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“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

August 11, 2015 Posted by | Abortion, Marco Rubio, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Having Trouble Hearing Women’s Voices”: Texas GOP Unleashes Political Quackery On Women’s Reproductive Rights

A few years ago, during consideration of a bill being pushed by a Republican elder in the Texas Senate, first-term Sen. Wendy Davis asked him a question about it. Rather than respond to this Democrat, this woman, the old bull replied dismissively, “I have trouble hearing women’s voices.”

No more. Even a stone-deaf old bull would’ve been jerked to attention by the clarity of Davis’ voice on June 25. Starting at 11:18 a.m., she literally stood tall for more than 11 grueling hours, filibustering a mean and demeaning attempt by extremist Republican leaders to put the state government in charge of the most personal right women have: controlling decisions about their own bodies.

Davis’ principled stand — in Texas, no less — rallied over 2,000 mothers, grandmothers, girls and others to come to the capitol from all over the state, packing the gallery in quiet witness. Quiet until 10:04 p.m., that is, when GOP leaders tried to silence her by unilaterally ruling her filibuster over.

Suddenly, the ruling Solons were startled by a high-decibel reprimand from their subjects — the gallery erupted in citizen outrage, causing chaos on the floor. Then, when the “leaders” tried to force a vote, the “followers” took charge, with jeers so loud that senators couldn’t hear themselves. With the session set to expire at midnight, panicky leaders tried to push the clock back, which led to deafening chants of “shame, shame, shame,” ultimately blocking the GOP’s brutish ploy.

Texas Republicans have already re-rigged the rules so they can get their way on another day, but they can’t escape the huge significance of this defeat. As Davis rightfully noted, while she was the one standing on the floor, “it was the ‘people’s filibuster’ that stopped (the bill)” and awakened a new movement in Texas that won’t be stopped.

Texas has long experience with animalistic approach to public policy. In 2007, a local school superintendent rejected any need for sex education classes in his district. Noting that many students there live on farms, he said, “They get a pretty good sex education from their animals.”

Guess which state is No. 1 in teen pregnancies? Yes, Texas.

And who should be the ones to make medical decisions about pregnancies? Not women and their doctors. They might choose “wrong” over the doctrine of certain religious groups. Rather, the macho Republican autocrats and theocrats who now reign over state government say they are the ones to decide such deeply personal matters. How embarrassing for these political bullies, then, to have had their repressive, extremist and dangerous anti-choice legislation derailed by … well, by women.

“An unruly mob,” cried the lieutenant governor as he fled the capitol. One GOP lawmaker tremulously tweeted that Davis, the opposition leader, was a “terrorist.” And Gov. Rick “Oops” Perry ran away to Dallas, where he whimpered that the people’s assertion of citizens’ authority was a “hijacking of the democratic process.” Odd concept: The people “hijacking” democracy.

All this from “leaders” who blatantly hijacked the rules to shut down Davis’ gutsy filibuster. In 2011, these same wimps even tried to hijack Davis’ Senate district by illegally shoving more than half of her minority precincts into neighboring districts — a racist ploy that federal judges overturned. And now Perry is trying to hijack reality, huffing and puffing that he’ll slap down the women’s opposition to his assault on their rights, because that’s “what the people of this state hired us to do.”

Get a grip, Rick. In a June poll, 63 percent of registered Texas voters said we already have plenty of anti-abortion laws on the books, and nearly three-fourths of the people (including 6 out of 10 Republicans) say such personal medical decisions should be made by women and their doctors, not by political quacks masquerading as Talibanic moral arbitrators. And 81 percent say the legislature should focus on basic economic issues wracking the majority of Texans.

Davis pointed out that far from helping the economic plight of women in the Lone Star State, he vetoed the equal-pay-for-equal-work bill recently passed by the legislature. How rude of her!


By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, July 3, 2013

July 5, 2013 Posted by | Reproductive Rights, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Creating A Whole New Meaning” In Utah: The Difference Between Contraception And Mainlining Heroin

Utah Governor Gary Herbert vetoed an abstinence-only sex ed bill, prompting the measure’s co-sponsor to go on the offensive.

Last week, I mentioned two state legislatures had passed abstinence-only sex education bills. While Wisconsin’s governor was already supportive of the measure, in Utah, Governor Gary Herbert was less certain. The measure would have banned any discussion of contraception, or for that matter, homosexuality. The current law in Utah already requires parents to “opt-in” if the course includes discussion of contraceptives, but this measure would have actually removed even the option for students to learn about more than simply abstinence. It had passed overwhelmingly in both chambers, despite protests and opposition from the state PTA and teachers’ groups.

Late Friday, after protests, phone calls, and significant pressure from both sides, Herbert announced he had vetoed the measure. In his statement, he said he was unwilling to say “the State knows better than Utah’s parents,” noting a majority of parents choose to have their children learn about contraception. Herbert described himself as pushing “the reset button” on the conversation around sex-ed in the state.

But given the national rhetoric around sex right now, I’m not so sure a simply flourish of his pen will put the genie back in the bottle. Senate co-sponsor Margaret Dayton told the Salt Lake Tribune that “teaching children about contraception is comparable to telling kids not to do drugs, then showing them how to ‘mainline’ heroin.”

The national conversation around sex has shifted radically. Dayton is not alone in seeing sex as akin to one of the most dangerous street drugs around. A dangerous and corrupting activity that puts our youth at risk. Meanwhile, non-radical conservatives generally see sex as a healthy and normal activity, at least among adults, and teaching teenagers to use contraception means teaching them to be responsible. There’s such a major rift between the two sides right now, it’s hard to see what kind of conversation can be had.

Of course, a poll in Utah showed 58 percent of residents favored sex-ed that included contraceptives. So maybe they don’t need to have a conversation in the first place.


By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, March 19, 2012

March 20, 2012 Posted by | Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Operating On The Fringe”: Are Conservatives Getting Crazier?

Every four years, presidential candidates from both parties say, “This is the most important election of our lifetimes.” Reporters predict that this will be the most negative campaign in history. Partisans say that if their side loses, the disaster will echo through decades, and we believe that our opponents are more dastardly than they’ve ever been. And over the last couple of years, we liberals have looked at conservatives and thought that they have reached levels of craziness unseen before.

So historian/author/smart guy Rick Perlstein, who knows more about the conservative movement of the last half-century than pretty much anyone, warns us that what we’re seeing now is really nothing new:

Over fifteen years of studying the American right professionally — especially in their communications with each other, in their own memos and media since the 1950s — I have yet to find a truly novel development, a real innovation, in far-right “thought.” Right-wing radio hosts fingering liberal billionaires like George Soros, who use their gigantic fortunes – built by virtue of private enterprise under the Constitution – out to “socialize” the United States? 1954: Here’s a right-wing radio host fingering “gigantic fortunes, built by virtue of private enterprise under the Constitution … being used to ‘socialize’ the United States.” Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, “fed up with elitist judges” arrogantly imposing their “radically un-American views” — including judges on the Supreme Court, whose rulings he’s pledged to defy? 1958: Nine Men Against America: The Supreme Court and its Attack on American Liberties, still on sale at

Although Perlstein acknowledges that “What’s changed is that loony conservatives are now the Republican mainstream, the dominant force in the GOP,” this is what makes all the difference. You can still make the case that conservatives are crazier now, because the key factor isn’t the craziness of the craziest idea circulating among them—say, that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and successfully engineered a massive conspiracy to cover it up, as opposed to the idea that Dwight Eisenhower was a communist agent—it’s how widely those ideas are held, and by whom. The conspiracy theories and hate-driven beliefs find purchase not just on the fringe, but among elected lawmakers, influential media figures, and in many cases, a majority of Republican voters.

So when they gain power, real people’s lives are affected. For example, many conservatives never stopped believing that women who make their own sexual decisions are dirty sluts, but since so many Republicans won office in 2010, that belief translated into a torrent of legislation. In 2011, a record 92 pieces of state legislation restricting abortion rights were enacted, along with measures to restrict access to contraception and renew the failure that is abstinence-only sex education.

And in the Republican party of today, looniness practically operates on a ratchet, moving only in one direction. That’s because there are almost no moderates left in the party to push back. In order for a party to undergo an ideological shift, it needs an internal force willing to champion that shift. Let’s say the GOP suffers a big defeat in this year’s elections. Who is going to successfully argue that the party needs to turn its back on its nuttiest elements? All the moderates who have retired in disgust or been purged in primaries? They’re gone, and the Republicans who are left couldn’t care less what they have to say. No, if the Republicans lose, everyone in the party will agree that they only lost because they weren’t conservative enough, that they didn’t take on the hated Barack Obama with sufficient venom and fury. And the center of gravity within the party will move even farther to the fringe.


By: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect, March 19, 2012

March 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Talking In The Bathroom”: Abstinence-Only Education May Well Come To Wisconsin And Utah

Here’s a way to save time debating women’s health. Rather than allow people to fight and debate the issues around birth control and access to healthcare, simply don’t tell them key facts about contraception and sexual health. That way, rather than fighting, kids will be blissfully ignorant. Or, you know, rely on the wisdom of my sister’s best friend’s cousin who says you definitely can’t get pregnant if it’s a full moon.

Legislatures in both Wisconsin and Utah have passed abstinence-only education bills. It’s now up to governors in both states to determine whether or not to make the measures law.

Utah’s proposal is significantly more stringent. It would actually ban schools from teaching about contraceptives—and, for that matter, homosexuality. The Deseret News reports that hundreds of protesters have flooded the capitol, asking Governor Gary Herbert to veto the bill. The governor has said the public efforts against the measure won’t sway him; according to the News, a survey at Brigham Young University showed 58 percent of Utah residents believe contraceptives should be part of the curriculum in sexual education. Herbert is expected to decide on the bill next week. In the meantime, parents may want to stock up some Judy Blume books.

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker is already a fan of the measure, and is expected to sign it into law. The Green Bay Gazette explains that the bill, passed, 60-34 in the GOP-dominated House this week, would require schools “to teach abstinence as the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.” Abstinence-only education has been banned since 2010, but if this measure passes, schools won’t have to mention contraception, though according to HuffPo, they do have to get into “the socioeconomic benefits of marriage.” (Presumably LGBT kids can sit out that day, since the party isn’t big on letting them get married.)

Last year, the New York Times Magazine featured a fascinating story on what would happen if we actually taught children sex-positive education, dealing with questions not only about sexual health but also about sexual pleasure. The article made a key point—that many of today’s adolescents rely on internet pornography for much of their knowledge around sex. Kids get exposed to sex at younger and younger ages. Regardless of one’s opinions on that, it’s disturbing that those same kids will lose potential adult mentors who could have offered accurate information to counter the many falsehoods that come, either from the porn industry or simply talking in the school bathroom.

By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, March 15, 2012

March 16, 2012 Posted by | Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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