If Graham’s bill becomes law, patients in her situation cannot flee the state—they will have to flee the country.

Formerly a “quintessential pro-life Texan,” DeSpain now vocally opposes the “heartbeat bill” that forced her to New Mexico for crucial health care. “I had to leave my baby with an out-of-state funeral home and have his ashes shipped home,” DeSpain wrote. “I’m still so angry and hurt about it that I can hardly see straight.” She added: “It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the thought process of lawmakers that would rather a full-term baby suffocate to death than allow a mother to make a decision that spares her child that pain.”

Although triploidy can kill a patient, Texas doctors told DeSpain that they could not terminate until her death was “imminent.” This impediment reveals another flaw in Graham’s proposal: Like Texas’ heartbeat bill, its exception for “the mother’s life” is incredibly narrow. If Graham’s bill were to become law, abortion after 15 weeks would only be permissible when it’s “necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman” who is “endangered” by “a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury.” […]

Mark Joseph Stern, Slate