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You have heard, no doubt, people saying that their choice for president is based on sentiments such as “we have shared values” or “he’s authentic” or “he’s prolife.” Political scientist Samuel Popkin of the University of California, San Diego, calls this kind of reasoning “gut rationality.” Essentially, people vote by heuristics and go with their gut, with whom they most identify, or with how the candidates make them feel. But such a vote, while rational sounding, tells us that voters often vote with their heart and not their head.

For most prolife voters (and other single-issue voters), emotional voting is a substitute for their cognitive-processing limitations. Most voters simply do not know all that there is to know about a candidate. The information available on the candidate’s record, the assessment of the veracity of the information and prognostications for what the candidate might do if voted into office, is a daunting task for political pundits. For ordinary citizens, sifting through this data, if available, could cause an overload for even the most studious.

The average citizen is woefully ignorant of facts and, thus, relies on sound bytes and obfuscatory God terms like family values, patriotism, freedom and progress. In fact, according to political voting behavior expert, Drew Westen, PhD, when given empirical data that pushed voters one way or the other, that had no impact, those facts only hardened their emotionally biased views. In politics, Westen claims, “when reason and emotion collide, emotion invariably wins.” It’s a sad reality for our democracy when reason and facts lose to emotions, when politicians’ sound bytes reign over the complexities within the platform of each candidate aspiring to lead our country.

  Not surprising, for most prolife voters, abortion, couched as the all-encompassing prolife moniker, is their single issue vote looking for a prolife candidate. So, if you are that voter, ask yourself how ending legal abortion will improve the lives of single mothers, homeless and hungry families or unemployed parents. Ask yourself how your prolife candidate will address the astronomical rise in sexually transmitted infections in teens (one out of four) in spite of the failed conservative-embraced abstinence-only education in school districts. Ask how ending legal abortion will help the woman carrying a dead fetus at 14 weeks or help the woman with a hydranencephalic fetus. Ask how ending legal abortion will help the woman who is forced to continue her pregnancy despite suffering from affective psychosis and serious hyperemesis gravidurum.  Ask how ending legal abortion will help the pregnant woman who does not want to continue the pregnancy, does not want to be a mother, does not want the fetus to be inside her, has no emotional attachment to this thing growing inside her and does not want any outsiders telling her what she can or cannot do with her body. These questions are just about abortion. They’re not about the larger issues that support women and their families. They’re not about the very real issues that families face as they try to put food on the table, tutor children with their homework, juggle work and family, and juggle finances to pay the rent or buy the groceries. Some say that it’s a matter of conscience. They say they cannot support someone who agrees with taking innocent life. OK. But does your prolife candidate support the military’s taking of innocent lives in the many U.S. invasions? Does your candidate support capital punishment? Does your candidate support budgetary cuts that break the lifelines for the poor, the disenfranchised and our veterans? And after you’ve pondered your answers to these questions, issues that the Congress and the president can impact, remember that the president doesn’t decide the abortion issue. The only role the president has in that regard is through his judicial appointments, primarily to the Supreme Court.

To sum things up, consider two more questions. First, if you’re an antiabortion single-issue voter making your bet on the prolife candidate, ask yourself if abortion is something that is paramount to the safety, prosperity, to the very existence of all in this nation. Second, ask yourself if the end of legal abortion will save the nation from destruction in the long run. I’m betting you cannot answer in the affirmative to either question, if you are truthful.

Our media-saturated culture conditions boys and men to dehumanize and disrespect women in magazines, television, and film and in everyday life. The message is clear. Womanizing is about power and privilege, a sense of entitlement. And in religion and politics, we see the same culture of misogyny. The latest comes from Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin. Akin, who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape, said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Mr. Aiken, oddly enough, is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, yet he uses non-scientific reasoning to perpetrate one of the most offensive and ignorant campaign season’s comments yet. To wit a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that states, “an estimated 32,101 pregnancies result from rape each year,” in the United States, meaning that about 5 percent of women who are raped do become pregnant. And of that 5 percent, 50% choose to abort the pregnancy. Imagine—Science defying the logic of the GOP.

Beyond what Akin said is the logic that informed his gaffe. If you get pregnant, it wasn’t rape. That’s it. If you are violently and sexually penetrated by a rapist’s penis, against your will, and you are impregnated, then it wasn’t rape. But even beyond that logic is his unquestionable stance against abortions for any reason; hence, he believes if you get pregnant, you should carry the pregnancy to term.

This faux science is not new. In fact, his canard has been floating around the anti abortion Republicans for some time. Let’s go back to 1998 and a statement from Fay Boozman, the late Fay Boozman of Arkansas. He was running for U.S. Senate, and he said fear-induced hormonal changes could block a rape victim’s ability to conceive. In 1995, North Carolina State Representative Henry Aldridge said, “The facts show that people who are raped, who are truly raped, the juices don’t flow, the body functions don’t work and they don’t get pregnant.” Then there’s a similar statement from 1988. Pennsylvania Republican State Representative Steven Friend said, “The odds of a woman becoming pregnant through rape are one in millions and millions and millions.” He said, “The trauma of rape causes women to secrete a certain secretion which has a tendency to kill sperm.” One has to notice the covert message that almost excuses the perpetrators and blames the victims of sexual violence.

I’m reminded of an incident at an Allentown PA abortion clinic where a mother and daughter were verbally accosted by a particularly aggressive protester. The mother told the man that her daughter was raped. And rather than back off or show some modicum of compassion, he screamed,“If the child was conceived in rape that’s the way God wanted it.” [see video]. Essentially, disregard the violence. Disregard her pain. Disregard her humanity. Fr. Frank Pavone said essentially the same thing in an interview years back. He claimed (and still does) the mother was harmed once. Abortion would harm her again and kill her unborn.  Again, no regard for the violence, no regard for the woman, no regard for what the woman wants.

The fact remains that Todd Akin will never know what it means to be a woman, to be trapped in a bed, shoved down on a parking garage staircase, or tied to pole in an abandoned basement. He’ll never know what it’s like to be violently assaulted by some aggressive, indifferent friend or stranger or relative. He’ll not know what it feels like having someone gag you, rip off your clothes and enter your most personal, sacred, private part of your body and do so violently, hatefully forcing himself into you, ripping you apart, filling you with unwanted sperm, and knowing you cannot escape the thing growing inside of you. Todd Aiken will never experience being a woman who is pregnant from a rapist and being told you have no choice. Yet, I’m betting, he’s pretty self-righteous when he says women should have no choice.

Like the majority of the GOP, including the Vice President hopeful Paul Ryan, Todd Akin’s message is clear: No abortion for you! Your body is to support the rapist’s fetus against your will. And when you see the face of the rapist in that child, you will be judged harshly if you cannot love that face.

My sense is that this debacle is further evidence of what is known as the GOP’s war on women. But right-wing media figures have downplayed and dismissed Republican Congressman Todd Akin’s controversial remarks on rape and abortion, calling them “dumb” and a distraction. The public response to Akin’s comments more or less drove him to offer a feigned apology. I say feigned because it now it appears that, all the while, the people really in charge of the GOP—fundamentalist anti-choicers among them—have been writing a party platform that not only makes all of that a lie, but is in effect a promise to make the personhood of fertilized eggs the law of the land.

The draft official platform strongly supports a “a human life amendment” to the Constitution:

Faithful to the ‘self-evident’ truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed, the draft platform declares. “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.”

Let’s be very, very clear that such an amendment—which Mitt Romney has said unequivocally he would sign—would not only criminalize abortions of any kind for any reason, but also would outlaw many forms of contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and treatment of pregnant women with life-threatening conditions such as cancer. Moreover, it would also criminalize miscarriage.

So, there you have some of the facts. The problem isn’t Akin.

It’s the central position of the GOP controlled by fundamentalists who believe women have no rights. Which side of history will you be on?

People in the prolife movement are fond of saying they respect all life from womb to tomb. But I’m wondering if their talk is nothing but Christian confections like the sweet, gritty nothingness of cotton candy . I’m wondering about this because between saying and doing, there is an ocean of difference. Saying you’re prolife in polls, on blogs, on bumper stickers and in a house of worship is easy. Talk, as the saying goes, is cheap. But let’s face the possibility that being prolife is just code for being anti abortion. It is surely not about respecting all of life from womb to tomb. Recall the early presidential debates when prolife Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) made quite a show of being a conservative Christian. Yet under his watch he executed 234 prisoners, thus, raising questions about the big disconnect within conservative Christians and small government Tea Party libertarians in the Republican Party.  Let’s consider other examples of this questionable disconnect in the prolife movement.

First, let’s look at those mostly Republican legislators who promote cuts to WIC (education and nutrition supplements for women, infants and children). Their efforts give new meaning to putting women and children first as they place the nation’s fiscal concerns on the shoulders of babies. Economic analysis from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget has shown that every $1 spent on WIC results in a savings of $1.77 to $3.13 in health care costs, primarily attributed to reduced rates of low birth weight and improved rates of immunizations. Rather than saving money, cutting WIC services may ultimately result in increased health care costs due to low birth weight, iron deficiency and undernutrition. Again, it seems that the prolife moniker only means anti abortion.

As with WIC, there are cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is a lifeline for those in need, which includes children and senior citizens. Rather than respect all life from womb to tomb, and contrary to the very values we hold as Americans to treat those most in need, our prolife legislators have elected to slash SNAP funding. This funding cut will increase hunger for our most vulnerable and eliminate thousands of jobs, particularly in the food-related industries. According to current statistics 16.2 million children live in households that struggle to put food on the table while prolifers worry about fetuses being aborted. The Food Research and Action Center claim that the “most prolific and compelling research shows that the effects of food insecurity on children impact their health, development, learning and mental health.”  I would argue that feeding children and those adults in need, ensuring that they have adequate nutrition, aligns more thoughtfully and authentically to the meaning about prolife than fretting about abortion.

Second, let’s ponder how those in the prolife movement claim that abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, target minorities by locating their clinics in their minority neighborhoods as a means for eliminating undesirables from society. But the fly in the ointment is the Guttmacher factoid that 63% of abortion providers are in predominantly non-Hispanic white neighborhoods. That hardly looks like targeting. Further, prolifers also argue that African Americans account for higher rates of abortion, a fact provided by the CDC. Disingenuously, prolifers fail to mention that numerous factors such as poverty, lack of health care, cultural practices, family size and lack of reliable birth control can contribute to higher abortion rates. More to the point is the fact that while the prolifers are wringing their hands about targeting minorities, they conveniently ignore the minorities who are being targeted by police and the judicial system and executed in our prison systems. In fact, despite a clear majority of voters (61%) who would choose a punishment other than execution, our nation retains the death penalty, a fact shared by difficult countries such as Libya, Chad, and Sierra Leone. So the hypocrisy of Governors Rick Perry (R-TX) and Phil Bryant (R-MS), both conservative Christians who claim the prolife label, but take the lead on the number of executions, is quite remarkable. On a related note, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the homicide victimization rate for blacks (19.6 homicides per 100,000) was 6 times higher than the rate for whites (3.3 homicides per 100,000). Making outrageous claims about Planned Parenthood targeting black women is an absurd waste of time particularly with respect to the genuine, far larger, more life-threatening issues that impact blacks in our nation.

A final example of the big disconnect among prolifers is drawn from the synergistic impact of the government, the military and corporatism. Corporatism— whether through direct handouts, corporate bailouts, eminent domain, licensing laws, antitrust regulations, or environmental edicts — inflicts a measurable degree of harm on Americans. For example, measurable levels of hundreds of corporate manufactured chemicals are routinely found in the bodies of all Americans, including newborns. Many of the toxins found in baby bottles and toys have been linked to developmental and reproductive disorders. Even Presidents Bush and Obama aggressively supported harmful genetically modified food policies from corporations like Monsanto while they plant organic gardens in the White House and have organic kitchen policies. And while our nation’s poorest are subjected to harmful environmental contaminants, nearby industries are afforded lenient policies to protect their bottom line. But these contaminants create the perfect health storm for mostly African American children living nearby. For black children, one out of every six (CDC) has asthma due to pollution, poverty, and being people of color. So, worrying about abortion seems rather petty in comparison to the misery that children and adults endure.

During wartime, the politically connected corporations derive high profits and cushy contracts. But war has its share of collateral damage. Where was the moral outcry for approximately 90,000 civilians who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by our “freedom loving” military forced into service by George W. Bush? Where was the moral outrage when prolife, Christian conservative Republican President George W. Bush along with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo were tried in absentia in Malaysia and found guilty of war crimes for torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment? While many patriotic types believe in American capitalism and our mighty military as a good for humanity, most are blind to the inherent savage, destructive nihilism of our country’s actions. Wringing hands and waving cardboard “End Abortion” signs seem frivolous compared to the tens of thousands who die, who are maimed or who are chronically ill because of policies and actions of the government, the military and corporatism.

While prolifers are forever worrying about the vast sums of money doctors earn from providing abortions, they’re not concerned at all about the vast sums of money that orthopedic surgeons or orthodontists earn. It can’t be about the money because many of them file frivolous lawsuits for handsome sums of compensation. And it surely isn’t their claim to respect all life at all ages because they’re apparently not concerned at all about their votes for candidates who support military actions that kill civilians. And while funding cuts to nutrition programs are touted as necessary to reduce the deficit and as important to ensure that we don’t create a welfare state, prolifers seem little concerned with the politicians’ decisions. In truth, they’re not prolife in any meaningful way. They’re just against abortion. And that, dear readers, is what I see as a Big Disconnect.

Mainstream media is so predictable with their binary framing of controversial issues (as either pro or con), their proclivity toward sensationalism and their power to set the agenda for what they think is important. A cursory review of news sources frames the war on women as an exercise in finger pointing. Obama, Democrats and feminists accuse the Republicans of starting the war. Republicans counter by accusing the Democrats of making up the war for political gain. That’s the binary framing that the media promotes. Regardless of who started the battle, the sensationalism is highly entertaining.

One Charleston Gazette editorial claimed that “the current Republican presidential campaign contains a weird assault on rights of American women.” Another post from the Progressive asserted “The Republicans are on a rampage. Like a bunch of drunken frat boys, egged on by their leader — that big, fat, bullying lout Rush Limbaugh — they’re taunting women, calling us “sluts,” and suggesting policies like forced vaginal probes for abortion patients and letting a woman’s boss decide what kind of birth control coverage she should get.” And from politcususa, Jason Easley called the Republican war on women “a poltical affirmation of misogyny.” Kellie Overbey (asisfor.org) claims that this viral power grab from a misogynistic cultish, maniacal lust for power” threatens women at their very core. But my all time favorite comes from Charlotte Taft, Abortion Care Network, when she wrote “My observation is that if the Republican Taliban has its way only corporations and fertilized eggs will be recognized as people with any rights!”

Beyond the sensationalism is the utterly egregious assault on women’s reproductive health. The Republican pandering to the religious right and to less educated and lower income white men, codifies the GOP as womb warriors. From attempts at state-mandated transvaginal ultrasounds to fetal personhood laws, from actual defunding Planned Parenthood to justifiable homicide law to a killing committed in the defense of an unborn child, the war has been an attack on women, their agency, and their legal and reproductive rights. Ruth Conniff, Editor of the Progressive wrote “It’s one thing to drive a wedge between Americans over issues like regulating late-term abortion. But it’s quite another to pivot to an all-out campaign to control, intimidate, and humiliate women as a group.” I’m not sure I’d call it a campaign. It’s more like a 21st century Inquisition. But modern women aren’t taking this battle sitting down.

In a call to action to defend women’s rights and the pursuit of equality, UniteWomen.org women gathered in state capitals across the nation this past weekend to shout “Enough is Enough!”  Angry with Congress, the White House, Democrats and Republicans, the outrage expressed by young and old alike points to one clear message: The men running this country are out of touch. As half of the nation’s population, women know more about what is in their best interest than a handful of men, mostly religious, many playing cheap political games and orchestrating a war against women. Their messages went right to the heart of their concerns. One woman carried a sign with an image of a uterus and text that listed things that belong is a uterus (hormones, baby, IUD) and things that don’t belong in a uterus (government, ‘persons’, religion, misplace moral outrage). Another sign read “women’s rights are human rights.” Or one I found particularly funny was an e-card “Ever notice when the Muslims suppress women’s rights, we call them terrorists, but when Catholics do it, we call them Bishops? ROFL” And then there is the elegance of simplicity, “I have the uterus. I make the rules.”

So, did the media provide much coverage for UniteWomen rallies? Nope. That’s how it goes. While bloggers and journalists posted editorials, commentaries and cartoons, mainstream media chose to avoid the fuss. But that didn’t stop thousands of women and men from rallying in state capitals from Austin, Sacramento, Denver, and Atlanta to Harrisburg, Richmond, Juneau and Montgomery.

 

And in cyberspace, women continue to rally. When women are pissed, they will find a way to get their messages known, mainstream media or not. I strongly suspect that the good ole boys, particularly the GOP, will finally realize in November that women have had enough.

Women know, as Andy Ostroy writes, if the Republicans “truly cared about women as much as they contend, they’d stay out of their bedrooms and vaginas and stop trying to cut everything that supports them and their families. Don’t think women won’t go to the polls in November remembering who’s on their side and who isn’t.”

Stop Bullying Women

For many years, anti-abortion activists have lobbied their state legislatures to pass laws that require abortion clinics to share certain information with their patients.  These so-called “Right to Know” laws take many forms:  giving the patient a brochure that shows the stages of fetal development, taking an ultrasound and showing it to the woman, reciting a script to the patient that is a litany of things that can go wrong with an abortion, etc., etc.

Although the pro-choice movement regularly opposes these laws, I have written in the past about how the affect of these laws on the woman is rather minimal.  For example, most women casually look at the brochures, if at all, then toss them into

the garbage.  I’ve been in the rooms with woman as they observed their ultrasound, asked questions about the fetus then proceeded to have the abortion.  It’s all a rather big waste of time if you ask me, but if the anti-abortion movement wants to spend their time on this kind of stuff, go for it.  And, after all, it’s all well-intentioned, isn’t it?  Sure, they would prefer to make that woman’s act totally illegal, but since they can’t do that they want to make sure that a woman is making an informed choice.  How compassionate of them, huh?

Meanwhile, up in New York City, the City Council has taken a great interest in the activities of a number of “crisis pregnancy centers” that, according to testimony provided in a hearing, are engaging in “deceptive” practices designed to convince the woman that they are actually medical facilities.  It seems that the staff in some of these cpcs a

Ultrasound Before Abortion Procedure

re doing some interesting things.  For some reason, they are collecting personal and insurance information in the waiting room, the consultations are taking place on examination tables with the woman in the stirrups and “scrub suited consultants” are giving free pregnancy tests and ultrasounds.   On its face, it sounds a little deceptive to me but I’m sure these reports are not accurate because we’ve been told so many times that cpcs do not engage in this kind of behavior.

Still, this crazy ole City Council is concerned about this alleged behavior so they passed a law requiring the cpcs to post signs saying they have no doctors on site and don’t’ give advice about abortions or birth control.  Sounds kind of like the “Right to Know” laws that are being imposed on abortion clinics.

But, lo and behold, here comes the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian advocacy group, and they challenge the law, saying it would have violated the center’s right to free speech.  And, recently, a local judge agreed with them and slapped an injunction on the new law.

Putting aside all the legal mumbo-jumbo and the current status of the law, what I cannot sort out is why anti-abortion advocates want abortion clinics to inform women of everything but the kitchen sink, but when the NY City Council wants to ask them to give out just a little information about their centers, they balk at the idea?

Somebody help me here, please!

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