Planned Parenthood endorses challenger to Sen. Susan Collins
PORTLAND, Maine — Planned Parenthood on Tuesday endorsed a Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, saying Collins “turned her back” on women and citing her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court as well as other judicial nominees who oppose abortion.
Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, welcomed the endorsement from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “There’s never been a more important time to stand up for reproductive rights,” she said, in the face of “systematic attacks on reproductive rights across the country.”
Collins, who was honored by Planned Parenthood as recently as 2017 as “an outspoken champion for women’s health,” is facing perhaps the toughest reelection fight of her career. Critics have vowed they won’t forget her key vote for Kavanaugh, whose nomination survived an accusation that he sexually assaulted someone in high school.
“From her decisive vote to confirm Kavanaugh to her refusal to stop Republican attacks on our health and rights, it’s clear that she has turned her back on those she should be championing,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood . She said Collins “has abandoned not only the people of Maine, but women across the country.”
The Collins campaign said Planned Parenthood has changed and become more partisan, noting that no Republicans have won its endorsement.
“Senator Collins has not changed, but leadership at Planned Parenthood certainly has,” Collins campaign spokesman Kevin Kelley said. “It’s sad that the group is now run by far left activists who would rather focus on partisan politics than bipartisan policies that provide health care to women.”
The endorsement was one of several announced Tuesday, the day before the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund also is backing Democrat Jaime Harrison, who’s seeking to unseat GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Democrat Barbara Bollier, who’s running for an open Senate seat in Kansas.
In Maine, Collins and Planned Parenthood have had a complicated relationship.
Collins has supported funding for the organization, and she received its endorsement once before, in her 2002 reelection campaign. She was honored by the group in 2017 with its Barry Goldwater Award to a public official who has acted as a leader within the Republican Party to support Planned Parenthood.
“Senator Collins has been an outspoken champion for women’s health. Thanks to Senator Collins’ steadfast commitment to her constituents, tens of thousands of women in Maine and millions of women across the country still have access to essential health care,” Cecile Richards, then-president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said at the time, about a year before the Kavanaugh vote.
The relationship with the organization has gone downhill since then.
The 67-year-old Collins said Kavanaugh, who denied the sexual assault allegation, vowed to respect precedent including the Roe v. Wade ruling. But Planned Parenthood contends 26 proposals to limit abortions have been adopted in 17 states since then.
Gideon, meanwhile, supports Medicaid expansion and expanded health care for women and has vowed to continue “the fight to protect and expand reproductive rights.”
“As a former Planned Parenthood patient, she knows what it means to be able to get the care you need from a trusted provider and how hurtful it is to see your provider attacked by extremist politicians,” Nicole Clegg, of Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, said in a statement.
Money is already pouring into the Senate race. Collins is considered among the most vulnerable Republican senators in the nation, a new position for her in a state where rising polarization and partisanship is clashing with a culture of independence.
Gideon is backed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. But she faces activist Betsy Sweet, attorney Bre Kidman, former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse and travel agent Michael Bunker in the Democratic primary.
Kidman expressed disappointment Tuesday, saying that when her team reached out she was told that Planned Parenthood Action Fund “intended to remain neutral in the primary.”
“As one of the first greeters at the Planned Parenthood health center in Portland, I physically protected patients’ rights to access reproductive healthcare in sun, rain, sleet, and snow — often bodily shielding people from encounters with protestors,” she said in a statement.
Both Collins and Gideon already have raised millions of dollars for the race. Tracking firm Advertising Analytics projects that the candidates and outside groups will spend $55 million on ads by Election Day.
This story has been corrected to show Kidman said she “protected,” not “protested.”
At 90, Native Alaska woman will be 1st counted in US Census
TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska — Lizzie Chimiugak has lived for 90 years in the windswept western wilds of Alaska, born to a nomadic family who lived in mud homes and followed where the good hunting and fishing led.
Her home now is an outpost on the Bering Sea, Toksook Bay, and she is about to become the most well-known woman in the tiny town, where at 90 she is considered an elder: She will be the first person counted in the U.S. Census, taken every 10 years to apportion representation in Congress and federal money.
“Elders that were before me, if they didn’t die too early, I wouldn’t have been the first person counted,” Lizzie Chimiugak said, speaking Yup’ik language of Yugtun, with family members serving as interpreters. “Right now, they’re considering me as an elder, and they’re asking me questions I’m trying my best to give answers to, or to talk about what it means to be an elder.”
The decennial U.S. census has started in rural Alaska, out of tradition and necessity, ever since the U.S. purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. The ground is still frozen, which allows easier access before the spring melt makes many areas inaccessible to travel and residents scatter to subsistence hunting and fishing grounds. The mail service is spotty in rural Alaska and the internet connectivity unreliable, which makes door-to-door surveying important.
The rest of the nation, including more urban areas of Alaska, begin the census in mid-March.
On Tuesday, Steven Dillingham, director of the census bureau, will conduct the first interview. Because of federal privacy laws, the bureau won’t even confirm Chimiugak will be the first person counted, even though it’s the worst kept secret in her hometown.
After the count, a celebration is planned at Nelson Island School, and will include local Alaska Native dancers and traditional food, which could include seal, walrus, musk ox and moose.
Robert Pitka, tribal administrator for Nunakauyak Traditional Council, hopes the takeaway message for the rest of the nation is of Yup’ik pride.
“We are Yup’ik people and that the world will see that we are very strong in our culture and our traditions and that our Yup’ik language is very strong.”
For Chimiugak, she has concerns about climate change and what it might do to future generations of subsistence hunters and fishers in the community, and what it will do to the fish and animals. She plans to talk about it with others at the celebration.
“She’s sad about the future,” he eldest son Paul said.
Chimiugak was born just after the start of the Great Depression in the middle of nowhere in western Alaska, her daughter Katie Schwartz of Springfield, Missouri, said. Lizzie was one of 10 siblings born to her parents, who lived a nomadic lifestyle and traveled with two or three other families that would migrate together, her son said.
Lizzie and her 101-year-old sister from Nightmute, Alaska, survive.
In 1947 Lizzie married George Chimiugak, and they eventually settled in Toksook Bay after the town was founded in 1964 by residents of nearby Nightmute. There are five surviving children.
He worked maintenance at the airport and she did janitorial work at the old medical clinic and babysat.
Like other wives, she cleaned fish, tanned hides and even rendered seal oil after her husband came home from fishing or hunting. Her husband died about 30 years ago.
She is also a woman of strong Catholic faith, and told her son that she saved his life by praying over him after he contracted polio.
For her own hobbies, she weaved baskets from grass and remains a member of the Alaska Native dance group that will perform Tuesday, she dancing in her wheelchair.
She taught children manners and responsibility and continued the oral tradition of telling them stories with a storyknife.
Chimiugak used a knife in the mud to illustrate her stories to school children. She drew figures for people or homes. At the end of the story, she’d use the knife to wipe away the pictures and start the next story with a clean slate of mud.
“She’s a great teacher, you know giving reminders us of how we’re supposed to be, taking care of subsistence and taking care of our family and respecting our parents,” her granddaughter Alice Tulik said. “That’s how she would give us advice.”
Warning signs were there for Spokane woman missing more than a year; now she is feared dead
SPOKANE — Courtney Holden cried out for help before she went missing a year and a half ago.
But no one heard her.
The 27-year-old had bruises on her body that she told family and friends came from beatings inflicted by her adoptive brother, Joshua Holden. The last time her biological brother saw her about two years ago, she had a black eye, according to police reports.
When Joshua moved back in with his mother, Judy Holden, after his parents’ divorce in 2014, neighbors say he set up a slew of security cameras around their residence on Heroy Avenue, about a block from Rogers High School in northeast Spokane.
“Smile, you’re on camera” signs are scattered throughout the front yard of the home with a handful of cameras pointing in different directions.
The cameras made Courtney nervous to leave the house, one neighbor told police. She knew she’d get in trouble with Joshua for sneaking out.
One neighbor’s phone would ring in the middle of the night with Courtney on the line crying about how Joshua was out of control and wouldn’t allow her to have a life.
Joshua and Judy often called Courtney “Cindy,” short for Cinderella, in reference to all the work she did around the house, one person close with the family told police.
Courtney never had a cellphone or a car. At one point, she was allowed to chat with a neighbor over the back fence, but eventually that stopped, too.
One person talked to Courtney every day via Facebook until Joshua discovered she had an account.
“I gotta go. I gotta go. Josh is coming,” her final message from nearly two years ago said.
And then her account went dark.
On a summer day in 2018, Courtney was dragging a large duffel bag out the front door when her adoptive mother, Judy, chased after her and said, “Get back in that house,” one neighbor recounted to Spokane police.
“No, I’m not staying here anymore,” the neighbor recalled hearing Courtney say.
But then Joshua, at more than 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, forcibly picked up 160-pound Courtney and brought her back inside. She wasn’t able to put up a fight, the neighbor said.
That was the last time that neighbor, and perhaps anyone outside that home, saw Courtney.
Police fear she may be dead.A lack of reports
Domestic violence experts attribute a number of factors to why cases like Courtney Holden’s aren’t always reported.
One is the social assumption that somebody else is taking care of it, said Morgan Colburn, YWCA director of counseling, advocacy and outreach.
“We can’t assume that as a society and culture anymore, because what if nobody did do it,” said Colburn.
Colburn said the fear of retaliation also can be a factor.
“And sometimes people see this as a family problem … something that needs to be dealt with in the home,” she said.
Though power dynamics in every relationship are different, Colburn said some warning signs of domestic abuse that might warrant a call to law enforcement are acts of violence or not seeing someone for a long period of time.
“That could be a time to call,” Colburn said. “Certainly anytime you see children involved.”
Annie Murphy, chair of the Spokane Regional Domestic Violence Coalition, said other warning signs may include victims missing work or appointments, isolating themselves or talking about a family member’s jealously or control over them.
And if police respond to a domestic violence incident and a victim lies to investigators, it could be that they are lying for their own safety.
“That shouldn’t be a deterrent to call,” said Colburn, because if police see any proof of violence, they are required to make an arrest.
And if family or friends are concerned about a loved one, they should let that person know they’re available to provide support, Colburn said – “that they can always call you, that they can come over.”
“I think there’s a lot of power just in believing victims,” Murphy said.
Spokane County has the highest rate of domestic violence in Washington and nearly double the state average, according to state data. And a majority of homicides locally are related to domestic violence, according to law enforcement officials.
“This continues to be a reality in our community, and we as community members need to be proactive about how to end this,” Murphy said.
Services for victims of domestic violence involving intimate partners are available at the YWCA, and Lutheran Community Services supports victims with varying relationships to their abusers. The YWCA also operates a 24/7 hotline at (509) 326-2255.
“We need to let victims know that we’re always available for them,” Murphy said. “We can’t escape domestic violence in our own community.”The search for Courtney
The initial concern about Courtney Holden’s whereabouts came from the father of her child and his current girlfriend because they hadn’t seen Courtney in two years and the father wanted to see his child.
The Spokane Police Department tried to perform a welfare check on Courtney in early October, but it quickly turned into a missing person case that was turned over to major crimes Detective Randy Lesser.
Lesser spoke with The Spokesman-Review about the investigation after search warrants he filed in Spokane County Superior Court became public. This account of Courtney’s disappearance and the investigation is based on police interviews and court records.
When patrol officers and detectives went to the house on separate occasions, Joshua and Judy Holden refused to cooperate with the investigation, which isn’t normal when it comes to welfare checks and missing person cases, Lesser said.
The day Courtney was reported missing, a woman claiming to be her called Crime Check and said she was fine. A police dispatcher also spoke to a woman claiming to be Courtney. But police later learned it was really Courtney’s sister, who wouldn’t tell Lesser why she had impersonated her.
“My concern is that she could potentially be deceased,” Lesser told The Spokesman-Review.
Lesser said Joshua’s history of violence is especially concerning.
Joshua was charged with rape in 2005, but the case was dropped just before trial when the victim stopped cooperating with prosecutors. Investigators were in the process of obtaining DNA evidence, and court documents from that case say Holden was a suspect in another rape in 2003.
Neighbors and family described Joshua as “unstable,” violent and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. A neighbor said Joshua doesn’t have a job and Judy “cowers” before him.
Joshua also was arrested on charges related to unlawful imprisonment and domestic violence, and he has been convicted of burglary.
Family members said Joshua and Judy had bragged to them about knowing ways to elude police, and Joshua had made comments about how easy it would be to kill someone and hide the body.
“People don’t just disappear, especially if they have a child,” Lesser said.
And by all accounts, Courtney was a loving mother who would never abandon her child, court documents say.
When neighbors saw Courtney’s child at the home over the last year, they noticed he called Joshua “Daddy” and Judy “Mom,” something a family member said was normal even when Courtney was around.
A woman dating one of Courtney’s siblings, who happens to share her name, told police Joshua insisted she be called by an alias at the home or else it would upset Courtney’s child.
For the year and a half or so that no one outside Courtney’s home saw her, Joshua and Judy told neighbors and family that Courtney was traveling with a boyfriend, a nameless long-range truck driver none of them had met. Sometimes the story was that she’d run off with a fiance. Other times she was just inside the house but not available to visit.
Judy told Lesser that Courtney had been home a few days prior when he came knocking in early October. She said Courtney had left the home on foot with her son in tow.
When Lesser asked for Judy’s phone number, she deadbolted the door while retrieving it, according to court documents. She then reluctantly allowed police inside to see Courtney’s room.
“She became very nervous,” Lesser said.
The home was extremely cluttered, with piles of belongings covering every open space on the counters, Lesser wrote in court documents. Courtney’s room also was cluttered and the mattress was bare. It didn’t appear anyone had been staying there, Lesser said.
At one point, Judy panicked after losing sight of one of the detectives behind a closed door. She told the investigators to leave when Lesser asked to look around the rest of the residence for Courtney’s child.
Later that same day, a neighbor told Lesser they had seen Joshua, Judy and one of Courtney’s sisters drive off in a van with Courtney’s child.
Lesser determined Courtney received her last prescription refill in July 2018 after getting medication every month or two for the past year. She hadn’t had a doctor’s appointment since October 2017.
But despite the gap in medical records, money continued to be withdrawn from Courtney’s bank account each month and her EBT (food stamps) card was used to buy groceries.
Video footage showed Joshua and Judy with a young child purchasing the groceries. And cameras captured the pair making the final withdrawal from Courtney’s bank account on the day she was reported missing in early October.
By Oct. 24, Joshua and Judy had left their home. Lesser wrote that the DVR from the home surveillance system was removed and the family’s six pets were gone when police went to execute a search warrant.
Cellphone numbers police associated with Joshua and Judy were deactivated in mid-November, but two new numbers on the account were activated the same day. They had Texas area codes.
Then a neighbor called police about a month after the Holdens left to let officers know there was activity at the home. It was one of Judy’s daughters and her husband, who had flown up from Texas to check on the residence. They said they hadn’t seen Courtney in two years and that Judy was off on a retirement road trip. The husband told police that Joshua and Judy had the child, but the sister said Courtney had him.
Lesser traveled to Texas in mid-December in search of Joshua and Judy. Officers found them at Courtney’s sister’s home, and they also had Courtney’s child.
Joshua and Judy were arrested on identity theft and custodial interference charges for using Courtney’s bank accounts and concealing her child, Lesser said. The child was OK and handed over to his father. The other family members aren’t facing criminal charges.
Police have searched Judy’s properties in Spokane with cadaver dogs but did not find anything, Lesser said. Searches at the residence in Texas provided no additional clues to Courtney’s whereabouts.
Officers also searched a vehicle and a travel trailer belonging to Judy at an RV park in Oklahoma, Lesser said. Joshua and Judy checked in under fake names and likely arrived sometime in November.
Joshua, 40, and Judy, 74, remain jailed in Texas, where they have declined interviews with police, Lesser said. They have not agreed to be extradited to Spokane, so police are in the process of obtaining a governor’s warrant to bring them back.
“This one is probably one of the more in-depth cases trying to locate a person,” Lesser said about the monthslong investigation. “I’ve got four notebooks full of stuff.”
Anyone with information about Courtney Holden may contact Detective Lesser at (509) 625-4016 and reference case No. 2019-20191912.
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