Republicans, Rape and the Human Stakes of the Election

My Thursday column:

It’s inconceivable that in the 21st Century we’d be debating the archaic notion of torture in this country as if there was any question about whether it should be used. Now rape has entered the discourse, and there’s a very specific reason why it’s been so frequently crowbarred into this election cycle. Simply put, with a Romney/Ryan victory, the Republicans would absolutely move to overturn Roe v. Wade and ban abortions at the federal level, combining both a conservative Supreme Court with a constitutional amendment as their primary cudgels. The latter would define personhood as beginning at conception, offering full human rights to zygotes, embryos and fetuses irrespective of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy, including rape. The former would surely endorse such a move.

This is the marquee election for the anti-choice movement. Anyone who can count and anyone who can look up the status of the Supreme Court justices knows full well that the next president will decide the fate of abortion rights and an entire array of issues.

Justice Scalia is 76 years old, Justice Breyer is 74 and Justice Ginsburg, well, she’s a 79-year-old cancer survivor. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the next president will appoint a justice to replace at least Ginsburg, if not both Ginsburg and Scalia. Reasonably speaking, Ginsburg is almost certain. If she retires or passes, and Mitt Romney appoints her successor, the ideological balance of the Bench will shift to five conservatives, one swing vote (Kennedy) and three liberals — more than enough to decide conservatively on a variety of critical issues. Even if Kennedy were to magically swing left on every decision, it still wouldn’t matter. Conservatives would win the day for an entire generation. [continued]


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  • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

    I”m glad you posted about this today. I have been having discussions with one of my sisters who is very pro-Romney. Unlike my other pro-Romney family, she doesn’t support him because she is a true conservative. She does so because she thinks that the Pres is an “empty suit” (her words) and that Romney is a decent man who has business experience. One of the things I mentioned during our discussion was abortion rights. Her response was “meh, it will remain legal”. Now this could be because she doesn’t understand what’s likely to happen at the SCOTUS level (as you so accurately detail here). It could also be because she’s not aware of the rash of state laws restricting women’s rights that have passed recently and that will eventually end up before the SCOTUS. Ultimately though I think it makes a difference that she doesn’t have any daughters, just two boys, and she’s reaching an age where she can’t bear children. So if it doesn’t directly affect her she isn’t gonna get bent out of shape about it. Add to that the fact that her husband works in management for a company that has been struggling for the last 6 years and it comes down to pocketbook issues. She and her husband have been convinced by the heavily leaning business community that the President doesn’t have the skills to help the economy and therefore help them. I love my sister dearly but her lack of empathy for other women (not to mention her lack of empathy for my healthcare situation) and her buying into the lies about Romney’s experience makes me pretty sad. I thought, of all my sisters (I have 4 older sisters) that she would be the most likely on the fence but would lean Obama. I wonder how many women in the U.S. are basing their decisions over pocketbook issues instead of rights issues. After all, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory still holds….it’s really hard to think about higher needs and ideas when your most basic needs aren’t being met.

    • gescove

      I thought the President was spot on saying women’s reproductive rights ARE economic issues. The increased participation of women in the work force and, hence, their collective economic power, can be directly tied to access to effective birth control and safe, legal abortion. The right wing effort to undermine this access is fundamentally an effort to reassert gender and economic dominance.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        I agree, the Pres is right but it’s a much more subtle argument and the subtler the argument, the less the average American gets it. I am the black sheep in my family. I am the only one out of 7 to have earned a Bachelor’s Degree, much less have earned a Master’s Degree. It’s very, very hard for me to communicate with my siblings because of this educational difference. These kind of subtle arguments, while perfectly valid, do not persuade them. Furthermore, my family lives in the South or are surrounded by evangelical Christians who are constantly feeding them BS. It’s hard to fight the BS 24/7, particularly if one is not educated and hasn’t been out and about in the world. For example, my Dad has a college degree but he is in his late 70′s. When I was younger he expressed quite liberal views particularly when it comes to women’s rights (having 5 girls does that to men, so I hear). Anyway, for the past few years my younger brother, who is a “born again” takes my father to a church every weekend that literally preaches that Pres. Obama is the anti-Christ. Of course, my father has bought into it. So for the one week every few years I get to see my Dad I can tell him the truth but there’s no way I can fight against the influence of that church and the conservatively biased media. Now my sister isn’t a church goer and has very liberal views normally. But the pocket book issues are a huge worry for her. Again, she is beyond child bearing age, her sons almost grown. Right now she is totally focused on how she is going to get her boys thru college and whether she can retire or not. Worrying about other women’s opportunities to work or have reproductive freedom is just really far down the list in her view. So she tells herself, it will be okay, when you and I know it won’t.

        I never had much hope in changing my family’s minds but even so, the one person who I thought might be persuadable just isn’t. I’m just bumming about it right now.

        • gescove

          Kudos to you for trying. I’ve given up with my siblings. Your experience with your father brings to mind the challenge we all face of countering the 24/7 RW noise machine — particularly as we seem to be entering an era when truth and demonstrable facts seem quaint anachronisms to them.

          • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

            After this latest round of “talks” I will probably give up too. With my Dad, I just relied on my biblical knowledge and showed him in scripture how Pres. Obama didn’t fit the definition of the anti-christ and it gave him pause. But like you say, I’m a Who living in a world of Horton-sized, noisy RW creatures.

    • bphoon

      Your analysis of your sister’s motivations reminds me of one of my sisters-in-law and a discussion I had with her prior to the ’04 election. Now, my wife and her sisters were raised in a very liberal household but this particular sister is married to a guy who is from a true rwnj family–the guy gets most of his news from World Net Daily Online, for example. Even so, I was surprised back in ’04 when she said she would vote for Bush. When I asked why, she said she just didn’t like Kerry. When I probed a little deeper she admitted that she was afraid that bad things would happen to their investments if Kerry was elected. They weren’t exactly struggling but her husband is self-employed and was just starting his company and my sister-in-law was the primary bread winner at the time.

      I asked her in early ’09 just before Obama took office how her investments looked. I never got an answer.

      • http://drangedinaz.wordpress.com/ IrishGrrrl

        “I never got an answer.”

        Well, they don’t like to have their judgement in question, particularly after the fact when the harsh reality has set in. However, this I swear, if Romney wins and something bad happens because of it with my healthcare or a war in Iran, I will tell all my relatives “I told you so” and I don’t really care if they never speak to me again. People have to understand, their vote affects the real world in very serious ways AND it isn’t always just about them, so they’d better take their civic duty a hell of a lot more seriously than they do now and they better develop some empathy because Karma’s a bitch.

  • http://www.politicalruminations.com/ nicole

    Justice Ginsburg should have retired during President Obama’s first term. She should not have taken this chance. It really makes me angry that she did.