When Republicans won sweeping victories in the 2010 elections, they decided to take advantage of the moment. They might be losing the culture war, but with control of many state legislatures, they could mount a frontal assault on women's reproductive rights. And so they did; in 2011, there were no less than 92 laws passed at the state level to restrict women's access to abortion. The next year saw a further 43 such laws passed (still more than any other year in history), and 2013 has already been a bad year for abortion rights. Yesterday, in an eleventh-hour move meant to come in under the deadline before the legislative session ends, the Texas House of Representatives gave preliminary approval to a bill that would make it almost impossible for women in the nation's second-largest state to get an abortion. The bill bans abortions after 20 weeks, and imposes restrictions on abortion clinics' ability to operate that, according to pro-choice advocates, would force the closure of 37 of the 42 clinics in the state that perform the procedure.
In one of the frequent would-be-funny-if-it-wasn't-so-horrifying moments that accompany this issue, an amendment to exempt victims of rape and incest was rejected by the bill's sponsor, Jody Laubenberg, because "In the emergency room they have what's called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out." Needless to say (or, we guess, necessary to say), a rape kit is used to gather evidence to enable the identification of a rapist. It is not a means by which a woman "can get cleaned out."
But why should knowing nothing about rape or abortion or pregnancy stop Laubenberg and her Republican colleagues from legislating what women are allowed to do with their wombs? According to news reports, "Many members of the conservative majority had flyers on their desks that read 'Psalm 139:13-14,' which reads in part, 'You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.'" As long as they're making laws based on biblical passages, someone might have distributed flyers quoting Exodus 35:2, which reads, "Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death." After all, the Texas legislature was working to pass this bill on a Sunday, and we're pretty sure they aren't all Jews who take Saturday as the Sabbath.
We doubt too many members of the Texas House will be volunteering to get a lethal injection as the price of their violation of the Sabbath. After all, if you're a Republican state legislator, selective reading of scripture isn't supposed to impose consequences on yourself; it's about finding justification for your mistreatment of other people.
SO THEY SAY
The worst forms of racial discrimination in this Nation have always been accompanied by straight-faced representations that discrimination helped minorities.
—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, arguing against affirmative action in a concurring opinion on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin
DAILY MEME: THE PROCEDURAL IS POLITICAL
- Today, the Supreme Court announced it would decide next term whether President Obama's appointment of three National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) members last year was constitutional.
- The case "will mark a major constitutional test of executive power," namely the president's ability to make recess appointments, a tactic often used to bypass Senate confirmation.
- "When Congress refuses to act and as a result hurts our economy and puts people at risk, I have an obligation as president to do what I can without them," Obama said in defense of his recess appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in January 2012.
- Depending on the Court's decision after next fall's hearings, Cordray's appointment may also be ruled invalid.
- The actions the NLRB's taken since Obama's recess appointments could also be wiped out. Along with several noticeable defeats, the NLRB also issued hundreds of rulings in that time.
- If either agency is set back, Republicans would be happy. Neither the NLRB or the CFPB are exactly objects of conservative affection. That's part of the reason they took steps to block them in the first place.
- The NLRB appointments under question were actually made during a "pro forma" Senate session, during which "a single member came in every three days, banged a gavel to declare the chamber open for business, then declared business done for the day." That strange set of circumstances was arranged to block the president's appointments.
- And blocking appointments is what's at the heart of the issue. With the administration's lengthy vetting process and strong partisan opposition to its appointments, "an alarming number of important posts in the government’s most senior ranks" still remain vacant.
- But, as far as the NLRB's concerned, Obama's doing what he can. The five new nominees for the agency, including two of his recess appointees,await a full Senate vote after committee approval last May.
- "I hope that as we move to the floor we can put politics aside and do our duty to consider all of these nominees fairly on their own merits," Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat told The Washington Post around that time. "This is an exceptionally well-qualified package of nominees, and they all deserve to be swiftly confirmed."
WHAT WE'RE WRITING
- Compared to other advanced nations, America’s broadband is slow, spotty, and overpriced. So, Paul Waldman asks, why are we paying so much for it?
- South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham went on Fox News Sunday to encourage Republicans to get behind immigration reform. Jamelle Bouie writes that this was a smart move because, as the senator has said, the GOP will be blamed if the bill fails, and that will cost them Latino voters.
WHAT WE'RE READING
- Today's Supreme Court decision not to strike down affirmative action doesn't mean the clock's not still ticking.
- NSA document leaker Edward Snowden was reportedly not on his scheduled flight to Havana from Moscow earlier today, and his wherabouts are unknown.
- Local activists are working hard to steer Southern politics leftward.
- Thirty-five groups in sixty states launched a campaign yesterday to encourage workers to opt-out of unions.
- Men are the victims in 53 percent of military sexual assaults, which are typically perpetrated by other men.
- Ed Markey, a Democrat, has a comfortable lead going into tomorrow's special Senate election in Massachusetts.
POLL OF THE DAY
Half of Americans asked in a new Gallup poll said they would vote for a law that allowed government funding for federal campaigns, while 44 percent said they would vote against the idea. The law was broken up along party lines, with 60 percent of Democrats saying they would vote in favor while only 41 percent of Republicans said the same.