Posts Tagged ‘abortion’

George Says He Wants to Do It

Monday, June 1st, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

George Pataki ...  presidential candidate

George Pataki … presidential candidate

George Pataki is running for president. For those of you not familiar with the name, Pataki was governor of New York state for 12 years. He is the 285th announced or soon-to-be-announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. I exaggerate, but not by much.

Pataki is quiet and unassuming — things most of the other members of the GOP presidential gaggle are not. He also may be delusional, which does put him in good company with the rest of the crowd.

But here’s the funny thing about Pataki: He says he’s a Republican. If that’s so, it’s not any kind of Republican that Americans have been exposed to in the 21st century. The Grand Old Party is surely old, but in 2015, it is hardly grand. It is, sad to say, a party that has lost its mind and sold its soul. The onetime Party of Lincoln today is not even the Party of Ford. It’s the party of Cheney and pick-a-Bush, sponsored by the brothers Koch.

I have resisted jumping into the 2016 presidential “debate” until now, figuring it was too early. Like, a year too early. But as the body count has increased (much more modestly on the Democratic side), I started wondering if my lack of zeal for what I was witnessing would somehow risk me being left behind. Then again, I told myself, so what?

Then George Pataki, all 6 feet, 5 inches of him, pulled me in. Is this guy serious? President? Of the United States? Yeah, he’s an easygoing, likable sort. Bright. Actually grew up on a farm. Once upon a time, I even wrote editorials endorsing him for the New York State Legislature. And he was elected governor of New York three times. That’s no easy trick for  a Republican since it’s a liberal state with a Democratic voting edge. Even more impressive, Pataki beat liberal icon and incumbent governor, Mario Cuomo, the first time out. In getting re-elected twice, Pataki showed that he can work with people of differing political views to get things done.

But … George … Republicans don’t care about that today. In fact, they run away from it. Since you’ve been away from politics for eight years, maybe you haven’t noticed that the word “bipartisan” has been stricken from the party vocabulary. If Democrats like it, Republicans don’t. Period.

The real irony of the Pataki candidacy, though, centers on his positions on the issues. While he is definitely a state’s rights, low-tax, fiscal conservative in the traditional Republican mold, his views on a host of hot-button issues are simply not in sync with today’s Republican Party.

Let’s start with climate change. Republicans have fought President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat it at every turn. The GOP-dominated Senate even went so far as to vote that humans are not causing climate change and the Republican governor of Florida has actually banned state employees from using the term, “global warming.” Finally, polls regularly show that a majority of Republicans, who proudly proclaim they are not scientists, do not believe global warming is happening.

Pataki? Unlike many Republican politicians, the Columbia and Yale graduate respects science. Strike one. He believes global warming is real. Strike two. In fact, he co-chaired a 2007 blue-ribbon,  Independent Task Force on Climate Change  organized by the Council on Foreign Relations. The other co-chair was Tom Vilsack, former Democratic governor of Iowa who is President Obama’s agriculture secretary. The panel issued a thick report stating that human-caused climate change represented a world crisis that required immediate attention. Strike three.

How about abortion? Pataki is pro-choice. Enough said.

Immigration? He supports a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in this country. “We can’t send 11 million people back in railroad cars and buses and trains,” he has said.

He believes the issue of same-sex marriage should be left to the states, but as governor he signed a law providing rights for gays, including benefits for same-sex couples.

He also pushed through a tough gun-control law banning some assault weapons and requiring ballistic fingerprinting for weapons as well as raising the legal age to own a gun from 18 to 21. And he thinks it should be up to each state to decide whether to legalize marijuana.

For good measure, the former mayor of Peekskill thinks the nation should invest billions into building a first-class rail system.

Does that sound like a Republican to you?

Yes, he rips Obamacare and thinks the president hasn’t been militarily aggressive enough with ISIS and shouldn’t be negotiating with Iran on nuclear power. But virtually all the Republican candidates say those things, whether they believe them or not.

The point is, Pataki, who turns 70 this month, offers a bipartisan governing approach and reasonable views on some emotional issues in a party virtually devoid of such. In a general election against Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, that might sway some Democratic voters of a more conservative bent. But first he’s got to get through the Republican primaries and emerge victorious over the likes of : Ted (I will renounce my Canadian citizenship) Cruz; Marco (I’m young, Cuban and have a sugar daddy) Rubio; Rand (every citizen for himself) Paul; Ben (the perfect prescription for the Tea Party) Carson; Carly (I’m as wacky as any of the guys) Fiorina; Mike (the huckster) Huckabee; Rick (one more time) Santorum; Lindsay (I’m the most conservative of them all) Graham; Jeb (it’s my turn) Bush; Scott (fire the unions) Walker; Chris (I didn’t close the bridge) Christie; Rick (I can count to three now) Perry; Bobby (I really messed up Louisiana) Jindal; John (who?) Kasich; and Donald (oh shut up) Trump. Sarah Palin, where are you?

Fox News, the mouthpiece of the Republican Party, says it’s only going to put 10 candidates on stage for its televised GOP debates. Pataki might have trouble just cracking the starting lineup, which tells you where reasonableness, a respect for science and a willingness to compromise in governing get you today in the GOP.

In reporting on his decision to run for president, the Wall Street Journal described Pataki as a “centrist.” Talk about the kiss of death. They might just as well have called him a socialist, as far as today’s Republicans are concerned. It’s enough to make a guy want to switch parties.

Whaddaya think, George?

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Sex and the G.O.P

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

Who can forget the weird Todd Akin running for the Senate (loser) from Missouri as he declared during the never-ending debate on abortion: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

And who can forget Richard Mourdock, running for the Senate (loser) from Indiana with a new interpretation of the wishes of the Almighty: “. . . even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape…it is something that God intended to happen.” (Incidentally, I don’t think Mourdock ever answered the question: If a rape is intended by God, isn’t it a little presumptuous for ordinary humans to try the rapist in a criminal trial?)

Some candidates and office holders just never know to keep their mouths shut.

Nowadays, Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general of Virginia, is running for governor. Recently he came along with a position he held 10 years ago when he was in the state legislature. His bold initiative: It is time, he said, to reinstate the anti-sodomy laws, but he began with a false assumption.

“My view is that homosexual acts – not homosexuality, but homosexual acts – are wrong. They’re intrinsically wrong,” he has said.

No question Cuccinelli can kiss the gay vote goodbye, but after that business about homosexual acts, he seems to forget that there’s another group of people out there who would be affected by enactment and enforcement of anti-sodomy laws. That would be the estimated 96 percent of the population who are not gay but who nevertheless might enjoy anal or oral sex.

Cuccinelli also conveniently forgets that 10 years ago, the Supreme Court found Texas’s anti-sodomy law unconstitutional because it deprived some people of their rights to such constitutional guarantees as equal protection and due process.

In another remarkable lapse of memory, he fails to remember that the Supreme Court ruled in 1965 that government cannot and must not intrude itself into the bedrooms of Americans. It ruled so while striking down a Connecticut law that forbade the use of contraceptives. That law violated an American “right to marital privacy,” the court said.

Speaking of Texas, one of its congressional representatives, Michael Burgess, says that abortion should be outlawed because boy fetuses like to masturbate.

“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to think that they could feel pain?” Burgess said.

The question of an abortion’s inflicting pain on a fetus has been discussed for years but never proved one way or the other. And the question of whether those little in-utero guys manage to make themselves happy with a well-placed hand is just too bizarre.

And what of little girl fetuses? Surely their little hands occasionally wind up between their little legs, just like the little boys. Does that bring them a little pleasure? Or is Burgess telling us that girls are not part of his sexual pleasure-and-pain theorem?

Science is not on Burgess’ side. “We certainly can see a movement of a fetus during that time, but in terms of any knowledge about pleasure or pain – there are no data to assess,” Jeanne Conry, the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told U.S. News and World Report.

So where does Burgess, who identifies himself as a “former” obstetrician and gynecologist, get his information? From watching X-rated sonograms?

GOP ‘Reform’: The Crying Game

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

John Boehner, Speaker of the House, 113th Congress

By Emily Theroux

By focusing his second inaugural address on equal opportunity, did Barack Obama finally give John Boehner something to cry about?

I certainly hope so.

At the very least, the Weeper of the House still appears to be running scared. After Obama walloped Republican prognosticators in November by depriving Mitt Romney of what they envisioned as certain victory, Boehner appeared shell-shocked during his post-election press briefing.

“We’re ready to be led, not as Democrats or as Republicans but as Americans. We want you to lead, not as a liberal or a conservative but as a President of the United States of America. We want you to succeed. Let’s challenge ourselves to finding the common ground that has eluded us. Let’s rise above the dysfunction and do the right thing together for our country.”

Boehner’s acquiescence was a far cry from his disingenuous “Hell no, you don’t!” eruption in 2010. As columnist Dana Milbank noted, Boehner delivered his 2012 speech in a room named for Speaker Sam Rayburn, who allegedly said, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one.” (“Boehner sounds as though he’s ready to pick up hammer and nail,” Milbank observed. “But will his fellow Republicans stop kicking?”)

President Barack Obama

That question set the stage for the contentious two-headed behemoth that the Republican Party has devolved into since last fall. Boehner has already changed strategies several times. After the president’s speech, the beleaguered House speaker told the conservative Ripon Society he believes Obama intends to “annihilate the Republican Party, to just shove us into the dustbin of history.”

(If Boehner asked me, I’d advise him to guard his right flank. He won a second term as speaker with a record 12 GOP defections — probably revenge for ousting four recalcitrant teabaggers from their committee assignments in December. The refusal of far-right ideologues to support the speaker’s agenda — particularly when it emerges from a bargain with the president — has driven Boehner to assemble a pragmatic yet uncertain coalition of  moderate Republicans and Democrats who have voted so far to thwart the fiscal cliff, pass Obama’s tax increase on the wealthy, allocate Hurricane Sandy aid, and postpone another disastrous debt-ceiling stalemate.)

Republicans are terrified by Obama’s ambitious second-term agenda of passing progressive legislation on comprehensive immigration reform, gun control, gay rights,  and climate change. They’re dismayed that the president has converted his campaign machinery into a nonprofit group, to promote his initiatives and oppose GOP intractability. They’re also rattled because Obama is bypassing them, as he did during the campaign, and speaking to Americans directly — and Americans appear to be listening.)

 

Will Republicans ever stop kicking?

In the three months since the president’s reelection threw them for a loop, Republicans have advanced and retreated; pissed and moaned; stamped their feet and squealed like stuck pigs. On occasion, they’ve done a 180 and meekly fallen in line to vote with Democrats. Here are a few highlights of the GOP’s baffling recent machinations on matters of policy, posturing, and the subterfuge known as “messaging”:

La. Gov. Bobby Jindal

1) The ‘stupid party’: Immediately after Gov. Willard “Mitt” Romney lost the 2012 election, Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, the son of Punjabi immigrants (and Louisiana’s first non-white governor since African-American newspaper publisher P.B.S. Pinchback served for 35 days during Reconstruction), began angling to position himself as the multicultural face of the “new” GOP. “We’ve got to stop being the ‘stupid party’,” Jindal railed. Unfortunately, his harsh, regressive policy proposals (drastically cutting Medicaid benefits for nursing homes and the poor, and replacing state income and corporate taxes with a sales tax increase targeting the bottom 80 percent of Louisiana residents) tarnish any claim he might eventually stake to the 2016 nomination.

 2) Rekindling the ‘war on women’: Jindal and other Republicans have called out failed Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock for making “offensive and bizarre” remarks about rape. For awhile, the GOP appeared to have shifted its frenzied campaign against women’s reproductive rights to the back burner. Then John Boehner inexplicably dialed up the misogyny by throwing red meat to the culture warriors at the “March for Life”, an annual D.C. anti-abortion protest. Boehner vowed “to make abortion a relic of the past” and a fundamental Republican goal.  (Translation:  to criminalize safe, legal abortion, returning us to an era of butchery that all too frequently terminated the woman along with the pregnancy.)

3) ‘And build the danged fence’: After Romney lost the Latino vote by 40 points, pols and pundits proclaimed that the GOP needed to retire its blatant aversion to immigrants. What Republican policy-makers fail to realize is that even if they eventually climb aboard Obama’s bandwagon and support creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, it may do little to thwart the repercussions from decades of right-wing ethnic prejudice against Latinos. (Right now, green cards look like a distant prospect. The president’s immigration proposal is meeting determined resistance from GOP hardliners who would rather shine the president on than cooperate, strutting their belligerent “border security” stuff  all the way from Laredo to San Diego.)

 

Summit attendees oddly complacent

What does the Republican Party need to do to recoup?” asked MSNBC analyst Howard Fineman on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show. “They need to get back to a message of hope, instead of a message of rejection.”

The problem with the “evolving” GOP is that it many of its members seem to have reached a premature verdict (especially in light of the strange complacency on display at last weekend’s National Review post-election summit): The party’s problem resides not in its core precepts, but in its candidates, its tactics, its “messaging.” These folks have decided they don’t need to change what they’re saying; just rejiggering the words they’re using, and the people who are saying them, should suffice. They’re probably too deeply invested in Machiavellian chicanery (which masquerades, for them, as “principle”) to truly change.

The Republican Party has become a figment of its own delusions, the same ones it devised to foist on unwary simpletons. It has no moral center, and Americans know it.

Faced with the enormity of the GOP’s decline into selfishness, avarice, and intolerance, Professor David Schultz pronounced its aging white constituency “the real takers.” Columnist David Brooks advised throwing the baby out with the bathwater. “In this reinvention process, Republicans seem to have spent no time talking to people who didn’t already vote for them,” Brooks observed, adding that the GOP conundrum of battling government is incompatible with actual governance. His conclusion: “It’s probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It’s smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party” that can compete outside the South and rural West.

Do any of the cagey, conflicted partisans in the current GOP dare call their recent experimentation with “messaging” and theatrics “Republican Party reform”? Don’t believe it until you see the whites of their eyes — and then be sure to look for any trace of genuine tears.

Doing ’40 to Life’ After Roe v. Wade

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
“The clawlike appendages that kept the Dalkon Shield in place made removal painful and could perforate the uterus” — Wired Magazine.com. Photo by Jamie Chung; IUD Courtesy of Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum/Case Western Reserve University

 

The landmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, which made most abortions safe and legal, was handed down 40 years ago this week. That  same month, I discovered I had gotten pregnant while implanted with the most toxic and dangerous contraceptive device ever put on the market. The Dalkon Shield, in its whirlwind tour of death and destruction, led me to share this fateful anniversary in a way I can never forget.

 

By Emily Theroux

Last month, I read an unnerving article on RH Reality, a website that champions reproductive health and rights. A young law student who lived with her boyfriend and conscientiously practiced contraception had become pregnant two years after implantation with an intrauterine device. “As effective as tying your tubes,” NW had been assured by the gynecologist who inserted it.

Just as I did at her age, NW took every precaution possible to prevent an unplanned pregnancy while avoiding the risk of blood clots, strokes, cardiovascular disease, and other potential side effects of the birth-control pills she had relied on previously.

(I had also begun taking the pill when I was a virginal 18, riding a Greyhound bus to Planned Parenthood in Rochester from Brockport, the Erie Canal town where I went to college. Once there, I lied about my marital status, after a friend advised me that the clinic only prescribed the pill to married women. I was serious about my education and had no intention of getting “knocked up” during freshman year, at the heady but terrifying dawn of the sexual revolution — when, as vulgar as it sounds in plain English, there were times when you couldn’t be absolutely certain who the father was.)

After an urgent-care clinic confirmed the results of NW’s home pregnancy test, she and her boyfriend, who definitely weren’t ready for marriage, much less an infant, agonized over scheduling an abortion at Planned Parenthood. About her failed ParaGard IUD, NW said:

“It still isn’t clear what I should do about the tiny piece of metal inside me. It seems dangerous now. For so long it was a faithful friend, but now it’s a foreign object lodged next to embryonic cells inside of me — I can’t believe that’s good for anyone. But the urgent care doctor just says call my doctor and take some prenatal vitamins. … My IUD is still there, and I’m pregnant.”

In NW’s case, an OB-GYN removed her IUD a week before the abortion. But back in December 1972, when I  unwittingly became pregnant while supposedly “protected” by a similar device — the horrific Dalkon Shield — the doctors told me they left that accursed thing in place throughout a woman’s pregnancy, for fear of miscarriage, which too often resulted anyway.

 

A Pandora’s box of sepsis, infertility, miscarriage, and death

The Dalkon Shield, an early intrauterine device, would never have been sold if medical devices had been vetted by the FDA at the time. Its fatal design flaws killed at least 18 women between 1971 (when it was introduced by the A.H. Robins Co. and aggressively and fraudulently marketed, despite its manufacturer’s full awareness of serious safety issues) and 1974, when it was finally taken off the market after Robins was swamped by consumer complaints.

Many of the Shield’s 200,000 victims experienced severe pain and bleeding, or suffered perforations in the uterine wall that allowed the device to “migrate” into the abdominal cavity. Others contracted deadly streptococcal infections from its multifilament tailstring, which had a known propensity for “wicking” any pathogenic bacteria that might appear in the vaginal flora into the uterus, which is normally a sterile chamber.

Numerous victims developed pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) after the sepsis spread to their fallopian tubes and ovaries. Most recovered after taking antibiotics, but in rare cases, the infection was so severe that hysterectomy was the only solution. In addition, scar tissue and adhesions left behind by the ravages of PID caused infertility in many Dalkon Shield wearers (and even led to occlusion of the fallopian tubes, which sometimes resulted in life-threatening ectopic pregnancies).

My sweet college friend Alfia contracted a raging infection from the string of her IUD and nearly died during a harrowing two-week hospitalization. Alfie, who grew up in a large Greek/Italian family, was devastated by the prospect that she might never bear a single child. Years later, by some miracle, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, now a young woman herself.

“The greatest danger came when a Dalkon Shield wearer became pregnant,” wrote Russell Mokhiber in 1987. Pregnancy could lead to severe infections, miscarriages, stillbirths, and death.” Some pregnant women suffered spontaneous septic abortions when the device was pulled upward as their wombs expanded. The bacteria attacked the placenta, ending in the death of the fetus and, in some cases, the mother.

Despite the continuing horror, Robins waited until 1980  to recommend that doctors remove the Shield from the wombs of unafflicted women who were still wearing it. The company (which also manufactured popular brands like ChapStick and Robitussin) was nailed with more than 400,000 lawsuits after covering up what had mushroomed into a global women’s health crisis. Robins declared bankruptcy in 1985, and a trust for the victims later paid out almost $3 billion.

 

The month Roe made abortion legal, I learned I was pregnant

I didn’t find out I was “with child” until January 1973, the same month the Supreme Court decided, in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade, that most laws against abortion violated a constitutional right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

I was 22 and had married way too young. I had also experimented with LSD and other drugs considered “recreational” as well as enlightening in our countercultural campus milieu. I became panicky over the prospect of chromosomal abnormalities that might result from our generation’s willful ingestion of hallucinogens, and tormented by guilt over the amoral predilections of our time. What if we had doomed our own progeny by taking psychedelics?

My first husband and I had been married just two years. None of our friends believed in matrimony then; “shacking up” or living communally were the custom. Surrounded as we were by practitioners of free love, our relationship had become shaky and vulnerable. We had talked about eventually having a baby, but I wasn’t yet convinced it was wise to bring a child into a world that had been poised on the brink of nuclear annihilation since before I was born. (It took my husband six more years — aided by my ticking biological clock — to persuade me to gamble on whether our offspring would make it to adulthood. Our only child, Gabriel, who was joyously welcomed to the planet in September 1979, pulled through just fine.)

That first pregnancy, however, had been different. I hadn’t asked for this, and I was furious with fate. As in NW’s case, my doctor had convinced me of the IUD’s effectiveness. Having to make this decision seemed brutally unfair. I didn’t anticipate or plan for this pregnancy as I later did with my son — recording when I ovulated, eating nutritious food, swearing off wine and caffeine, taking iron and calcium and prenatal vitamins, never smoking a joint or a cigarette, refraining from swallowing so much as an aspirin. Furthermore, I had never been careless with my reproductive cycle, and this was not even supposed to be on the horizon yet.

 

This is not a celebration, but a beacon for our common future

Anxious and moody, my system deluged by hormones, I fantasized about keeping what might some day develop into a living, breathing human child, if I simply let it be. Most of the time, I could only bear to imagine the baby as a fragile cluster of cells, straining implausibly towards viability. Soon enough, I would make a conscious choice to extinguish its Qi — in Chinese, its life force — like a tiny, flickering candle.

I was positive by then that this hapless child wouldn’t even make it to term — and it turned out I was right to worry. Women who conceived while the Dalkon Shield was implanted suffered a 60 percent miscarriage rate, according to three books cited on Ask.com; many of the pregnancies that weren’t aborted, either naturally or medically, resulted in premature births and severe birth defects, the authors claimed, and I haven’t yet been able to confirm the accuracy of their statistics, if that’s even possible

In retrospect, it may have been some kind of grace or absolution from someone else’s God — a deity I don’t have faith in and will never understand — that I didn’t “choose life” and go through with the pregnancy.

With great chagrin and trepidation, I took what, for me, eventually became the more difficult path, resolving to have an early-term abortion in February 1973, at eight weeks’ gestation. It’s a decision I scrutinize and thrash out in nightsweats to this day, especially on this sobering anniversary.

Nobody’s dancing or clapping here. Forty years ago, for what I deemed with my best judgment at the age of 22 to be good reason, I underwent one of the first legal abortions, in a large city hospital devoid of protesters. I wouldn’t deny that right to any other woman who believes, in the privacy of her own heart where no one else has license to trespass, that she is doing the right thing for her body, her spirit, her family, her moral compass, and her life.

None of us makes such an agonizing decision lightly. No woman that I’ve ever met is “pro-abortion.”

Our consciences come in various shades of gray; mine may sometimes verge on a starless, sooty black, but I don’t wallow there for long. Life calls me back. I have a son, born radiant, healthy, and intact six years later, and a beautiful, kind daughter-in-law. I have two stepchildren, one of whom I talk to long-distance nearly every day, the other turning 24 today. I have three little grandchildren, all under five years old. The babies that I have need a grandmother’s hugs and singing, poems and laughter.

I have good reason now, at the age of 62, to run out and greet the rest of my life, to embrace it with open arms.

Legitimate Rape-gate’s ‘Akin Plank’ Clobbers V.P. Candidate Paul Ryan

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

By Emily Theroux

Democrats are calling “no exemptions for rape victims” the “Akin Plank” of the 2012 Republican Party platform — no matter how peevishly Mitt Romney demands that rape cases remain exempt from the GOP’s customary call for a constitutional ban on abortions.

In the irony to beat all ironies, “Governor Ultrasound” — Virginia’s Bob McDonnell, who wanted to be vice-president so badly that he dropped the “mandate” from the ultrasound bill that had made his nickname a household word — ended up chairing the GOP’s platform committee. Having flubbed his shot at national office, McDonnell re-upped the anti-exemption plank during the same week that GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin made the rape issue a bigger headache for Romney’s chosen veep candidate than it probably ever would have been for McDonnell.

Todd Akin/AP

Akin, the Senate wannabe, opened a copious can of worms this week on the topic that never fails to trip up Republican candidates, primarily because they can’t stop bringing it up. The resulting abortion flap has entangled GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan and brought the Republican “war on women” roaring back to life.

The buzz about Missouri Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill was that she really wanted to run against Todd Akin, so she ponied up for GOP primary ads calling Akin “too conservative.” After winning the primary, Akin spoke two bewildering words during a St. Louis TV interview that could help McCaskill and the Democratic Party hang on to their Senate majority: “legitimate rape.”

“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors,” Akin said, that pregnancy resulting from rape is “really rare. If it’s a ‘legitimate’ rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

A puzzled America heaved a collective sigh and chorused: WTF?

‘Real women’ (i.e., decent ones) ‘ don’t get pregnant from rape’

Paul Ryan

Things only got worse when Akin tried to explain, to the dozens of reporters who subsequently besieged him, what in God’s name he was talking about. Aiming for specificity, he fell back on religious-right claptrap from legislation he had co-sponsored in January 2011 with numerous House members, including Paul Ryan — H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” bill, designed to severely restrict government funding for abortions covered by the rape and incest exemptions provided by the 1976 Hyde Amendment,  a semi-truce between abortion rights supporters and pro-life forces that has defined rape and incest for the past 36 years.

By redefining rape  as “forcible rape” and incest as “incest “with a minor”, GOP culture warriors could exclude from taxpayer-funded coverage all abortions of pregnancies resulting from:

  • Statutory rape (sex with underaged partners, whether forced or “willing”);
  • Coerced rape (any rape that occurs without the victim’s consent or against her will, whether the rapist is a date, an acquaintance, a stranger met in a bar, or an ex-husband or ex-partner);
  • Rape of a woman with limited mental capacity or mental instability;
  • Rape of an unconscious woman or one impaired by drugs or alcohol;
  • Incest with anyone over 18 years old.

Akin’s notion that female physiology prevents  “forcible” (i.e., “legitimate”) rape from resulting in pregnancy came from a 1972 article written by Dr. Fred Mecklenburg, then a medical school professor. Ever since Mecklenburg argued that a traumatized rape victim “will not ovulate even if she is ‘scheduled’ to,” anti-abortion activists have based their argument that no rape exceptions to abortion bans are necessary on Mecklenburg’s theories, which are partly based on horrific experiments conducted at Nazi death camps.

I gathered that Akin (who, incredibly, sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology) wasn’t speaking entirely for himself and didn’t mean “okay” when he said “legitimate.” What he did mean, however, was equally offensive and a classic example of circular reasoning. Women who claim they were impregnated during rape weren’t really raped, the theory goes, because it’s nearly impossible for a woman to get pregnant during “forcible” rape — the only kind of unwanted sexual assault that ever befalls virtuous women wearing proper, unprovocative attire.

If your “forcible” attacker isn’t holding a knife to your throat, and you really resist him by issuing unholy screams, kicking him in the “man-parts,” or resorting to strategic eye-gouging (things a woman who wasn’t “asking for it” would always do), then some mysterious bodily mechanism dispensing spermicidal “secretions” kicks in, and voila! — you don’t get knocked up!

Terry O'Neill of NOW

Therefore, as Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, summarized the theory’s flawless logic, if a woman does get pregnant, then by definition, “she cannot have been raped.” (This lunacy is even more disheartening when you factor in the National Women’s Law Center’s grim statistics: At least 32,000 American women per year are impregnated by their rapists (very likely a lowball number, since an estimated 54 percent of rapes aren’t reported .)

What conservative politicians don’t appear to know about human anatomy is staggering. The “forcible rape” canard is junk-science propaganda devised by anti-abortion radicals and partisan quacks like Dr. John Willke (once president of the National Right to Life Committee), who were enlisted to boost the religious right’s agenda. Willke, who has written several books about this theory and is considered something of a “guru” to the pro-life movement, is another of Akin’s unnamed sources of medical expertise. During his last presidential run in 2008, Mitt courted and won Willke’s endorsement.

Akin’s pro-life demagoguery is part of a coordinated attempt to “redefine” rape, incest, threats to a pregnant woman’s life, the inception of human life, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and similar issues over which the GOP’s evangelical Christian wing continually pressures the party to slide rightward. Akin’s “House-mate,” fellow culture warrior Paul Ryan, with whom the Missouri Tea Partier has co-sponsored dozens of anti-abortion bills, is up to his ears in this anti-women crusade – and Romney is trying to keep women voters from finding out about it.

‘Bruises don’t define rape; the lack of consent does’
House Republicans, as ever consumed with controlling women’s bodies instead of creating jobs, proposed their failed bill in order to keep women they perceived as rape-victim “posers” (my term, not theirs) from trying to trick Medicaid into paying for “non-exemptible” abortions. The Old Boys’ Club of conservative white men who control Congress believe that women who claim to have “gotten pregnant from rape” really engaged in something that ardent pro-lifers privately term “consensual rape.”

H.R. 3’s sponsors were cagey enough to refrain from putting that explosive terminology in the bill, but the language of “forcible rape” proved so horrific to women’s rights advocates and the public that activist groups MoveOn.org and EMILY’s List started an online petition campaign to pressure the House to remove it. “Bruises and broken bones do not define rape,” the petition stated. “A lack of consent does.” Republicans had to delete the offending definition entirely. (The propagandists had been saying it for so long, they had no idea how bizarre and scary it would sound to normal people.)

Not all rapes may technically be “forcible” — but do pro-lifers really believe they shouldn’t be classified as rape? Would they want their teenaged daughters to bear the children of adult predators — or of their own grandfathers, brothers, or uncles — which happens entirely too often, in families of all social classes? A national study found that the majority of rape-related pregnancy cases “occurred among adolescents and resulted from assault by a known, often-related perpetrator.” One-half of all pregnancies in under-aged girls are caused by adult men. That sounds frighteningly “forcible” to me.

These caveats are “distinctions without a difference” in the convoluted world view of Ryan, Akin, et. al., who believe that all abortions should be criminalized. The only exception that Ryan says he makes is for emergency abortions performed solely to save the life of the mother — even though he voted for H.R. 358  (called the “Let Women Die Act” by women’s rights groups), which would permit hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortion procedures on women who would die without them.

‘Legitimate Rape-gate’ exposes Ryan’s radical social agenda

Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney desperately wanted the “GOP war on women” trope to evaporate. Indeed, without the constant media attention to abortion and birth control, the gap in women voters’ approval between Romney and Obama had shrunk to only 15 points — before “Legitimate Rape-gate” propelled the issue onto the front burner again.

Establishment Republicans jumped all over Akin, calling his statement “dumb” because it exposed their backroom culture-war machinations and Paul Ryan’s involvement in them. Desperately hoping to isolate the Romney/Ryan ticket from “AkinPain,” the party blamed it all on the poor sucker whose comments had gone viral. Karl Rove unceremoniously yanked every cent of expected Crossroads GPS funding from the campaign coffers of the party scapegoat. GOP poobahs, from Mitch McConnell to Scott Brown to Kelly Ayotte, called for Akin to abandon his Senate run. But a defiant Akin skipped out on the official deadline for quitting the election, vowing to soldier on alone.

The “Double-R” Republicans at the top of the ticket were also quick to throw Akin’s candidacy under the bus. “Indefensible!” chortled Tweedle-Rom, flanked by Tweedle-Ry, during a local TV appearance. Mealy-Mouthed Mitt did all the pandering so Forcible-Rape Ryan wouldn’t have to publicly contradict his own orthodoxy.

“A Romney/Ryan administration wouldn’t oppose abortion in instances of rape,” Mitt wheedled, madly spinning an issue that, by the following day, had become a Mitt-averse plank of the Republican Party platform. The entire country knew that Mitt was “at odds” with his own party’s national platform.

Throughout Mitt’s sanctimonious denunciation — as if Akin were alone in his insensitivity to American women — a sheepish Veepster gazed gratefully at his personal “white knight,” the only man on earth who could prevent a hostile takeover of Ryan by his own past.

My husband, Lance, and I watched as Mitt, like the perennially apologetic father of Dennis the Menace, groveled to half of the electorate over Little Paulie’s wayward baseball. Lance put words in Mitt’s mouth:

“Don’t worry, Mrs. Wilson. My son will pay for the broken window.”

Questions for Todd Akin

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

By Jeffrey Page

This is a certainty. Rep. Todd Akin, who is 65, knows less about human reproduction than a precocious 12-year old. His explanation of the relationship between rape and pregnancy is right out of the Dark Ages.

“It seems to be,” he said, “first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down,” he said.

As a result of Akin’s bizarre reference to “legitimate rape” – is that the kind where you ask permission? – the Republican Establishment, such as it is, called for him to withdraw from the Senate race in Missouri. But he promptly told Mitt Romney, Karl Rove and Senator Scott Brown, (R-Mass.) and others to go to hell. In the incumbent, Democrat Claire McCaskill, Akin sees easy pickings and nothing like a little ignorance on pregnancy is going to knock him out of the campaign.

Quit the race? When a day after his idiotic remark, Akin apologized but made sure to inform listeners to Mike Huckabee’s radio program that he was running by the grace of you know who? Romney and other critics must be nuts.

So that’s how it stands.

Except that when you ignorantly dismiss an issue affecting half the American population, there are questions you are required to answer.

Congressman Akin:

–How “really rare” is it for a woman who has been raped to get pregnant? You attribute this to some doctors. Identify them.

How many doctors told you that such pregnancies are really rare? Was it more than two?

–What were their sources? Police records? FBI crime statistics? Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Oh, wait. These agencies don’t differentiate between legitimate rape and illegitimate rape, so what information did you examine? You did actually see this information, didn’t you?

–What precisely is a “legitimate rape?” How does a legitimate rape differ from an illegitimate rape? Has anyone else ever used the word “legitimate” to describe a rape? Or are you breaking new ground?

–Do you have any idea of what you’re talking about when you say that a woman’s body “has ways to try to shut the whole thing down”? What are those ways?

–In your apology you said your comment was ill-conceived and wrong, and that you apologize. But you also said, “I used the wrong words in the wrong way.” Please elaborate. And please give an example of how someone could use the wrong words in the right way.

–Please explain why your initial statement and subsequent apology appear on your campaign web site, but not on your Congressional site?

Todd Akin, who is old enough to qualify for Medicare, is the father of six children. You’d think by this time he would know a little something about sex.

jeffrey@zestoforange.com

 

Catholic Church’s Battle of the Sexes

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Sister Pat Farrell, president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

 By Bob Gaydos

I venture with trepidation into the middle of a looming showdown of potentially historic magnitude. The trepidation is because the confrontation is of a religious nature and Americans have proven themselves incapable of conducting civil debate in this area. But my concern is not so much about the religious outcome of the showdown as it is with its more basic, universal, nature, if you will.

As I see it, the nuns of America versus the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church is a classic example of a group of women, given an opportunity to do and be more than silent, obedient servants within their institution, taking advantage of that opportunity and then being chastised and warned by the men who run the institution to, in effect, pipe down and remember their place.

Next week, American nuns will meet in St. Louis to discuss how to respond to a heavy-handed Vatican report that questioned the nuns’ loyalty to the church — a very male thing to do. The Vatican has appointed three bishops to oversee the restructuring of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, an organization that represents 80 percent of Catholic women’s religious orders in the United States. The Vatican has made it clear that this will not be an all-voices-heard, collegial makeover, but rather “an invitation to obedience.”

The LCWR has drawn the ire of the entirely male hierarchy of the church by taking to heart an invitation issued with Vatican II to study the founding of their orders, review and discuss their missions and renew them. Vatican II, issued almost a half century ago and intended to bring the church into the modern world, also gave nuns unprecedented opportunities for higher education and advancement in the Catholic hierarchy in many areas, except for the priesthood, of course. The nuns seized the opportunity and over time became influential in many areas as heads of colleges and high schools, hospital administrators, lawyers and social workers, outspoken advocates for immigrants and the poor and activists for racial equality and protecting the environment.

This is, of course, the stuff of the modern world. So are same sex marriage, birth control and women’s rights. The nuns have discussed — but taken no official stand — on ordination for women as priests, abortion, artificial contraception and gay marriage. But to the bishops, the mere discussion of these issues — all  opposed by the Church —  is described as disloyalty to the teachings of the Church. That traditionally means case closed. Even though 95 percent of catholic women say they have used artificial contraception at some time and a majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage and any honest man or women you talk to readily agrees that if women were priests –and monsignors and bishops — there would have been no worldwide scandal of Catholic priests sexually molesting young boys.

The nuns have been given an ultimatum from the holy fathers who claim provenance over the teachings of the church. It is not clear what the Vatican will do if the nuns refuse to simply bow and return to silently serving their self-proclaimed masters. Is there such a thing as “replacement nuns”?

There are marches and vigils planned in support of the nuns. The Leadership Conference is considering a range of responses to the Vatican. Sister Pat Farrell, the president of the conference, told the New York Times that while the nuns see their questioning as faithfulness, it is seen by the Vatican as defiance. “We have a differing perspective on obedience,” she said. “Our understanding is that we need to continue to respond to the signs of the times, and the new questions and issues that arise in the complexities of modern life are not something we see as a threat.”

But clearly the bishops do. The Church has been run the way they have decreed for centuries. Now, some women (radical feminists?) want to change everything and, dare we say, maybe take some of the power? The bishops deny this. Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio to the United States, told American bishops at a meeting in Atlanta, “We all know that the fundamental tactic of the enemy is to show a church divided.” I’m not sure to what “enemy” the archbishop was referring (another typical male tactic), but the voices of questioning here are coming from within the Church.

If I may venture ever so slightly into religion here, I believe a central teaching of most religions is to exhibit a degree of humility in one’s life. Let’s just say the nuns have done this for centuries. Let us also point out that in this fast-moving modern world there are far fewer nuns than there used to be and they are getting older.

History says the bishops will not blink. But history is written every day and often by intelligent, dedicated, passionate women. Who says they can’t be nuns?

 bob@zestoforange.com