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“How Stupid Do They Think We Are?”: Women Can Love Puppies And Oppose Men Who Think They Should Control Our Bodies

I feel like a 12-year-old trying to explain why Muffy is no longer dating Binky, but here goes:

National Right to Life has broken up with Cleveland Right to Life because Cleveland Right to Life wants to amend its mission statement to ban same-sex marriage — in Ohio, mind you, where same-sex marriage is already banned.

Think of it as the “So there!” initiative — in case any gay people in Ohio missed the 2004 “We mean it!” voter referendum that stripped them of rights they never had.

Welcome to my little patch of Wackadoodle Land.

National Right to Life says it’s focused on eliminating a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. After all, there’s only so much energy in a day, and we womenfolk have been a handful ever since we got the right to vote. Trying to take away women’s legal rights in 2013 is exhausting work. Embarrassing, too, when your loudest spokesman is the former and possibly future Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum.

There’s a new YouTube video of Santorum making the rounds. This time, he accuses liberals of making it hard for conservatives to shower in Texas.

“What the pro-choice movement does is they just don’t focus on their little issue,” he said. “They focus on everything they do and every aspect of their lives. They make it uncomfortable for students who come to Austin to shower at a Young Men’s Christian Association, YMCA, gym, because they live it. They’re passionate. They’re willing to do and say uncomfortable things in mixed company. They’re willing to make the sacrifice at their business because they care enough.”

Then he went on to talk about the American Revolution.

I am reminded of a male reader’s letter during last year’s Republican presidential primaries. “I do not understand,” he wrote, “how a lady who can be so sweet to her puppy can be so mean to Rick Santorum.”

Oh, yes, you do.

What Santorum failed to mention — but the Austin Y later explained in a statement — was that the young men showed up for showers wearing T-shirts telegraphing their support for legislation outlawing most abortions. The Y director asked them not to return because the organization tries to offer a partisan-free environment.

“So,” you might ask, “what does same-sex marriage have to do with abortion rights?”

Silly you, having a point. You never are going to fit in with this crowd.

Cleveland Right to Life President Molly Smith explained the anti-gay agenda this way to The Plain Dealer: “How can you be for the child if you are not for the family?”

Fascinating question in light of the largest study of children with same-sex parents, by the University of Melbourne, which showed they do as well as — and sometimes better than — children raised by heterosexuals.

Lead researcher Dr. Simon Crouch said that’s because gay families deal with more challenges (hello-o-o-o-, Cleveland Right to Life), which makes their children more resilient.

“Because of the situation that same-sex families find themselves in, they are generally more willing to communicate and approach the issues that any child may face at school, like teasing or bullying,” he told a reporter.

Experience has taught me to expect a few emails insisting this study doesn’t count because it’s about foreigners. They’re Australians. Home of Ugg boots. You don’t get more American than that.

Cleveland Right to Life board member Jerry C. Cirino told The Plain Dealer that he, too, supported the same-sex marriage ban: “We know it is not only important to protect the rights of a child to be born. … We should also care about the child after they are born.”

Again, no explanation as to how same-sex parents hurt children. Surprising, considering local Right to Life chapters’ fondness for fun fake facts that find their way into Ohio laws that can’t survive constitutional challenges. National Right to Life is sick of that, too. Ask them about Ohio’s “heartbeat bill.” That went well.

Nevertheless, let’s look on the bright side. Finally, Cleveland Right to Life claims to be in the business of looking out for the children they insist women must bear. Surely, those press releases are on the way calling for universal health care, affordable day care and a living wage for all working parents.

How stupid do they think we are?

Again, I’m reminded of that male reader. I responded to his initial email by explaining that we women are complicated creatures capable of holding more than one thought in our heads. We can love puppies and oppose men who think they should control our bodies.

The reader was unimpressed. “Well,” he wrote, “now you just sound like my wife.”

Well, yes. We’re everywhere.


By: Connie Schlutz, The National Memo, August 8, 2013

August 9, 2013 Posted by | Reproductive Rights, Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Texas Rebellion”: Wendy Davis Gives New Hope To The Future For American Women

A rowdy crowd of women making demands as loudly as they can—and winning? That sort of thing doesn’t happen in Texas. Except that now, apparently, it does.

Beginning on Tuesday morning and stretching into the wee hours of Wednesday, Democrat Wendy Davis, a state senator from Fort Worth, became a national pro-choice hero as thousands of Texans flooded the state capitol to cheer her effort to stop a draconian anti-abortion bill. Governor Rick Perry had added abortion restrictions to the agenda halfway through a special session of the legislature originally intended to pass new redistricting maps. Before the session ended at midnight on Tuesday, Republican lawmakers hoped to rush through what would have been one of the nation’s most extreme anti-abortion laws. For 11 hours, Davis filibustered a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks and shut down all but five of the state’s abortion clinics.

It was high drama: If Davis could hold out till midnight, she’d block the bill. It wouldn’t be easy. Under Texas’s strict filibuster rules, the senator could not eat, drink, use the bathroom, or even lean on the lectern. She couldn’t simply read from the phone book, either; she had to talk about the abortion bill or, after three warnings, the majority Republicans could force her to sit down. As the hours went by, Davis’s following grew. Nearly 180,000 followed the livestream from the Senate floor. The news spread on Twitter, where the state senator went from around 1,200 followers to over 67,000. Celebrities like Lena Dunham and Julianne Moore tweeted out support. So did President Obama, who wrote: “Something special is happening in Austin tonight,” with the hashtag “StandWithWendy.” The hashtag trended worldwide for hours.

But in the end it was the hundreds of pro-choice activists in the gallery who killed the bill in one of the most dramatic moments in Texas political memory. While Davis became the face of the effort, she was also just one part of a movement that organized swiftly and effectively. It was a feat of organization, and a show of progressive energy, that will provide a shot of energy for Democrats’ to turn the state blue.

The showdown began on Thursday with an unexpected turnout from pro-choice activists. When the House State Affairs Committee considered the anti-abortion measure, 600 activists flooded the hearing, conducting what they called a “citizen’s filibuster.” According to one lawmaker, 92 percent of those who came to testify opposed the bill. One after another, pro-choice Texans told their stories as hours ticked by. Around 4 a.m. on Friday, the Republican committee chair finally cut off testimony, calling the statements “repetitive.” The committee passed the bill quietly the next day and the House recessed until Sunday, when House Republicans planned to use technical maneuvers to fast-track the measure.

On Sunday, pro-choice activists again packed the gallery, far outnumbering the opposition. Progressives from across the country began sending food and coffee to show support. House  Democrats managed to use amendments and points of order to delay the bill for more than a day, buying enough time to make a Senate filibuster possible. By the time the House finally passed the measure, it couldn’t be heard in the Senate until Tuesday. The filibuster was on.

Davis was the obvious choice to lead the filibuster. Since first being elected in 2008, when she unseated a powerful Republican lawmaker, Davis has stood out as a progressive firebrand unafraid of antagonizing her Republican colleagues. Her biography alone is impressive; a former teen mom living in a trailer, Davis put herself through both college and law school, where she graduated valedictorian. She’s unabashed in talking about her experiences with poverty and her reliance on Planned Parenthood for health care; during the filibuster, she called it “her medical home.” Davis had ended the regular legislative session in 2011 with a filibuster of $5.4 billion in cuts to public schools. That one only took an hour and a half, however, and was largely for show; the legislature came back in a special session and cut the money. But it earned Davis, who’s seen as a future statewide candidate, icon status among Texas’s long-put-upon progressives.

By the time Davis’s filibuster began on Tuesday morning, it wasn’t just the Senate gallery that was packed. Throughout the capitol and spilling outside, people wore burnt orange T-shirts, the color associated with the Texas cause (and not coincidentally, with the University of Texas). Many read, “Stand with Texas Women.” Davis read testimony from women who weren’t allowed to testify at Thursday’s committee hearing. She took questions defending her position. She spoke deliberately, was careful to avoid leaning on the podium, and occasionally paced slowly around her desk as she spoke.

As the hours ticked by, Republican senators watched like hawks for Davis to slip up. At the six-hour mark, Davis got her first warning for talking about funding for Planned Parenthood and women’s health programs—which, according to the chair, were not germane to a bill on abortion restrictions. She got another when a colleague helped her put on a back brace. The gallery was beginning to get restless when all hell broke loose around 10 p.m. With just two hours to go, Davis received her third warning—this time for mentioning a pre-abortion sonogram requirement the chamber passed last session. Her Democratic colleagues began trying to stall, raising parliamentary inquiries and appeals. Republicans scrambled to end the filibuster and take a vote before the clock hit midnight and the special session was over.

With 15 minutes to go, it looked like the Senate Democrats couldn’t hold out. Republicans were trying to vote as Democrats attempted to concoct more procedural delays. The spectators were subdued and anxious. Then things went crazy. First, the chair refused to recognize a motion to adjourn from Senator Leticia van de Putte, a Democrat who had just arrived from her father’s funeral. Van de Putte tried to make another motion, but the chair once again did not recognize her. Finally, exasperated, she called out: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be heard over the male colleagues in the room?

That did it. The spectators began to cheer, overwhelming the attempts of the chair to quiet them down. For a full quarter of an hour, they shouted and screamed with unceasing volume, as Republicans tried to get a vote on the bill. After midnight came and went, the Senate Republicans argued that they did take a vote and had prevailed. But the record showed otherwise; screenshots captured the Texas Legislative website showing the vote had been taken on June 26, after midnight.

Senators convened a closed-door caucus meeting to try and sort out what had actually happened. The gallery was cleared in the Senate chamber, but nobody left. People in burnt-orange T-shirts were everywhere—in the capitol rotunda, outside the building, in the hallways. It wasn’t until after 2 a.m. that word broke: The session was over, the bill was dead, and pro-choice Texans had won.

It was the kind of landmark victory that Texas progressives haven’t seen in years—a couple of decades, really. Not surprisingly, conservatives didn’t mince words about the proceedings. Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who’s been blamed by Republicans for the madness in his chamber, complained that the activists were “an unruly mob.” State Representative Bill Zedler tweeted, “We had terrorist [sic] in the Texas State Senate opposing [the bill].”

But these activists weren’t terrorists. They were the Texans that national observers rarely see—and they are helping to plant the seeds of a progressive revival in the state. As I watched people happily file out of the capitol in the early morning hours, it was striking to see the vast array of ages and races. Young hipsters and older soccer moms all seemed united. Most of those who have talked about a potential sea change in Texas politics have focused on Latino mobilization. (I just wrote a feature on the subject.) But Texas women have also been under-organized (and less Democratic than in other states), and they are another key to any potential progressive movement in the state. And while Davis was the face of the effort, it was pro-choice women’s spontaneous burst of engagement that shook up Texas politics this week.


By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, June 26, 2013

June 27, 2013 Posted by | Abortion, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Insincere And Playing Dumb”: Mitt Romney’s Shameless Appeal To Women

Two things happened yesterday that don’t seem unrelated. First, there was the release of a new poll in Ohio that showed Mitt Romney pulling closer to President Obama but still trailing by 4 points – thanks to a massive 36-point gender gap. Then came Romney’s statement to an editorial board that “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”

This is an extension of the strategy Romney employed at last week’s debate, simply playing dumb when confronted with the aspects of conservative ideology that are difficult to market outside the Republican Party base. In this case, there is a clear urgency for Romney in creating distance between himself and the right’s recent fixation on reproductive issues: A recent Bloomberg poll of swing voters in Ohio and Virginia found Romney leading among married mothers by a few points in each state – with the potential to open much bigger leads if he can work around the concerns they have about his views on women’s issues.

Romney, the Bloomberg poll showed, enjoys a clear advantage among these women on the economy, but has been hindered by, among other things, his vow to defund Planned Parenthood, his opposition to Obama’s decision to mandate insurance coverage of birth control, and his antiabortion position. The new Ohio numbers, from a CNN poll released yesterday, speak to Romney’s challenge. Among men in the Buckeye State, he’s now clobbering Obama, 56 to 42 percent. But with women, Obama is winning by a 60-38 percent margin. That translates into a 51-47 percent overall lead for the president, but if Romney can erode Obama’s advantage with women even a little, he can make up that ground.

Romney has played this game before, in the only general election before now that he ever won. It was exactly 10 years ago that he was running for governor of Massachusetts and found himself trailing in the race’s final weeks. The Romney campaign’s main strategy was to scare suburban swing voters with the specter of rampant Democratic cronyism in the state capitol – warning voters that a “gang of three” Democrats would run the state if Romney’s Democratic opponent, Shannon O’Brien, were elected.

But part of appealing to these swing voters also involved assuaging any concerns they had about Romney being to their right on cultural issues, particularly abortion. On this front, O’Brien spotted a clear opening. The year before, when he’d been back in Utah overseeing the Olympics, Romney had been thinking that his political future would be in the Beehive State, and not Massachusetts, where a Republican, Jane Swift, was serving as acting governor and where both Democratic senators were entrenched. So Romney, who had run as a passionate abortion rights supporter in his 1994 campaign against Ted Kennedy, began repositioning himself to fit in with Utah’s far-right Republican electorate, penning a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune in July 2001 in which he instructed the paper not to identify him as pro-choice.

It wasn’t a complete policy shift. Romney left himself enough wiggle room in case a 2002 opportunity back in Massachusetts opened up – which it did a few months later, as Swift’s governorship collapsed and Republicans begged Romney to come home and save them. So it was that Romney in ’02 resumed presenting himself as an abortion rights advocate, although this time in more muted terms, promising that he would uphold the state’s laws and do nothing to restrict abortion access, but shying away from the pro-choice label. Presumably, this was meant to seem consistent with the ’01 letter he wrote in Utah; it was probably also done with the knowledge that, if he ever wanted to go national as a Republican candidate, Romney would have to eventually declare himself pro-life.

O’Brien recognized all of this and tried to corner Romney in their final debate, just over a week before the election. It can be maddening to watch their encounter now. O’Brien’s warnings about Romney’s obvious insincerity on the issue seem prescient today, but at the time, Romney did a rather masterful job deflecting them, pretending he had no idea why anyone would be confused about his position and aligning himself perfectly with the sentiments of swing voters. He even turned the tables on O’Brien, who in an effort to show a clear policy difference with Romney on the issue came out against a parental consent law. In other words, on the one abortion policy area where they officially disagreed, Romney managed to express the more broadly popular view.

The Romney who bested O’Brien in that debate was the same Romney who showed up in Denver last week. And it’s the same Romney who expressed bafflement to the Des Moines Register’s editorial board yesterday over why anyone would think he’d make restricting abortion a priority as president.

There is a difference this time, though. As Irin Carmon points out, restricting abortion absolutely is a priority for the national Republican Party, and if Romney is president he won’t have much leeway to defy this sentiment. You can see it already, in fact, with the Romney campaign’s quick clarifying statement last night that he “would of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.” Consider it a preview of a Romney presidency. If he strays on an issue important to the right, it won’t be long until the right brings him back into line.

The question for now is whether Romney can downplay reproductive issues enough to eat into the gender gap. At the national level, that gap seems to be evaporating quickly in the wake of last week’s debate. But the Ohio numbers suggest that things might be different in the swing states, where the candidates have concentrated their resources and where voters are presumably more familiar with their messages.


By: Steve Kornacki, Salon, October 10, 2012


October 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shiny Objects”: Would The Right Really Care About A Pro-Choice Running Mate?

With the Drudge Report’s bombshell scoop that Condi Rice is now the veepstakes’ front-runner — which, some pundits suspect, is just the Romney campaign’s attempt at dangling a shiny object in front of the political media in an attempt to distract from the latest Bain controversy — the first reaction of many, on the right and the left, is that Rice’s pro-choice views make her inclusion on the GOP ticket impossible. Theoretically, though, it’s not impossible. Avoiding traffic jams while driving out of the city on a summer Friday afternoon is impossible. Watching the Lion King without crying during the stampede scene is impossible. A Republican presidential candidate choosing a pro-choice VP is entirely possible.

To be sure, the right would obviously prefer an all-pro-life ticket. Why not? But if it came down to it, we can’t imagine that having a pro-choicer on the ticket would hurt Romney. The vice-president doesn’t have any influence over the direction of abortion policy in this country, and everyone knows it. Rice isn’t going to appoint justices to the Supreme Court. She’s not going to sign bills or veto them. The most she could do is cast a tie-breaking vote on some kind of abortion-related legislation, and even in that infinitesimally rare scenario, it’s hard to believe she would break with her president and her entire party.

When it came down to it, the choices before conservatives would be President Obama — your standard abortion-loving and abortion-loving-judge-appointing liberal — or Mitt Romney, a pro-lifer (although, granted, not the most trustworthy one) who will appoint pro-life judges but who happens to share a ticket with some pro-choice window dressing. You’re telling us that abortion crusaders are going to stay home on Election Day and hand the infanticide-loving president four more years in the White House because Romney declined to appoint a pro-lifer to an entirely symbolic position in his cabinet? We don’t buy it.

Look no further than Sarah Palin, perhaps the most pro-life person on the planet, for proof of how easily Rice’s pro-choiceness (which isn’t even that strong to begin with) can be overlooked. “I think that Condoleezza Rice would be a wonderful vice-president,” she said on Fox News last night, while also noting that “it’s not the vice-president that would legislate abortion.”

If even Palin — who has said that she wouldn’t even want her 14-year-old daughter to abort a baby conceived through rape — is okay with Rice being on the ticket, other pro-lifers should be fine with it too.

This is not to say that we think Romney will actually pick Rice. For one thing, he already promised that he wouldn’t. Aside from that, it really comes down to two words: Bush taint. Sorry for the mental image.


By: Dan Amira, Daily Intel, July 13, 2012

July 14, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Warning, Warning”: Mitt Romney Is Out of Flops on Abortion

Lots of politicians, and quite a few presidential candidates, have changed their minds on abortion. This is partly because, in its broadest terms, it is a weighty, complex issue with a legitimate case to be made on both sides, even if one side has a stronger case (I’m not talking here about subsidiary issues like parental consent or the despicable laws requiring women to get ultrasounds or anything like that, just the basic question of whether abortion is right or wrong). It’s also because in recent years, both parties have tolerated less and less deviation on the issue, particularly in anyone who wants to be their presidential nominee. There are still a few pro-life Democrats (like Harry Reid) and pro-choice Republicans (like Olympia Snowe), but the days when someone could hope to get on a national ticket without toeing the line on abortion are gone.

So if you’ve been around a while, there’s a chance you held one belief in your early years, but then moved to align with your party later on. This is what happened, for instance, to George H.W. Bush (a great advocate of reproductive rights in his early years as a member of Congress) and Al Gore (who started off his career pro-life). Chances are most people don’t even know that about Bush or Gore, but people sure do know that Mitt Romney changed his views on abortion. Why? A few reasons.

First, it happened very recently—over a period between 2004 and 2005, when he was moving toward his first run for president. Second, there’s lots of video of Romney loudly declaring his pro-choice position and promising to be a vigilant guardian of a woman’s right to choose. Third, he has flipped on a lot of things, so the abortion change fits in with a broader impression of Romney as opportunistic and unprincipled. And finally, Romney has never offered an explanation of why he changed that Republican voters find persuasive.

So today, Will Saletan offers a long, exhaustive story about Romney’s history with abortion, documenting every movement on the issue over Romney’s career, and all the ways (many of them shamelessly dishonest) that he has tried to justify those movements:

When you see the story in its full context, three things become clear. First, this was no flip-flop. Romney is a man with many facets, groping his way through a series of fluid positions on an array of difficult issues. His journey isn’t complete. It never will be. Second, for Romney, abortion was never really a policy question. He didn’t want to change the law. What he wanted to change was his identity. And third, the malleability at Romney’s core is as much about his past as about his future. Again and again, he has struggled to make sense not just of what he should do, but of who he has been. The problem with Romney isn’t that he keeps changing his mind. The problem is that he keeps changing his story.

Saletan paints Romney’s history of changes on abortion like everything else about Romney: careful, methodical, planned, full of rewritings of the past, and utterly devoid of any discernible principle or genuine sentiment.

If he gets elected, though, will Romney be different in any meaningful way from a candidate who had been anti-abortion all his or her life? Let’s look at what he’ll actually do. He’ll instantly reinstate the Mexico City Policy that bans U.S. support for any group that even suggests abortion overseas, pushing that pendulum back to the Republican side. He’ll sign any legislation Congress might come up with restricting reproductive rights. And perhaps most importantly, he’ll appoint to federal courts, and to the Supreme Court, judges who want to overturn Roe v. Wade. If Romney were elected and one of the five justices who currently support Roe (Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor) retires or dies, he will absolutely, positively appoint a successor who is ready to overturn Roe.

Because he doesn’t have much choice, whatever he believes deep down. He has to dance with the one who brung him, and the Republican party will simply not tolerate anything less. Republicans may fear that he’ll get to the White House and suddenly shift back to being pro-choice, but that simply isn’t going to happen. Try to imagine the category-5 shitstorm that would result if a President Romney nominated someone to the Supreme Court that Republicans felt was a less-than-reliable vote to overturn Roe. If he was in his first term, he’d immediately get primary challengers. If he was in his second term, they’d try to impeach him. Even if most Americans don’t want to overturn Roe, the political cost of another shift for Romney would just be too high. And it’s hard to argue that for him, there’s any other calculation to be made.


By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, February 22, 2012

February 23, 2012 Posted by | Abortion, Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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