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One contributing factor to Pres. Obama 2012 reelection victory was that the Christian right shot itself in the proverbial foot over of the issues of rape and abortion. The now (in)famous comments by a half-dozen Republican candidates regarding rape helped expose the fundamentally anti-woman attitude at the heart of the GOP “pro-life” position.
The GOP’s 2012 platform states: “… we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. 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 …” The platform makes not mention of rape.
Nevertheless, a handful of Republican candidates made statements that revealed the mean-spirited inhumanity at the platform’s heart. Missouri GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin made the most ludicrous comment that women who have been victims of a “legitimate rape” are physically unable to become pregnant.
Richard Mourdock, the Indiana GOP Senate candidate, claimed that pregnancies resulting from rapes are “something God intended” and that rape victims should be required to carry their rapist’s baby to term because the pregnancy is a “gift from God.”
Not to be outdone, Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon insisted that Catholic hospitals should not be required “to offer those [i.e., morning after] pills if the person [i.e., woman] came in an emergency rape.” Tom Smith, the Republican Senate challenger in Pennsylvania, conflated having a child out of wedlock with rape, arguing that such a pregnancy would have a “similar” effect on the father.
John Koster, a Republican who ran for Congress in Washington, said that he supported a legal abortion if the woman’s life was at risk but opposed abortion for women who are survivors of incest or “the rape thing.” Arguing a unique logic, he reasoned: “… on the rape thing, it’s like, how does putting more violence onto a woman’s body and taking the life of an innocent child that’s the consequence of this crime, how does that make it better? You know what I mean?”
While contesting during the Republican presidential primary, Rep. Ron Paul, the grandfatherly libertarian, introduced a new version of rape, the “honest rape.” As he stated, “If it’s an honest rape, that individual [i.e., woman or girl] should go immediately to the emergency room, I would give them a shot of estrogen.”
These statements contributed to the belief among a majority of voting Americans, particularly women, that Republican candidates not simply opposed a woman’s right to an abortion enshrined in the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wadedecision, but were completely ignorant about women’s reproductive health.
The introduction of a new Obama administration early next year provides a critical opportunity for progressives and others to challenge not simply Congressional and state legislative efforts to hobble Roe but go after the principle groups –Americans United for Life (AUL) and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – that are orchestrating the insidious campaign, “pregnant women are incubators.”
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In the early-70s, hard-core Christian conservatives launched the modern counter-revolution of values. This movement expressed two powerful forces.
First, it rejected the New Deal and the Great Society. It fought racial and gender equality and, worst of all, the sex, drugs and rock-&-roll of modern consumer capitalism.
Second, it expressed a fearful reaction to the restructuring of the post-WWII international marketplace. It fought the threat posed by a slowly rebuilding Europe and Japan and the challenge they posed to U.S. corporate hegemony; it embraced the Cold War minuet that created the permanent military-industrial complex; and it championed a mean spirited anti-union, anti-worker, foreign-outsourcing socio-political environment, one that fed growing economic inequality.
This counter-revolution, playing out over the last four decades, has reshaped American society, American values.
The 1970s counter-revolution was based on a well-funded strategic commitment, a long-term investment to remake the American economy and society. The movement was anchored in a host of key conservative operations, highly focused and well-financed think-tanks and single-issue political groups. They include: AUL, founded in 1971 to fight feminism and abortion rights; ALEC, founded in 1973 to promote right-wing state-based legislation; and the Heritage Foundation, founded in 1973 to articulate the new right’s market-driven, social-hierarchical ideology.
In the ‘70s, AUL joined with others of the Christian right, most notably the anti-feminist warhorse, Phyllis Schlafly, in a war against the Supreme Court’s monumental Roe v. Wade decision and the effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In ’75, it played a key role getting the Hyde Amendment passed that bars federal funding for abortion. Since the ‘90s, it has focused on restricting reproductive rights, targeting Planned Parenthood and promoted conservative legislature in statehouses throughout the country.
In parallel to AUL’s efforts, ALEC has promoted complementary conservative legislation in state across the country. Bill Moyers recently broadcast The U.S.A. of ALEC on his PBS show, “Moyers & Company,” an invaluable account of the nation’s most powerful influence-peddling organizations. It promotes legislation ranging from anti-unionization (like Michigan’s “right to work”), repealing the minimum wage laws, privatizing Social Security, privatizing the public telecom utility and replacing guaranteed health benefits with medical savings accounts.
With the Tea Party victories of 2010, AUL and ALEC began to come out of the proverbial closet, gaining national prominence in drawn-out battles in Wisconsin and Indiana over the union rights of state employees. The media spotlight was finally turned on ALEC with the killing of Treyvon Martin in March 2012 and the accompanying revelations about ALEC’s role working with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to promote Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” gun law.
Both AUL and ALEC are promoted insidious legislation seeking to restrict a woman’s right to birth control, abortion and other health services in states throughout the country. AUL has 40-odd pieces of model legislation with deceptive titles like: “The Woman’s Right to Know Act,” “Coercive Abuse Against Mothers Prevention Act,” “Abortion Patients’ Enhanced Safety Act,” “The Fetal Pain Awareness and Prevention Act,” “The Born Alive Infant Protection Act” and the “Unborn Wrongful Death Act.”
These groups also promote legislation requiring fetal ultrasound test for pregnant women seeking an abortion; parental notification acts for minors seeking to terminate pregnancy, one that would make it legal to kill abortion doctors (i.e., “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act”); and one requiring not simply a prescription for the “morning-after bill” (RU-486) but that a doctor be present when the woman ingests the pill.
In the wake of the passage of “Obamacare,” Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA), AUL and ALEC mounted campaigns to undermine it, specifically targeting abortion and birth control. AUL promoted an “opt-out” strategy, the “Federal Abortion Mandate Opt-Out Act,” which has been pushed in some 30 or so states.
Most alarming, the Sunlight Foundation recently uncovered the apparent collusion between ALEC and AUL in various legislative bills they promote. Using a technique known as “text matching, it employed a sophisticated software analytic program, SuperFastMatch, to compare ultrasound bills promoted in 13 states, from Alabama and Alaska to South Carolina and Virginia. Not surprising, it found “the AUL bill has instances of text matching with all 13 bills to which we compared it. Of course, some bills show much more overlap than others.”
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An incubator is a medical apparatus to maintain the care and protection of a premature or unusually small new-born infant in an environment of controlled temperature, humidity and oxygen.
The anti-feminist policies promoted by Americans United for Life and American Legislative Exchange Council conceive pregnant women as human incubators.
Once inseminated, pregnant women lose their right to control their bodies and become, in effect, incubator slaves to the fetus. As such, they must surrender their personal decision-making power, their right to determine how they want to live and reproduce, their very health and welfare for the life of the unborn fetus. No matter whether their pregnancy is due to a rape or an accident, no matter if the fetus suffers from a serious birth defect, and no matter if the woman’s life is at risk, she must bring the fetus to term.
Now, as the Obama administration is poised to begin a second term, it’s a perfect time to reverse the Christian rights war on women. Pregnant women are not incubators.
David Rosen writes the “Media Current” blog for Filmmaker and regularly contributes to the Brooklyn Rail; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.