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“Extreme Positions On Everything”: Republicans Scaring The Voters In The Middle

The claims of Representative Todd Akin that women don’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape” now live in infamy. But a few things you may not know:

If an American woman in uniform is raped and becomes pregnant, Congress bars Tricare military insurance from paying for an abortion.

If an American woman in the Peace Corps becomes pregnant, Congress bars coverage of an abortion — and there is no explicit exception even if she is raped or her life is in danger.

When teenagers in places like Darfur, Congo or Somalia survive gang rapes, aid organizations cannot use American funds to provide an abortion.

A record number of states have curbed abortions in the last two years. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which follows reproductive health, 55 percent of American women of reproductive age now live in one of the 26 states deemed “hostile to abortion rights.”

The Republican campaign platform denounces contraceptive education in schools. Instead, it advises kids to abstain from sex until marriage.

All this boggles the mind. Republican leaders in 2012 have a natural winning issue — the limping economy — but they seem determined to scare away centrist voters with extremist positions on everything from abortion to sex education.

Most Americans do not fit perfectly into “pro-choice” or “pro-life” camps. Polls show that about one-fifth want abortion to be legal in all situations, and another one-fifth want abortion to be illegal always. The majority fall somewhere between, and these voters are the ones who decide elections.

Bill Clinton won their support with his pragmatic formula that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Then social conservatives won ground with a shrewd strategic decision to focus the abortion debate where they had the edge.

They fought battles over extremely rare procedures they called “partial-birth abortion.” They called for parental consent when a girl seeks an abortion, and for 24-hour waiting periods before an abortion. In polls, around two out of three Americans favor those kinds of restrictions.

But change the situation, and people are more in favor of abortion rights. Four out of five Americans believe that a woman should be able to get an abortion if her health is endangered, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape.

So it’s astonishing that Republicans would adopt an absolutist platform condemning abortion without offering an exception even for rape.

Mitt Romney insists that his position on abortion is crystal clear. In fact, his policy is so muddled that he doesn’t seem to know it himself. So, Mr. Romney, let me help you out.

On your campaign Web site, you say that life begins at conception and that you favor overturning Roe v. Wade. As with the Republican Party platform, you give no indication there that you favor an exception for rape or to save a woman’s life.

Likewise, you seemed to endorse a “personhood” initiative like the one in Mississippi last year that would have treated a fertilized egg as a legal person. It failed because of concerns that an abortion, even to save a woman’s life, could be legally considered murder. It might also have banned in vitro fertilization and some forms of birth control.

These days, Mr. Romney, as you seek general-election voters, you insist that you do, in fact, accept abortion in cases of rape, incest or a pregnancy that endangers a woman’s life. In an interview with CBS the other day, you added another exception, for the health of the mother.

Mr. Romney, if you don’t know your own position on abortion, how are we supposed to understand it?

More broadly, you’ve allied yourself with social conservatives who are on a crusade that scares centrists and mystifies even many devout evangelicals.

“Representative Akin’s views don’t represent me,” Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good told me. “They also don’t reflect the theological and ethical, not to mention scientific, view of evangelical leaders, who understand the rationale for exceptions: God’s grace and mercy. Akin and company are the political and theological minority, but they have captured the G.O.P.’s platform process.”

Americans are deeply conflicted on abortion, but I think most are repulsed by the Republican drive to impose ultrasounds — in some cases invasive ones — on women before an abortion. Five states now require a woman, before an abortion, to endure an ultrasound that may use a probe inserted into her vagina. Four of those states make no exception for a rape.

And if the Republican Party succeeds in defunding Planned Parenthood, the result will be more women dying of cervical cancer and fewer women getting contraception. The consequence will probably be more unintended pregnancies — and more abortions.

Or there’s sex education. Today in America, more than one-third of teens say that when they began having sex, they had not had any formal instruction about contraception. Is this really the time for a Republican Party platform denouncing comprehensive sex education?

Some Americans don’t even seem to have had any sex education by the time they’re elected to Congress. Like Todd Akin.

 

By: Nicholas D. Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 1, 2012

September 2, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Coburn’s Cuts: Military’s Tricare Prime Health Care Program Targeted

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) wants to cut taxpayer funding for non-military elements of the Defense Department, starting with making retired, uninjured service members pay more for what he described as “extremely low-cost health care for life” for themselves, their wives and dependents under the Tricare Prime system.

For military retirees eligible for Medicare, he also wants to raise the co-payments that they are charged to be in Tricare for life, the second payer for health care after Medicare. In addition, he wants to increase low fees that Tricare beneficiaries pay for pharmaceuticals purchased at their local drugstores.

Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates proposed raising Tricare Prime enrollment fees for single retirees from $230 a year to $260 a year and fees for retiree families from $460 a year to $520 a year. Coburn wants the fees to be much higher and more in line with private-sector health plans.

Part of his concern is fairness, first for uninjured veterans who, for example, served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan but “leave the military without serving 20 years [and] are not entitled to any of these health-care benefits.” They represent some 70 percent of those serving, according to Pentagon officials.

Another comparison he makes is to other federal government workers whose plans are not as cheap. A medical doctor, Coburn told reporters last Monday: “Nobody in the country, as a single person working 20 years for the government, should be able to get health care for $250 a year. Nobody was ever promised that, and nobody should be able to do that.”

Instead, he wants to increase the enrollment fee for single retirees to “approximately $2,000 per year and $3,500 for a family.” At the same time he would limit out-of-pocket expenses at $7,500 for those retirees with families. He thinks these changes could save $11.5 billion a year.

His Tricare for life would require retirees to pay up to $550 for half the initial cost not covered by Medicare and then up to $3,025, after which all costs would be paid by Tricare. This change could save $4.3 billion a year.

Coburn wants to reduce the $8 billion annual government share of the cost of drugs that Tricare beneficiaries purchase from their local private retail pharmacies rather than buying them at lower cost by mail order or at military base facilities. Where the price is now $3 for a 30-day supply of a generic drug and $9 for a brand-name from private pharmacies, Coburn would raise that to$15 for generic and $25 for brand names and save some $2.6 billion a year.

Coburn told reporters he has no doubt about the reaction to his Tricare ideas.

“There’s no question,” he said, “. . . retired military, they won’t like what I’ve done. But the fact is is nobody’s going to like what we’ve done, because everybody gets a pinch — everybody. ”

Beyond health care, Coburn has several other proposals that will rattle the Pentagon. He wants to eliminate most of the $1.3 billion-a-year subsidy that supports the Defense Commissary system of 252 grocery stores on military bases worldwide. Prices at commissaries are much lower than at civilian supermarkets; they are listed at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge. That money goes to offset costs of new commissaries or to repair and maintain old ones. It does not pay for salaries and benefits of the roughly 18,000 people who work at the commissaries.

Coburn supports a Congressional Budget Office proposal that would reduce the taxpayer subsidy over five years and see a gradual raise in prices so commissaries could become self-sufficient. The increase in cost, according to the CBO, would amount to $400 per service family per year and save the government about $900 million annually.

He also wants to close down the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, which for more than 20 years has added around $200 million a year primarily for breast, lung and prostate cancer projects that have to be managed primarily by contractors. Coburn’s option is to “transfer funding for cancer research that affects the general population back to [the National Institutes of Health] and reduce the administrative costs of administering this research for savings.”

By: Walter Pincus, The Washington Post, July 24, 2011

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Deficits, Economic Recovery, Economy, Federal Budget, GOP, Health Care Costs, Lawmakers, Medicare, Pentagon, Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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