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Why is the U.S. Waging War on Women Raped in War?

12:44 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Kristina Kallas for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Mandatory sonograms, forced lectures by doctors, humiliating permission slips from abusive husbands, paternalistic opinions from Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, uneducated and patently stupid soundbites from Tea Partiers. That’s not the worst. In this newest wave of the war on women, let’s not forget the U.S. government’s abortion policies toward women in war.

Rape is systematically being used as a weapon of war in conflicts worldwide. During the Rwandan genocide it is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped in 100 days and that approximately 20,000 children were born as a result of rape. Recent reports from Burma indicate that Burmese soldiers have orders to rape women. 387 civilians were raped in Walikale, North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a 4 day period last year. In 2008 alone, the U.N. Population Fund recorded 16,000 cases of rape in DRC, two-thirds of them adolescent girls and other children, in an area where rape is vastly underreported. Imagine what the real numbers are.

The stigma associated with rape ostracizes girls and women, particularly those who become pregnant, because they are often seen as carrying the enemy’s child. They are frequently abandoned by their communities, struggling for ways of living with children born out of rape. That is, if they survive childbirth. The maternal mortality ratio in eastern DRC is estimated at 3,000 deaths per 100,000 live births (compare that with 24 deaths per 100,000 live births in the U.S. and 5 deaths per 100,000 live births in Denmark).

How does the U.S. address this emergency? Under the 1973 Helms Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, and subsequent policy by the Bush Administration, the U.S. prohibits any federal foreign assistance from being used to even mention abortion as an option to women raped in armed conflict. The current incarnation of these restrictions go beyond statutory requirements because the statute is limited to restricting the provision of abortion “as a method of family planning.” Rape is never family planning. The repeal of the Global Gag Rule did not affect these restrictions.

This U.S. policy stands in stark contrast to the development policies of other prominent donors and even its own domestic policy. As much as some Tea Partiers wish it wasn’t so, the domestic equivalent of these restrictions (the Hyde Amendment) does contain a rape exception. The United Kingdom, with a ruling conservative party, recognizes the need to provide abortions in conflicts in which rape and forced pregnancy are used as weapons of war. Norway formally recommended that the U.S. remove its restriction on funding to these victims during the Universal Periodic Review of the United States by the Human Rights Council.

The best an organization accepting U.S. funding can provide even to a twelve year old impregnated rape survivor hiding in the bushes of eastern Congo is a plastic sheet and a clean knife for labor. Or, if she suffers complications from having an unsafe abortion (because she doesn’t have access to safe abortion services, often because of U.S. abortion restrictions), they can provide her with “post-abortion care.” Giving these women “birthing kits,” or lecturing them about preventative family planning, when the family they would be planning for is with a contingent of combatants armed with guns, Viagra and orders to rape, is appalling. Beyond that, it violates international law.

August 12th marked the 62nd anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, which require that all persons considered “wounded and sick” in armed conflict receive comprehensive and non-discriminatory medical care dictated solely by their medical condition. Despite these protections, girls and women who are raped in armed conflict are routinely denied the option of abortion in the medical care provided to them in humanitarian medical settings. This is discriminatory and violates their rights under the Geneva Conventions. The U.S., by attaching these restrictions on humanitarian aid for rape victims in conflict, is violating the rights of these women. The urgency of this violation cannot be understated: the U.S. is the largest donor of humanitarian aid in the world, and is instrumental in preventing essential medical care to a desperately vulnerable population.

In order to bring the U.S. into compliance with the Geneva Conventions, and restore dignity to our foreign policy, President Obama must act now to ensure the rights of female rape victims in conflict. Over fifty organizations, legal academics and professionals have sent letters to President Obama as part of the Global Justice Center’s August 12 campaign to remove the abortion ban for girls and women raped in armed conflict. Sign the GJC’s petition urging President Obama to issue an executive order lifting these life-threatening restrictions here.

The GOP Debate in Iowa Reveals the Candidates Have No Grasp on Reproductive Health

10:42 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"The Iowa Debate Spin Room"

"The Iowa Debate Spin Room" by TalkRadioNews on flickr || The press gathered in the spin room on Iowa State at the Republican Debate

Written by Dr. Jen Gunter for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The debate in Iowa was an opportunity for the GOP hopefuls to showcase their stand against abortion, because there’s nothing better than a pissing match about reproductive health to rally the fundraisers and fill the war chest. Here are some quotes from the evening:

Rick Santorum on why abortion should be illegal, even in the event of rape of incest:

“To be victimized twice would be a horrible thing. We should surround these women and help them.”

Tim Pawlenty reflected on his legislative record which he felt led to “abortion at historic lows,” bragging that based on:

“These results, not rhetoric, I may be the most pro-life candidate in this race.”

The candidates clearly do not understand any facts related to abortion (I suspect they don’t care, they’re just after sound bites and money). But seriously, if you are going to discuss a topic then learn about it beforehand. First of all, abortion does not victimize women. The rate of serious complications is less than 0.3 percent and study after study shows no effect on mental health. If I were the moderator I would have asked for clarification from Mr. Santorum for his definition of victimization and to provide medical evidence to prove it. Read the rest of this entry →

How Abortion Caused the Debt Crisis

7:16 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"We Love Crisis"

"We Love Crisis" by Daquella manera on flickr

Last night, right before the fatal deadline, the U.S. Congress finally came to a deal that allows us to raise the debt ceiling, without which the federal government would basically shut down completely and start to default on its loans, creating a cascade of economic disasters. Congress came to a deal before we had to learn those Depression-era money-saving skills (sadly, we don’t have flour sacks to make clothes from any longer). Now it’s time to reflect on how our country has gone so far off track that we can’t even handle the basic responsibility of keeping the country from plunging into a manufactured crisis that nearly led to economic collapse. There are multiple causes, but one that hasn’t been discussed much is abortion.

Yes, abortion. Or, more specifically, the sustained sex panic that has been going on in this country since the sixties and seventies, when the sexual revolution occurred and women secured their reproductive rights. If it seems a little strange to argue that sex panic helped bring us to the verge of economic collapse, well, that’s the nature of the circuitous, ever-evolving world of politics. But it’s sex panic that helped create the modern right-wing populist, and it’s the modern right-wing populist that created the current crisis. Read the rest of this entry →

House Committee Votes to Reinstate Global Gag Rule (Again) and Other Misogynistic Amendments

8:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A central motto of today’s GOP and Tea Parties appears to be: Never let evidence get in the way of efforts to pass a law undermining women’s access to healthcare.

An addendum to this motto appears to be: Never let an opportunity pass to deny funding to or politicize services providing care to the poorest and least-enfranchised women in the world, most particularly those who suffer high rates of maternal death due to lack of access to family planning services and high rates of complications of pregnancy and unsafe abortion.

In keeping with this, just weeks after publication of a major report underscoring the benefits of robust U.S. investment in family planning worldwide, the GOP-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee voted in the early hours of the morning today to reinstate the Global Gag Rule (GGR) as part of the draft Fiscal Year 2012 State Department Authorizations Act, except this time with broader and more damaging implications than ever before.

Continue reading…

Bachmanns’ Anti-Gay Therapy Practice Takes Page From Crisis Pregnancy Centers

9:47 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

One of the most pervasive characteristics of the anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-woman movement, of which Michele Bachmann proudly places herself in the forefront, is that they are also anti-science and anti-evidence and openly flout sound medical practices based on evidence and clinical practice and approved by legitimate medical boards and associations.

These practices have long been a feature of so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which exist solely to confuse women seeking to terminate a pregnancy, often have no medical staff and, as a matter of practice, offer women outright false information, such as that having an abortion will cause increase their risks of breast cancer.

Crisis pregnancy centers engage in these practices because they know the evidence is not on their side. Their only hope at “succeeding” in their quests (success being defined as abrogating women’s rights to self-determination) is to mislead women who have decided to terminate a pregnancy with lies based on ideology and misguided theology, not evidence.

This, it appears, is the model adopted by the Bachmanns with respect to sexual orientation.

Continue reading…

As They Seek to Ban Abortion, GOP Also Moves to Eliminate Title X Family Planning Program

8:53 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

As members of the anti-choice Republican and Tea Party House majority debated allowing women to die to salve the “consciences” of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and using the tax code to virtually eliminate insurance coverage for abortion in the United States, the GOP/Tea Party majority took another brazen step.

It moved to dismantle Title X, the nation’s family planning program.

The House Appropriations Committee announced in a press release today a $327 million cut to family planning.  For FY 2010, $317 million was appropriated for the Title X program, but the President’s FY11 budget request was for $327 million.

“Today, the House Leadership launched its latest outrageous attack on women’s health,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “The House Leadership’s FY 2011 Continuing Resolution proposes to completely eliminate the Title X family planning program, which has connected millions of  American women with health care since Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1970.”

Put another way, the House Appropriations Committee wants to ensure that more low-income women experience unintended and untenable pregnancies, and that they are then forced to bring those to term.  And along the way, by cutting Title X, Congress will also ensure that more women die of breast and cervical cancer and more people suffer from sexually transmitted infections.  This is dictatorship over women’s lives. Read more

Anti-choice Politicians Beware: Large Majority Strongly Opposes Republican Leadership’s “Plans” for Women

7:13 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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

One thing you’ve heard over and over from politicians on the right in this month after the election is how focused they plan to be on jobs and the economy.

One thing you might not have heard so much about: While the new Republican House leadership has failed to articulate an economic strategy beyond “cut, cut, cut” and “make the rich richer,” they have a long list of bills they want to pass to restrict women’s health and rights.

Voters say: Not so fast.

A survey funded by Planned Parenthood Federation of America and conducted by Hart Research shows that large majorities of voters–including those who voted Republican or Tea Party in the last election–are strongly against proposed attacks on women’s health and rights.

The survey was conducted among 802 registered voters between November 5th and 8th, 2010. It measured support for and opposition to the GOP leadership’s policy proposals on women’s health, which come in part from the GOP’s “Pledge to America.”   Specifically, the GOP “Pledge to America” calls for “a government-wide prohibition on taxpayer funding of abortion and subsidies for insurance coverage that includes abortion.”

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Moving To The Right: Not An Effective Strategy

6:43 am in Government, Health care, Legislature by RH Reality Check

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

One of the occasional great joys of political prognosticating is the chance to go back over what you wrote and see how right or wrong you were, though it’s obviously more fun if you were right.  And on October 24th, I published a column where I argued that Republican candidates might find that being hard right on reproductive rights helps them win primaries, but can be devastating in the general election.

I’m happy to say that I was right.  Not every time–some of the most extreme anti-choice candidates did win–but many of the candidates who lost races that they were earlier predicted to win in a walk were candidates whose extreme views on abortion rights were well-publicized.  It wasn’t just Christine O’Donnell, either, though she was probably doomed from the moment it was exposed that her hostility to sexual freedom went beyond opposing rights that make women’s lives better right on to opposing masturbation, a popular activity among men, the ones who generally police and are not subject to the anti-sex police’s policing.  Anti-choice extremism wasn’t what you wanted on your side to beat the Democrats this election.

Sharron Angle, who was assumed over the summer to have an easy win against the unpopular Harry Reid in a state with nearly 15 percent unemployment, was beaten for a number of reasons involving her inability to stay quiet about extreme right wing views on everything from Medicare to gun control.  But her hostility to women who need abortions—even minors who are raped by family members—haunted her, particularly her quote about said victims trying to turn the “lemons” of rape into the supposed lemonade of bearing a child to give it away.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Voters Turn On Anti-Choice Extremism

10:03 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RHRealityCheck.org – 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 RHRealityCheck.org – 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, Congress.org 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 Congress.org "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 Congress.org, 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.