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“What Is The GOP Thinking?”: The Nation Will Have To Stand By Until Realists And Ideologues Reach Some Sort Of Understanding

There they go again. Given control of Congress and the chance to frame an economic agenda for the middle class, the first thing Republicans do is tie themselves in knots over . . . abortion and rape.

I’m not kidding. In a week when President Obama used his State of the Union address to issue a progressive manifesto of bread-and-butter policy proposals, GOP leaders responded by taking up the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” — a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But a vote on the legislation had to be canceled after female GOP House members reportedly balked over the way an exception for pregnancies resulting from rape was limited.

The whole thing was, in sum, your basic 360-degree fiasco.

At least there are some in the party who recognize how much trouble Republicans make for themselves by breaking the armistice in the culture wars and launching battles that cannot be won. It looks as if the nation will have to stand by until GOP realists and ideologues reach some sort of understanding, which may take some time.

It’s important to understand that the “Pain-Capable” bill was never anything more than an act of political fantasy. The only purpose of the planned vote was to create an “event” that the annual antiabortion March for Life, held Thursday in Washington, could celebrate.

You might think the demonstrators already had reason to cheer. The abortion rate is at “historic lows,” having dropped by 13 percent in the decade between 2002 and 2011, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The main reason is that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies, which suggests logically that if Republicans really want to reduce abortion, what they should do is work to increase access to birth control.

More to the point, according to the CDC, only 1.4 percent of abortions take place after 20 weeks. This means the bill, if it somehow became law, would have minimal impact.

But it won’t become law, as everyone in Congress well knows. The White House has announced that Obama would veto the measure, if it ever reached his desk. To get that far, the bill would have to pass the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would have to win over enough Democrats to cross the 60-vote threshold, which is highly unlikely.

Theoretically, though, any ­reasonable-sounding antiabortion measure should at least be able to make it through the House, with its expanded GOP majority. But even in the context of today’s far-right Republican Party, the “Pain-Capable” bill struck many House members, particularly women, as unreasonable.

At issue, apparently, is that, in making exceptions for abortions of pregnancies resulting from rape, the bill specifies that the rape must have been reported to law enforcement. This restriction cannot help but bring to mind the grief Republicans suffered in 2012 over Senate candidate Todd Akin’s appalling attempt to distinguish between “legitimate rape” and some other kind of rape.

Although the House leadership maintained that all was sweetness and light, reporters heard rumblings Wednesday that the bill was in trouble with moderate Republicans, especially women. Then an unusual number of female GOP House members was seen leaving the offices of the majority whip. Then the bill was pulled and a different antiabortion measure — prohibiting federal funding for abortions — was substituted.

I should note that there is no generally accepted scientific basis for the premise of the “Pain-Capable” bill. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has said there is no legitimate research supporting the idea that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks.

I understand that, for those who believe in their hearts that abortion is murder, there is an imperative to do something, anything, to stop it. Some people have similar moral passion about capital punishment or the thousands of lives lost each year to gun violence.

Given that the Supreme Court has decided abortion is a legally protected right, the antiabortion movement has done what it could — made abortions very difficult to obtain in some states where the pro-life position has sufficient support. Hooting and hollering on Capitol Hill do nothing for abortion opponents except fleece them of campaign contributions.

People, we are in an economic recovery whose fruits are not reaching the middle class. We have a crucial need to address U.S. infrastructure and competitiveness. We face myriad challenges abroad, including Islamic terrorism and global warming.

If a renewal of the culture wars is your answer, Republicans, you totally misheard the question.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 22, 2015

 

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Culture Wars, GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“GOP Wants To Define Rape… Again”: How Lindsey Graham Reawakened The Ghost Of Todd Akin

Ah, Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina senator who says he’s thinking about running for president no doubt thought he was helping the GOP get beyond its meltdown over its 20-week abortion ban bill, which leadership dropped unexpectedly when some GOP congresswomen balked, by asking antiabortion zealots attending the “March for Life” to help him “find a way out of this definitional problem with rape.”

One major issue with the bill was the way it defined rape: a women would have to have made a police report in order to get an abortion under the bill’s rape exception. (Katie McDonough has the details here.) Most rape victims don’t report the crime.

So Graham went to the “March for Life” today and came clean with the group, which is seething over its betrayal by GOP leadership. There’s going to be some kind of rape exception in the bill, and he needs their input to shape it.

“I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,” Graham told the marchers, according to Dave Weigel.  ”We need to find a consensus position on the rape exception. The rape exception will be part of the bill. We just need to find a way definitionally to not get us into a spot where we’re debating what legitimate is. That’s not the cause. We’re not here debating legitimate rape. We’re talking about saving babies at 20 weeks.”

So there it is again, the GOP’s lust for getting into the gritty details of defining rape, to make sure slutty women aren’t using rape exceptions to get around various types of abortion bans. That’s what former Rep. Todd Akin was getting at in 2012, when he talked about women rarely becoming pregnant as a result of “legitimate rape,” because  “a woman’s body has a way of shutting that whole thing down.” As you’ll recall, instead, women shut the GOP down that November. Republicans don’t want that to happen again in 2016.

The funny thing is, clearly Graham thinks he’s smarter than Akin: he insists he doesn’t “want to get us into a spot where we’re debating what legitimate is.” But he doesn’t seem to understand that the whole effort to “define” rape, which he’s apparently now spearheading, is precisely about deciding whether a woman’s claim of rape is “legitimate” or not.

At its heart, this Republican project is predicated on the belief that women lie about rape, but Republicans can outsmart them. If some Republican women believe that requiring women to make a police report is draconian, then Graham is searching for another way to define a woman’s rape as legitimately deserving of an exception to their 20-week abortion ban.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, who supported the very same bill in 2013, had second thoughts this time around. “We got into trouble last year, and I think we need to be careful again; we need to be smart about how we’re moving forward,” Ellmers told National Journal. ”The first vote we take, or the second vote, or the fifth vote, shouldn’t be on an issue where we know that millennials — social issues just aren’t as important [to them].”

So Ellmers is not exactly the picture of integrity here. She’s not worried about passing a terrible bill that could hurt women; she’s worried about how it looks to millennial voters.

Still, there looks to be a real split between GOP congressional men and women over the issue. Only women came forward to take their names off the bill; then male leadership acquiesced to withdraw it from consideration. Reportedly the party had the votes to pass the bill in the House at least, but Speaker John Boehner and others were concerned about the “optics” of ignoring women in the caucus.

I guess that’s a kind of progress for women’s rights, albeit tiny. But in walks Lindsey Graham to try to mansplain the right way to handle this whole rape “definition,” and even as he thinks he’s helping, he’s making his party’s problems much worse.

I never thought Graham had a prayer of winning the presidency, or even the GOP nomination, but his chances just got a lot worse. Republicans did well in 2014 by avoiding Akin-like controversies over defining rape and holding forth on the intimate workings of women’s bodies generally. It seems they just can’t help themselves, and that’s good for Democrats generally in 2016.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, January 22, 2015

January 26, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Lindsey Graham, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Catering To A Small Minority Of Voters”: Don’t Be Fooled; Republicans Are Still As Extreme On Abortion As Ever

A group of Republican men took to the House floor on Wednesday evening and delivered emotional speeches about the need to restrict women’s right to abortion. “A deeply personal issue,” Utah representative Chris Smith noted without a trace of irony, before musing on the pleasures of being a grandfather. Ted Yoho of Florida likened fetuses to an endangered species. “How can we as a nation have laws that protect the sea turtle or bald eagle, but yet refuse to protect the same of our own species?” he asked.

Their speeches anticipated a vote on the so-called Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban most abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy. Originally scheduled for Thursday, the vote has now been indefinitely “delayed” because the bill, it turns out, was too extreme even for some members of the GOP. A number of female members objected to a provision that would have exempted rape victims from the ban only after they reported to police. Dissent grew throughout the week, and with as many as two-dozen Republicans ready to vote against the bill by late Wednesday, leaders pulled the whole thing.

Oh, well. Republicans immediately found another piece of bad meat to throw the mass of anti-abortion protestors who descended on Washington on Thursday for the annual March for Life: the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act Titled just as misleadingly as the “Pain-Capable” legislation, this bill would have the most damaging effects in the private insurance marketplace, as Medicaid and other publicly funded programs are already barred from covering abortion services. House Republicans passed that legislation Thursday afternoon, as the anti-choice chants echoed across Capitol Hill.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, the bill “could result in the entire private insurance market dropping abortion coverage, thereby making such coverage unavailable to anyone.” It would permanently codify bans on abortion coverage for federal employees, residents of the District of Columbia, female inmates, women insured through the Indian Health Service, and women covered by Medicaid. It would also raise taxes on most small businesses.

The pivot was pure pandering. Representative Trent Franks, who introduced the twenty week ban along with Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn, had noted previously that the vote was scheduled for the same day at the March for Life because of the “symbolism.” Many of the members who spoke on Wednesday in support of the ban gave more attention to promoting the march than to bill itself. “This week, the defenders of life in the thousands have and will come to Washington DC to support the sanctity of life,” said New Jersey Representative Chris Smith. “I want them to know we will keep fighting to defend the silent, unborn child.”

While reproductive rights groups received the failure of the twenty-week ban with glee, they quickly condemned the scramble to find a substitute bill. “Today’s exercise in the House is not about making public policy, nor is it about helping American women and families. It is about catering to a small minority of voters—anti-abortion activists who are descending on Washington for their annual march,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President (and Nation contributor) Ilyse Hogue in a statement released Thursday.

It’s tempting to probe the political significance of a few female Republicans having the will, and enough muscle, to scuttle a bill that passed the House in similar form just two years ago. Maybe this one instance in which GOP leaders resisted the far-right fringe signals they’re finally waking up to the conclusion, encapsulated in the 2012 election post-mortem, that the party’s long-term success depends on women and minorities. And maybe not. (Call me when the House takes up immigration reform.)

But don’t overestimate the practical significance. Republicans are increasingly policing their optics and broadening their rhetoric—read Ran Paul’s rebuttal to the State of the Union for some silver tongue work concerning poverty, for example—but they are not ending their siege of legal abortion at the federal level or in the states, where the worst damage is being done. This would not be the first time that a high-level Republican chose not to highlight their extreme anti-woman principles and yet stuck to them. The twenty-week ban is likely to come up again this year, and it would be a dangerous bill even with a broader exception for rape victims. And out of the shadow of the March for Life, a vote will still be merely symbolic, as it’s unlikely to get through the Senate or to cross the president’s desk without a veto.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, January 22, 2015

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Reproductive Choice, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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