In a powerful three-point punch to her opponent Todd Akin's damning remarks on "legitimate rape," Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill released a blitz of TV spots featuring testimonials from rape survivors.
One ad features Diana—a self-described Republican, pro-life mother, and rape survivor. Another stars Rachel who shares how she was "brutally raped in a home invasion." A third highlights Joanie, another pro-life mother and survivor of an "extremely violent sexual assault."
All three women are uniting with McCaskill to take down Akin in the Missouri Senate race.
"What Todd Akin said was offensive, but what he believes is worse," Diana says in the ad. "I have never voted for Claire McCaskill. But because of Todd Akin, I will now."
With just four weeks left in the general election, McCaskill is directly hitting Akin on his now infamous remarks that rape victims are able to "shut that whole thing down," in a bid to exemplify not only his character, but the types of policy he would be inclined to initiate. Akin has already voiced opposition to emergency contraceptives—with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest—and McCaskill leaves the door open on the implications for victims of sexual assault.
"Todd Akin apologized for implying there is such a thing as legitimate rape," Joanie says in one TV spot. "He may have misspoken, but I believe he showed his true colors and his true intent of what he intends to do if elected."
"As a woman of faith, I must forgive Todd Akin," Joanie adds. "But as a voter, it's not something I can forget."
[Akin] justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Interesting that Republicans did not react in such panic mode after Akin, days after capturing the Missouri Senate nomination, called for the morning-after pill to be banned. Akin claimed emergency contraceptives are a form of abortion (it isn't), and he doesn't approve, since he believes all abortion should be banned.
He's not alone in this opinion; new Romney running mate Paul Ryan, the guy who once said he's "as pro-life as a person gets," also doesn't believe in any exceptions for abortion. Granted, Ryan hasn't been stupid enough to use the phrase "legitimate rape" in public, but make no mistake: the only difference here is one of vocabulary. A reminder, from Romney's hometown Boston Globe:
Last year, Ryan joined Akin as one of 227 co-sponsors of a bill that narrowed an exemption to the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortions. The Hyde Amendment allows federal dollars to be used for abortions in cases of rape and incest, but the proposed bill -- authored by New Jersey Representative Christopher H. Smith -- would have limited the incest exemption to minors and covered only victims of “forcible rape.”
House Republicans never defined what constituted “forcible rape” and what did not, but critics of the bill suggested the term could exclude women who are drugged and raped, mentally handicapped women who are coerced, and victims of statutory rape.
The “forcible” qualifier was eventually removed before the bill passed in the House last May. The Democrat-controlled Senate did not vote on the measure.
The "forcible" or "legitimate" rape arguments are one and the same. There's no effort to join Ryan and Akin in this regard; they arrived that way. Romney's campaign can claim that their guy believes in the rape/incest/health-of-the-mother exceptions, but their guy just, in essence, hired a guy who has been open about his disagreement on those issues. He should have to answer for that, not simply in a political-news-cycle way, but as far as the kind of influence Ryan would have on women's health policy in a Romney White House. (For examples of stuff that could go bye-bye if they win, see this Justice Department list.)
"Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people. And [it] certainly doesn't make sense to me."
Republicans are just in full-on CYOA mode because they know the President has an opening on a political ground where he is stronger. And as Pema Levy of TPMnoted, this isn't the first time one of their candidates has nuked their chances with this kind of statement. There may be a Republican or two who is objecting to Akin's remarks on moral grounds, but it isn't as if the party all of a sudden grew standards when it comes to anti-abortion rhetoric. Frankly, it's been long ago made clear that Republicans couldn't give a hot damn about the reproductive freedoms of women, whether or not they were to somehow possess the superpower to selectively reject only the sperm of rapists.
Missouri’s “Right to Pray” amendment, which passed this month, allows kids to opt out of any educational assignments that conflict with their beliefs. As the National Center for Science Education has pointed out, that means children have a legal right to refuse to participate in biology class. Or, presumably, sex ed, where they would have to learn about basic reproductive biology, a class Todd Akin apparently skipped.
Trend pieces are somewhat of a plague of modern political writing. I'm disheartened, in particular, by the ones featuring young Republicans telling us how socially liberal they are. They generally follow the same formula:
conservatives in their twenties talk about how they aren't anti-abortion, or against marriage equality;
they express hope that today's Republican politicians can stay clear of the culture war;
and then they finish off by talking about how, reservations be damned, they still support those candidates. Wash, rinse, repeat.
But even if none of them are particularly original, today's version in the New York Times proved somewhat useful, given simply the timing of its publication. See first, for reference, the quote below:
“Social issues are far down the priorities list, and I think that’s the trend,” [Matt] Hoagland, 27, said. “That’s where it needs to go if the Republican Party is going to be successful.”
(And the "Endorsed by Lech Walesa" screen title needs to be a meme already. Make that happen, Internet.)
But back to the point: are there more Catholics, than say, women? That was what was always so curious to me about that attack; under the guise of being religiously principled about birth control and abortion, Republicans sought to exploit religion for votes, without considering the collateral damage they were doing with women. And re-launching the attack the day after President Obama is introduced by Sandra Fluke in a state where a personhood amendment is under consideration stakes out a certain ground in the debate. Problem is for Republicans, is this a debate they should still be having?
Is this a case of being so committed to eroding women's rights and reproductive freedoms that they don't care what wins elections -- or deluded by past successes with this tactic that they think it'll work in 2012? Plus, we saw how well that worked for Newt Gingrich in the primaries; why would Romney follow his lead, in August?
I'd venture that some of those young conservatives interviewed by the Times are annoyed that Romney is even bothering with this. Another quote, from the vice president of the University of Arizona's College Republicans:
“I would prefer that Mitt Romney leave social issues sort of alone, because I do disagree with him on those things...He keeps saying that the first things he’ll tackle are health care and the economy, and I hope he tackles the economy. I’m graduating in a couple years, and it’s pretty dismal where I am.”
There are some fairly good reasons why Romney wouldn't want to talk about money right now, chief among them the mysterious tax returns he stubbornly refuses to open up to public view. But add to that no job plan to speak of, and a tax policy that hearkens back to Max Shreck's power plant idea in Batman Returns -- and now, a welfare attack exposed as a naked lie. It's easy to get why Romney would dredge up culture-war discussions no one has been having for months, especially given how it went for the last guy to go full bore on it.
And given all that, it is curious why young Republicans like the ones in this trend piece continue to support Romney, given that he's not offering solutions on issues they care about, and harping about culture-war stuff they've supposedly left behind.
Irin Carmon of Salonwrote about the President, Sandra Fluke, and the Colorado personhood initiative yesterday, and appeared later that night on "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," speaking about it with guest host Alex Wagner. See the video below.
Wednesday, Susan G. Komen's founder, Nancy Brinker, stepped down from her position as CEO just months after the breast cancer organization's Planned Parenthood controversy. MSNBC's Alex Wagner and Salon.com's Irin Carmon discuss how contentious women's issues will impact the election.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., left, confers with Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., right, following a weekly House GOP strategy session, at the Capitol in Washington.
Mayor Vincent Gray is not very popular in Washington, D.C. The Washington Post released a new poll yesterday indicating, in fact, that most D.C. residents want him to resign, his term in office having been stained by a campaign corruption scandal. If the people get what they want, perhaps Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona will want the job. Officially, that is -- considering he's already making policy for the city.
A bill banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy for women in the District of Columbia -- where the sole delegate is not granted voting rights in Congress -- is set to go to the full House floor for a vote. Guess who's leading the effort? Yes, the Republican Congressman Franks.
Franks ushered the restrictive bill on abortion rights through the House Judiciary Committee along party lines on Wednesday, effectively clamping down on reproductive rights in the only region in the continental United States which is denied of full Congressional representation.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s single delegate, chalked the bill up as a legislative threat to both physicians and reproductive rights, not to mention the voters whose rights are not represented.
“Anti-choice, far-right forces hope to use D.C. women as puppets in their effort to undermine Roe v. Wade by abusing federal authority over this city to get a phony federal imprimatur for their ongoing campaign to get similar bills passed in states across the nation,” Norton said in a statement.
And not only is Norton not allowed to vote on a bill that directly affects her constituents, and her constituents alone, but she was also denied the opportunity to speak before her colleagues with full voting powers during hearings over the bill this spring.
“And so an Arizona Congressman is reproducing this colonial model about ‘I will tell you, people of D.C., how to govern this issue,’” Melissa said on her show in May, after Norton was barred from testifying. And as Melissa noted during the segment, late-term abortions account for very few instances of the procedure - roughly 9 in 10 abortions occur in the first 12 months of pregnancy according to the Guttmacher Institute.
But according to the author of the bill -- one that had ratcheted up to as many as 193 co-sponsors -- argue that the "inhumane" nature of late-term abortions are "the greatest human rights atrocity in the United States today."
"This is a bill to protect children from being tortuously dismembered while they are fully capable of feeling pain," Franks said on Wednesday.
Find our May coverage, as referenced above, after the jump. Join us again on Saturday when we'll be covering this issue once again.
U.S. District Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, a George W. Bush appointee, extended the temporary restraining order against an anti-abortion bill that, once enforced, would require any licensed abortion provider to be an OB-GYN with privileges to admit patients to a local hospital. Jordan had blocked the law from going into effect at the start of this month, but he has yet to say for how long that hold would remain in place.
The extension temporarily prevents Mississippi's lone abortion clinic, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, from being forced to close its doors. The clinic has been combating conservative efforts to effectively ban legal abortions through a technicality, and argues that it would face "irreparable harm" should the law go into place. The clinic's two out of state OB-GYNs have yet to be granted hospital privileges and say local hospitals have yet to respond to requests.
"If they're denied or if the hospitals are dragging their feet, that's going to be more clear evidence that there's a substantial obstacle," clinic attorney Robert McDuff said.
But less than a week after that protest, the Legislature in that same state passed arguably the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation we've seen since the Great Republican Takeover of 2010™. Of course, The Great Republican Overreach of 2011™ is what followed that -- and in Arizona, they're going beyond so-called "fetal pain" bills like Nebraska's, which outlaw abortions not 20 weeks into the actual pregnancy.
It seems that's soft by Arizona standards.
Last Thursday, their state House passed HB 2036, which would make abortions illegal after those 20 weeks -- but what matters most is when those 20 weeks begin. Confused, fellas? Kate Sheppard of Mother Jonesbreaks it down:
...reproductive rights advocates point out that Arizona's law would actually be more restrictive than others, as the bill states that the gestational age of the fetus should be "calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman..."
Most women ovulate about 14 or 15 days after their period starts, and women can usually get pregnant from sexual intercourse that occurred anywhere between five days before ovulation and a day after it. Arizona's law would start the clock at a woman's last period—which means, in practice, that the law prohibits abortion later than 18 weeks after a woman actually becomes pregnant.
I've heard a pregnancy referred to as a "blessing" many times, and as a Christian, I'm not inclined to disagree. But the idea that laws like this are designed to protect such "blessings" is questionable. And I'm being kind.
Amanda Marcotte,writing in RH Reality Check today, points out what is evident with much of the Republican-led state and federal legislation we've seen just since 2010: this isn't about preventing abortion so much as it is about combining legal authority with moral, and then using both to restrict women's sex lives:
Now with this Arizona bill, if a woman is deemed pregnant two weeks before she actually is, prosecutors could even have a chance to look at your choices when you weren’t even pregnant---before you even had the sex that made you pregnant---and blame those choices for bad outcomes. They’re creating, brick by brick, the legal basis on which to prosecute a woman who drinks some alcohol, becomes pregnant two weeks later, and miscarries, even though she didn’t drink while pregnant. And you best believe that when feminists protest this, they’ll just paint it as if we’re more interested in protecting drunken sluts than “babies.”
When you ask why a party would gin up a fake federal war against Catholicism while at the same time it passes laws like this, you've likely answered your own question.
(Ed. note: the medical term "gestational age" is indeed calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period. When Sheppard and Marcotte refer to the bill making abortion illegal later than 18 weeks after a woman "actually" becomes pregnant, the moment they are referring to is after the act of conception. Whereas "fetal pain" bills like Nebraska's forbid abortions 20 weeks after conception, this Arizona bill does so 20 weeks into the gestational age. The difference was not apparent to some readers, and I apologize for the lack of clarity.)
"Melissa Harris-Perry" is hosted by the Tulane political science professor of the same name. Join her each Saturday and Sunday as she explores politics, culture, art and community beyond the beltway. A panel and guest-driven conversation featuring penetrating political analysis and humor, "MHP" continuously challenges the definition of politics and will push the boundaries of what we know, how we know it, and where we get our information. Twitter: @MHPshow.