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Marie Meszaros

Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Health Reform; Advisor and Legal Counsel, Office of the General Counsel

Marie Meszaros is a lawyer and an anti-abortion activist. Meszaros has spent her career advocating for right-wing priorities, including at the Palmetto Family Council (an extremist Christian group affiliated with the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family), where she pushed for legislation intended to force women in South Carolina to look at an ultrasound image before receiving an abortion.

HOW THEIR ROLE AFFECTS ACCESS TO REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

The Office of Health Reform was created to help implement President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (though Politico reports that the office has been “pared back” since President Trump took office). The Office of the General Counsel provides legal advice and representation to the Health Secretary and the rest of the Departmenf of Health and Human Services (HHS).

  • Under the Trump administration, HHS has moved to undermine access to abortion and birth control by in several ways. HHS weakened the ACA’s birth control mandate by issuing broad, new rules allowing employers and insurers to cite religious or moral objections in order to refuse to cover contraception; proposed changes to Title X that would shift federal funds from Planned Parenthood health centers to faith-based “crisis pregnancy centers” that could offer “natural family planning” such as the rhythm method, in lieu of birth control; and relied on the extremist group Alliance Defending Freedom to “draft the letter it sent to states reversing Obama-era guidance that it's against the law to terminate Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider.”

PREVIOUS EMPLOYMENT OF NOTE

Legislative Assistant to Rep, Mark Sanford, who opposed abortion rights in Congress and as the Governor of South Carolina, 8/2014 - 9/2015

Legal intern at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has been instrumental in several lawsuits aimed at denying women access to birth control, including the Hobby Lobby case, Summer 2010

Director of research, operations, and projects at the Palmetto Family Council, a right-wing Christian group affiliated with the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, 1/2006 - 7/2008

TIES TO OTHER ANTI-CHOICE EXTREMISTS

Alliance Defending Freedom:

Meszaros was a Blackstone Fellow at the right-wing Christian organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which has provided legal representation to anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” and a baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated ADF as a hate group.

HIGHLIGHTS

Meszaros: “Contraceptive Mentality...Divorces Sex From Procreation And Treats Fertility As An Illness” And “Lays The Groundwork” For Abortion:

“The contraceptive mentality is a culturally imbedded notion that began spreading profusely after the introduction of oral contraception in the early 1960s and the subsequent legalization of contraception in 1965. This contraceptive mentality divorces sex from procreation and treats fertility as an illness, a disease, which are all alien to the nature of the sexual act. Nonetheless the mentality is increasingly widespread. This mentality leads to fission in marital communication, detrimental impacts on women’s health, and even lays the groundwork for a societal justification of abortion. Given any one of these effects, it is evident that this mentality is dangerous.” [Notre Dame Right to Life, accessed 10/5/18]

Meszaros Worked To Ban Same-Sex Marriage:

Meszaros managed the Palmetto Family Council’s campaign to pass South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban. [Marie Meszaros Resume, accessed via American Oversight; The Greenville News, 11/8/06]

THE WHOLE STORY

Marie Meszaros Pushed For Legislation Intended To Force Women In To Look At An Ultrasound Image Before Receiving An Abortion; The Proposed Bill Was So Extreme It Likely Violated The Constitution

Meszaros Urged The Head Of The Palmetto Family Council To Help Draft Legislation Intended To Force Women In South Carolina To View An Ultrasound Image Before Receiving An Abortion

When She Was A Director At The Right-Wing Christian Palmetto Family Council, Meszaros Urged The Group’s President To Work With South Carolina Lawmakers To Draft Legislation Intended To Force Women To Look At An Ultrasound Image Before Receiving An Abortion. “The S.C. House's landslide passage of an ultrasound abortion bill, which kindled a firestorm of attention and controversy, was sealed weeks before the House voted…Oran Smith, president of the Palmetto Family Council…and then-House candidate Mick Mulvaney of Lancaster County began to work on the bill's concept. The final impetus, Smith said, was a visit in early January from his 25-year-old research director, Marie [Meszaros], who approached him with a story and an envelope. [Meszaros] had an abortion five years ago, Smith said. An ultrasound had been performed, as state health regulations required. But she'd never been offered a chance to see it, Smith said. [Meszaros] said that when she went into the abortion clinic, she was still undecided, but everything happened so fast. In the manila envelope was the ultrasound image of [Meszaros]'s fetus. ‘It changed me,’ Smith said. ‘It changed everyone associated with it.’” [The Myrtle Beach Sun-News, 4/8/2007]

  • Had Meszaros’s Preferred Version Of The Bill Been Enacted, South Carolina Would Have Become The First State In The US To Force Women To Look At An Ultrasound Image Before Receiving An Abortion. The Legislation Passed The House But Was Amended In The Senate Because Even Its Supporters Felt It Was Too Extreme To Withstand Legal Challenge. “The change Thursday would give women the option of viewing their ultrasound. The House last month passed a plan to require doctors performing the procedure to show the ultrasound to women. The amended version puts South Carolina more in line with what other states have done. The House version put South Carolina alone in requiring women review the pictures...Some might see the Senate version as weaker - just a way to write current DHEC regulations into law. Abortion foes, including the Palmetto Family Council's Oran Smith, say the Senate bill is more likely to stand a constitutional test. ‘We have to be realistic about where we are right now legally. And legally, there are boundaries that we can't cross unless we want to be tied up in court.’” [WIS-10, 7/9/2007]

Meszaros Advocated For The Proposed Legislation In Highly Personal Terms, Saying That Being Forced To Look At An Ultrasound Image Would Have Prevented Her From Having An Abortion

Meszaros Said She Wanted To Tell Women That Abortion “Brings Misery.” “Meszaros says pressing for the ultrasound legislation is just one part of her organization's efforts to tell women that they don't have to choose between abortion and misery: ‘Women don't realize that abortion itself brings misery.’” [WORLD MAGAZINE, 4/7/2007]

  • South Carolina Democrats Described The Policy Meszaros Advocated As “Emotional Blackmail.” “…The ultrasound legislation proved a firecracker issue when it came to the South Carolina House floor in March. Representatives engaged in three hours of heated debate. Opponents of the bill called it ‘emotional blackmail.’ Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a Democrat who led opposition to the legislation, quoted Scripture about justice and told the bill's supporters: ‘You love them in the womb, but once they get here it's a different story.’ She added: ‘You're sitting here passing judgment. Who gave you the right?’” [WORLD MAGAZINE, 4/7/2007]

In Media Interviews, Meszaros Said That Abortion Results in “Relentless Heartache” and “Misery”

Meszaros Said That Being Forced To Look At An Ultrasound Image Would Save Women From The “Relentless Heartache” Of Abortion. “‘This legislation will serve as one last chance for those women who…unknowingly choose against their better judgment,’ said [Meszaros], a director at the family council. ‘More women will not have to bear the relentless heartache knowing they will never be able to hug their lost child.’” [AP, 3/17/2007]

Marie Meszaros Opposes The Use Of Birth Control

Meszaros Advocated For “Natural Family Planning” And Believes That The Use Of Birth Control Has Created A “Dangerous” Cultural “Contraceptive Mentality”

In An “Argument Both For Natural Family Planning And Against Contraception,” Meszaros Lamented That The “Contraceptive Mentality...Divorces Sex From Procreation And Treats Fertility As An Illness” And “Lays The Groundwork” For Abortion. “The contraceptive mentality is a culturally imbedded notion that began spreading profusely after the introduction of oral contraception in the early 1960s and the subsequent legalization of contraception in 1965. This contraceptive mentality divorces sex from procreation and treats fertility as an illness, a disease, which are all alien to the nature of the sexual act. Nonetheless the mentality is increasingly widespread. This mentality leads to fission in marital communication, detrimental impacts on women’s health, and even lays the groundwork for a societal justification of abortion. Given any one of these effects, it is evident that this mentality is dangerous.” [Notre Dame Right to Life, accessed 10/5/18]

As A Law Student, Meszaros Worked At The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty, Where She Worked On Cases To Defend Pharmacists’ “First Amendment Conscience Rights.” As a legal intern at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Meszaros “Analyzed state statutes and regulations to defend plaintiff-pharmacists’ first amendment conscience rights.” [American Oversight, accessed 10/5/18]

  • The Becket Fund Was Co-Counsel For Two Pharmacists Who Refused To Dispense The Morning After Pill. “A federal court on Wednesday (Feb. 22) struck down a Washington state rule that requires pharmacists to dispense the morning-after pill even if it violates their religious beliefs. Religious liberty advocates cheered the decision. They have decried the 2007 state regulation as a violation of pharmacists’ First Amendment rights, which guarantee freedom of religion. “Today’s decision sends a very clear message: No individual can be forced out of her profession solely because of her religious beliefs,” said Luke Goodrich, deputy national litigation director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. The Becket Fund was co-counsel for two pharmacists who believe that life begins at the fertilization of a human egg, and can be destroyed by the pills.” [Washington Post, 2/22/12]