Sunday, May 4, 2014

Republicans Talk Abortion in PA's US 9th District

Friday evening I published a summary of my notes from that evening's Republican debate between the candidates for the Republican nomination to run for the US 9th District seat.  Today, after a little time to take in everything I saw and heard, I wanted to focus on the things that I heard about abortion from 3 middle-aged to older white men.

Abortion is never great for Republicans when it comes up.  As I noted, an audience member asked a moderator afterwards why the questions -- essentially -- were so rough for Republicans.  Personally, I would have loved to see those candidates answer a question about unions, but that particular audience member probably wouldn't have liked that question either.  I'm sure it would have been way more comfortable for Republicans candidates and audience members alike if the questions had been about Benghazi and the (so-called) IRS scandal or whatever Republican smokescreen of the week they'd care to name, but those weren't the questions.  The candidates were asked six substantive questions which, with the possible exception of the foreign policy question, touched on topics that affect American's daily lives.  Like it or not, the intense restriction of a woman's right to control her own body is one of those topics and the answers that we received are the reason that we need to dig deeper on this issue.

By way of reminder, the wording of the question was something to this effect: Regarding abortion, in what, if any, of the following cases would you allow abortion: rape, incest, life or health of the mother?

As an experienced politician, Bill Shuster probably gave the least offensive answer of the bunch.  Presumably he's learned the lesson from the outrage caused by Republican politician after Republican politician saying heinous and horrifying things about women, rape, and abortion.  Rep Shuster proclaimed his pro-life status which has been lauded by organizations like National Right to Life.  He then said that he would make exceptions for all three of the cases listed.  Cutting away the fluff, that was really all he said.  I would never accuse Bill Shuster of being an intellectual heavy weight, but he's also not an idiot. He clearly has learned something from the public debacles of Republicans politicians past and present (and probably future).

On the other hand, Travis Schooley and Art Halvorson were very much a replay of Republiblunders past.  Schooley's answer was, frankly, creepy.  It only really dealt with the rape exception and basically argued that a rape exception wasn't really necessary.  He first declared that when someone became a victim of a "vicious rape" (you know, as opposed to gentle rapes), they would go immediately to the ER.  After running directly to the ER after this "vicious rape", the victim is examined and then a rape kit will be done.  Now, he says, if she's already pregnant...well she can't get pregnant from her rapist.  Seriously.  If I hadn't been there I would have a hard time believing that happened, but it did.  If, however, she's not pregnant already -- as indeed many women are not -- she could be given a shot or a pill or whatever to prevent pregnancy.  So I suppose, at the very least, Mr. Schooley isn't against contraceptives for rape victims.  At this point, he seems to realize that his scenario isn't really addressing the question and he adds that - he guesses - the only reason abortion would be necessary in the case of rape is if a women is held captive and can't get to a hospital.

As if this wasn't enough, Mr. Schooley ended his answer with a parting thought for the audience.  When we're thinking about abortion we have to imagine, he said, if there were about 45 million more people in this country.  What would our economy look like with 45 million more people working?  And there it was, women who have abortions are responsible for the condition of our economy.  If only American women were dutifully bearing children that Republicans want no part of caring for outside the womb, our economy would be booming.  Blissfully, Mr. Schooley's time was up and we moved on to Art Halvorson.

The word Mr. Halvorson wanted to stress was "compassion".  You see, he told us, in the instance of pregnancy from rape we have to remember that there are three parties involved: the rapist, the woman, and the fetus...excuses me, unborn baby.  Sure, rapists have to be punished to the full extent of the law.  Of course, Mr. Halvorson didn't address the fact that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.  He moved directly on to the woman, upon whom we should shower compassion, the kind of compassion that demands that she bear a child she may not want or be prepared to raise.  Mr. Halvorson then went on to say that he and his wife had personally helped young women through unplanned pregnancies.  Yes, I said unplanned pregnancies.  Does that remind you of anyone?

Unplanned pregnancies in or out of wedlock are not in any way the same as pregnancy from rape.  An unplanned pregnancy between two consenting individuals is in no way the same as the violation of a rape.  We have been over these arguments -- if we're going to be so generous as to call them that -- time and time and time again.

Let me be clear, I'm not saying that Bill Shuster is the reasonable alternative in this bunch.  He's not.  Despite claiming to make exceptions for incest, rape, and the life or health of the mother, Bill Shuster has voted time and again to restrict women's access to necessary health care.  Bill has voted for providing funding to health care providers who don't mention abortion, for banning federal health coverage that includes abortion, and voted to bar funding for abortions on federal "Obamacare" plans (which is to say healthcare plans on the federal exchange).  He also voted against the reauthorization of the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2007 and against the Infant Mortality Pilot Program (which would allow the Secretary of Health to award grants to the counties with the highest infant mortality rates in order to promote healthy pregancies) in 2010.  This is not a man who cares about protecting lives; this is a man who cares about forcing his personal religious beliefs on you and your family members.

All of these men's answers were utterly unacceptable.  When it comes to it, the question laid a totally unacceptable framework in that its very premise allowed that men like Bill Shuster should be allowed to control how women care for their bodies.  If you don't understand the devastation of a world where abortion is illegal, then I encourage you to read a book called The Worst of Times: Illegal Abortion: Survivors, Practitioners, Coroners, Cops and Children of Women Who Died Talk About Its Horrors.  Instead of demonizing women who have had an abortion or patronizing to women about the strictly confined instances when society will accept (albeit reluctantly) their decision, it's time that we asked the Bill Shusters, Travis Schooleys, and Art Halvorsons of the world if they believe that women are human beings who deserve to be able to control their own bodies.  If their answer is yes, then women have a right to choose when and how they become mothers.  The honest answer for these men, though, is no.  No, they don't believe that women are equal to men with equal rights to control their bodies, and that is the bottom line.