Democracy Has Prevailed.

March 1, 2007

Ravenstahl, Birth Control, & the 7th Ward Democratic Committee Meeting

It has been noted in the comments section of this blog and on other blogs that Interim Mayor Luke Ravenstahl had commented on his views on birth control at a 7th Ward Democratic Committee Meeting. The following email is a firsthand account of that meeting.
Subject: Luke Ravenstahl's appearances before the 7th and 14th Ward Committees
Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2007 17:42:50 EST

Dear Barbara, Sam and other interested committee people,

Earlier this month, one of my sister members of the 7th Ward Democratic Committee told me of a conversation she had had with Luke Ravenstahl when he requested her support. She told me she had asked him about his vote as a member of City Council against protecting health care facilities – particularly women's health care facilities – from harassment, particularly by anti-abortion forces. She told me she was very upset by his answer, and that he further informed her that he was not only against the Constitutional right to abortion, he was also against birth control. I was amazed and somewhat incredulous about this answer, so I decided to ask him the question publicly.

On February 7, the 7th Ward held its forum. I had asked every candidate to detail her/his record on hiring and promotion of women of all colors and men of color. As a follow-up to Ravenstahl's answer, I said, "You can understand my concern, since I recently learned that you are not only opposed to abortion, but also against birth control. So I worry about your attitude to women generally."

The acting mayor responded by nodding as I stated his position. When he didn't verbally respond, one 7th Ward member complained that those issues had nothing to do with being mayor. But another member objected to that characterization, stating that public safety was an issue, and Ravenstahl had refused to protect women at the health clinics. A spirited debate occurred, during which Ravenstahl stated that he did not believe that there was any harassment at the clinics, just people trying to gently persuade women. Many of the 7th Ward members objected to that characterization. I tell you this in background so you know why I was asked by a 14th Ward Committee member to attend your forum last Thursday (2-22-07) to assess Luke Ravenstahl's answers to questions about women'sconstitutional rights.

Imagine my surprise when Ravenstahl essentially called one of the 14th Ward members a liar, saying "no such private conversation had taken place." And he, of course, left out the fact that he had confirmed his anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-right to privacy positions publicly in front of the 7th Ward committee. I was also amazed to discover that in the space of a couple weeks he had changed his position on public safety from one in which he denied there was a problem to "it is now the law and I will enforce it."

I feel that the 14th Ward committee members (and others, for that matter) should know that Ravenstahl lied in his presentation, which is why I'm writing this note. I hope you will consider forwarding it to your members and other interested people. I am also copying this to a number of Democratic leaders who have asked me about my experiences with Ravenstahl. I'm also adding members of political organizations for whom these issues are important. And of course, my contact information is listed below for anyone who wishes to discuss this with me.

As a parenthetical note, please let me answer those few members of the 7th Ward and 14th Ward who fail to see what relevance this has to being mayor of the city of Pittsburgh. Besides the already stated public safety question, there is a question of whether Ravenstahl bears allegiance to the Pennsylvania and U.S. Constitutions as his oath of office requires or to his private religious views. In addition, it is easy to see that someone who becomes mayor of a major city in his youth is likely to envision a long political career, moving into higher office where he might have an opportunity to actually outlaw the right to privacy.

Finally, we must always keep in mind that real women and their families have a right to be trusted, and suffer and die when they are not. Ultimately, the issue is not just about abortion in Pittsburgh, but whether women and children in the world's poorest countries will live or die. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in 16 women dies in childbirth, compared with one in 2,800 in the developed world. A woman dies every 7 minutes from an unsafe abortion. Five million people were infected last year with HIV. These numbers have increased dramatically under the Bush administration, and are just a part of the reason why support for women's legal constitutional rights is a key portion of the Democratic Party platform.

Thanks very much for reading and passing this on.

Jeanne K. C. Clark

- Ms. Clark did indeed include her contact info (email address, phone #) in the above email. I have edited it out, but will happily provide it to other bloggers who may wish to contact her, as well as to anyone in the mainstream media who would hopefully want to write on this subject.

- Ms Clark is a Democratic Committeewoman, a longtime activist for women's rights, and has served as a political and media strategist to candidates and issue campaigns on local, state and federal levels.

- It should be noted that during the public comments section of the Bubble Zone Bill City Council Meeting, the OUT-OF-STATE college students who flooded that session used the same language as Luke that there were "just people trying to gently persuade women." Ravenstahl choose to believe these OUT-OF-STATE college students' assessment of the situation over the testimony of LOCAL WOMEN and newspaper reports. I'm only surprised that he didn't manage to use the phrase "prayerful and peaceful" which the students used ad nauseam.

- David's own firsthand account of Ravenstahl on the subject of contraception at a 14th Ward Committee meeting can be found here.

- For anyone who wishes to start up again the tired, straw man argument that I or David are saying that Ravenstahl would try to ban the sale of contraceptives, or who keeping playing ignorant by stating that the Mayor's views on contraceptives would never come into play in city policy, I will remind you all that cities often have programs to distribute condoms to IV drug users, and NYC was recently in the news for their new condom giveaway program. Also, of course, it would certainly seem that Ravenstahl decided his vote on the Bubble Zone Bill based more on his own religious training than on the fact that it was a public safety issue.


Richmond K. Turner said...

It's a good post, Maria. The only thing that I take issue with is your all-caps vilification of the protesters who come from OUT-OF-STATE. When people come into our city from Ohio, they are just as entitled to any constitutional protections as I am, and they are just as bound by our laws as I am. If a proposed law will affect someone from out of state, they have just as much right to protest it as someone does right here.

Our city council must and should listen to those who live outside the city when they are passing laws that will affect these people. And I think this is easier to see if you think about the situation from the opposite point of view.

Let's just say that abortion were illegal in Ohio, and that any woman who wanted an abortion and who lived there had to travel to another state to obtain one. Those from eastern Ohio would largely come to Pittsburgh.

Now, imagine that this bubble law ordinance was just being proposed, and that city council was scheduled to hear the testimony of an Ohio physician whose patients were terrified to come to Pittsburgh because of the protesters gathered in front of the clinics here. Wouldn't you want city council to hear this doctor?

If so, then her out-of-state testimony is just as relevant as the OUT-OF-STATE views of those on the other side of the debate.

Anonymous said...

Very good post. I just have 2 things to hi-light. First, it's not a matter of "gentle persuasion". Maybe Luke is too young to recall or be aware of the violence that occurs in protest of these facilities, but he should be aware of the fact that at varying time periods during his tenure on council, Pittsburgh Police have been stationed to patrol these facilities due to the potential for violence. Second, Luke's answers provide tremendous insight into Luke's lack of respect for women. Take a look at his entourage, his cabinet and his token promotions/appointments of women. I find it tremendously disheartening that local womens' groups have been so indifferent to Luke's awful record. It appears that women are only good for typing and following orders of short, ill-tempered & ill-willed men in this administration.

Anonymous said...

There may be cities in this country that pass out condoms, but Pittsburgh has never been one of them. There are cities that own hospitals, as well as cities that shoulder the burden that our county government carries with respect to the County Health Dept.; perhaps those other cities engage in condom distribution - who knows?

The City of Pittsburgh is not the protector of "public health" in the same manner as Allegheny County government.

So, back to what you've determined is a straw man argument - how Luke's views on contraception have ZERO impact on City policy. Unless there is a movement out there in Peduto-stan to spend our scarce municipal resources on widespread condom distribution, this issue is a non-issue in this race, and in this government.

As for Ms. Clark's missive: she never mentions who had this private conversation about birth control, except to say it was a sister member of her committee. Ravenstahl denied having a private conversation about birth control/contraception, and this letter does NOTHING to refute that.
Ms. Clark may interpret his non-verbal head-nodding as some kind of assent to her statements, but I don't think anyone else in their right mind would agree.

And for the bubble law: assault is illegal everywhere in PA, not just in front of abortion clinics; there are also laws currently in place against terroristic threats, harrassment, obstruction of traffic, and tresspass.

Opposing this bubble law is in no way an attempt to repeal these existing laws; rather it is a solid, pro-American, pro-1st Amendment stand that Luke should be commended for taking.

Anonymous said...

Yes, assault is illegal everywhere, but "bubble zones" are not. Courts have specifically recognized the legality of bubble zones around entrances to abortion clinics, i.e. the courts recognize a curtailment of 1st amendment privileges that Luke does not, i.e. Luke should not be commended for his ignorance of the law.

As made abundantly clear in Maria's post and in the comments, this isn't just about the potential for condom distribution. Luke is running on a platform that he is the "progressive" "young" candidate, labels that do not fit a guy who is appears to be completely ignorant of the dangers of YOUNG PEOPLE having sex w/o condoms (disease) and of the difficulties faced by WOMEN and YOUNG PEOPLE when presented with unplanned pregnancies. His rejection of the bubble zone demonstrated not only ignorance of the law but a complete lack of sensitivity for the women who are presented with very real physical danger in walking into abortion clinics - as concluded by our courts.
Luke's comments are quite relevant to the credibility of his representations that he is progressive and supportive of women. As for the question of whether Luke lied, given his past history of lies and half-truths, my money is on Maria's friend.

Maria said...


"Opposing this bubble law is in no way an attempt to repeal these existing laws; rather it is a solid, pro-American, pro-1st Amendment stand that Luke should be commended for taking."

Please direct me to one statement made by Luke that says that he voted "no" based on First Admendment grounds.

As I recall, he was the only council member who did not state a reason for his vote during Council's discussion at their Standing Committee meeting.

Furthermore, his comment that he would "uphold the law" (how big of him) on the Bubble Zone when asked about his committment to privacy points in the other direction for his reasoning behind his vote.

You're his supporter. I guess it's too bad that you have such a tough time admitting to yourself and others exactly what you are actually supporting.

The Burgher said...


The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the statute Pittsburgh based its statute on was constitutional. They are identical.

Luke's vote means that he shares the opinion of Scalia and Thomas.

Anonymous said...

I'm really going to worry about this when Ravenstahl gets that seat on the Supreme Court.

Brokered by Dennis Regan, of course.

Richmond K. Turner said...

One thing, though. Just because the Supreme Court says that a city can enact a certain kind or law does not -- at least in this case -- mean that they must do so. No city councilmember... not even Luke... should be required to vote for any law that they do not think is right for their community, even if the Supreme Court gives them the necessary permission to do so.

Frankly, if I had been on council, this one would have been a very, very, very difficult choice for me. It puts two things that I hold very dear -- the freedom to seek medical treatment and the freedom to assemble and protest -- at direct odds with one another. It seems like everytime I give any deep thought to the bubble law, I end up coming down on the opposite side of where I ended up the time before.

It's not a slam dunk, at least for me. I realize that it is for many others, and I dig what yinz are saying. But I really can't be sure where I would have ultimately come down if I were on council at the time.

Anonymous said...

Since Luke didn't state his reasons for voting against the bubble law when he voted, I think I'm just as entitled to presume his motivations (1st Amendment/Free Speech) as those who deride his vote (putting his rosaries on womens' ovaries).

Maybe he does agree with Scalia and Thomas (and Justice Kennedy, who also dissented) as far as the 1st Amendment is concerned. I agree with them too. And as the Admiral stated, just because the courts say a government CAN restrict speech, doesn't mean they MUST.

Then again, maybe Luke voted no because he's genuinely pro-life and he doesn't like this law singling out people he agrees with for criminal sanctions. I'm with him on that one as well.
I have no trouble admitting that to anyone.

BTW, Maria, I'm still undecided on the Mayor's race; contraception and abortion are not city issues to me, and will have very little impact on my vote.

However, this whole contraception/abortion exchange does highlight for me my concern that Peduto, and his fellow travelers are NOT motivated by the nuts and bolts of local government, but rather by national cultural issues - and a desire to transform the Democratic Party in Pittsburgh into a left-liberal (and thus minority) interest group. The more the Democratic party is defined by the cultural left, the less success it will have in this area.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe someone would honestly believe that Mayor Luke has or ever had a lack of respect for women.


Anonymous said...

Must not be that big of a deal considering some poll #'s...

The poll mentioned in yesterday's post, which suggests that the city controller's race is neck-and-neck-and-neck, suggests the opposite in regards to the mayor's contest.

Washington, D.C.-based pollster Fred Yang told Early Returns that he also polled the respondents regarding Mr. Ravenstahl and Mr. Peduto, and found that 72 percent favor keeping the mayor, versus 16 percent for the councilman and 12 percent undecided.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes. And why was the Early Returns polling data on the mayoral race NOT published in the print version of the PG? Because Mr.Yang didn't provide any supporting data to the PG. Remember, this is the same Mr.Yang that was hired by Lukey dookey in November to say that he was ahead of all other challengers. That is, when no one else had publicly declared they would run against Luke. Mr.YinYang is a national Democratic pollster who is likely an acrobat in manipulating data. In fact, the numbers are strikingly similar to the poll taken in Nov
Shenanigans I say.

Gerrit said...


What do you mean by 'Pro-American?'

Maria said...

"Since Luke didn't state his reasons for voting against the bubble law when he voted, I think I'm just as entitled to presume his motivations (1st Amendment/Free Speech) as those who deride his vote (putting his rosaries on womens' ovaries)."

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

As this post and previous posts on this subject show, every time he's asked about the Bubble Zone Bill, he answers in terms of abortion/contraceptives/privacy; never in terms of free speech.

McArdle said...

I can't believe someone would honestly believe that Mayor Luke has or ever had a lack of respect for women.


Why do you say that, Matt?

Anonymous said...

Ummm let's see...could it be because it's 100% not true?


Anonymous said...

Re: Luke's lack of respect for women, given everything cited by Anonymous (12:28 pm) above, a big NUH UH from Matt H doesn't do much to convince me otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Look, this is REALLY getting old...
but the posts I've read which claim to quote Luke on the bubble law are referencing questions from committee people on the subject of birth control; those QUESTIONS then went on to tie in his opposition to the bubble law as a way to sound him out on the right to privacy (seems to me like the questioners were trying to ask about his views on abortion, without actually asking about his views on abortion).

Thus, Luke's responses to those multi-subject questions would naturally mention privacy - the questioners asked him about it themselves. I have yet to see references in these blogs of a question directed at Luke that specifically asked about why he voted no on the bubble law.

[Now, one can believe in a right to privacy and still be of the opinion that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided, but that's another set of blog posts...]

And another thing: why do the residents of Peduto-stan seem so desperate to believe that Luke is against birth control and abortion? Does that somehow give their support of Peduto some extra-value? Maybe it's more motivation to be against someone rather than be for your own candidate, but the Peduto-istas seem to WANT Luke to be against everything they believe in, perhaps so it feels better backing Peduto.

Anonymous said...

Tell me again why the Democratic Party should nominate someone who shares the views of John Ashcroft on birth control? I also don't doubt that the Mayor said all of this. He probably thinks he needs to be "the most pro-life" to win (he must be listening to Motznik again), which shows what we already knew: he lacks political courage.

It's an issue because if you've ever seen the protests in front of McKee, it borders on harrassment. There's a difference between saying, "You should support life," and standing in front of a hospital with a big picture of a mangled fetus with the word, "sin" underneath it.

Then there's also the issue of protestors yelling at women, condemning them, and saying they'll burn in hell. That type of action could cause a woman to believe that imminent harm is likely, which is the legal definition of assualt (battery is when someone actually strikes another person).

McArdle said...

Ummm let's see...could it be because it's 100% not true?


What I meant was "Could you please offer support for your statement?"

I am not saying this because I think that Luke dislikes women. I am saying it because, in the time that I have been paying attention to this weblog I have seen you comment many times and I don't recall you ever offering any examples or arguments to support your positions, especially when it comes to the Mayor.

Some other time we can talk about how you intentionally miss the point to argue with some unimportant aspect of the discussion which you willfully distort.

I thought I was throwing you a softball here: I would have accepted something like "I have known Luke for a decade and in many discussions it has been clear to me that he has nothing but respect for women." You couldn't even muster that.

I hope Luke is not counting on you for any kind of official communication because you have proven yourself unable to engage in anything but the most dishonest and transparently worthless manner.

Are you the reason Luke has refused to just answer questions about this? Did you convince him that it is better to look like a weasel with something to hide than to simply say what he believes? If so, you should be fired. You should probably be fired anyway for going on the internet to be dishonest apparently on the Mayor's behalf.

You represent everything that is wrong with electoral politics.

Anonymous said...

OK. Here we go.

I have known Luke for a few years now and from my conversations and from being around him I can tell you that he has a ton of respect from women.

Does that make you happy now?

"Are you the reason Luke has refused to just answer questions about this?"

Nope. It's another non issue brought up by the net bloggers who look for a story angle.

"you have proven yourself unable to engage in anything but the most dishonest and transparently worthless manner."

Hmmm I think plenty of people who actually know me outside of these dumb blogs would disagree with you. Come to the Endorsement tomorrow and we can talk about the issues. Come in and ask for me and you will find me.

Maria said...

Matt H,

'"Are you the reason Luke has refused to just answer questions about this?"

Nope. It's another non issue brought up by the net bloggers who look for a story angle.'

No, it's an issue because it's being discussed by committee people who, by the way, are not bloggers.

And, these committee people will be endorsing someone tomorrow.

All that makes it newsworthy for both bloggers and the MSM.

Also, the number of comments alone proves that, while you may like to claim that it's not an issue, it obviously is to the people who write and read the blogs.

Maria said...


My answer to your last comment grew so long that I thought it deserved a post of its own.

You can find it here.

Anonymous said...

I was at the 7th Ward Democratic Committee meeting when Ravenstahl had to answer the question regarding the bubble zones that was posed by one of the committee members-- his exact response was "I get harassed everyday" he did elaborate further as he was pressed on the issue but that is exactly what he said.