Sarah Kliff

Stories by Sarah Kliff

  • wri-2010-tease

    2010: Take Back America: A Battle Plan

    In their seventh co-written book, husband-wife team Dick Morris and Eileen McGann give their take on the Obama administration (summary: lots of debt, socialism run rampant), which Democrats should be targeted by Republicans in the 2010 congressional races, and the best way to campaign against them.
  • Newly Passed 'Fetal Pain' Bill in Nebraska Is a Big Deal

    The Nebraska Legislature has passed a law barring abortions after 20 weeks because of the possibility that the fetus could feel pain. The law, approved by the state legislature earlier today and expected to be signed by Gov. Dave Heineman, is a landmark in that it directly challenges one of the key tenets of Roe v. Wade: the viability standard. In Roe, the Supreme Court recognized viability—the point at which the fetus can live outside the womb—as the point at which states have the right to ban abortion (with exceptions made for the woman's life and health). That was the "compelling" point at which to allow abortion bans, Justice Harry Blackmun opined, "because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother's womb." Therefore, he continued, "If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the...
  • The New Health-Care Fight: Abortion Coverage in State Exchanges

    While the congressional fight over health-care reform has wrapped up and legislators moved on, a new, state-level battle over abortion coverage has just begun. The fight comes courtesy of Section 1303 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (page 779 here), which reiterates states’ rights to regulate abortion coverage among their insurers. The key sentence: “A state may elect to prohibit abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an Exchange in such State if such State enacts a law to provide for such a prohibition.”This provision actually does not give states any rights they didn’t have before. As Nick Baumann over at Mother Jones recently, and astutely, pointed out, “states have had the right to pass laws regulating insurance, including banning abortion” for over six decades now. Five states (Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma) already do so, only allowing insurers to cover abortion if the life of the mother is endangered (the Oklahoma...
  • Unsurprisingly, Stupak Won't Seek Reelection

    Earlier this morning, The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder broke news that Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak will retire, which has since been confirmed by the Associated Press. As followers of the health-care debate now know well, Stupak was the representative who pushed for stringent abortion language in the health-care bill. His departure comes in the face of entreaties from Democrat leaders, including Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), encouraging the nine-term Democrat to have another go at it. Stupak’s departure does not really surprise me. By time the final vote rolled around, the Michigan Democrat had essentially driven himself into a corner where he was certain to please no one. Stupak spent the entire health-care debate pushing for particularly restrictive language that, at the last minute, he decided wasn’t actually necessary. Recall this behind-the-scenes bit from my colleague Jonathan Alter on how the health-care debate went down: Stupak had lost his leverage after he...
  • Teen Birthrate Declines: Good News Nationally, Still Bad News Globally

      The teen birthrate declined 2 percent in 2008, according to new, preliminary data released by the CDC. The new number is a welcome relief for public-health officials: between 2006 and 2008, the teen birthrate had increased 4 percent, halting a decades-long trend of dropping adolescent childbearing through the 1990s and early 2000s.What caused this drop in teen births is difficult to say but will likely be subject to numerous spins in the coming days. The National Abstinence Education Association has taken it as evidence in favor of "placing a priority on the risk avoidance abstinence-centered message," whereas supporters of comprehensive sex education, which has a much stronger body of research, will likely fire back that 2008 was the year when 25 states opted out of Title V abstinence-only funding, the highest number since the program began in 1996. I suspect the explanation is more complex than any one approach to sex education can account for.It will be important to...
  • Today in Made-Up Numbers: 16,500 'Armed Bureaucrats' Will Enforce Health-Care Reform

    It was a high figure that I heard again and again covering health-care reform this past week: 16,500. That was the number of “bureaucrats” or “IRS agents” that numerous Republicans said would be necessary to enforce the individual mandate—basically, to make sure that Americans comply with the law to carry health insurance. The number struck me as high but potentially plausible, until the claims started getting really weird. Like when Ron Paul (R-Texas) claimed that not only were 16,500 new hires on the way, they would all be armed (around 3:53 in the clip above): “16,500 armed bureaucrats [are] coming to make this program work,” he explained to the host. “If it was a good program and everybody liked it, you wouldn’t need 16,500 thugs coming with their guns and putting you in jail if you didn’t follow all the rules.”...
  • Anti-Abortion-Rights Activists Make Smart Rhetorical Moves In Georgia, Nebraska

    Late last week, the Georgia Senate approved a bill barring gender- and race-specific abortions. If it becomes law, the bill, dubbed The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act, would criminalize a person who performs an abortion “with the intent to prevent an unborn child from being born based upon race, color or gender of the child or the race or color of either parent of that child.”This comes on the heels of another proposed abortion law, this one in Nebraska, that would bar abortions past 20 weeks' gestation. From a short item I had in NEWSWEEK's print edition this past week:Nebraska has long played a pivotal role in the national abortion battle, mounting the first defense of the “partial birth” ban before the Supreme Court in 2000. Now the legislature is pushing another first-of-its-kind restriction—this time on procedures that cause “fetal pain.” Currently the only abortion bans that have been deemed constitutional are based on viability, the point at which the fetus can live...
  • Enroll America Has the Right Approach to Health-Care Implementation

    Implementing large-scale health-care reform is really, really difficult. As I wrote in a story today, it requires “a sweeping outreach effort alongside meticulous attention to details, and they stumble without both key elements in place.”  But one nonprofit has already decided to take on the challenge: introducing Enroll America. “We want to make sure everybody gets enrolled,” says Ron Pollack, the nonprofit’s founder and current head of Families USA, a health-care-reform advocacy group. “This is about creating systems in each state that will make enrollment effective.”Pollack has been thinking about implementation since this summer and now has a general outline of how a nonprofit could best facilitate health-care reform (he hopes to have an official business plan in the next few months). The blueprint for Enroll America has 50 state-based consortia, each with diverse stakeholders (government officials, pharmaceutical executives, insurance companies, and nonprofits), sharing...
  • Abortion Rights: What Next After Health Reform?

    Some women's rights advocates want payback for going along with anti-abortion-rights provisions needed to secure health-care reform. But women have already come out ahead.
  • The Last House Vote Is Just the Beginning of Reconciliation

    Nancy Pelosi pulled it off: she got 219 House Democrats to pass the Senate's health-care-reform bill and, with the stroke of President Obama's pen, health care-reform will move from bill to law.Except, not quite. While the House vote is a giant step forward—without it, health-care reform would be dead—it is by no means the last vote. The Senate still has one more task ahead of it: passing the reconciliation sidecar that the House also passed tonight with 220 votes. Without it, the Senate bill—the one that they passed eons ago in December—would remain the law of the land.Without the reconciliation sidecar, you have a markedly different piece of legislation, particularly in terms of affordability. The sidecar has a number of really significant changes to the Senate bill that put the bill somewhere in between the two bodies’ proposals. It’s a bill that has a smaller price tag than the Senate bill—$875 billion over 10 years, compared with $940 billion from the Senate—but...
  • Stupak's Last Stand

    Michigan Rep. Bart Stupak arguably saved health-care reform, agreeing to sign on to the bill and defend his decision on the House floor, in the face of jeers from Republican opponents and a heckler who seemed to have called him "baby killer."...
  • Executive Order Wins With Stupak, Loses With Anti-Abortion-Rights Groups

      Moments ago, Rep. Bart Stupak signed on to support health-care reform after the president issued an executive order, reiterating that the bill would not allow for public funding of abortion. That won over Stupak and many others who oppose abortion, but has done little to sway groups that oppose abortion rights. National Right to Life, Americans United for Life, the Family Research Council, and the Susan B. Anthony List have all come out against the executive-order strategy. Three of Stupak’s anti-abortion-rights colleagues, Dan Lipinski, Jerry Costello, and Gene Taylor, still oppose the bill, according to the National Review Online. These groups have regularly blasted the Senate's Nelson language as an "accounting gimmick" that would not actually prevent federal funding of abortion. I should note here that numerous fact-checks by both news organizations and nonpartisan watchdogs have been explicit that this is not the case: the Senate bill would not allow for fede...
  • Stupak Brought Down By Congressional Maneuver?

    Fifteen hours in the health care reform debate is beginning to feel like a lifetime. Last night, doom-and-gloom seemed eminent for abortion rights supporters, filing out of Pelosi's office 'livid' and Bart Stupak planning a press conference for the next morning. All signs pointed towards Stupak's restrictive abortion language making a come back. But the sun rose on a completely different set of tea leaves: Stupak's press conference postponed indefinitely and abortion-rights supporters on the Hill in a much better mood, saying Stupak's language would not come to the floor.How to explain the quick rise and fall of Stupak's attempted amendment? There's definitely the outrage from abortion rights supporters playing a role. And our 24-hour news cycle, where the negotiations played out real time on Twitter, upped the drama and urgency. But I think, in at least some part, this could have to do with a much less scintillating explanation, procedural...
  • Last-Minute Abortion Deal in the Works?

    Yesterday, I predicted the abortion issue would end as the epic battle that never was. In the appropriately unpredictable nature of the abortion issue in health-care reform, turns out I could be completely wrong. From what I can gather, there is some deal currently in the works with Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and a few of his colleagues, who are indeed holding the line on their abortion language. Here’s what we know, via Jeffrey Young and Molly Hooper over at The Hill: a number of abortion-rights supporters have been shuffling in and out of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. Young caught Diana DeGette, a strong supporter of abortion rights who has played a role in the negotiations over the health-care language, on her way out of Pelosi's office; she told him she was not "happy." Stupak told Hooper (who had spotted him and Pelosi talking a little earlier) that the Democrats "don't have the votes, or they wouldn't be talking to me." Adding to the...
  • 'Pro-Life' or 'Anti-Abortion Rights'? Journalists, Abortion, and Why Word Choice Matters

    In addition to attempting to decipher the many twists and turns that are the Stupak saga, one of the biggest challenges in covering abortion in health-care reform has been finding the best words to describe those who support or oppose abortion rights. NPR’s omsbudsman Alicia Shepard has an interesting, inside look at how her news organization has dealt with the issue—and, in the process, disappointed listeners. From Shepard: Martha Hamilton winces when she hears an NPR correspondent describe politicians who oppose abortion as "pro-life." "I am a 'pro-life' voter," said Hamilton, of Washington, D.C. "For instance, I would vote for someone opposed to the death penalty over someone in favor of it. However, 'opposed to the death penalty' would be a better, more accurate description of my position. Pretty sure I'm not who [the correspondent] is talking about."NPR may be alone among major news organizations in how it identifies people...
  • Nebraska Opens a Debate on 'Fetal Pain'

    Nebraska has long played a pivotal role in the national abortion battle, mounting the first defense of the "partial birth" ban before the Supreme Court in 2000. Now the legislature is pushing another first-of-its-kind restriction—this time on procedures that cause "fetal pain." Currently the only abortion bans that have been deemed constitutional are based on viability, the point at which the fetus can live outside the womb (about 24 weeks). This bill, introduced last month, would set a new standard—blocking abortions after 20 weeks out of concern that the fetus may feel the procedure. (A 2005 review in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that fetal pain was "unlikely" before 28 weeks.) If it passes—a distinct possibility in a state that got an F grade from one national pro-choice group—the new law could set up another high-court challenge. LeRoy Carhart, the late-term-abortion specialist who brought the challenge in 2000, continues to operate out of an Omaha...
  • Bart Stupak: No William Wallace

    Abortion opponents were hoping that Bart Stupak’s final stand on abortion would look something like this (video care of Catholic Vote): In the end, though, signs are pointing toward more of a retreat than a battle. Yesterday, Rep. Dale Kildee, Democrat of Michigan and a strong opponent of abortion, came out in support of health-care reform with the Nelson language (he was among the 12 Democrats on House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s list of Democrats who would oppose health-care reform because of the abortion language). After reading the Senate bill's abortion language more than a dozen times and consulting with his priest, Kildee said in a statement, "I am convinced that the Senate language maintains the Hyde amendment, which states that no federal money can be used for abortion."The nuns have come out in support of the health-care bill, as has the Catholic Health Association. And Stupak, who was telling Fox News last week that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not have...
  • Obama to Talk Health Care on Fox But Conservatives Won't Be Swayed

    Obama will take to Fox News tonight to talk health-care reform. "Many of the falsehoods and myths about health reform gained traction with Glenn Beck and others on Fox, so the president is returning to the scene of the crime to make the final sale," a White House official explained to Politico earlier today. It sounds like a sensible calculation: dismantle arguments about government takeovers and death panels, up popular support. In fact, NEWSWEEK tested out that idea in our most recent poll. We wanted to know: when Americans learn more about health-care reform, do they support it more? Turns out, while that is indeed the case for liberals, conservatives are not likely to support health-care reform when they know what it actually does.  More from the poll: in late February, we asked Americans if they supported Obama’s health-reform plan and got a pretty predictable response: only 15 percent of self-described conservatives supported the plan versus 72 percent of liberals. ...
  • Today in Actually Useful News: Universal Health Care and Lower Abortion Rates

    The past week of news in abortion and health-care reform has been, frankly, pretty useless. The narrative changed every day—there was a compromise, then there wasn’t. Leaders were working out a deal with Stupak, now they’re not. Even after religiously reading the “Stupak” Google Alert I receive every day, I still have no idea what abortion language will appear in the final bill. It depends on too many unknowns: how many representatives plan to vote with Stupak (estimates have ranged from 3 to 20), how many other representatives are bowing out and how much supporters of abortion rights are willing to budge.So if you find yourself craving some actually-useful analysis of abortion’s role in health-care reform, I would recommend T.R. Reid’s counterintuitive explanation of why increased access to health care, including abortion services, correlates with reduced abortion rates.Right now, the United States has the highest abortion rate in the developed world, 20.8 per 1,000 women age 15 to...
  • NYT Urges Abortion-Rights Supporters to ‘Make Their Voices Heard.’ The Real Question: What Should They Be Saying?

    “Americans who support women’s reproductive rights need to make their voices heard,” The New York Times editorial opined yesterday. Noting the number of state legislatures debating bills that would significantly limit a woman’s access to abortion—notably Utah’s ban on “illegal abortions” and the proposed pre-viability ban in Nebraska—the Times editorial board urged supporters of abortion rights to take a more active role in the debate....
  • Who Administered Obama’s Physical? Not Sharon Begley

    Via Politico’s Live Pulse, the Archives of Internal Medicine has a great editorial this week calling attention to Obama's bad example setting in his most recent physical (no, not that whole smoking thing). Rita Redberg of the University of California, San Francisco, is dismayed that Obama received “2 cutting edge, expensive diagnostic tests that exposed him to a radiation risk while likely providing no benefit to his care.” The culprits: a CT scan for coronary calcium (the radiation of which will increase Obama’s lifetime likelihood of cancer) and a colon-cancer screening (not recommended for men in the president’s age group). More from Redberg: Inadvertently, but perhaps fittingly, the reports of Mr. Obama's physical examination reflect some of the key challenges facing health care reform today … Some might defend these tests on the grounds that the President, of all people, deserves the very best our healthcare system can provide, but that would miss the point: more care...
  • Poll: Why Abortion Stays Central in Health-Care Debate, Even When We Don't Want It To

    The Women Donors Network and Communications Consortium Media Center came out with some great polling today that really drives home why abortion has become such a central issue in health-care reform, even when the vast majority of us think it should not be. Take a look at these two graphs: Take away, graph No. 1: No one wants abortion to hold up health-care reform. Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed agree there should be a much broader discussion. These high numbers cut across gender, party identification, and religiosity.  Take away, graph No. 2: A lot of people feel very strongly about how abortion ought to be handled in health-care reform—64 percent of us, in fact, are very decided in our opinion on whether or not those receiving federal subsidies ought to be able to purchase health insurance with abortion coverage. That definitely outshadows the 23 percent who are lukewarm on either side.  Take away, graphs No. 1 and 2: No one wants abortion to hold up the health-care reform...

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