Question for today: Are women human? Are we people in the eyes of our government? We’ve been told that corporations are people. We know that white men are people–that was established by the U.S. Constitution when it was ratified in 1789. Since that time, there have been amendments that granted some rights to non-white men and to women. We can vote now. Does that mean our government recognizes our humanity?
Today our ultra-conservative, mostly Catholic Supreme Court will hear two cases that bring this question to the forefront, and the Court’s decisions may give us some answers to the question of whether American women are officially people with individual rights.
From MSNBC: Supreme Court to hear birth control case
Depending on whom you ask, Tuesday morning’s oral argument at the Supreme Court is about whether Obamacare can keep treading on religious liberty – or it’s about a woman’s right to access contraception on her employee insurance plan, no matter what her employer thinks of it. Either way, it is the first time the Affordable Care Act will be at the nation’s highest Court since it was first largely upheld as constitutional. The same two men as in that case, current Solicitor General Don Verrilli and former Bush administration solicitor general Paul Clement, are facing off to argue over a narrower provision.
Before the Supreme Court decides whether the contraceptive coverage required of insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act violates a 1993 law governing religious liberty, it has to settle the threshold question: Does a corporation even have religious liberty?
I think the question about the rights of women is far broader than that. Without access to birth control and abortion, a woman has no real autonomy as a human being. If she becomes pregnant–even through rape–she loses the ability to make choices about her future life. It has been a relatively short period of time since women have had the power to make those choices. But that power has led to other advances for women–such as the right to prosecute a rapist or an abusive boyfriend or husband, the right to have credit in her own name, the right to an education, and entry into careers from which women were previously blocked. We can only hope that the justices see clearly what their decisions will mean for women’s lives and women’s personhood.
Back to the MSNBC article:
Hobby Lobby Stores, an Oklahoma-based, evangelical-owned craft chain with about 13,000 employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a small Mennonite-owned cabinet maker in Pennsylvania, sued the administration and got two very different answers from the lower courts. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declared of Hobby Lobby that “such corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion.” In ruling on Conestoga’s bid for exemption from the requirement, the Third Circuit disagreed: “For-profit secular corporations cannot exercise in religious exercise.”
The companies are among the 47 for-profit corporations that have objected to their company plans complying with the minimum coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Under those regulations, contraception is covered fully, without a co-pay, as preventive care. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood object to a handful of contraceptives that they speculate can block a fertilized egg, which is neither documented in the science nor the medical definition of abortion. Other for-profit plaintiffs object to any birth control coverage at all….
The Obama administration says that the government has a compelling interest in women’s health and in gender equality. The Department of Health and Human Services agreed to classify contraceptives as preventive care after considering testimony from medical experts, who cited the country’s high rate of unintended pregnancy and the persistence cost barriers to accessing effective birth control.
Some legal experts argue that to rule for Hobby Lobby would be imposing religion on others, by forcing the women who work for such companies to pay the cost of their employers’ religion. Frederick Gedicks, a law professor at Brigham Young, has even argued in a brief before the Court that doing so would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
What will SCOTUS decide?
At NPR, Nina Totenberg offers some scary quotes from Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby:
“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally is what we should operate our lives by … and so we cannot be a part of taking life,” explains Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.
“It’s our rights that are being infringed upon to require us to do something against our conscience,” adds CEO and founder David Green.
Using birth control is “taking a life?” Apparently one of the arguments Hobby Lobby is using that–contrary to scientific facts–some forms of birth control are equal to abortion. So is every sperm is sacred too? Should men be prosecuted for masturbating? But those questions are not likely to be asked, because it is already legally established that men are people.
At the WaPo, Sandra Fluke writes: At the Supreme Court, a potential catastrophe for women’s rights.
Unlike my congressional testimony in 2012, which was about Georgetown University — a Catholic-affiliated university — refusing to include contraception in student insurance because it was a religiously affiliated school, the institutions arguing before the Supreme Court are not houses of worship or religious non-profits. The Affordable Care Act already includes special arrangements for those types of organizations. These are private, for-profit corporations — a craft store and a cabinet manufacturer — that want to be excluded from health insurance and employment laws because of bosses’ personal views.
Laws that include religious protection have never given corporations the right to have religious views, and it would be a terrible idea to make such an enormous change to our legal precedent now. Our laws protect individuals’ private religious beliefs, but when you cross over into the public sphere to become a corporation and make a profit off of the public, you must abide by the public’s laws.
Depending on the court’s rulings, the cases’ outcomes could deny millions of women coverage of any or all forms of birth control, limiting women’s ability to control their reproductive health, plan their pregnancies and manage their lives. As I testified, women also need birth control for many other medical reasons, including relief of painful health problems like endometriosis.
And, Fluke argues, recognizing a right for corporations to hold religious views will open the door to
Allowing any private employer to dictate which laws fit inside its religious beliefs could upset the necessary balance of both religious liberty and employee health and safety laws. Depending on the exact ruling, any for-profit corporation could cut off its employees’ insurance coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations or HIV treatment — all of which some Americans have religious objections to. Any critical health coverage the boss doesn’t agree with could be eliminated.
Furthermore, SCOTUS could not limit these proposed “religious freedoms” to Christians.
Although this country predominantly descends from a Judeo-Christian tradition, our valuable religious protection laws ensure that anyone is free to practice any religion they want, including religions whose belief systems and practices many of us would disagree with vehemently. In fact, far-ranging beliefs that are not associated with any organized religion could be used to justify a corporation’s practices as well.
Sahil Kapur of TPM points out that Justice Scalia, who might be expected to vote in favor of a corporate “right to religious freedom,” will have to deal with one of his previous rulings: Justice Scalia’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him On Birth Control.
In 1990, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, concluding that the First Amendment “does not require” the government to grant “religious exemptions” from generally applicable laws or civic obligations. The case was brought by two men in Oregon who sued the state for denying them unemployment benefits after they were fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, which they said they did because of their Native American religious beliefs.
“[T]he right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability,” Scalia wrote in the 6-3 majority decision, going on to aggressively argue that such exemptions could be a slippery slope to lawlessness and that “[a]ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy.”
“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind,” he wrote, “ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”
That opinion could haunt the jurist if he seeks to invalidate the birth control rule.
“Scalia will have to reckon with his own concern in Smith about the lawlessness and chaos created by liberal exemptions to generally applicable law,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA. “For him to uphold an exemption now is to invite more of the lawlessness that he warned about.”
At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser addresses the right wing organizations that have waged a concerted war against women’s rights during the past several years: Read This One Document To Understand What The Christian Right Hopes To Gain From Hobby Lobby.
2009 was a grim year for social conservatives. Barack Obama was an ambitious and popular new president. Republicans, and their conservative philosophy, were largely discredited in the public eye by a failed war and a massive recession. And the GOP’s effort to reshape its message was still in its awkward adolescence. If the conservative movement had a mascot, it would have been a white man dressed as Paul Revere and waving a misspelled sign.
Amidst this wreckage, more than two hundred of the nation’s leading Christian conservatives joined together in a statement expressing their dismay at the state of the nation. “Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development,” their statement claimed, while “[m]ajorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.” Meanwhile, they feared that the liberals who now controlled the country “are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”
The signatories to this statement, which they named the “Manhattan Declaration,” included many of America’s most prominent Catholic bishops and clergy of similar prominence in other Christian sects. It included leaders oftop anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, and of more broadly focused conservative advocacy shops such as the Family Research Council. It included university presidents and deans from Christian conservative colleges. And it included the top editors from many of the Christian right’s leading publications.
Perhaps most significantly, however, the document’s signatories includes Alan Sears, the head of one of the two conservative legal groups litigating what are likely to be the two most important cases decided by the Supreme Court this term. Indeed, the Manhattan Declaration offers a virtual roadmap to understanding what religious conservatives hope to gain from Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, two cases the justices will hear Tuesday which present the question whether a business owner’s religious objections to birth control trump their legal obligation to include it in their employee’s health plan.
Read the gory details at the link.
Finally, I ask that everyone read this year-old article at Time Magazine by Jessica Winter, Subject for Debate: Are Women People? It is both darkly humorous and deadly serious.
All my adult life, I’ve been pretty sure I’m a sentient, even semi-competent human being. I have a job and an apartment; I know how to read and vote; I make regular, mostly autonomous decisions about what to eat for lunch and which cat videos I will watch whilst eating my lunch. But in the past couple of months, certain powerful figures in media and politics have cracked open that certitude.
You see, like most women, I was born with the chromosome abnormality known as “XX,” a deviation of the normative “XY” pattern. Symptoms of XX, which affects slightly more than half of the American population, include breasts, ovaries, a uterus, a menstrual cycle, and the potential to bear and nurse children. Now, many would argue even today that the lack of a Y chromosome should not affect my ability to make informed choices about what health care options and lunchtime cat videos are right for me. But others have posited, with increasing volume and intensity, that XX is a disability, even a roadblock on the evolutionary highway. This debate has reached critical mass, and leaves me uncertain of my legal and moral status. Am I a person? An object? A ward of the state? A “prostitute”? (And if I’m the last of these, where do I drop off my W-2?)
Please go read the whole thing. It’s not long.
So . . . those are my recommended reads for today. What stories are you following? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.
It’s Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawny Phil says spring will come early this year.
An end to winter’s bitter cold will come soon, according to Pennsylvania’s famous groundhog.
Following a recent stretch of weather that’s included both record warm temperatures and bitter cold, tornadoes in the South and Midwest and torrential rains in the mid-Atlantic, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his lair Saturday in front of thousands but didn’t see his shadow.
Legend has it that if the furry rodent sees his shadow on Feb. 2 on Gobbler’s Knob in west-central Pennsylvania, winter will last six more weeks. But if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.
Do you ever get the feeling the U.S. is becoming an armed camp? On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on gun violence at which two loony right wingers–Crazy Wayne LaPierre of the NRA and attorney Gayle Trotter–were permitted to dominate the proceedings with their bizarre defenses of assault weapons.
Three days later, the gunman in Alabama is still in his homemade bunker with his 5-year-old hostage. CNN: Authorities tight-lipped as standoff over child hostage enters 5th day
As an armed standoff entered its fifth day Saturday, authorities negotiated through a ventilation pipe with a man accused of barricading himself and a 5-year-old hostage in an underground bunker in southeastern Alabama.
Police have been tight-lipped about a possible motive since the hostage drama began unfolding in Midland City with the shooting of school bus driver and the abduction of the 5-year-old.
In a sign of perhaps how tense negotiations are between authorities and the suspect, officials have refused to detail what, if any, demands have been made by the suspect.
On Friday, the Dale County sheriff did confirm what neighbors have been saying and news outlets around Midland City have been reporting since the standoff began — the suspected gunman’s identity.
He is Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, a Vietnam veteran and retired truck driver who moved to the area about five years ago.
One of Dykes’ next-door neighbors said the suspect spent two or three months constructing the bunker, digging into the ground and then building a structure of lumber and plywood, which he covered with sand and dirt.
Neighbor Michael Creel said Dykes put the plastic pipe underground from the bunker to the end of his driveway so he could hear if anyone drove up to his gate. When Dykes finished the shelter a year or so ago, he invited Creel to see it — and he did.
“He was bragging about it. He said, ‘Come check it out,” Creel said.
He said he believes Dykes’ goal with the standoff is to publicize his political beliefs.
“I believe he wants to rant and rave about politics and government,” Creel said. “He’s very concerned about his property. He doesn’t want his stuff messed with.”
The kindergartner whom Dykes is holding hostage has been heard crying for his parents, who say he has Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD. Dykes’ neighbors say that he has enough supplies to stay in the bunker for an extended period of time.
In Phoenix, a second shooting victim has died of his wounds. New York Newsday reports:
Mark Hummels, 43, had been on life support at a Phoenix hospital after Wednesday morning’s shooting that killed a company’s chief executive and left a woman with non-life threatening injuries.
Hummels died Thursday night, a publicist for his law firm told The Associated Press early Friday.
Colleagues of Hummels described him as a smart, competent and decent man who was a rising star in his profession and dedicated to his wife, 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.
Hummels had worked as a reporter until 2001 when he returned to school to become an attorney.
Hummels worked with the Phoenix law firm Osborn Maledon and focused on business disputes, real estate litigation and malpractice defense. He died Thursday night, publicist Athia Hardt told The Associated Press early Friday.
He was a reporter for the Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican before he left to go to law school in 2001. He graduated first in his class at the University of Arizona’s law school.
Santa Fe New Mexican editor Rob Dean said in a statement Friday that Hummels “was an accomplished journalist and an even better person. He had the intelligence to understand difficult problems and a hunger to do important work.”
Hummels was admitted to the Arizona bar in 2005.
The body of the alleged shooter, Arthur Douglas Harmon was found dead on Thursday, apparently having shot himself with a handgun.
Mayor Greg Stanton vowed Friday that the bloodshed will not define his city.
“This is not the norm,” Stanton said hours after the latest of three Phoenix shootings that, combined, left at least four people dead. “It’s a tragic set of circumstances. These incidents are an aberration. But these tragedies will not define the city of Phoenix.”
The three days of bloodshed left Stanton more convinced than ever that a comprehensive approach to gun control is needed, combined with stronger mental-health laws and improved community policing.
The three incidents and the motives behind the violence were unrelated: a dispute over a civil lawsuit, a possible drug transaction and a drive-by shooting that may have been gang-related.
Details at the link. Good luck to the Mayor of Phoenix getting any gun regulations passed in Arizona.
Yesterday President Obama handed more ammunition to Republicans in their ongoing war on women. From Wonkblog: The White House’s contraceptives compromise.
The Obama administration proposed broader latitude Friday for religious nonprofits that object to the mandated coverage of contraceptives, one that will allow large faith-based hospitals and universities to issue plans that do not directly provide birth control coverage.
Their employees would instead receive a stand-alone, private insurance policy that would provide contraceptive coverage at no cost.
This is a really bad idea, because it lends credence to Republicans’ efforts to separate women’s reproductive health needs from health care in general.
It could also breathe new life into lawsuits filed against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive requirement, some of which were put on hold until the Obama administration clarified its policy on the issue.
Under this proposal, objecting nonprofits will be allowed to offer employees a plan that does not cover contraceptives. Their health insurer will then automatically enroll employees in a separate individual policy, which only covers contraceptives, at no cost. This policy would stand apart from the employer’s larger benefit package.
The faith-based employer would not “have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.”
Whatever happened to separation of church and state? Besides, the fetus fetishists aren’t satisfied, and they never will be satisfied until women’s bodies are under complete control of the state and women’s lives are reduced to breeding, child care, and housework. From LifeNews.com: “Pro-Life Groups Blast Revisions to Obama Abortion-HHS Mandate” (I’m not going to link to the story because I don’t want a bunch of fetus trolls coming over here):
Leading pro-life groups don’t have much good to say about the proposed changes the HHS department announced today to the Obamacare mandate that forces religious groups and religiously-run companies to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs.
The Christian Medical Association (CMA), the nation’s largest faith-based association of physicians, today called the administration’s policy announcement regarding its contraceptives and sterilization mandate “unacceptable,” noting that the ruling still flouts the First Amendment.
CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens said, “This latest version of the contraceptives and sterilization mandate remains unacceptable. Since when does the government get to pick and choose which groups will get to enjoy First Amendment protections? Our founders intended the First Amendment to protect every American’s freedom to act according to one’s conscience. They didn’t specify that only groups deemed religious will be afforded this protection; freedom of conscience applies equally to all Americans.”
You can find many more quotes from men who hate women by googling the headline.
But wait a minute… Amanda Marcotte says the HHS contraception mandate is “Exactly What It Was a Year Ago.”
The Department of Health and Human Services has just released the proposed rules for handling religious objections to a new mandate requiring employer-provided insurance to cover contraception without a copay. The New York Times, at least, is covering this release as if it were a new and exciting “compromise” between the Obama administration and employers who believe their God wants ladies to be perma-pregnant. First the Times announced it in a “Breaking News” banner, and now the home page headline reads: “Birth Control Rule Altered to Allay Religious Objections.” Click on that and you’ll get to: “White House Proposes Compromise on Contraception Coverage.” The problem is that the proposal isn’t new, and nothing’s been altered since the Obama administration announced a clarification of the plan a year ago….Nothing has changed in the proposal.
OK, now I’m really confused. All I know is that the war on women has expanded from outlawing abortion to ending birth control. American women are quickly being reduced to a separate category of beings who are seen as less than human. We need an Equal Right Amendment, stat!
Here’s another wacky example of the right-wing anti-woman, anti-science pontificating we’ve been subjected to for the past couple of years from Right Wing Watch: Wombs of Women on Birth Control ‘Embedded’ with ‘Dead Babies’
Well, here’s some medical research we hadn’t heard about. Generations Radio host Kevin Swanson, who last week delved memorably into feminist theory, tells us this week that “certain doctors and certain scientists” have researched the wombs of women on the pill and found “there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb…Those wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”
Shades of Todd Akin. Where do these crazy ideas come from anyway?
I’ll wrap this post up with some link-dump-style reads:
Wall Street Journal: Interview: Axelrod on Hillary Clinton’s Political Prospects
Wall Street Journal: Clinton’s Exit: Either Epilogue or Prelude
The Spokesman-Review: Idaho senator compares health exchange to Holocaust
The Boston Globe: Mass. GOP scrambling to find US Senate candidate
The Boston Globe: Scott Brown’s finances may influence ex-senator’s next step
Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading list for today? I look forward to clicking on your links!
Before I get started, don’t forget that Ann Romney is scheduled to be on The View today at 11AM Eastern.
Now to the news. I think I have some interesting links for you today. I’m going to focus mostly on some aggressive Romney campaign tactics and on reactions to the second presidential debate.
Late yesterday afternoon, Mike Elk of In These Times revealed that Romney himself has suggested that business owners instruct their employees–and their families–how they should vote. I hope you’ll read the whole article, but I’m going to post the audio of a conference call that Romney held, sponsored by the National Federation of Independent Business. The whole call is quite interesting, but the relevant part is at the end, around the 26:00 point.
Here the transcription, from Mike Elk’s article (emphasis added):
I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections. And whether you agree with me or you agree with President Obama, or whatever your political view, I hope, I hope you pass those along to your employees.
Nothing illegal about you talking to your employees about what you believe is best for the business, because I think that will figure into their election decision, their voting decision and of course doing that with your family and your kids as well.
I particularly think that our young kids–and when I say young, I mean college-age and high-school age–they need to understand that America runs on a strong and vibrant business [sic] … and that we need more business growing and thriving in this country. They need to understand that what the president is doing by borrowing a trillion dollars more each year than what we spend is running up a credit card that they’re going to have to pay off and that their future is very much in jeopardy by virtue of the policies that the president is putting in place. So I need you to get out there and campaign.
Elk writes that this actually is legal now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. He also asks whether Romney is behind the recent rash of reports of CEOs putting pressure on their employees to vote for the Republican ticket.
The call raises the question of whether the Romney campaign is complicit in the corporate attempts to influence employees’ votes that have been recently making headlines….
Beyond Romney’s statements on the call, it’s unclear whether his election operation is actively coordinating workplace campaigning by businesses. Romney press secretary Andrea Saul did not respond to In These Times’ request for comment.
However, the conference call raises troubling questions about what appears to be a growing wave of workplace political pressure unleashed by Citizens United.
At Mother Jones, Adam Weinstein has another story about aggressive Romney campaign tactics. Weinstein obtained some e-mails between the Romney campaign and the Virginia Military Institute, where Romney recently gave a foreign policy speech. The military is required to be nonpartisan and stay out of politics, but Romney pressured the school to allow him to use his speech as what would have in essence been a campaign event.
When Mitt Romney addressed a crowd of cadets at Virginia Military Institute on October 8, he was supposed to give a major foreign policy speech that steered clear of partisan politics. That’s because VMI personnel observe the US military’s tradition of political neutrality when in uniform. But internal emails obtained by Mother Jones show that Romney’s campaign pushed to burnish his commander-in-chief credentials by maximizing military optics around the event. Members of Romney’s staff sought to use the VMI logo in their campaign materials, requested that uniformed cadets be let out of class early to attend Romney’s speech, and asked VMI “to select a few cadet veterans and give them a place of honor” standing behind Romney during his address.
As the campaign pushed for these requests, VMI officials pushed back, concerned that they were for partisan purposes. Each request was denied by the state-run institution, whose students serve in the US military’s Reserve Officers Training Corps, so that VMI would not be seen as endorsing Romney’s candidacy. The Romney campaign also pressured VMI to play host to “15 to 20” retired admirals and generals at the school who traveled there to endorse Romney; VMI eventually relented to that request.
Please do read the whole article at the link.
Remember Mark Leder? He’s the private equity billionaire who hosted the private fund-raiser at which Mitt Romney made his infamous “47 percent” remarks. Leder is giving another fund-raiser for Romney in Florida on Saturday night, according to Ryan Grim and Laura Goldman at HuffPo.
Leder has been telling potential donors that given the uproar following his last fundraiser, he feels an obligation to make the situation right by raising more money for Romney, according to people who have discussed the matter with Leder. One donor, asked if Leder had been noting that he’d been “taking heat” for the last fundraiser, said, “That was the basic pitch, except the word ‘heat’ was replaced by another four-letter word that begins with s.”
Saturday night’s event, unlike his now-famous May fundraiser, will not be held at Leder’s home. It will be in Palm Beach, Fla., and will include other hosts in addition to Leder.
Leder is a leveraged-buyout specialist, much like Romney. He owns Sun Capital Partners, which is based in Boca Raton, Fla. — the site of the upcoming presidential debate, which will be held on Monday. Leder is the co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and has been characterized in the press as a “party animal.”
I imagine all of the guests and staff will have to surrender their cell phones before the event. Will there be body searches too?
Contraception came up in the debate on Tuesday night, and Mitt Romney seems to be feeling a bit defensive about it. Abortion rights weren’t addressed, but Romney must be feeling defensive because he released a new ad yesterday.
Apparently Mitt thinks this ad proves he’s “moderate” on abortion. He wants to ban all abortions except in cases where women have been raped, are victims of incest, or whose lives are in danger if they carry the child to term. That seems pretty extreme to me, since abortion is legal, at least for now.
But Romney has also said he supports states passing personhood amendments, he has clearly stated that he will appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and he has repeatedly promised to cut all funding for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood released a statement in response to the ad (h/t Jezebel)
“This is an ad designed to deceive women. The Romney team knows that Mitt Romney’s real agenda for women’s health is deeply unpopular – ending safe and legal abortion, ending Planned Parenthood’s preventive care that millions of people rely on, and repealing the Affordable Care Act and the coverage of birth control with no co-pay. Romney can run from his own agenda, but he can’t hide – women will hold him accountable at the polls on election day.”
I don’t understand how these exceptions that Romney and Ryan keep talking about could work anyway. Would a pregnant girl or women have to prove that she was raped or sexually victimized by a relative? How would that work? Would there have to be a confession by the perpetrator? There certainly wouldn’t be time for the crime to be prosecuted in a court of law in time for an abortion to take place. What about the claim of danger to the mother’s life? Will doctors have to prove the claim to government inspectors? I just don’t think any of this would be realistic. I think we have to assume that these “exceptions” are just more bait and switch from the flim flam ticket.
Romney and his campaign advisers might want to take a look at the results of a new Gallup poll of women in swing states. The poll asks “What do you consider the most important issue for women in this election?” Here are the results:
For men, the top four issues on the list were jobs, the economy, the Federal deficit/balanced budget, and health care. For women, abortion was number one, and the deficit didn’t even make the list! Generally speaking, women had quite different interests than men.
On contraception, Romney surrogate and former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healy told Andrea Mitchell yesterday that contraception is just a “peripheral issue” for women.
Mitchell pressed Healy on the financial considerations for women whose employers refuse to cover contraception on religious grounds. “That is a pocketbook issue,” Mitchell said. “It’s dollars and cents.”
“The problem here is that we are talking about these peripheral issues,” Healy said. ”We need to really be talking about employment, jobs. That’s what women care about.”
Laura Bassett has more on the interview at HuffPo. Bassett notes that during the debate Tuesday Romney tried to gloss over his past statements on the issue of employers making contraception coverage available to employees by during the debate on Tuesday by claiming that
“I just know that I don’t think bureaucrats in Washington should tell someone whether they can use contraceptives or not, and I don’t believe employers should tell someone whether they have contraceptive care or not,” Romney said during Tuesday night’s debate. “Every woman in America should have access to contraceptives and the president’s statement on my policy is completely and totally wrong.”
Romney’s answer subtly changes the subject from insurance coverage of contraception to the more general issue of access to contraception, and it strategically leaves enough wiggle room for his campaign to say that his position has not changed.
Healy followed suit with Andrea Mitchell.
Romney did “not in any way” change his position, Healey said. “Governor Romney is both a strong supporter of religious freedom and also believes in access to contraception for American women.”
Pressed on the details of the Blunt amendment, which would have allowed employers to refuse to cover birth control on moral grounds and which Romney previously said he would support, Healey changed the subject. “The question of whether or not we should force someone to give up their religious freedom to provide insurance coverage in some hypothetical situation is not really the point to most women out there,” she said. “There are 5.5 million unemployed women in the country.”
What’s lost in both Romney’s and Healey’s answers on the contraception issue is the point that President Barack Obama made Tuesday night, which is that for many women, having birth control fully paid for by their insurance plans is an economic issue.
Yesterday afternoon the MSNBC show “The Cycle” had a body language expert, Chris Ulrich on to talk about the interactions between Obama and Romney during the debate. It was fascinating. I can’t embed the video, but I hope you’ll watch it at the link. You won’t regret it.
In a similar vein, if you didn’t see Chris Matthews’ interview with James Lipton of Inside the Actor’s Studio last night, be sure to watch that too. Lipton analyzed the behavior of the two debate participants, and said that he thought he had finally figured out who Mitt Romney is. He’s the boss who tells dumb jokes and expects you to laugh at them–or else. Lipton said that the choice for voters is between a president (Obama) and a boss. Do we want a boss running the country? Lipton said that some people might like that, but he seemed to find it frightening.
I’ll end with the most recent confrontation between ugly, nasty troll John Sununu and Soledad O’Brien, which took place yesterday morning on CNN.
Now what are you reading and blogging about today?
Candy Crowley is making sure that women get to ask questions! Romney’s best answer is that women want to be home to make dinner! There are questions about contraception and pay equity!
9.44 pm. It’s fascinating how contraception is now an issue in this campaign and Obama is owning his Obamacare position; and he is doubling down on Planned Parenthood. This is going to hel win him back women’s votes. He’s on tonight. Nice touch on his daughters. And obviously sincere.
9.42 pm. Romney’s response on women’s pay is strongest when he mentions his old cabinet in Massachusetts. But his segueway to the economy seemed a little desperate.
9.38 pm. Obama has owned the first half hour. This campaign is turning again. Now we get a very Obama-friendly question about women’s pay. And a great answer on women’s pay. Hard to beat that answer.
Some sample Tweets:
“Governor Romeny feels comfortable having politicians control the health decisions women are making.” – President Obama #debate
Jodi Jacobson @jljacobson
RT @morgmeneshets: #Romney if U R such a crusader 4 women, what have U done 2 push #GOP 2 pass #VAWA, #equalpay,#familyleave…nothing.
Charles M. Blow @CharlesMBlow
Romney: In my economy there’ll be so many jobs that they’ll have to hire women, or something. Help me y’all. What is this man saying?
OMG FINALLY SOMEONE CARES ABOUT OUR LADYPARTS
Jim White @JimWhiteGNV
Ding ding ding!! This is a win.
Alan Beattie @alanbeattie
Collective nouns: flock of sheep, herd of cows, binder-full of women.
partners at Bain Capital during Romney’s tenure.
Next up: WHY aren’t you like President Bush, Mr Romney given that ALL of your advisers are BUSH advisers?
During last night’s vice presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz asked an infuriatingly simple-minded question, and she got an embarrassingly simple-minded response from Republican candidate Paul Ryan. The question:
“We have two Catholic candidates, first time on a stage such as this, and I would like to ask you both to tell me what role your religion has played in your own personal views on abortion,” she said. “Please talk about how you came to that decision. Talk about how your religion played a part in that.”
Frankly, I couldn’t care less what either candidate’s personal views on abortion are, much less how their religious beliefs inform those views. But I’m glad Raddatz at least asked one question about women’s reproductive rights, even if she asked it stupidly. Here’s Ryan’s response:
RYAN: Now, you want to ask basically why I’m pro-life? It’s not simply because of my Catholic faith. That’s a factor, of course. But it’s also because of reason and science.
You know, I think about 10 1/2 years ago, my wife Janna and I went to Mercy Hospital in Janesville where I was born, for our seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child, and we saw that heartbeat. A little baby was in the shape of a bean. And to this day, we have nicknamed our firstborn child Liza, “Bean.” Now I believe that life begins at conception.
That’s why — those are the reasons why I’m pro-life. Now I understand this is a difficult issue, and I respect people who don’t agree with me on this, but the policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions with the exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
Can anyone point to either reason or science in that response? He’s telling millions of American women that he will work to deny their rights to control their bodies and plan their lives because he and his wife were thrilled by an ultrasound image of something that “was in the shape of a bean” and had a heartbeat. Sorry, that’s not science and it’s not reason. It’s sentimentality about a personal experience, not a justification for using the legal system to deny other people the right to personal autonomy.
And let’s not forget that, while Ryan is spouting the Romney line (until the next shake of the Etch-a-Sketch) that there should be exceptions for “rape, incest, and the life of the mother,” Ryan himself believes there should be no exceptions, because he sees rape and incest as just alternative “methods of conception.”
When Joe Biden noted that Ryan personally supports making abortion a crime with no exceptions, Ryan responded:
RYAN: All I’m saying is, if you believe that life begins at conception, that, therefore, doesn’t change the definition of life. That’s a principle. The policy of a Romney administration is to oppose abortion with exceptions for rape, incest and life of the mother.
At least he’s consistent. I’m convinced that most of these “pro-life” right wingers actually agree with Ryan on that. At least he has the guts to come out and say it, although the Romney people must have been freaking out about it.
Then Raddatz asked another question:
RADDATZ: I want to go back to the abortion question here. If the Romney-Ryan ticket is elected, should those who believe that abortion should remain legal be worried?
You can’t see it in the transcript, but there was a long pregnant pause (no pun intended) before Ryan figured out what to say next. That pause should tell any woman watching that a Romney/Ryan administration would be a danger to her health and freedom.
RYAN: We don’t think that unelected judges should make this decision; that people through their elected representatives in reaching a consensus in society through the democratic process should make this determination.
Now how could it happen that “unelected judges” could have no say about anti-abortion legislation? Surely Ryan knows that any piece of legislation is subject to review by the courts, and ultimately the Supreme Court. There is only one way judges would not be able to review anti-abortion legislation, and that is if there were an amendment to the Constitution banning abortion. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have both endorsed the notion of a “personhood” amendment to the Constitution, and Ryan has actually sponsored a number of such initiatives.
Finally, as Amanda Marcotte notes at Slate, Ryan even managed to bring it up during his abortion response, although Raddatz didn’t ask about it:
RYAN: What troubles me more is how this administration has handled all of these issues. Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.
The only remarkable thing about the exchange is that contraception is now such an important target for the anti-choicers that Ryan brought the subject up, even though Raddatz didn’t ask about it, pivoting quickly from abortion to talk about the Catholic Church’s issue with contraception: “Look at what they’re doing through Obamacare with respect to assaulting the religious liberties of this country. They’re infringing upon our first freedom, the freedom of religion, by infringing on Catholic charities, Catholic churches, Catholic hospitals.” As with abortion, Ryan’s religion teaches that contraception is wrong, though, when pressed, he wasn’t as eager to suggest that what is taught in the pews should be enforced by the law. Instead, he spoke of “religious liberty,” by which he means giving the employer the right to deny an employee insurance benefits she has paid for because he thinks Jesus disapproves of sex for pleasure instead of procreation.
Ryan and Romney may be reticent now, but we know based on their past behavior that both of these men treat women as breeders–receptacles for incubating embryos and fetuses. As a Mormon leader, Romney even tried to convince a woman whose doctor had told her she would probably die if she carried her pregnancy to term that she should give birth anyway. From the book The Real Romney, by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman:
In the fall of 1990, Exponent II published in its journal an unsigned essay by a married woman who, having already borne five children, had found herself some years earlier facing an unplanned sixth pregnancy. She couldn’t bear the thought of another child and was contemplating abortion. But the Mormon Church makes few exceptions to permit women to end a pregnancy. Church leaders have said that abortion can be justified in cases of rape or incest, when the health of the mother is seriously threatened, or when the fetus will surely not survive beyond birth. And even those circumstances “do not automatically justify an abortion,” according to church policy.
Then the woman’s doctors discovered she had a serious blood clot in her pelvis. She thought initially that would be her way out—of course she would have to get an abortion. But the doctors, she said, ultimately told her that, with some risk to her life, she might be able to deliver a full-term baby, whose chance of survival they put at 50 percent. One day in the hospital, her bishop—later identified as Romney, though she did not name him in the piece—paid her a visit. He told her about his nephew who had Down syndrome and what a blessing it had turned out to be for their family. “As your bishop,” she said he told her, “my concern is with the child.” The woman wrote, “Here I—a baptized, endowed, dedicated worker, and tithe-payer in the church—lay helpless, hurt, and frightened, trying to maintain my psychological equilibrium, and his concern was for the eight-week possibility in my uterus—not for me!”
….The woman told Romney, she wrote, that her stake president, a doctor, had already told her, “Of course, you should have this abortion and then recover from the blood clot and take care of the healthy children you already have.” Romney, she said, fired back, “I don’t believe you. He wouldn’t say that. I’m going to call him.” And then he left. The woman said that she went on to have the abortion and never regretted it. “What I do feel bad about,” she wrote, “is that at a time when I would have appreciated nurturing and support from spiritual leaders and friends, I got judgment, criticism, prejudicial advice, and rejection.”
Personally I have never heard or read about either of these men expressing even the slightest concern for a woman who must choose between the life she has planned for herself–perhaps education and a career, or simply the freedom to choose whether to have children at all–and devoting the next 20 years of her life to raising a child. I’ve never even seen any evidence that Ryan or Romney has any understanding of the horror of rape or incest or the struggle to choose whether to risk one’s life to bear a child.
Furthermore, their attitudes toward women and reproductive rights are not based on anything resembling reason or science. Their beliefs are based on religion and outmoded and offensive views of women as objects with little autonomy–at best they see women as second class citizens who are unable to make rational, moral decisions and at worse they see women as the property of men with no right to freedom of choice.
I’m beginning to think that there must be something in the drinking water. The Right Wingnuttery has risen to unforeseen heights in the past few weeks. Tracing its beginning isn’t an easy task. I would imagine that, based on our differing ages and our personal experiences that it will be difficult to reach a consensus on exactly what caused the extreme right turn our politics have taken. Let me put forth some of my personal suggestions, not in any particular order:
- The election of the B movie actor, Ronald Reagan
- Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority
- Repeal of the Fairness Doctrine
- The consolidation of the media
- The rise of the Mega-Churches
- Rush Limbaugh and his imitators getting their own bully pulpit on the radio
- Gingrich’s Contract ON America
- The stealing of the presidency by George & Jeb Bush & the Supreme Court
- The plucking of Sarah Palin from the frontier in Alaska
- The Fox News Channel
- The birth of the Tea Party
Some of these may qualify only as fuel for the fire as opposed to being actual triggering events. Feel free to add to the list. I’m sure that I’ve forgotten something critical to explaining the mass hysteria that surrounds us.
There is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t spend some time trying to understand the mean-spirited, venomous attacks on nearly everything I support. Those thoughts are often interrupted by being blind-sided by something else coming under attack. Let me give you just one recent example that left me speechless and more confused than ever.
One of my employees and I were having a discussion about some mail returned by the post office. She began by complaining about the post office, saying that the first thing she would do would be to get rid of the postal union.
Okay, to some that might not be a moment of confusion. Her position, however, astounded me. I knew already that she is firmly planted in the Right Wingnuttery camp, but her vehement opposition to the postal union surprised me. Her husband had worked for the phone company which, because of the CWA, provides its employees with good paying jobs, excellent health care coverage and generous retirement benefits. I knew this because I had once worked for the same phone company as her husband. He was able to take early retirement with a 6 figure bonus package. His job permitted them to live more than comfortably for most of their lives.
None of the benefits this family enjoyed would have been possible without the existence of the CWA. How could my employee not support unions? Where was the logic and reason? My conclusion: she and the rest of the Wingnuttery bunch do not operate on either logic or reason. Apparently, she and the others who vote for Right Wing candidates have swallowed whole the propaganda fed to them by Fox, Rush, the Republican leadership and their preachers. That’s the only conclusion I’ve been able to come up with. If you have a clue, please share.
I can only shake my head and live with fear for the future of America and the rest of the world. While these Right Wingers look forward to The Apocalypse foretold in their sacred book, I fear the inevitable apocalypse their actions and choices are driving us toward. I’m grateful I’m on the other side of 60 and hope that younger, stronger, reasonable people can hold off this cataclysm for another 10 or 20 years.
I’ll leave you with two things. The first is a political awareness test given by The Pew Research Center recently. I urge you to take the quiz and then look at the results, which are shocking. I don’t know if the majority of the respondents aren’t interested in politics, are terribly misinformed or a combination of both.
And then some of the pictures in a recent email from the employee I referenced above.
Are the Arizona and Tennessee state legislatures competing to see which state can pass the most bizarre, backward, and ignorant laws? Yesterday Dakinikat wrote about the latest anti-abortion bill signed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer that defines gestational age as beginning on the first day of a pregnant woman’s last period. Peggy Sue has written about Tennessee’s new anti-evolution law, which could lead to a modern-day reprise of the Scopes Monkey Trial.
For the moment, I think Tennessee is winning the competition for most stupid, insane legislation with State Bill 3310, which defines holding hands and kissing as “gateway sexual behaviors.” From the Nashville Tennessean:
The Tennessee Senate voted 28-1 to amend the state’s sex ed curriculum by adding warnings against “gateway sexual activity.” Senate Bill 3310 does not explicitly define what those activities are, but it comes in response to controversies in Nashville and Knox County schools over instruction given to high school students that mentioned alternatives to sexual intercourse.
“ ‘Abstinence’ means from all of these activities, and we want to promote that,” said state Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, the bill’s sponsor. “What we do want to communicate to the kids is that the best choice is abstinence.”
The Tennessee House is working on a companion bill that is also expected to pass. Just one state senator, Beverly Marrero (D-Memphis) voted against the bill, but not because she thinks abstinence education is a bad idea. She just thinks that focusing on telling kids “don’t do it” won’t reach the kids who are most “at risk.”
According to Nashville Public Radio,
The bill, SB 3310 Johnson/HB 3621 Gotto, replaces three paragraphs in the current state law with nine pages of new definitions and rules. The new proposal even defines the word “puberty.”
The bill was rewritten in the Senate to broaden some definitions of sexual activity. The new amendment reads much like the old bill, except it deletes the words “penis” and “vagina” from the definition of “sexual intercourse.”
The Senate also added a further amendment defining “risk avoidance.”
specifically designating the “risk avoidance” means “an approach that encourages the prevention of participation in risk behaviors as opposed to merely reducing the consequences of those risk behaviors.”
The reference is apparently aimed at the post-activity procedure called “morning-after pills.”
Basically, the bill defines any pre-coital activity among unmarried people as “gateway sexual activity.” That means holding hands and kissing would be verboten for high school and middle school kids. The bill also allows parents to sue teachers who don’t follow the curriculum rules exactly or if they “demonstrate” any gateway sexual activities. In effect, while the legislature claims teachers can talk about contraception, they can’t spell out for kids what it is or how to use it.
And yet, in Tennessee:
According to a 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Study, 61 percent of Memphis City high school students and 27 percent of middle school students have had sex. That’s higher than the national average.
Planned Parenthood said these numbers are why a new sex education bill promoting abstinence is not realistic.