#ThatsSCARYNC: Remember when our legislature tried to deny access to cancer screenings?

In this very special Halloween edition of our Election 2014 countdown, it’s worth acknowledging one of the scarier moves the North Carolina legislature made since its conservative leadership came into power.

With Speaker of the House Thom Tillis at the helm, the General Assembly inserted anti-woman provisions into the 2012 state budget which effectively eliminated life-saving cancer screenings, annual exams, birth control, and STI testing and treatment for low-thats_scary_4income and uninsured North Carolina women, men, and teens who sought preventive health care at Planned Parenthood.

Whether or not the goal was to prevent more women from being able to access reproductive health care services, the impact was just that, and today it’s easy to argue that because of this legislative leadership’s long-standing policy of putting women behind special interests, the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of North Carolina voters could have been at risk.

Now, Speaker Tillis is Senatorial candidate Tillis, who carries some serious baggage not only for his defunding of essential medical care for low-income women, but also his leadership around the now-infamous “Motorcycle Abortion Bill,” which placed a set of strict abortion restrictions onto an unrelated provision on motorcycle helmets.

He faces pro-choice, and for many women, “clear choice” Senator Kay Hagan. Let’s hope the only thing that goes bump in the night this Halloween is Sen. Hagan’s polling numbers heading into Election Day.

For more candidates who won’t put women at risk, check out our custom NARAL Pro-Choice NC Voters’ Guide.

#NCVotesEarly: Because of that time Thom Tillis tried to deny us birth control.

There’s no denying that Thom Tillis is on the side of extreme special interest groups and has a long track record of interfering with personal, private medical decisions that should be left between a woman and her doctor.

After all, he openly opposes a woman’s right to choose and helped push sweeping abortion restrictions through the N.C. General Assembly, sneakingday8_early_vote.v.2 them first into a Sharia Law bill, and then when that failed, into an unrelated motorcycle safety bill.

But Tillis hasn’t stopped there.

He also opposed increased access to birth control in an effort to cut off a woman’s ability to prevent unintended pregnancy in the first place. What’s worse is that he applauded the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that enables bosses at corporations like Hobby Lobby  to deny their employees access to birth control.

Tillis even thinks states should have the right to ban contraceptives.

Fortunately, his opponent Sen. Kay Hagan’s support for women is clear.  She voted against an unsuccessful amendment in 2012 that would have allowed employers to refuse to provide insurance coverage for health services they disagreed with, including birth control.

For a list of additional candidates who support women, check out our custom NARAL Pro-Choice NC Voters’ Guide.

#NCVotesEarly: Because of that time Thom Tillis said his female opponent was bad at math.

Back in August, Thom Tillis released an ad accusing his opponent Sen. Kay Hagan of being bad at math.day7_early_vote.v.2

“Math is lost on Senator Hagan,” he told audiences from his trusty dry erase board.

What was lost on the Republican candidate was that by calling his female opponent bad at math — an opponent who happens to also be a senator, a banking lawyer who previously wrote state budgets, and a member of the Senate Banking Committee — he exhibited a level of sexism that as one commentator put it, made his problem with North Carolina women “past the point of no return.”

Fortunately, our math reveals that Sen. Hagan has maintained a double-digit lead in support by women against Tillis in the months since the ad was released.

Watch the ad below – and see how Tillis doesn’t quite add up:

For a list of candidates who believe in women, check out our custom NARAL Pro-Choice NC Voters’ Guide.

NARAL NC Discusses Implications and Impact of Hobby Lobby on Duke Law Panel

Last Tuesday, academics and advocates discussed the implications for reproductive rights and religious freedoms after the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision at Duke University Law School. The event was co-sponsored and organized by the Women Law Students Association (WLSA), the American Constitution Society (ACS), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and funded by the Duke Bar Association (DBA).

On June 30, 2014 the Supreme Court issued a decision in the Hobby Lobby case. It held that closely held, for-profit companies with religious objections to following the federal health care law’s requirement to provide coverage for birth control in their employee health plan do not have to do so because they are protected by a federal law known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Katie Karges, from the Duke Women's Law Student's Association, introduces the panelist and moderator Duke Law Professor Katherine Bartlett.

Katie Karges, from the Duke Women’s Law Student’s Association, introduces the panelist and moderator Duke Law Professor Katherine Bartlett.

Judy Waxman, Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights at National Women’s Law Center, stressed that the number one issue issue at stake in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision is women’s health. Waxman explained that this decision has severe economic impacts for women. She noted that the cost of many of the contraception methods excluded by Hobby Lobby are some of the most effective and for workers earning the minimum wage, are close to a month’s full-time pay. She added that this decision allows a boss’s religion to trump an employee’s.

Stating that half of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended and that 99% of women will use some form of birth control in their lifetime, Kristine Kippins of the Federal Policy Counsel Center for Reproductive Rights used statistics to convey her message that the economic benefit of no-cost contraception on a woman’s life is great. Notably, Kippins stated that “religious liberty is supposed to be a shield not a sword.”

Suzanne Buckley, NARAL NC‘s Executive Director added that this decision is about discrimination against women, the burden of which will be felt most heavily by poor women, women of color,  hourly wage workers at corporations like Hobby Lobby, and women and families who are already struggling to make ends meet. She noted that 648,000 NC women are in need of publicly funded contraceptive services, and over 600,000 lack health insurance coverage. The vast majority of women that already lack insurance are women of color—51.5% of Hispanic women and 25.6% of black women in NC are uninsured.  Buckley emphasized that the ability to decide when, how, if and with whom to make a family is critical to women’s health and well-being and our economic security.  She stated that access to affordable contraception is critical to women’s ability to manage our future, and the families we already have.  She added, “The Hobby Lobby decision takes birth control out of the hands of women who need it—and may not be able to get it otherwise.”

Buckley also explained that North Carolina has a “contraceptive equity” law that requires insurance plans in NC to cover contraception. North Carolina’s contraceptive equity law is a separate legal requirement on insurance plans in NC that is not impacted by the Hobby Lobby decision. While NC’s contraceptive equity law (N.C. G.S. § 58-3-178) will remain in effect, NC’s law does not provide no-cost contraceptive coverage and does not cover employees of self-funded or self-insured companies.

Jessica Waters, the Associate Dean of the School of Public Affairs at American University, noted many implications of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. Waters noted how our justice system conflates gender and morality, but stressed how Hobby Lobby attacks women.

Jed Purdy, a Duke Law Professor, asked the audience to ponder whose freedom of religion should count: a corporation or an employee? Purdy questioned the definition of reproductive freedom: does reproductive freedom mean the right to choose, or does reproductive freedom require access and financial ability to make and follow through with a choice? Purdy stressed how the Hobby Lobby decision adds to the economic and social power of corporations.

Looking forward, the North Carolina General Assembly could try to amend NC’s contraceptive equity law to broaden the exceptions and allow certain for-profit corporations, all corporations, or any entity with a religious objection to get out of complying with the law. The NC General Assembly will also likely consider attempting to pass a state RFRA, thereby creating a state version of the Hobby Lobby decision.

It’s more important than ever that we vote to elect candidates that share out values, like access to affordable birth control and protecting North Carolina women and families.

#NCVotesEarly: Because of that time Thom Tillis called equal pay for women a “campaign gimmick”

On the issue of equal pay for women, Congressional candidate Thom Tillis responded at a recent debate by saying that government should enforce day6_early_vote.v.2existing laws, not adopt “some of the campaign gimmicks that are going to put more regulations and make it more difficult.”

Tillis’ not-so-tactful comments drew the ire of many women across North Carolina and the nation, including Hillary Clinton, who said this weekend while visiting Charlotte with Sen. Kay Hagan, “You have to ask yourself, is it pro-family? Is it pro-North Carolina to say that equal pay for women is just a campaign gimmick? When I heard that I thought I’d misheard it. … This is not just a women’s issue. This is a family issue. A fairness issue. An economic issue.”

“Usually,” Clinton said with a wry smile, “there’s a subtle way to be discriminatory and insulting.”

Tillis’ insulting way with women might explain why Kay Hagan continues to hold a double-digit lead on her opponent among female voters in polls over the past two months, and why we give her our full support right here.

For more candidates who support women’s equality, check out our custom NARAL Pro-Choice NC Voters’ Guide.

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#NCVotesEarly: Because our legislature would rather be unconstitutional than trust women.

In a unanimous decision in February 2014, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a lower court’s ruling that North Carolina’s “Choose Life” license plates are unconstitutional because the state refused to offer alternative, pro-choice license plates.

day5_early_vote.v.2In 2011, North Carolina lawmakers approved “Choose Life” license plates as one of 80 specialty plates to be offered by the state. Each “Choose Life” plate would cost $25, with $15 of the proceeds going into the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, an association of anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers.

But while the General Assembly approved the “Choose Life” plates, it rejected proposals to offer license plates with alternative messages such as “Respect Choice” and “Trust Women.” The decision to not offer a specialty plate, the Fourth Circuit concluded, constituted “blatant viewpoint discrimination squarely at odds with the First Amendment.”

Extreme lawmakers who campaigned on improving education and turning around the economy instead spent hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting to keep a clearly unconstitutional vanity license plate. Their priorities are out of touch with the majority of North Carolinians who trust women to make their own reproductive health care decisions.

For more on candidates who trust women, check out our custom NARAL Pro-Choice NC Voters’ Guide.

#NCVotesEarly: Because of that time our legislature passed “the worst voter suppression law in the country.”

On July 25, 2013, North Carolina’s legislature passed the worst voter suppression law in the country.

Or at least that’s what The Nation called it the next day, writing:

day4_early_vote.v.3“The bill mandates strict voter ID to cast a ballot (no student IDs, no public employee IDs, etc.), even though 318,000 registered voters lack the narrow forms of acceptable ID according to the state’s own numbers and there have been no recorded prosecutions of voter impersonation in the past decade. The bill cuts the number of early voting days by a week, even though 56 percent of North Carolinians voted early in 2012. The bill eliminates same-day voter registration during the early voting period, even though 96,000 people used it during the general election in 2012 and states that have adopted the convenient reform have the highest voter turnout in the country. African-Americans are 23 percent of registered voters in the state, but made up 28 percent of early voters in 2012, 33 percent of those who used same-day registration and 34 percent of those without state-issued ID.

And that’s just the start of it. In short, the bill eliminates practically everything that encourages people to vote in North Carolina, replaced by unnecessary and burdensome new restrictions. At the same time, the bill expands the influence of unregulated corporate influence in state elections. Just what our democracy needs—more money and less voting!”

The Nation wasn’t alone – in the weeks, months, and more than a year since the bill’s passage, state and national media and commentators have called the law — much of which has been challenged as unconstitutional — “the most sweeping anti-voter law in at least decades.”

Let’s sweep the those same anti-voter politicians out of office with the time we do have to vote.

For pro-voter (and pro-choice) candidates, check out our custom NARAL Pro-Choice Voter Guide.