Monday, August 20, 2012

The Republican War on Women: A Democratic Network Forum Discussion

by Michael Handley

Join us for a Democratic Network Educational Forum discussion at 10:45am this Sat., August 25th, at the John & Judy Gay Library in McKinney, to learn about "The Republican War on Women's Health," presented by Kelly Hart, a representative of Planned Parenthood North Texas. (John & Judy Gay Library - 6861 El Dorado Parkway - Map)

The Republican Party continues to promote harsh laws restricting access to women's healthcare across the country. Kelly will present the current situation as well as the potential threats to Texas women coming from the state and national levels. With the lives of millions of women potentially impacted by the dangerous proposals of GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney, his VP running mate Paul Ryan and nearly every Republican in the U.S. Senate and House, it's vital that this issue isn't forgotten this election season.

August 25, 2012

We are reminded again just what is at stake for women in this election when Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, Republican Senate nominee and member of the House Science, Space and Technology committee, said last weekend that pregnancy from rape was "really rare" because "if it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."

Two words that should never be used together in the same sentence: legitimate and rape. Akin later said he misspoke and really meant to say "forcible rape." But that’s the way Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) chose to speak about the sensitive topic that has impacted millions of women in the United States in an interview with a local television station Sunday. (Jezebel: The Official Guide to Legitimate Rape)

Last year, Akin joined with GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as two of the original co-sponsors of the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” a bill which, among other things, introduced the country to the bizarre term “forcible rape.”

Federal law prevents federal Medicaid funds and similar programs from paying for abortions, yet the law also contains an exception for women who are raped. The bill Akin and Ryan cosponsored would have narrowed this exception, providing that only pregnancies arising from “forcible rape” may be terminated. Because the primary target of Akin and Ryan’s effort are Medicaid recipients — patients who are unlikely to be able to afford an abortion absent Medicaid funding — the likely impact of this bill would have been forcing many rape survivors to carry their rapist’s baby to term.

Republican in the U.S. Congress want to defund Planned Parenthood, which would cut millions of dollars in funding for contraceptives, reproductive health care and cancer screenings. Last year 156 House Republicans co-sponsored a bill to bar the government from directing any money to any organization that provides abortion services, even in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother. Planned Parenthood doesn’t use government money to provide abortions; except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother, but the bill was meant to defund Planned Parenthood. The measure would eliminate all $327 million in funding for Title X, a family planning program that began 40 years ago under President Richard Nixon.

"Unbelievably, the House Republican Leadership has set its sights on abolishing a program that provides lifesaving and preventive care to millions of women and saves taxpayers money by helping women plan their families," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. "This is an extreme proposal, and the new leaders of the House are pushing it forward at great risk to women and at their own political peril." (Another statement by Richards on Elimination of Title X Family Planning Program)

Ryan, Akin and other Republicans in the U.S. Congress also cosponsored the federal Personhood Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Personhood amendment would outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, domestic violence and life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. In addition, this change to the Constitution would criminalize in-vitro fertilization and common birth control methods, including birth control pills and IUD's. As Mother Jones reported:

Sixty-three House Republicans, or over a quarter of the GOP conference, are cosponsors of HR 212, Rep. Paul Broun's (R-Ga.) "Sanctity of Human Life Act," which includes language declaring that "the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent…at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood." Five committee chairmen, including budget wunderkind Ryan, support the bill. "There is no greater protection that we as a government can give to protect human beings all the way from the time of fertilization until they have natural deaths," Broun says.

Rep. Duncan Hunter's (R-Calif.) HR 374, an ever-so-slightly tweaked version that includes a clause that says it does not "require" (although it does allow) "the prosecution of any woman for the death of her unborn child," has even more cosponsors—91, including Bachmann (R-Minn.). Nearly 40 percent of House Republicans back this bill, which, like HR 212 and the Mississippi amendment, has language saying that "human persons" exist from "the moment of fertilization" or from any "other moment at which an individual member of the human species comes into being."

In the Senate, Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has introduced S 91, a companion bill to HR 374. Wicker has said he hopes his bill will "settle this important life issue once and for all." More than a quarter of Senate Republicans back the proposal.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said in an interview just last month that the pivotal 1965 Supreme Court decision which reversed a law prohibiting women from using contraception is not supported under his interpretation of the Constitution. During an interview on Sunday, Fox News host Chris Wallace asked Scalia why he believed that it is a “lie” that women have a constitutional right of privacy to choose to have an abortion and to use contraception.

A short documentary that cogently explains the state and national efforts by Republicans, including Mitt Romney, to limit access to birth control and other basic women's health services. Visit

The DNC prepared a video which shows Romney saying that he supports a constitutional amendment that says life begins at conception.

Many people today do not remember that the sales and use of contraceptive products, even by married couples, were against the law in many states until the mid-1960's. Even the distribution of books and pamphlets about contraceptive products and practices was illegal.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled such state laws unconstitutional in its 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut decision. The court based its Griswold decision partially on the grounds that such state laws violated a married couple's right to privacy in making their own private family planning decisions.

Social conservatives hold the Supreme Court's Griswold “right to privacy” declaration with contempt because it is the foundation of the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Citing the Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird decisions, which were based on justifications of privacy, the Justice Burger Court extended the right of privacy to include a woman's right to have an abortion in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Justice Scalia told Fox News host Chris Wallace during the interview:

“Nobody ever thought that the America people voted to prohibit limitations on abortions,” the 76-year-old conservative justice explained. “There’s nothing in the Constitution that says that.”

“What about the right to privacy that the court found in 1965?” Wallace pressed.

“There’s no right to privacy in the Constitution — no generalized right to privacy,” Scalia insisted.

“Well, in the Griswold case, the court said there was,” Wallace pointed out.

“Yeah, it did,” Scalia agreed. “And that was wrong.”

This may not be at the top of your list in determining your choice for President of the United States on Election Day, Nov. 6th, or in deciding whether you will vote at all in this election. But, in a word, it should be this: Voters, particularly women voters, need to care whether Obama or Romney is making lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Either President Obama or would-be President Romney will make appointments to the Supreme Court, which is certainly not immune to the politics. Long after either man leaves office, the justices they appoint -- and their rulings will continue to affect our lives.

While there are many issues that should be considered when casting a vote for a presidential candidate, perhaps the most important issue is the Supreme Court. A president's term lasts for a maximum of eight years; a Supreme Court justice's term is for life.

Consider this: The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision turned life upside down in this country as it outlawed segregation in public schools and provided a road map for the civil rights assault on other aspects of the racist status quo. The 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision that women have a constitutional right of privacy to choose to learn about and use contraception is a fundamental cornerstone of women's rights. Those battles are still being fought more than a half century later.

Two of President Reagan's four appointees, Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, are still serving more than two decades since Reagan left office. So is one of Bush 41's two appointees, Justice Thomas. So are President Clinton's two appointees, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. George W. Bush's two appointees, Samuel Alito and John G. Roberts, and Obama's two appointees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan complete the current court. Ginsburg is most likely to retire in time for the next president -- Obama or Romney -- to appoint a replacement for this reliably liberal-to-moderate jurist.

If Romney wins, he will certainly not nominate a liberal and will more likely nominate extremely conservative justices to appeal to the Tea Party elements within his party, yielding a very conservative advantage on the court.

If Romney becomes our next President, numerous bedrock civil rights, civil liberties and women's rights issues, like a woman's right of privacy to choose to use contraception, will be overturned as surely as night follows day.




Democratic Network Educational Forum

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