You may well consider the manuevering among Senate Republicans over an amendment to “defund” Planned Parenthood as part of a transportation bill to represent just another episode of symbolic Kabuki Theater. After all, pursuing such an amendment would have almost certainly run into the teeth of a Senate Democratic filibuster, and failing that, a presidential veto that Republicans do not have the votes to override. So who really cares how far down the road to perdition the amendment was allowed to proceed?
But for serious antichoice types, the answer to this question would be: We do, and thus the entire GOP we’ve been propping up for decades should, too. That’s pretty much the message sent by conservative columnist Emmanuel Gobry at The Week today:
I sincerely believe in the pro-life agenda. And it frustrates me to no end that even as pro-lifers have delivered electoral majorities to the GOP over and over again, the GOP has not kept up its end of the bargain. Five Republican-appointed justices sit on the Supreme Court, and yet Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land.
Early this year, the GOP failed at what should have been a simple task: Pass an enormously popular late-term abortion ban. Passing a bill that polls well, and is symbolically very important to your biggest constituency, ought to be the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. But Republican politicians couldn’t even do that.
And now, after the devastating revelations that Planned Parenthood routinely engages in the sale of baby organs for profit — something that is illegal, unethical, and disgusting on at least 12 different levels — GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn’t bring himself to allow to the Senate floor a bill to defund that activity by Planned Parenthood. Why not? Because he wants to pass a highway bill instead — a pork-laden monstrosity that comes with the disgusting cherry on top that is the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, a corporate welfare program that free-market conservative activists particularly detest
The road Gobry wants the GOP to take on abortion legislation will inevitably end at a government shutdown that will backfire on Republicans. And Lord knows Senate Republicans have used every code word imaginable to elicit a negative position on Roe v. Wade from judicial nominees, especially since the Souter “stab in the back,” but hey, the current fly in the ointment, Anthony Kennedy, was the appointee of The Gipper himself, the man who made uncompromising opposition to reproductive rights an unchanging part of the GOP platform.
But I guess if you think legalized abortion is an American Holocaust, as folks like Gabry often suggest, then you’re probably going to insist on results for your decades-long investment of energy, money, votes and agitprop. I mean, if anti-choicers can successfully convey the lie that they are only concerned about a tiny number of late-term abortions that “shock the conscience” of the casual, murder-tolerating Good Germans in the political center–when their real goal is to ban the vast majority of abortions that occur in the first trimester, that do not shock that many consciences–then can’t the GOP contrive some way to get the ball over the goal line? So that leads to the sort of strict liability, “no excuses” demand that Gobry issues:
We should rule with fear. For the past 30 years, we’ve been bringing a hymnal to a gunfight. The Tea Party has shown how it’s done: Don’t like someone? Primary them. End their political career. That’s the only thing politicians fear.
I’m done waiting. I hope you are, too.
Before you chuckle at the arrival of another intra-GOP fight over priorities, keep in mind that if Republicans win the White House and hang onto the Senate, they will indeed run out of excuses for saying “later” to their antichoice activists. Perhaps they’ll be forced to resort to the “nuclear option” to get rid of any possible filibuster against antichoice legislation or the next Republican Supreme Court nominee. As for said nominee, I think we will see an end to all of the dog-whistling about abortion; no matter how much it violates every premise of our legal system to pre-commit judges to a position on future litigation, we’ll see nominees who are all but visibly frothing to overturn Roe. In other words, if 2016 goes their way, the antichoicers may be able at long last to call in what I’ve referred to as a balloon payment on their mortgage on the soul of the GOP.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, JUly 28, 2015
“Divorced From Reality And Science”: The GOP’s “Mad Max” Fantasy”; Lindsey Graham Fires The Latest Shot In The War On Women
It turns out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) campaign for president isn’t just about damning the torpedoes and declaring war on any nation that dares to give America the side-eye. This week, Graham transparently pandered to the far-right base by reminding everyone that he also happens to be a total ghoul on the issue of reproductive rights.
On Thursday, Graham introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate titled “The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” A version of the bill was passed in the House already and, along the same lines, Graham’s version would ban all abortions with few exceptions after the 20th week of pregnancy. The twisted reasoning goes like this: After 20 weeks, fetuses can feel pain. That’s what they say. And by “they,” I don’t mean actual doctors. We’ll circle back to that presently.
Said Graham, “Why do we want to let this happen five months into the pregnancy? I am dying for that debate. I’m going to quite frankly insist that we have that debate.”
Once again, Graham and the modern Republican Party have entirely divorced themselves from both reality and science. Before we dig into the science behind why Graham and the anti-choice base are horrendously wrong, the reality is that states where there are few if any anti-choice laws, abortion rates are dropping precipitously.
Author and activist Kimberley Johnson brought to our attention a new study conducted by the AP, showing that pro-choice states such as New York, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Rhode Island and Connecticut showed steep declines in abortions by as much as 20 to 30 percent since 2010. Elsewhere, states like Louisiana and Michigan showed increases in abortions as women seeking access to abortion services in neighboring anti-choice states, including Texas, fled the restrictive laws in their home states.
It turns out, states that restrict abortion access showed slower declines in the abortion rate than pro-choice states, chiefly due to the fact that pro-choice states tend to also provide greater access to contraception. Naturally, this makes perfect sense given how affordable, readily-available contraception not only prevents unplanned pregnancies but also prevents abortions. Incongruously, however, anti-choice Republicans and activists have zero compulsion to help make contraception more available. Indeed, the exact opposite is true. This is transparently regressive and misogynistic, given how it effectively blocks women from either having or, indeed, preventing an abortion. Graham and the others are cynically cutting off all access to reproductive services, and it’s not difficult to see this as anything other than a legislative war on women.
Back to Lindsey Graham. The newly-minted presidential candidate is not only a leading conspirator in the crusade to slowly roll back reproductive rights; he also opposes the Affordable Care Act and its mandate for free access to contraception, including morning-after birth control (which merely prevents conception, not implantation, by the way). So, what’s the deal with this arbitrary-sounding 20 week threshold? Again, Graham and the others are trying to tell us that after 20 weeks, fetuses feel pain. It turns out the Journal of the American Medical Association contradict’s Graham’s clueless take on fetal biology.
Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.
So, not only is the evidence for fetal pain sketchy in the first place, but the journal of record states quite clearly that fetuses really can’t feel pain until the third trimester — 24 weeks or later. Not 20. That said, since when do scientific experts in the field serve as any kind of bulwark against Republicans who legislate against women, the LGBT community or, come to think of it, the climate by eschewing scientific consensus?
“As an ob-gyn, I know firsthand the reasons why women may need abortion care after 20 weeks, and I have seen the pain that many of these women are in when confronting these decisions,” said Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, president of ACOG, in a statement. “Yet this ban would force physicians to deny services, even to women who have made the difficult decision to end pregnancies for reasons including fetal anomalies diagnosed later in pregnancy or other unexpected obstetric outcomes. This is simply cruel.”
Obviously, the nightmarish pain that women experience while caught in the vortex of this decision is irrelevant. For Graham and his party, it’s all about shepherding unplanned pregnancies to birth, after which these babies will be entirely ignored by the GOP, which has no interest in pushing for affordable natal and post-natal healthcare; no interest in paid maternity leave; no interest in expanding aid to homeless women and children; no interest in equality for girls or gay children or transgender children; and definitely no interest in expanding education. As Barney Frank famously said (paraphrasing): Republicans believe life begins at conception and ends at birth.
As the window for legal access to reproductive services grows narrower, state-by-state, the effort to return women to an era of subjugation continues to expand and metastasize as conservative politicians return purview over intimate, personal, female decisions to those who believe women have to be controlled. It’s a real world manifestation of the “Mad Max: Fury Road” hellscape — an “Immortan Joe” post-apocalyptic utopia in which women are kept as legal property and exploited for breast milk and birthing more War Babies. But with Graham and the broader anti-choice movement, it’s cleverly packaged and sold as messianic compassion for the unborn, without any regard for women or, for that matter, the birthed children the anti-choice movement claims to be rescuing.
By: Bob Cesca, Salon, June 13, 2014
“Medically Unnecessary”: Scott Walker Doesn’t Get Why His ‘Cool’ Ultrasound Remark Was So Offensive — And That’s The Problem
Gov. Scott Walker was chatting recently with right-wing radio host Dana Loesch about his efforts to set up regulatory hurdles to abortion access in Wisconsin, when he offered this defense of a law he signed that would require a woman to undergo a medically unnecessary ultrasound before exercising her constitutionally protected right to an abortion:
I’m pro-life. I’ve passed pro-life legislation. We defunded Planned Parenthood, we signed a law that requires an ultrasound. Which, the thing about that, the media tried to make that sound like that was a crazy idea. You know, most people I talked to, whether they’re pro-life or not, I find people all the time that pull out their iPhone and show me a picture of their grandkids’ ultrasound and how excited they are, so that’s a lovely thing. I think about my sons are 19 and 20, we still have their first ultrasounds. It’s just a cool thing out there.
Right Wing Watch, a project of People For the American Way, was listening to the show and brought attention to Walker’s comments, and they understandably hit a nerve.
Sure, an ultrasound could be “cool” if you are a woman carrying a healthy child, surrounded by family, love and support and making your own medical choices along with your doctor. Or you are excited grandparents looking forward to years of joy with a child. What’s not “cool” is if the state mandates that you undergo a medically unnecessary procedure in an effort to prevent you from making a choice that you, an adult woman whose circumstances your politicians have no right to know or judge, have already made and are unlikely to change.
Even less “cool” is the fact that the ultrasound bill was passed as part of an explicit effort to undermine women’s access to health care. Its companion bill was an “admitting privileges” requirement, a common anti-choice tactic, that threatened to close two abortion clinics in the state. Since then, Walker has boasted to anti-choice leaders of using deceptive rhetoric about the ultrasound bill in order to downplay its true intentions.
Unlike the ultrasounds of the Walkers’ children, forced ultrasounds like these aren’t the kind that anyone wants to show off. What’s astonishing is that Walker doesn’t seem to get this. Instead, he’s accusing the “gotcha” media of being “biased” and “lazy” and twisting the meaning of his comments. Unfortunately, some of the media are taking him at his word.
Walker’s remarks weren’t twisted. You can listen to his whole answer to the question here. The problem is that Walker just doesn’t seem to get why what he said was so offensive. For someone who wants to be president, that’s deeply troubling.
By: Michael B, Keegan, President, People For the American Way; The Blog, The Huffington Post, June 1, 2015
“Leader Of The Leave-Me-The-Hell-Alone Coalition”: Rand Paul Is Fighting For Your Privacy—Unless You’re A Woman
“The right to be left alone is the most cherished of rights,” Kentucky senator and presidential aspirant Rand Paul said over the weekend in San Francisco. He was there to sell himself to the young tech elite as a civil-liberties crusader; the only candidate willing to take an uncompromising stand against government surveillance. He cares so deeply about privacy that he’s planning to filibuster the renewal of parts of the Patriot Act.
But the leader of “the leave-me-the-hell-alone coalition” is simultaneously, albeit more quietly, arguing that women should have little privacy in their healthcare decisions. “The government does have some role in our lives,” Paul said at a summit organized by the anti-choice Susan B Anthony List in April, by which he meant making abortion illegal. Paul describes himself as “100 percent pro-life.” Along with all of the other Republican presidential candidates he supports a bill that resurfaced this week in the House that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Recently Paul has become something of a champion for anti-abortion groups that are trying to reframe the abortion debate so that pro-choice views seem extreme. Pressed by reporters last month to clarify whether his support for abortion bans includes exceptions, Paul deflected the question by calling up the specter of late-term abortions. “Why don’t we ask the DNC: Is it OK to kill a seven-pound baby in the uterus?” he said to a New Hampshire journalist. No matter that only 1 percent of abortions in the United States occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy; claiming Democrats endorse the “killing” of babies is an easy way not to account for his selective support for personal liberty.
Paul’s hypocrisy isn’t new. Indeed, one of the long-standing ironies of American politics is that the people who decry government meddling in, say, healthcare are the ones calling most vociferously for the government to step in to regulate women’s bodies. As Katha Pollitt noted in Pro, conservatives like Paul never would propose to restrict access to guns, despite the tens of thousands of deaths caused by gun violence in the United States each year. Only when it comes to women does “life” trump individual freedom.
It’s still worth pointing out how inconsistent Paul’s advocacy for civil liberties is (and on issues beyond abortion), since that’s the platform he’s using to distinguish himself. If Paul really believed in “the right to be left alone,” he’d demand that women be allowed as much control over their bodies as their phone records.
By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, May 12, 2015
“Republican’s Right-To-Discriminate Debate”: At The Intersection Of Reproductive Choices And Discrimination
Under current law, in every state in the union, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That, however, is the floor – some areas choose to go further.
Irin Carmon recently reported on a new policy in the nation’s capital, where policymakers approved a bold new law – the “D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act” – which adds “reproductive decision-making to anti-discrimination provisions.”
So, for example, an employee in D.C. cannot be fired for being on birth control, using in vitro fertilization, exercising her right to terminate a pregnancy, or getting pregnant outside of marriage. Those are private matters, the D.C. law says, which cannot serve as the basis for a dismissal.
As it turns out, this quickly became the latest twist in the right-to-discriminate debate, and Roll Call reported late last week on congressional Republicans intervening in city law.
In a largely symbolic move, the House voted mostly down party lines late Thursday night to block a District of Columbia bill that D.C. officials say would combat workplace discrimination.
A corps of mainly Republicans passed a joint resolution of disapproval 228-192…. Conservatives argued the act could force employers to violate their religious beliefs.
It was, the article noted, the “first time in nearly 25 years the entire House voted to block a D.C. law.”
The ridiculous push from House GOP lawmakers didn’t change city policy – the Senate chose not to act on the matter – and the local law took effect over the weekend.
But as it turns out, there’s a presidential angle to this.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took it upon himself to go after the D.C. anti-discrimination policy, issuing this press release on Friday.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, released the following statement urging Congress to formally disapprove of the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA) recently passed by the District of Columbia in order to protect First Amendment rights for D.C. citizens.
“The D.C. Council has proposed two measures that trample the very rights the First Amendment was designed to protect – the right of citizens to freely practice their faith,” Sen. Cruz said. “The Constitution gives Congress the authority to exercise jurisdiction over the District of Columbia ‘in all cases whatsoever.’ And both the House and Senate have a constitutional duty to protect citizens’ religious liberty, as enshrined in the First Amendment.
The Senate GOP leadership ignored Cruz’s cries, but Roll Call reported this week that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) “appears to support the effort to block the law.”
In other words, two Republican presidential candidates apparently believe employers should be able to fire workers if bosses don’t like employees’ personal reproductive-health decisions. One of the two candidates is ostensibly from the GOP’s libertarian wing.
This strikes me as a great litmus-test issue for the rest of the Republicans’ 2016 field. How about it, candidates? Should Americans lose their jobs if their employers disapprove of their reproductive choices?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2015