On Sunday’s “Meet the Press” Chuck Todd, a journalist I respect, asked an interesting, but odd, question of Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood: “Should you be in the politics business?”
This is a circular argument: Planned Parenthood has been in the politics business since it opened its doors. Female sexuality, and the control thereof, has always been inherently political. The term “sexual revolution” is not an abstract concept – the introduction of the pill 50 years ago was what marked the full entry of American women into the workforce. The pill is credited with a third of the increase in wages for American women.
There is nothing more physically and economically determinative to a woman than deciding if or when to have children, a decision to which Planned Parenthood has made an enormous contribution for millions of us.
This is why social conservatives continue to attack not just abortion, but contraception – if you’re against abortion and contraception, it’s not just about abortion. And it’s why Planned Parenthood has become a talisman to the right, a symbol of what they fear most – women controlling their own reproductive destiny. Two-thirds of the 1 million abortions in this country are done by private practitioners other than Planned Parenthood, but there are no mass protests and bloody fetus pictures outside their offices.
Why? Because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is right – the right’s War on Women is fundamentally a war on poor women. Two-thirds of women who have an abortion already have a child, and the overwhelming reason cited for the procedure is that they can’t afford another one. There’s a reason the original Roe plaintiff, Norma McCorvey, was working class. Rich women could get abortions before Roe, and they will if the Supreme Court overturns it next spring – which is possible, since the court has taken up the Texas abortion restrictions.
Historically, fights over female autonomy are hardly unique to either our country or even our millennia. Sex and power for women have always been intertwined and an object of fascination, fear and political manipulation for men.
Anne Boleyn was executed by Henry VIII for accusations of infidelity – and not producing a son, as were many royal wives, never mind that the man determines the sex of the child. Her daughter Elizabeth I, arguably Britain’s greatest monarch, was the Virgin Queen, precisely because once she married and surrendered her sexuality to a man it diminished her imperium.
So what it comes down to, again, is that this is about power. House Republicans are creating a Planned Parenthood investigative “committee” to weaken political opponents and catalyze their base, the same way they set up the Benghazi “committee” to weaken Hillary Clinton and fire up conservatives.
And in the states, right-wing Republicans are attacking Planned Parenthood with every political means at their disposal, including electing retrograde state legislatures that in turn enact horrific, humiliating laws designed to slut-shame women out of having abortions and restrict access to contraception.
What angers conservatives about Planned Parenthood isn’t just what they do – contraception, reproductive health care and, yes, abortions. It’s how the organization does it – without judgment or shame – and the result it produces: women in control of their own bodies, both physically and politically.
By: Laura K. Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, October 6, 2015
Just a few days ago I wrote an article slamming Ben Carson for his asinine view that a Muslim should not be president of the United States and that the values of Islam are incompatible with our Constitution. The irony here, of course, is that Carson’s very views are inconsistent with our Constitution, which expressly prohibits a religious test for president (or any federal office.)
But on Monday night Carson actually said something I agree with. While on Fox News, he stated, “I don’t care what religion or faith someone belongs to if they’re willing to subjugate that to the American way and to our Constitution.”
He even said he would support a Muslim American seeking office if the person “clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion.”
I couldn’t agree more with Carson. And I say that as a Muslim American. If a Muslim candidate for office were to advocate imposing Islamic law in America or revising our Constitution to agree with the Koran, I would be the first one to loudly oppose that person.
But I also feel strongly the same test should apply to all candidates of any faith. John F. Kennedy, a man I greatly admire, espoused a similar view when running for president in 1960 when he was subject to vile religious bigotry for being Catholic. Like Carson is now saying about Muslims, in 1960 some on the right claimed that Roman Catholicism was “incompatible with the principles” of our nation and that Kennedy was not truly loyal to America simply because of his faith.
In response, Kennedy gave a famous speech in 1960 before a group of Protestant ministers in Houston to address these allegations head on. There, Kennedy said that “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” Adding, “I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”
Kennedy did, in essence, what Carson advocated Monday; namely that he swore “to place our Constitution above” his religious beliefs. And I believe it’s now time for the GOP presidential field to do the same. (The Democrats as well but let’s be honest, the religion talk comes from the Republican presidential field.)
So in accordance with the “Carson doctrine,” at the next GOP debate, all the presidential candidates should be asked if they would expressly pledge to place our Constitution above their religious beliefs. Yes, I know some will try to squirm there way out of it saying things like, “America was founded on Christian values and that is my faith” or “America is a Christian nation and I’m a Christian so there won’t be a problem.”
Not so quick. If any candidate refuses to make this pledge, follow up questions must be asked. We, as a nation, need to know specifically which of their respective religious beliefs they view as superior to our Constitution. Here are a few proposed questions:
- In the Bible it says that, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” Do you agree or reject that principle?
- If a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night, would you support the men of the town stoning her to death as expressly as mandated by the Bible?
- We have heard American pastors called for killing gays for “for their abominable deed” as it’s described in the Bible. Is that something you reject or agree with?
- If a woman is raped in the city but does not cry out for help, would you stone the woman to death to “purge the evil from your midst” or reject that and instead follow our Constitution?
- Do you believe in death for those who commit blasphemy as required by the Bible?
We can even ask about modern day issues such as if a bill was put in front of you to ban all abortions, would you sign it, imposing you religious believes upon all Americans or follow the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade?
Don’t we need to know which passages they would follow if elected president and which they would reject? And yes, I know that many of the above passages are from the Old Testament and some Christians will claim that they don’t follow that book—except when some cite it to demonize gays, of course.
Well I’m far from a theologian but Revs. Billy and Franklin Graham are. Billy believes that Christians mistakenly ignore the Old Testament when in fact God gave “the whole Bible to us.” And his son Franklin has echoed that very sentiment with his words, “I believe the Bible from cover to cover. I believe the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.”
But even before the next debate, we know some would fail the Carson test. For example, Mike Huckabee has stated that conservatives cannot accept “ungodly” court rulings on gay marriage and abortion. He has even urged that we need “to amend the Constitution” to agree with the Bible.
But the jury is still out on the rest including Carson himself. Isn’t it time we know if these candidates will place the U.S. Constitution over the religious beliefs or are they more beholden to the Biblical passages listed above? I, for one, very much want to know the answer to that question.
By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, September 22, 2015
Assuming Ben Domenech knows his right-wingers, which I would guess is the one thing he does infallibly know, he’s solved a big mystery for us in a column yesterday. A few weeks ago the whole hep conservative world was aflame with promises and threats about defunding Planned Parenthood, even if it took a government shutdown. Erick Erickson was hyperventilating nearly hourly about how the GOP needed to lay down and die if it did not follow this course of action to the bitter end. Presidential candidates were climbing on board in due order.
Then–well, Mitch McConnell allowed as how it wasn’t going to happen, the presidential candidates and conservative media stopped talking about it, and even ol’ Pope Erick seemed to back off. What’s up with that?
According to Domenech, it was actually the big antichoice groups that called off the dogs:
For the time being, Capitol Hill Republican leaders are on the same page as the national pro-life groups – a shutdown strategy is not their preference, because it makes it more likely Democrats will win in 2016, and that means you miss probably your best opportunity in a generation to get rid of Roe v. Wade. Capitol Hill Republicans are looking to the pro-life groups to provide them cover by not scoring a Planned Parenthood-funding continuing resolution, and most of the big groups are expected to go along with this strategy.
Wow. If the National Right to Life Committee doesn’t support dragging the whole country to the bottom of hell in order to kill off its bitter enemies at Planned Parenthood, then why should anyone else? Domenech seems to think Ted Cruz may be tempted to outlank not only McConnell and the other presidentials but the National Right to Life Committee, yet probably won’t in the end. Domenech thinks that jawing about a Planned Parenthood-free continuing resolution for weeks may be a superior strategy, mainly because he shares the common antichoice delusion that women will give up their reproductive rights–or perhaps enough men can be convinced to just take them away from women–if they can all be forced to spend a few weeks watching the PP sting videos (it’s an article of faith among these birds that people like me or you have never even once discussed the issue). If Republicans make that choice, then they may actually learn that a sizable majority of the American people still favor legal abortion and know enough about Planned Parenthood’s services to know a smear when they see one. The last such teaching moment for the GOP, the Terri Schiavo affair, didn’t seem to do the trick, did it?
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 2, 2015
“Judgment Of A Woman’s Value”: Republicans Make Their Incredibly Unpopular Abortion Position Crystal Clear
With all the talk about Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly, people might not have noticed that there was quite a bit of discussion of abortion in Thursday’s Republican debate, and that discussion is continuing through today. While it wouldn’t be accurate to say the party and its candidates are moving to the right, what’s happening is that they’re making clear just how far to the right they are.
One moment in the debate that may have struck some as odd occurred when Marco Rubio got a question about him supporting exceptions for rape and incest victims to abortion bans, and he insisted that he supports no such thing. Mike Huckabee declared that “I think the next president ought to invoke the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution now that we clearly know that that baby inside the mother’s womb is a person at the moment of conception.” Scott Walker went even further, stating his opposition to exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman (“I’ve said many a time that that unborn child can be protected, and there are many other alternatives that can also protect the life of that mother”). Walker recently signed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which did contain an exception to save the life of the mother, but no exceptions for rape or incest.
This is a deeply unpopular position, to say the least. When pollsters ask whether people think that rape and incest victims should be able to get abortions, more than 80 percent will say yes, including majorities of Republicans (there are some examples here). Between 60 and 70 percent are against overturning Roe v. Wade, a position on which Republicans are united. And the GOP platform has for some time called for a complete ban on abortion without any exceptions.
Rubio in particular is attempting to take a radical position and present it as the soul of thoughtful moderation. Yesterday, he went on “Meet the Press” and clarified that he has supported legislation with rape and incest exceptions because “I’ll support any legislation that reduces the number of abortions,” and if that means voting for a ban that contains those exceptions, he’ll go along. But I don’t think Rubio is quite telling the truth on that point. For instance, I doubt he’d support legislation that mandates comprehensive and fact-based sex education and does away with the farce of “abstinence only” — which would absolutely reduce the number of abortions. What he really means is that he’ll support any legislation that reduces abortion by restricting women’s reproductive rights.
Even though I’m firmly pro-choice, I’ll grant that Rubio (and the party itself) is being intellectually consistent by opposing rape and incest exceptions to abortion bans. If you think abortion is murder, then you should believe it’s murder no matter what led to a woman becoming pregnant. When you say we’ll make exceptions for rape and incest victims, what you’re saying is that whether a woman is able to get an abortion should be a function of someone else’s judgment of her virtue. If she got pregnant because she was the victim of a crime, then okay, she can have the abortion. But if she willingly had sex, then she should be punished by being forced to carry her pregnancy to term.
If Rubio is at all different from other members of his party, it’s only in his tone. Here’s what he said when Chuck Todd asked where the line is between the fetus’ rights and those of the woman:
That’s why this issue is so hard. There is no doubt that a woman has a right to her own body, has a right to make decisions about her own health and her own future. There’s no doubt. And there’s this other right, and that’s the right of a human being to live. And these rights come into conflict when it comes to this issue, and so you have to make a decision. And it’s hard. I don’t say it’s easy. Listen, you’re 15 years old, and you become pregnant, and you’re scared, and you have your whole life ahead of you, and you’re facing this, that is a hard situation. I tell people all the time, don’t pretend this is easy. This is a difficult question. But when asked to made a decision between two very hard circumstances, I’ve personally reached the conclusion that if I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of life.
There’s a lot of empathetic language there, but here’s the substantive difference between Marco Rubio and other Republicans on this issue: Other Republicans won’t even acknowledge that women have any right to control their own reproductive lives, while Rubio says women have such a right, but believes that in practice that right should always be trumped by the state’s desire to force her to carry that pregnancy to term. Which means that he doesn’t actually believe her right exists. He sounds a lot friendlier when he says it, though.
I’m sure he hopes that will be enough to overcome the fact that he’s taking a position most Americans disagree with. And in the right circumstances, it might be — so long as this isn’t an important issue on Election Day, and Democrats aren’t making too much of a big deal about all that “war on women” stuff. Republicans probably shouldn’t count on that, though.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, August 10, 2015
Who, or what, is Abortion Barbie? That is the name that Erick Erickson, of redstate.com, wants to attach to Wendy Davis, the Texas State Senator who filibustered a bill that restricted abortion rights in her state. The bill ultimately passed, and will have the effect of putting many women in Texas hundreds of miles away from safe, legal clinics where they can end a pregnancy. “It sums her up perfectly,” Erickson said:
All the nation knows about Wendy Davis is that she is ignorant of the horrors of Kermit Gosnell, wears pink shoes, and filibustered legislation to save the innocent in Texas.
And he tweeted:
It is a bit embarrassing that Abortion Barbie doesn’t even have her facts straight on Kermit Gosnell considering abortion is her issue.
Kermit Gosnell was the doctor convicted on murder charges after running an unsafe, illegal operation. Davis had answered a question about him and, after saying that she didn’t know much about the case, had gotten a fact about it wrong. (It had to do with whether Gosnell’s clinic was licensed as an ambulatory-surgical center.) Davis, who has a degree from Harvard Law School, rightly pointed out its disconnect from the Texas bill. She wears pink shoes, and has blond hair, and dresses in skirt suits; Erickson illustrates his blog post with a photo of Davis in a well-tailored pink one. If you are a woman who supports abortion rights and do not fit Erickson’s idea of what such a woman should look like—dreary, presumably—he will find a caricature for you: a silly girl who wore the wrong outfit, the one a man didn’t want to see her in. And then, when people get angry, you can say that your original stereotype was correct: feminists are humorless, girls don’t get jokes.
For Erickson, the subject of abortion rights, and the way that women act as if their life and health depend on it, is a rich mine for humor. The Barbie tweet was actually an encore. After the Texas bill passed, he tweeted, “Dear liberals, go bookmark this site now,” and linked to a store that sold coat hangers. Coat hangers were what some women used in the pre-Roe era, when they were desperate to end a pregnancy, risking their lives. For that reason, they have become a symbol; some of Davis’s supporters carried them. Erickson, in a non-apology “to the kid killing caucus” for the hanger tweet, wrote, “I was mocking you and your outrageous hyperbole and lies.” Women’s deaths are hyperbole only if you don’t value their lives. As for “lies,” even Erickson acknowledges that women died from illegal abortions back then; he says it was just a few dozen a year. And what’s that to him?
Erickson is a provocateur, but he is also a reasonably influential voice within the Republican Party. He makes connections and delivers rhetorical relief. (Confused by Wendy Davis? Here’s how to put her down.) His jokes are not funny both because they are not funny and because the Republican Party is, at the moment, very serious about dismantling abortion rights in state legislatures across the country. Some reduce the amount of time in which a woman is permitted to have an abortion (to twenty weeks after conception, in the case of the Texas bill) or find ways to make it hard for clinics to stay open. (Jeffrey Toobin wrote about this recently.)
Still, what Erickson appears to find most ridiculous is that women are so earnest and think that their stories and dilemmas are relevant to this debate. He ultimately deleted the hanger tweet, in deference, he said, to the hanger supplier. On Wednesday, after an angry response to his Barbie talk, he tweeted, “Think of the accessories Abortion Barbie has with her pink sneakers.”
Erickson’s other response is that if liberals get to call Sarah Palin Caribou Barbie (Maureen Dowd did), then they can’t complain. This assumes a parallel between “Caribou” and “Abortion,” which is hard to see. Abortion, despite what Erickson may think, is not a guise or a fashion, a destination like Malibu or an aspiration like astronaut. If it is a shorthand for anything, it is for what can be the hardest moment in an woman’s life. Perhaps he is used to treating all of this as a political game, making paper airplanes out of court decisions, but reproductive rights are not childish things.
“Barbie” is an insult when it is used as a stand-in for “stupid”—for an unserious mannequin, a professional impostor. Perhaps that’s what has to end, because all of this is very unfair to Barbie (whom I’ve defended before). Barbie was introduced in 1959, when women’s choices, and hers, were far more constrained. In 1961, she did get to be Registered Nurse Barbie. Surgeon Barbie was introduced in 1973—the same year the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade. In Erickson’s original equation, ignorance plus pink shoes equalled Barbie. But she is only dumb if you think that in taking on profession after profession she was borrowing someone else’s clothes. And Barbie would never do that.
By: Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, August 7, 2015