If you are even a little bit pro-choice, you need to vote Democratic this year
Starting out with a shout-out to Taylor Ferrera’s “Legitimate Rape” song:
Republican Senate candidate Todd Aiken’s ignorant comments about “legitimate rape” and his claim that women who were raped would not get pregnant has received a great deal of well-deserved attention this week. The spotlight is now on women’s reproductive rights, and it’s important that we keep investigating and talking, beyond the issue of “rape exceptions.”
The Republican party wants you to know that they are officially a “100% pro life party,” (their words, not mine; listen to today’s Diane Rehm Show) and they are finalizing the platform for the GOP convention next week will that will further solidify that position.
Democrats are officially pro choice. What about people who are “in the middle”? What does that mean on this issue? Being “in the middle” is a difficult concept due to the totally asymmetric effects of a “pro-life” or “pro-choice” approach.
Pro-life activists want to impose their morality on everybody else. If they win enough seats in power, if you disagree with them, too bad, you have do to what they say. Yes, this is particularly ironic and problematic when a lot of old white men are very very concerned with your sexuality and use of contraception, and they want to deny your options for reproductive health and medical care.
On the other hand, if a lawmaker is pro-choice, and you disagree with them, you can still act on your own conscience and what is best to you. Nobody will compel you to use birth control or get an abortion–if you don’t believe in those practices you don’t have to use them or even endorse them. You just have to allow that other people have different thoughts, experiences and lives and therefore might make different choices than you.
It’s natural to feel a little bit “in the middle” or unsure about some of these issues. I find it almost impossible to discuss abortion in the abstract. It’s easy to say you would never need an abortion but the fact is that life is unpredictable and you never know what might happen. Conservative Senator Rick Santorum’s wife faced a tragic situation: in 1996 she was five months pregnant with a fetus that was not viable, and she had an infection that threatened her own life. She was able to have a lifesaving late-term medical procedure, care that could have been called into question under an anti-abortion regime. In a pro-choice legislative world, you have the freedom to make the best medical decision for yourself when faced with a worst-case scenario. Any girl or woman between the ages of about 12 and 50 could find herself in a situation with an unplanned or medically dangerous pregnancy. Women need the legal right to handle those important medical decisions privately, in consultation with their doctors.
In North Carolina, this year the state legislature passed laws making it harder to access abortion, through the ridiculously titled “Women’s Right to Know” act that introduced state-mandated language a doctor had to say, as well as mandatory ultrasounds. This is legislating medicine, which is just wrong. This law has resulted in some very cruel situations, in which a women with a much-wanted pregnancies that were not viable had to endure having ultrasound images placed in her line of sight and to have the doctor describe the images in detail.
A while ago I was talking to a friend and mentor of mine about how hard it can be to stand up and speak in favor of reproductive rights, and she reminded me that “nobody likes abortion.” You don’t have to “like” abortion to be pro-choice. Of course I would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions taking place, through education and widely available contraception. But the fact is that access to abortion is fundamental to women’s health and reproductive rights. “Rape exceptions” may appeal to a hypothetical middle ground, but they are not enough–and by the way, there is a sneaky change in the conversation happening right now. “Rape exceptions” are usually discussed in the context of Federal funding of abortion: under the Hyde Amendment, funding of abortions for low-income women is not allowed, except for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest or that threatened the woman’s life. But in this week’s discussion about abortion, as spurred by Todd Aiken, suddenly we’re talking about whether abortion should be ALLOWED at all in the case of rape or incest. This is a big change, a hard turn to the right.
The Republican platform of being “100% pro-life” requires an awful lot of certainty–more certainty than is reasonable, in my opinion. It takes a lot of hubris to be 100% certain to tell a woman what she must do with her body.
The GOP platform is still being developed but at this point it is likely to include a call for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, and a call for “personhood” status, with 14th Amendment constitutional rights applying to zygotes from the moment of conception. If the ideas in the platform were enacted, they would likely outlaw some forms of birth control, including emergency contraception.
Think that Todd Aiken is on the fringes? Not at all.
ThinkProgress reported on the work that Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan and Todd Aiken have done together in Congress, trying to advance a Personhood bill:
Rep. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin (R-MO) and GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan both cosponsored the bill that introduced America to the despicable term “forcible rape.” As it turns out, this may only be the second most sweeping attack on reproductive freedom that both men partnered on. Ryan and Akin also cosponsored a federal personhood bill, the Sanctity of Human Life Act of 2009, which declares that a fertilized egg is entitled to the exact same legal rights as a human being:
This is what the Republicans want to make the law of the land, and when they talk about letting states decide the details, even when some latitude is possible, Conservatives are busy trying to enact restrictions in state laws as well.
Women need to get out the vote in droves this November. Think about your own best interests, and that of your sisters, daughters, friends and mothers. The Republicans are pushing a truly extreme agenda that seeks to control and punish women.
You have an important choice in the voting booth. Are you willing to have our government dictate to a married woman that she can’t use birth control? Tell a sexual assault survivor that she has to carry and give birth to her rapist’s baby? Deny emergency contraception to a teenager who wants to prevent a pregnancy? I hope not. I urge you to vote Democratic to protect women’s rights.
The Diane Rehm Show has an excellent hour today with a diverse panel discussing the Republican Party Platform. If you listen to that you’ll hear just how stark the choice being offered by the two parties really is.
Additional reporting & commentary:
Rape exceptions aren’t legitimate by Irin Carmon on Salon.com. Todd Akin’s right about this much: Rape exceptions are wrong. You either believe in bodily autonomy, or you don’t
Rape Exceptions Don’t Work by Amanda Marcotte on Slate.com
Obama On Todd Akin: ‘Rape Is Rape’ by Sam Stein on HuffingtonPost.com
Paul Ryan Cosponsored All the Most Extreme Anti-Abortion Bills by Kate Sheppard on Motherjones.com
Do U.S. Abortion Restrictions Violate Human Rights? by Anu Kumar — puts women’s reproductive health into a human rights perspective, on HuffingtonPost.com