Pema Levy

Pema Levy is an assistant editor at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

Steve King's Anti-Promiscuity Crusade

Last night, while Congress debated funding the health-care bill, Rep. Steve King couldn’t help also mentioning why he voted to defund Planned Parenthood: “Planned Parenthood is invested in promiscuity.” King really let the cat out of the bag here. This year, the right has launched an attack on Planned Parenthood by arguing that any money that goes to Planned Parenthood or similar organizations is going toward abortions, even though federal law prohibits that. They have tried other strategies too, like using a series of “sting” videos to claim that Planned Parenthood supports sex-trafficking (a charge so bogus that the FBI recently declined to pursue it). They have also cut government funded family-planning services in their new budget, allowing their outrage over abortion to spill over into a general anti-women’s health-care stance. By framing everything as anti-abortion, the right remedies the contradictory stance of being both against abortion and against abortion-reducing measures...

A Top-Down Assault on Women

The anti-abortion movement isn't just about protesters and secret videos -- it's also taking place in the legislatures and the courts.

Former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline in 2006 (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
When Dr. Mila Means decided to begin offering abortions at her family practice in Wichita, Kansas -- the city where George Tiller practiced before he was murdered in 2009 by an anti-abortion crusader -- the clinic's landlord balked. Citing "a disruption and nuisance to other tenants and [the creation of] an unsafe environment," the company that owned the building brought a lawsuit against Means, seeking a temporary injunction to prohibit her from performing abortions. Dr. Means gave in and promised not to perform abortions. There's no doubt that angry mobs and threats of violence make providing abortions a trying and often dangerous occupation. But angry citizens -- perhaps the most visible anti-abortion advocates -- aren't the only people making it difficult. The right-wing establishment intent on reining in women's constitutional right to reproductive health services extends far up the ranks of high-level public officials. That's certainly true in Kansas. From 2003 to 2009, Phillip...

Pro-Life Radicalism: Is This What Democrats Ordered?

Yesterday, Dave Weigel's assessmnt of the politics behind legislative attacks on reproductive rights was on target until it went very awry. According to Weigel, House Democratic leadership sees anti-abortion extremism -- attempts to redefine rape or allow hospitals to deny women life-saving abortions -- as a political liability for Republicans, especially given that independent voters are more interested in the economy than in turning back to the culture wars. Fair enough, but Weigel’s piece takes a strange turn by protraying the pushback from women’s advocates as political theater, rather than as a serious response to attacks on women’s rights. Weigel mentions Rep. Chris Smith’s "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion" bill. To him, this was a bill aimed to “chip away at ‘Obamacare’” until until pro-choice activists found that the bill had replaced the word "rape" with "forcible rape." [P]icking out the least defensible pieces and using them as battering rams until the other side gives in…...

South Dakota Law Aims to Menace Abortion Providers, Period.

There's a lot of confusion over South Dakota's SB 1171, a law proposed by state Rep. Phil Jensen that would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include anyone attempting to harm an unborn child. Jensen claims his bill is not aimed at abortion providers, saying it is intended to apply to cases, for example, in which an angry ex-boyfriend is beating a woman's abdomen to kill the fetus. Yesterday, Slate's Dave Weigel made the argument, as did Jensen, that the bill only applies to "illegal" activity, and because abortion is legal, abortion providers would not be targeted. TAP 's Adam Serwer basically got it right when he said that pretending the bill isn't about abortion providers is stupid, and it helps to look at the text of the proposed law (the underlined portions are what would be added under Jensen's bill): Section 1. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a...

Taking Stock of Shirley Sherrod's Suit Against Andrew Breitbart.

On Friday, Shirley Sherrod filed a libel and slander suit against Andrew Breitbart in D.C. Superior Court for his release of an edited video of her which resulted in her forced resignation from the USDA last summer. As I said last week in a column about why it's so hard to sue the media, the odds are stacked against victims. Sherrod will have to prove that Breitbart knowingly promulgated false information or recklessly disregarded the truth -- a feat that's so hard to do most libel cases get thrown out. Last summer, when Sherrod mentioned she would consider a suit, John W. Dean of Findlaw 's Writ blog spelled out why the suit would be so miserable: What Breitbart will do if Sherrod files a lawsuit against him is to quickly create a legal defense fund, with the support and financing of like-thinking conservatives, and he will hire as nasty an attorney as is available ... Soon, he will be using the legal process to harass Sherrod by digging into every inch of her life, and perhaps even...