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.

Last week I argued that Missouri Republican Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin’s anti rape, anti abortion stance is shared across the GOP. Akin, who opposes abortion in all cases, including rape, famously said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Despite being a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Akin uses non-scientific reasoning to perpetrate one of the most offensive and ignorant campaign season’s comments to date. When news of Akin’s spurious comments about a woman’s bodily response to rape swirled around in the blogosphere and across news desks, pundits connected the Missouri Republican senate candidate to vice president hopeful, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Both Akin and Ryan (along with other GOP colleagues) share the desire for an absolute abortion ban. There ensued a flurry of corrections and clarifications, particularly as Ryan attempted to distance himself from House colleague Akin saying on Pittsburgh’s KDKA, “I believe rape is rape, there’s no splitting hairs.” Then there were others who distanced themselves from Akin. Romney called on Akin to step out of the race. John Cornyn, the Texas Senator who heads the National Republican Senatorial Committee asked Akin to step out of the race. Other big-name Republicans asking Akin to quit were his would-be colleagues, including Missouri’s junior senator Roy Blunt, who issued a joint statement together with former Missouri U.S. senators John Ashcroft, Kit Bond, John Danforth, and Jim Talent. In advance of the Republican National Convention Tampa, the Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, instructed Akin to not attend. But no one spoke about the reality of the GOP’s platform on abortion. They diverted the media’s attention, focusing on rape, legitimate rape, forcible rape and showing signs of contrition for their blatant misogynistic comments. Among crisis communications professionals, the mantra for repairing a crisis is formulaic: 1) demonstrate you are appalled at the offense, 2) offer your apologies, and 3) offer an easily remembered meme. For Ryan, it was the simple ‘rape is rape’ meme to get the focus off of Akin and off him (momentarily).

For the GOP, Akin created a crisis for the Republican convention’s rollout of their freshly polished version of their 1976 platform. Back then they wrote “We protest the Supreme Court’s intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents’ obligation and right to guide their minor children. The Republican Party favors a continuance of the public dialogue on abortion and supports the efforts of those who seek enactment of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.”

I need to stop here to give a nod to GOP’s obfuscation in the phrase “the Supreme Court’s intrusion into the family structure through its denial of the parents’ obligation and right to guide their minor children” and to ask “Can you be anymore disingenuous?” Then in 1980, the GOP’s platform stated that they affirm “support of a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.” When did the original constitution protect the unborn? It seems to me the 14th amendment quite plainly states that born persons are protected, not unborn. Fast forward to 2000 when 30-something Paul Ryan argued vociferously against any exceptions for abortion. In fact, in this video, Ryan states “Let me just say this to all of my colleagues who are about to vote on this issue, on the motion to recommit, the health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it,” Ryan said. “The health exception would render this ban virtually meaningless.” In other words, let the women die.

Forward to September 2011, when the five presidential candidates at the Palmetto Freedom Forum were asked whether they would support legislation under Section Five of the 14th Amendment, that would restore legal protection for unborn children. Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich said they would support such legislation. Mitt Romney said that he feared such legislation would provoke a constitutional crisis. Instead, he would focus on appointing judges who would return abortion regulation to the states. Then there is the fact that despite a sour economy, Ryan co-sponsored eight bills to that infringe on women’s rights (H.R. 212, 217, 358, 361, 1179, 2299 , 3803 and 3805). One has to wonder how Ryan can say with a straight face that he’s working hard for middle class America. It seems to me he’s working hard for the Catholic Church and for more accolades bestowed on him by the National Right to Life.

Now, it’s Convention week for the Republicans. And despite their denials of their War on Women, there’s ample evidence from all their legislative attacks on women’s reproductive and parenting rights. Readied as a draft for the convention, the draft of the GOP’s 2012 platform statement further demonstrates their draconian battle against women. It reads, in part, “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.”  And “We must protect girls from exploitation and statutory rape through a parental notification requirement. We all have a moral obligation to assist, not to penalize, women struggling with the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy. At its core, abortion is a fundamental assault on the sanctity of innocent human life. Women deserve better than abortion. Every effort should be made to work with women considering abortion to enable and empower them to choose life.”

So, let’s ponder the implications for each line of the above text, keeping in mind that it’s not the entire text and keeping in mind that the above text was approved by the Convention. The implications bear careful consideration.

#1- Amending the 14th Amendment to give legal status to the  unborn would unquestionably violate the rights of women.

#2- Protecting girls with parental notification from exploitation and statutory rape overlooks the grim reality that parents are often the perpetrators of sexual crimes against young girls including trafficking. And when young girls are pregnant, asking parent’s permission or notifying the parents often leads to disastrous results for the young girls including abuse and abandonment.

#3 – Assist women with unplanned pregnancies is a noble idea and is in effect for many state sponsored and faith-based charities, including Mormon and Catholic faiths. But coming from the ‘let’s reduce the government’ Republicans, it seems disingenuous to add more governmental interventions that are focused on abortion. In fact, the Republican party has been responsible for targeted regulations against abortion providers, all additional government interventions.

#4 – Abortion as an assault on human life is a value judgment that says the sanctity of innocent human life, the zygote/embryo/fetus, trumps the sanctity of woman’s human life. Abortion has saved the lives of millions of born citizens called women. Why don’t they count? When Republicans wave the flag and talk about the American dream, shouldn’t that include women’s American dreams to control their own lives, including their reproduction?

#5 – Women deserve better than abortion is, again, a value judgment coming from an informed mindset steeped in patriarchy and misogyny. Further, the judgment flies in the face of evidence-based research from respected scholars, practitioners and from women’s own stories. Can it be that the RNC wants to deny women’s realities, deny science and, more importantly, deny their war on women? The fact that a recent CNN poll found that the majority (83-88%) of Americans approve of the abortion exceptions for rape, incest and the physical health (screw her mental health) of the mother. Yet, folks like Akin and Ryan want no exceptions. Period. It’s like Ryan said when talking about rape, “ The method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.” So, now rape is a method of conception?

#6 – Enable and empower women to choose life makes me recoil in Handmaiden’s Tale-type horror. How does one enable and empower a women to choose life if it isn’t through coercion? Women who do not want to be pregnant, will find a way to end their pregnancy, legal or illegal. How can men like Romney and Ryan be so obstinate, so willfully driven to impose their religious leanings on women? What happened to the separation of church and state? Hell, what happened to women’s rights?
So, this is what the Republicans value in their recent Convention platform that they approved. Ideologues are running the show. Paul Ryan wants no exceptions for abortion. Romney has said he would not oppose abortion in instances of rape. His position, however, puts him at odds with the official GOP party platform and with his little buddy, Paul Ryan. The official GOP platform wants to give legal rights to products of conception and to define ‘person’ as beginning at fertilization with an amendment to the 14th Amendment. Simply they want to make a cluster of cells a legal person while simultaneously annihilating a woman’s legal right to an abortion. Let’s not forget that birth control is also on the firing line amongst the current incarnation of the Republican party.

Writing about the Republican Party, Root columnist, Keli Goff, wrote that they seem “determined to set the health of American women back by more than a century, with targeting abortion no longer enough. Birth control rights are increasingly in the line of fire.” Speaking about the GOP candidates, she compared their treatment of the health, safety and rights of American women to Shari law and wrote , “I’m at a loss to see any real difference between the manner in which Sharia law penalizes women who are raped and the efforts of Perry and his Personhood cohorts to penalize American rape survivors with a nonconsensual pregnancy.” Other pundits argue that the extreme ideologues in the GOP want an American Christian Taliban.

All I can say to voters, think very carefully about your vote in November.

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?

Abortion Law

Abortion Law

Many years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that unmarried people were actually allowed to use birth control.  Can you believe it! Yes, on March 22, 1972 the Court confirmed this outlandish notion in Baird v. Eisenstadt – a case that was seen as the precursor to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion just a year later.

And now it’s fifty years later.  Since that decision men have walked on the moon, the computer was invented, it was discovered that there are homosexuals in our community, we started drinking non-fat milk and the Red Sox finally won a World Series.  And, amidst all of this progress, today the Republican candidates for President are talking about birth control again.  Talk about going Back to the Future.



Now, to be fair I have yet to find any of the candidates declare outright that they would “ban birth control,” although that is what many Democrats and left-leaning pundits are suggesting.  But where Rick Santorum, et al made a mistake is that they just started talking about birth control in the context of the Obama health care bill – and their opponents jumped all over it.

Santorum has acknowledged that he and his wife do not use birth control, hence his seven kids.  Good little Catholic he.  And ole Mitt Romney has said, well, I haven’t checked today to see what he said last night.  I’ll get back to ya on that one.  But the fact that they are even talking about this issue boggles my mind, especially in light of the fact that 95% of the Catholics in this country use birth control anyway – the Pope be damned.

R v W March

R v W March

But there is a method to their madness.  They are talking about this issue and religion in general because, to get the Republican nomination, they need to go as far right as possible.  I mean, to the right of Genghis Khan.  You’ve heard the speeches:  “I am a true conservative in this race, I’ve always been a true conservative, I wear conservative shoes and use conservative toothpaste.”  And, early on, they learned that if they just mentioned birth control and religion and Obama’s secret plan to deport every Catholic, the right wingers at the rallies sucked it up big time.  Hey, this is a good stuff, I gotta keep this up!

It’s gotten so crazy that a few days ago Ron Paul made headlines in certain media when he announced that, when he was a practicing Ob-Gyn, he actually – I hope you’re sitting down – PRESCRIBED birth control.  OMG!  A Republican running for President actually participated in this pernicious practice (one, by the way, that would reduce the number of abortions).  Lynch him, cried the Tea Partyers!

Of course, the good news is that all of this talk about birth control – in any context – is welcome news to the Obama gang.  They’re just sitting back and having a hell of a good laugh.  And I’ll betcha anything that they got the commercials in the can right now warning women that the nominee is gonna take away their pills.  The good news is that Republicans talking about that nasty little pill may win them the nomination, but it will lose them the election.  Keep it up, boys.