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“Republicans Find Their Next Anti-Choice Innovation”: Coming Up With New Ways To Restrict Abortion Rights; The Government Decides

If you’re looking for true Republican policy innovations, don’t bother with tax policy or national security; the place where the GOP is really exercising its creativity is in coming up with new ways to restrict abortion rights. In the latest inspired move, Republican state legislators in Ohio have introduced a bill to make it illegal for a woman to terminate her pregnancy because she has discovered that the baby would have Down syndrome. The bill is expected to pass, and though he hasn’t yet taken a position on it, it would be a shock if Governor John Kasich—who is both an opponent of abortion rights and currently in search of votes in the Republican presidential primary—didn’t sign it.

After it passes in Ohio (and even if by some strange turn of events it doesn’t), look for identical bills to come up in state after Republican-controlled state. Anyone who objects will of course be accused of wanting to kill children with disabilities.

As the New York Times article about the Ohio bill notes, this isn’t entirely unprecedented; there are a few states that have outlawed abortion for sex selection, and North Dakota has a similar law passed in 2013 forbidding abortions because of fetal genetic anomaly, though “advocates are not aware of enforcement of any such laws in the states that have them.” But this one lands not only in during a presidential primary, but also amid Republicans’ latest offensive against Planned Parenthood, driven by secretly recorded videos in which Planned Parenthood officials discuss the transfer of fetal tissue for research.

That effort may not accomplish all that much; while many conservatives (and a few presidential candidates) would like to shut down the government in order to “defund” the group, that probably won’t happen, and efforts by states to discover that Planned Parenthood is doing something illegal have come up empty. But it still creates a context in which Republicans are aggressive on the issue of abortion—particularly when it may be the only “culture war” issue on which they aren’t in full retreat.

This is one of those issues where there’s an emotionally freighted case for one side, a case that can seem compelling as long as you don’t think about it too deeply. Conservatives will argue that the law is necessary because so often when women learn that a fetus they’re carrying has the genetic anomaly that causes Down’s, she winds up having an abortion. And they’ll note that people with Down’s can have happy, fulfilling lives, which they can. They’ll no doubt tell stories of wonderful individuals they know who have the condition.

But if the question is only, “If this woman carried her pregnancy to term, would it be possible for the baby that would ultimately result to have a happy, fulfilling life?” then no abortion would be allowed. Some women have abortions because they got pregnant accidentally and are too young to raise a child. Is it possible for a child born to a young woman to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course. Some women have abortions because they don’t want to raise a child with the biological father. Is it possible for a child raised by a single mother to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course. Some women have abortions because they already have all the children they want. Is it possible for a child born to a family that already has plenty of children to grow up to have a happy, fulfilling life? Of course.

But if we’re going to say that a woman who wants to end her pregnancy because of Down syndrome will be legally barred from doing so, we’re saying that it will now be the government’s job to evaluate whether her reasons are good enough, and if the government thinks they aren’t, then she will be forced against her will to carry the pregnancy to term. For all the restrictions Republicans have successfully placed on abortion rights throughout the country, it isn’t yet the case that women have to explain to the government why they want the abortion and prove that they’re doing it for what the government considers the right reason.

Perhaps to expedite things, every women’s health clinic could come equipped with a special hotline to the state legislature, where any woman who wants to end her pregnancy would have to justify it to a Republican state representative, who would have the final say. Maybe that will be the next bright policy idea from the party that says it’s committed to getting government off your back.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, August 23, 2015

August 25, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Reproductive Choice, Republicans, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Abortion Opponents Show Little Concern For Poor Kids”: Those For Whom They Claim So Much Concern

Another year, another controversy over Planned Parenthood. Selectively edited videos filmed by an anti-abortion activist have given partisans another excuse to attack women’s reproductive services, starting with those provided by a well-established non-profit dedicated to women’s health care. Never mind that abortions represent a tiny percentage of Planned Parenthood’s work.

Some Republicans have gone so far as to threaten to shut down the government unless all federal funding for Planned Parenthood is eliminated. (By law, none of that money supports abortion services.) Even as prominent Republicans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell try to tamp down that impulse, others — firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) among them — continue to insist that the entire government should be brought to its knees when Congress returns to work after Labor Day.

This is really just another opportunity to try to limit women’s reproductive choices, another chance to grandstand and exaggerate. If this outrage reflected genuine concern about lives ended while still in the womb, wouldn’t more conservatives be worried about what happens to poor babies once they are born?

For decades now, I’ve listened to anti-abortion activists rail against a “culture of death,” a callous disregard for the unborn, the “murder” of babies still in the womb. I’ve witnessed protests outside abortion clinics, listened to “pro-life” state legislators mischaracterize rape, and covered misleading campaigns that suggest abortions lead to breast cancer and mental illness. I’ve watched as hostility toward Roe v. Wade has become a litmus test inside the Republican Party.

But here’s the disconnect: Over those years, I’ve also seen anti-abortion crusaders become increasingly hostile to programs and policies that would aid poor kids once they’ve come into the world. Conservative lawmakers have disparaged welfare, criticized federal housing subsidies and even campaigned against food assistance. How does that affect those children for whom they claim so much concern?

In Alabama, where anti-abortion sentiment is as commonplace as summer heat waves, the state legislature is contemplating cutting millions from Medicaid, the program that provides health care for the poorest citizens, including children. Meanwhile, the state’s two U.S. senators, Republicans Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, are among those demanding that Planned Parenthood receive no more federal funds because of the controversy over the sale of fetal tissue.

To be fair, there are those among abortion critics who show a principled concern for poor children, whose opposition to abortion is paired with a passion for social justice. Take Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is among the rare GOP governors to support the Medicaid expansion offered by the Affordable Care Act. “Now, when you die and get to the meeting with Saint Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You’d better have a good answer,” he said in June.

Then there are the Catholic Health Association and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, led by nuns. They’ve also adopted assistance to the poor as a core mission.

Their compassion stands in contrast to the U.S. Conference of Bishops, which is largely known for its conservative stances on abortion and same-sex marriage. (That may change with Pope Francis, who has made social justice his hallmark.) Last year, I attended a Catholic high school commencement where the headmaster, a priest, bragged about the number of his students who had attended anti-abortion protests. He said nothing about protests over cuts in assistance to the poor.

It’s easy enough to inflame with the Planned Parenthood videos; without context (again, selective editing), leaders of the organization are heard discussing money for the donation of fetal tissue. That’s not a conversation that’s easy to hear.

But Planned Parenthood is doing nothing illegal, and fetal tissue research has been vital to improving the quality of life for an aging America. Many of those who are angered by the videos would be surprised to know that they may have benefited from fetal tissue research.

Still, I’d take their criticism more seriously if they’d spend as much time trying to help poor children once they are born. Since they don’t, they’re just engaging in a war on women — especially women who don’t have any money.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker,  Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; Featured Post, The National Memo, August 15, 2015. 

August 18, 2015 Posted by | Planned Parenthood, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rubio Reminds Voters”: Fertilized Human Eggs Don’t Become Cats

Hillary Clinton fielded some questions from campaign reporters yesterday, and not surprisingly, she was asked about Donald Trump. But the Democratic frontrunner clearly had a different group of Republicans on her mind.

“I think if we focus on [Trump’s antics], we’re making a mistake,” she said. “What a lot of the men on that stage in that debate said was offensive.” Highlighting Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) recent comments on prohibiting all abortions, regardless of circumstances, Clinton added, “[T]he language [Trump uses] may be more colorful and more offensive, but the thinking, the attitude toward women, is very much the same.”

She went on to say. ‘What Marco Rubio said has as much of an impact in terms of where the Republican Party is today as anybody else on that stage.”

It’s an important point. Rubio has now argued, more than once, that if a woman is impregnated by a rapist, the government has the authority to force her to take the pregnancy to term, regardless of her wishes. For Clinton, this matters every bit as much – if not more – than Trump’s ugly remarks about Fox’s Megyn Kelly.

For his part, Rubio seems to think he has a winner on his hands. Yesterday, the far-right Floridian, using social media and his campaign website, even launched a new initiative, alongside a big picture of a cat:

“Watch this video and sign this petition if you know that a human life won’t become a donkey or a cat.”

Yes, Marco Rubio, who last week seemed to adopt the posture of some kind of wonk, is now pushing a bold, new campaign message: fertilized human eggs don’t develop into cats.

As for the video Rubio is eager for the public to see, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte has the backstory:

When Rubio appeared on CNN after Thursday night’s Republican debate, he kept insisting that this vague entity called “science” has declared that human life begins at conception. (Actual biologists, for what it’s worth, argue that life is continuous and that a fertilized egg is no more or less alive than a sperm or an unfertilized egg.) CNN host Chris Cuomo vainly tried to point out that “science” says no such thing, and Rubio got a little excited.

“Let me interrupt you. Science has – absolutely it has. Science has decided… Science has concluded that – absolutely it has. What else can it be?” he asked. Then Rubio reared up for what he clearly intended as his wowza line: “It cannot turn into an animal. It can’t turn into a donkey. The only thing that that can become is a human being.”

Rubio, clearly pleased with himself, added, “[If scientists] can’t say it will be human life, what does it become, then? Could it become a cat?”

When Rubio’s website says “watch this video,” it shows the interview in its entirety.

Just so we’re clear, not even the most ardent pro-choice advocates believe fertilized human eggs could become a cat. They do believe, however, that there’s a difference between people and fertilized human eggs that might someday become people – in much the same way we differentiate between acorns and trees. What something is and what something may become under the right conditions are not identical.

Nevertheless, the far-right Floridian seems quite excited about his argument. He’ll have to hope it’s persuasive to a broad audience – Rubio’s no-abortions/no-exceptions position is further to the right than any Republican presidential nominee in the modern era.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 11, 2015

August 14, 2015 Posted by | Marco Rubio, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Anti-Choice Balloon Payment Due”: GOP’ers, We Should ‘Rule With Fear’

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

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

May 13, 2015 Posted by | Rand Paul, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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