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Voters Turn On Anti-Choice Extremism

10:03 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

Extreme anti-choice views don’t do well politically. As Election Day comes ever-closer, and Democrats are looking like they’re going to win elections they would have easily lost if they weren’t going up against Tea Party candidates instead of mainstream Republicans, the narratives are shaping up about why the Tea Party failed to win over the voting public. A lot of it will be undoubtedly true: Tea Party candidates have expressed extremist positions on social programs, the Civil Rights Act, the separation of church and state, and, most comically, masturbation. But what is getting very little coverage is how extreme anti-choice positions are likely hurting many of these candidates in the polls. But it’s quite likely that many of these candidates have views on reproductive rights that are too much for the public to stomach.

The mainstream media may not acknowledge that extreme anti-choice views can move voters to the polls to vote against someone, but the Democratic Party and pro-choice organizations do. In many states where the Republican is a Tea Party favorite and an anti-choice extremist, the Democratic candidate and allies have been running ads hitting the candidate for their positions. Sharron Angle, Carl Paladino, and Ken Buck have all faced TV ads highlighting their opposition to abortion rights even in the case of rape or incest. Christine O’Donnell has been the object of national attention for her prior career as a crusader against all non-marital sex, including masturbation.

And it seems to be hurting them. Ken Buck started out with a strong lead over Michael Bennet in the race for Colorado Senator, but now it’s neck-and-neck, in no small part because Buck’s popularity has declined so much more with female voters. Granted, Buck’s history of lack of sympathy for rape victims and “jokes” implying women are unfit to hold office aren’t doing him any favors. Still, it just adds to the sense that his objections to reproductive rights might be part of a larger pattern. You see a similar situation with other Tea Party candidates that hold extreme anti-choice positions. Joe Miller, Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Christine O’Donnell also started off this race in a position where it seemed certain the Republican would win. But then more and more information about their extreme views came out—including strong positions against the right to abortion—and the races are turning into squeakers. (Or blow-out losses, in O’Donnell’s case.)

The lesson seems to be that what can win you a Republican primary in this environment can kill you in a general election, and that includes strong opposition to reproductive rights. Ken Buck is an instructive example on many levels. Read more

Social Issues and the Tea Party: By Their Leaders Ye Shall Know Them

6:36 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Jodi Jacobson for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

In a late September column for RH Reality Check, Amanda Marcotte asked: Is the Media’s Tea Party Delusion Coming to An End? 

The answer quite obviously is no. Over the past several months, as Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Rand Paul, Joe Miller, Pat Toomey and other mad-hatters have stumped for office, I have listened and read in disbelief as one after another otherwise respected media representative or outlet continues to suggest that the Tea Party is not interested in "social conservative issues."

The media, and at this point I don’t know whether to describe it as mainstream, midstream or up a creek without a paddle, still persists in mis-reading and misrepresenting the broader context of what is happening in the 2010 elections. Reporting is done on the extemist positions of individual candidates, but virtually every analysis describing the Tea Party "movement," such as it is, continues to ignore or outright deny the extremist positions take by those candidates as representative of said movement.

Two weeks ago, for example, David Greene, a host on NPR’s All Things Considered interviewed New York Times reporter Kate Zernike, whose new book about the Tea Party, Boiling Mad: Inside Tea Party America had just been published. 

Greene asks Zernike:

How cohesive is this movement looking down the road? I mean, you sat down with a lot of these groups who feel a connection to the Tea Party all over the country. You found a whole range of agendas, ideology, positions on social issues. How do they stick together?

Zernike responds:

Yeah, you know, it’s a very interesting question. One thing that people often get wrong about the Tea Party is they assume that this is just the old Christian conservatives under a different name. And that these are people who don’t want gay marriage and don’t believe in abortion rights, and they’re not. I mean, a lot of these people are socially conservative themselves, but they don’t want to talk about social issues. They think the Republican Party went wrong in spending so much time in talking about this – if you remember the debate about Terri Schiavo, the woman in Florida, and whether we should keep her alive.

Then, again last night, published an article by Ambreen Ali entitled "Tea Party May Tackle Abortion Issues."

This articles states, presumably with a straight face:

So far, though many of the movement’s rank and file and a number of its top leaders are women, the tea partyers have stuck to the fiscal issues that brought them together.

They don’t want to talk about "social" issues?  May tackle abortion? Top leaders have stuck to fiscal issues?

Have Zernike and the reporters at "drunk the tea" so to speak?

Are we talking about such "leaders" as Sharron Angle, Tea Party Queen of Nevada?  The one who stated that "rape" is part of "God’s Plan," and who consistently stated throughout the summer that she would vote to outlaw a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy even in cases of rape and incest?  Angle who would helpfully counsel a 13-year-old raped and pregnant by her own father that "two wrongs don’t make a right?" The Sharron Angle who not only opposes gay rights?  The Sharron Angle who answered this questionnaire

Are we talking about Delaware Senate Tea Party Candidate Christine O’Donnell?  The O’Donnell who believes in a "fundamentalist version of sexual "purity that emphasizes thoughts and feelings as well as deeds," who is against masturbation, advocates an absolute ban on abortion, and gave an interview to CBS on the subjects of "Virgins, Abortion, and God?"  Perhaps these reporters didn’t read Michelle Goldberg’s interview with O’Donnell’s former aide, who she dropped like a hot potato when he came out as being gay.

Are we talking about Tea Partier Joe Miller, running for Senate in Alaska, whose platform states: "I am unequivocally pro-life and life must be protected from the moment of conception to the time of natural death."  That Joe Miller?  Or the same Rand Paul who not only wants to go back to the days when businesses can discriminate against customers, and who also believes he knows "when life begins?"

Nikki Haley, Pat Toomey…every single one of these candidates has been talking about so-called "social issues," and more to the point they have articulated the most extreme of the extreme positions that exist in the minds of the fundamentalist right wing of this country and have been kept under wraps by campaign managers…until now.

Moreover, they are getting support from a wide range of sources from within the Republican party and from corporate sources.  This is no "bake-sale" fueled grassroots movement, yet the media continues to treat it as such. In Virginia, for example, Ginni Thomas, founder of Liberty Central and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, gave a talk to a group of women in Virginia organized by the conservative group Smart Girl Politics.  She said:

"I see more than fiscal issues being answered by the tea parties," Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told a crowd of conservative women gathered to discuss—among other topics—overturning Roe v. Wade.

Yes, there are folks at the local level affiliated with Tea Party politics (whatever they are beyond disaffection) who do not see so-called social issues as their main concern. Ali of, wrote:

About 55 percent of tea partyers are women, according to a Quinnipiac poll conducted in spring. So are six of the original eight board members of Tea Party Patriots, the largest national coalition group.

Jenny Beth Martin, an oft-quoted Patriots leader, has strived to keep the focus on three guiding principles: constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, and free markets.

Yet at the local level, many tea parties are passionately anti-abortion.

Much of the media has failed and continues to fail to do its job on these Tea Party in any real sense. How many of reporters have read and incorporated any of the info in Jane Mayer’s excellent investigative article in the New Yorker on funding, training and sponsorship of the Tea Party by the billionaire Koch brothers whose fortunes are based largely on oil, and who have taken what was an inchoate group of disaffected people and created a "movement" that serves their own corporate interests?  Which one of these media outlets, even such respected and beloved outlets as NPR and the NYT, taken this further and examined how much money self-proclaimed Tea Party candidates are getting from such sources?

And which has focused on the fact that while so-called grassroots say one thing, the candidates are obviously ultra-right wing conservatives getting support from ultra-right wing conservatives from within and outside the formal structures of the Republican Party.  Note how quickly Lisa Murkowski was dumped by the Republican leadership in part because of her position on choice.

It is not hyperbole to say that we have a religious war underway today, and it is in fact a new Christian crusade, a crusade based on ideas about society no less fundamentalist in nature than is the Taliban and the most radical elements of politicized Islamists.  It is in part illustrative of the most radical fundamentalist Christian forces in the United States, who now feel free to suggest that even a 13-year old incest victim should endure and possibly die from a pregnancy than undergo an abortion and get covered in unquestioned in the "mainstream" media.  This war is enabled by the media writ large every time one of them goes on air or is quoted as if their ideas were not dangerous and without any context of where their support is coming from.

They’re talking about "social issues," and lots of other things about which we should be deeply and profoundly concerned.  The media just isn’t listening and certainly isn’t looking.

"Grassroots" folks who affiliate with the Tea Party may not articulate social issues as their priority, at first.  But to paraphrase Matthew: By their leaders ye shall recognize them.

Common Ground on Abortion? Views from Under the Bus

6:52 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Robin Marty for – News, commentary and community for reproductive health and justice.

There’s not a lot of talk of women’s rights this year at the 5th Annual Netroots Nation, a gathering of progressive politicians, pundits, reporters, bloggers and policy wonks.   Panels seem much more focused on immigration, net neutrality, environmental issues and financial regulation than about talking about the eroding rights of women in this country.  But that wasn’t true at The View from Under the Bus: The Search for Common Ground on Abortion, a panel moderated by Will Neville, Communications Director for Advocates for Youth. 

A large group of women of all ages, and a handful or two of men, watched and participated with applause, boos and even some tears as Sarah Audelo of Advocates for Youth, Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, and women’s right blogging star Digby discussed the history “finding common ground” on abortion, the betrayal of our current leadership on reproductive rights, and what the future is looking like for women who need access to full reproductive healthcare.

Michelman, who was with NARAL for two decades, responded with fury to recent developments to eliminate abortion coverage altogether from the high-risk insurance pool. “How are we going to protect our fundamental rights if we allow our friends, our so-called friends to undo those rights?  This week the administration took aim at the most vulnerable of Americans. Excuse me!  This is from OUR friends?”

She had just as strong of words for the continuing attempt to find some sort of common ground when it comes to women’s reproductive rights.

“This craven mission for common ground, for bipartisanship, you compromise your own values,” stated Michelman. “In the 80’s we issued a challenge to the anti-choice movement – if you oppose abortion, you should be advocates for birth control, sex ed and better resources for women who choose to continue their pregnancies.  The problem was, the two sides start with very different value systems.  We were about what was ensuring the best for women.  We started in that place.  The other side starts in another place.  They are troubled by sex and religious morals.  Common ground couldn’t be established because we couldn’t even agree on values.  The only value they had is that abortion is wrong.  Women get thrown under the bus so we can find common ground with catholic bishops who destroyed healthcare.   Common ground has been used to set us back, not move us forward.”

Digby, of the blog Hullabaloo, which focuses on women’s rights and reproductive choice, was just as bothered by the administration’s preemptive caving on women’s healthcare. 

“We ended up with the Nelson amendment instead of the slightly less-bad Stupak amendment,” Digby said, explaining the rational behind originally forcing women to purchase their own additional abortion coverage or pay for abortions separately.   “It’s like we are telling the right, ‘We won’t let your good Christian money touch our slutty, tainted money.’”

So who is to blame for the receding of abortion access and reproductive rights?  Sadly, according to Michelman, the blame lies at the feet of our own “progressive” allies.  “ We took it off the table.  We’ve had decades now knowing that the other side’s intent is to stop women from having control over their reproductive lives, to control women, period.  They figure we have nowhere else to go.”

“What are we going to do,” Michelman joked.  “Go to the Republicans?”

One reason that abortion rights have eroded even faster under the current administration is its knee-jerk reaction to controversy, especially faux controversy engineered by the right-wing.  Michelman drew a parallel between the White House’s immediate firing of Shirley Sherrod over the manufactured racism charges brought about by the Andrew Breitbart edited videos to its capitulation on federal funding for abortion in the high-risk insurance pools. 

“The Right lie was ‘The administration is paying for abortions with federal money!’ and the White House has a panic attack.  ‘No we aren’t!’” she said.  After that, there was no coverage for women, regardless of the dangerous effects pregnancy could have on the heath and lives.

“[The administration] has taken abortion and demonized it even more,” pointed out Sarah Audelo, Policy Director for Advocates for Youth.  “Abortion is common ground.  One in three women have had an abortion.”

For each step forward we have taken for reproductive health since 2008, we’ve had to take a loss as well.  “We got sex ed, but then we got abstinence only education,” she said.  “We got pregnancy funds to help women have their babies, and [the right] gets upset because Planned Parenthood might somehow get money out of it.” 

“If you don’t want abortions, I’m going to have to have birth control covered,” Audelo argued.

“No,” responded Michelman. “You have to be a nun.”

Discussion eventually turned to the idea that the anti-choice movement’s true goal is “to end all abortions at any stage of pregnancy for every woman at any time. The end,” according to Michelman.  And that has now started simply by denying it to women who are poor and sick.

“It’s written in stone that poor women will never be granted the right to have healthcare that allows pregnancy termination.  It’s over.  We lost it,” Michelman declared.  “We are going to have a Roe v. Wade legal moment with poor women before we can ever get it back.”

It didn’t have to be that was, the panel explained.  Early in the Clinton administration, there was the chance to pass a reproductive choice amendment that would have codified Roe v. Wade into federal law, and made it impossible for states to pass legislation that chipped away at the ruling.  “We destroyed our own possibilities,” Michelman said.  “Some of us decided that we needed a three tier approach.  It would be the legal right, but not the funding, and minors’ rights would happen on a state by state basis.  We had everybody lined up and ready to go, but because it wasn’t all three pieces at once, some of the groups pulled away and some of the senators left.”

Once Democrats lost control of the House in 1994, any chance at passing such an amendment was over.

“There are times when you got to go when you have a chance,” said Michelman.  “Not a compromise.  It would have stripped the states of the right to deny access to abortion and birth control.”

Neville agreed.  “If we had pushed for [a reproductive choice amendment] now, it wouldn’t have succeeded, but when the dust settled we would have been in a very different place right now,” he argued, as we would have been advocating from a point of strength rather than giving up women’s reproductive rights before we even started the healthcare negotiations.

Instead, today we have more restrictions, more waiting periods, more hurdles and many fewer clinics, putting reproductive health less accessible than it has been in decades.  “It is ridiculous that my mother had easier access to abortion than I do right now,” said Audelo.

So how do we both keep our reproductive rights from eroding even farther and, hopefully, restore some of them as time progresses?  For one thing, we have to stop the silence when it comes to talking about abortions and abortion rights.  “The pro-choice message is not getting to the hill, and the pro-life movement is talking every day,” Audelo noted.  “We have to do this as a movement – you have to come out of the pro-choice closet.”

In the meantime, when it comes to abortion rights, is common ground a lost cause?  Perhaps Digby puts it best.

“I don’t want to share common ground with people like Sharron Angle.”