“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
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
“Just Changing The Optics”: The Republican Abortion Bill Shows They Still Believe Many Women Lie About Rape
In a move being credited to the wisdom of Republican women lawmakers, the House will not be voting on a sweeping 20 week abortion ban that only allowed for rape and incest exceptions if the victims reported their assaults to police. (Because Republicans know just how much women love to lie about rape and incest to get those sweet, sweet abortions!)
But before we pat all those kind, considered Republican women on the back for their reasoned withdrawal of support for a bill that would’ve made women file police reports 20 weeks after being assaulted in order to have the option of not being forced to have their rapist’s baby, let’s not forget that all of this is just political posturing. The bill – or even another, less extreme 20 week abortion ban – was unlikely to ever pass the Senate, and President Obama made clear that he would veto it if it did.
So backing off on yet another terrible anti-abortion bill – they tried this in 2011 with the “forcible rape” provisions in the Hyde Amendment renewal – is not a sign that Republicans will be more moderate with their future restrictions on reproductive rights, or that Republican women will be able to temper the radical anti-choice agenda of their party.
It’s great, sure, that Representatives Renee Ellmers and Jackie Walorski took their names off the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and that Ellmers also reportedly lobbied her female colleagues against the legislation. But I don’t believe this was some change of her anti-choice heart: more likely, she simply realized that the bill’s extreme requirements for rape and incest exceptions to the blanket ban wouldn’t exactly go over well with American women.
During a time when sexual assault and the difficulty of reporting it is a central part of the national conversation, forcing women and girls to go to the police before they can access abortion makes Republicans seem even more out of touch with the issues women face than usual. According to RAINN, 68% of sexual assaults aren’t reported to police, and numbers are even harder to come by for incest – where so often the victims are young girls.
Still, Republicans will now get to introduce and support anti-woman legislation, but they’ll have the advantage of appearing less radical than they are because they supposedly have a few “reasonable” women in the party keeping them in check on women’s issues. And any 20-week abortion ban is a bad thing for women, even without “forcible rape” or “reported rape” provisions.
Trotting out a few female Republicans and changing some words in a bill doesn’t change the reality of how the party feels about – or legislates – abortion; it just changes the optics. Republicans still want to deny people access to sex education, they still want to deny women access to contraception, they still want to prevent us from getting abortions and they still want to eliminate the Roe v Wade decision that protects our rights – and they want to do all of this despite the irreparable harm that it will cause American women.
The Republican women who forced House leadership to withdraw this one bill aren’t “reasonable” – they’re just smart enough to know that they need to shroud just how radically anti-woman their party really is. Good luck with that.
By: Jessica Valenti, The Guardian, January 22, 2015