Profile: Liberty Counsel
Liberty Counsel was a participant or observer in the following events:
A group of right-wing organizations, including Americans for Truth About Homosexuality (ATAH) and the Liberty Counsel, warns that the Democrats’ health care reform proposal would mandate government funding of transsexual surgery. “Say NO to Tax-Funded ‘Tranny Care,’” ATAH proclaims on its Web site, and writes: “No American should be forced to pay for these nature-rejecting procedures with his or her tax dollars. Homosexual groups like Human Rights Campaign boast of their support for taxpayer-funded ‘sex-change’ operations in cities like San Francisco.… Folks, you don’t have to be very politically sophisticated to predict that GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) activists and their liberal allies are going to demand ‘Tranny-Care’ under a federal health insurance system, in the name of ‘fairness’ and ‘inclusion’—even if it’s not passed initially as a ‘benefit.’ And yes, the idea of subsidizing body-disfiguring ‘operations’ surely would be considered ‘queer’ by the average tax paying American.” The site goes on to note that the House version of reform legislation, HR 3200, provides for “standards, as appropriate, for the collection of accurate data on health and health care” based on “sex, sexual orientation, [and] gender identity.” The Senate version of the bill says that the government will “detect and monitor trends in health disparities,” which ATAH says would require “the Department of Health and Human Services to ‘develop standards for the measurement of gender’ (i.e., officially recognize subjectively self-determined ‘transgender’ or ‘transsexual’ gender identities). It further mandates ‘participation in the institutions’ programs of individuals and groups from… different genders and sexual orientations.’” The Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber writes: “There’s a gulf of difference between what [President] Obama and liberals in Congress, and the American people deem ‘medically appropriate’; especially when it’s ‘we the people’ footing the bill. To force Americans, against their conscience, to fund abortion on demand and to facilitate gender confusion by subsidizing the elective practice of genital ‘sex-change’ mutilation is unconscionable.” Barber demands that citizens oppose reform legislation “unless taxpayer funding for both abortion and sex change surgeries are expressly excluded.” [Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, 8/4/2009; MSNBC, 8/5/2009]
Critics: Controversy a 'Red Herring' Based on 'Misinformation' - Autumn Sandeen, a transsexual whose photo is prominently featured in the ATAH post, writes that the entire controversy is a “red herring” enabling conservatives to mount an attack on health care reform over a non-existent issue. Sandeen writes, “Let’s keep in mind what those who are bringing up ‘sex change operations’ don’t really care that much about whether or not I personally get genital reconstruction surgery paid for by the government; what these folk really want to do is derail all health care reform—and if badmouthing trans people like me is how they believe they can derail it, then they’re going to badmouth trans people like me.” [Autumn Sandeen, 8/5/2009] Liberal blogger Pam Spaulding accuses Barber and ATAH of “shilling misinformation and twisting facts to frighten people,” and says of Barber, “It’s no surprise he wants to fixate on something he believes is fertile ground for generating heat on Obama’s health reform.” [Pam's House Blend, 8/4/2009]
A conservative, anti-health care reform group called “The Pray In Jesus Name Project” e-mails a petition to members and others saying that the Democrats’ health care reform legislation will not only result in the death of American senior citizens (see November 23, 2008, January 27, 2009, February 9, 2009, February 11, 2009, February 18, 2009, May 13, 2009, June 24, 2009, June 25, 2009, July 10, 2009, July 16, 2009, July 17, 2009, July 21, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 23-24, 2009, July 24, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 28, 2009, July 31, 2009 - August 12, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 10, 2009, Shortly Before August 10, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 12, 2009, August 12, 2009, and August 13, 2009), but also a takeover of the US health care system by gay and transgendered people. The petition claims in part: “Your tax dollars will pay for preferential hiring of homosexual hospital administrators, who distribute $50,000 grants to gender-confused activists for unneeded elective surgery to mutilate their own genitals (and force Christian doctors to perform it).” Apparently the organization is following up on specious claims by other groups that have claimed the reform proposal would mandate free sex-change operations (see August 4, 2009). The New Republic says that many of these claims originated with the Liberty Counsel, a group affiliated with the late Christian evangelist Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. The New Republic also notes that the section of the Senate bill cited by the organization requires the “participation in the institutions’ programs of individuals and groups from… different genders and sexual orientations,” and refers to government grants awarded to students doing research in mental and behavioral health. [New Republic, 8/13/2009]
Peter Fleckenstein, a conservative blogger whose claims are used by Representative Bachmann. [Source: Peter Fleckenstein / Denver Post]Representatative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) issues a warning from the floor of the House: If the Democrats’ health care package passes, US public schools will be forced to host “sex clinics” that provide abortions and condoms on demand. Bachmann tells the nation: “There’s something that hasn’t been talked about much, and it’s the whole idea of school-based clinics in schools all across America, and that’s in HR 3200. Now this would raise the hackles on the necks of school parents all across this country. When they understand that Section 2511 of HR 3200, the House government takeover of health care, has a section—it’s called school-based health clinics, and it would allow a nonprofit health agency—just say Planned Parenthood because that’s what this is written for. Again, we need to be serious. Planned Parenthood is an organization that is the largest abortion provider in United States. And written in this bill is a provision whereby Planned Parenthood could become a proprietor for school-based clinics in every school across United States.”
'Sex Clinics' - Bachmann continues: “These have been more accurately called school sex clinics.… Now the federal government is going the final step, and they’re saying, ‘Let’s put sex clinics in our schools.’ Can you believe this, Mr. Speaker? Let’s put sex clinics in our school. And let’s put Planned Parenthood in charge of our sex clinics because the bill that the school—under this provision, Planned Parenthood would be authorized to serve as a sponsoring facility for the nation’s schools. As a matter of fact, the bulk of this health care bill is scheduled to go into effect in 2013. Remember, all the taxes will start this coming January, Mr. Speaker. Right away, at the time we can least afford it, the taxes will go into place, but the provisions of this bill actually go into effect in 2013. Not the school-based sex clinics. The sex clinics actually would go into effect next summer so that these clinics would appear in public schools next fall. And it would require that the school-based sex clinic would provide on-site access during the school day when school is in session and have an established network of support and access to services with backup health providers when the school is closed. … But parents are going to excluded from Planned Parenthood as they write these clinics because the bill orders that these clinics protect patient privacy and student records. What does that mean? It means that parents will never know what kind of counsel and treatment that their children are receiving.”
School-Based Abortions? - Bachmann says: “And as a matter of fact, the bill goes on to say what’s going to go on—comprehensive primary health services, physicals, treatment of minor acute medical conditions, referrals to follow-up for specialty care—is that abortion? Does that mean that someone’s 13-year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back, and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser.” [Media Matters, 9/30/2009; Salon, 10/1/2009]
Claim Debunked - The claim was pronouced false by the St. Petersburg Times’s PolitiFact investigative team in August, which noted that the claim apparently originated from statements made by conservative blogger Peter Fleckenstein and a later adaptation by the American Family Association and the Liberty Counsel, who in July warned that the bill “will establish school-based ‘health’ clinics. Your children will be indoctrinated and your grandchildren may be aborted!” PolitiFact found that the bill provides for the same kinds of school-based health clinics that have been in place for 30 years or more. None would be authorized to perform abortions or any other intrusive procedures. All versions of the House bills would, PolitiFact wrote: “provide grants so the clinics can continue providing ‘comprehensive health assessments, diagnosis, and treatment of minor, acute, and chronic medical conditions and referrals to, and follow-up for, specialty care.’ The money could also be used to provide ‘mental health assessments, crisis interventions, counseling, treatment, and referral to a continuum of services including emergency psychiatric care, community support programs, inpatient care, and outpatient care.’ The clinics would have the option to provide, ‘oral health, social and age-appropriate health education services including nutritional counseling.’ Clinics getting federal dollars must act in accordance with federal, state, and local law, according to the bills. For example, clinics in Louisiana are not even allowed to counsel students on abortion, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.” [St. Petersburg Times, 8/7/2009; Politico, 10/1/2009] Politico notes that the claim has been made in right-wing evangelical and social Christian circles for well over a month. [Politico, 10/1/2009]
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