Since the Todd Akin affair entered the national conversation, many commentators—myself included—have noted the extent to which Akin’s views are in line with the mainstream of the Republican Party, and nearly identical to ones held by Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee. This video, unearthed by Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, illustrates the point. In it, a younger Ryan denounces a women’s health provision that was included in a bill to ban “partial-birth” abortion. Exceptions to the ban, he argues, would make it “meaningless”:
Yesterday morning, before the GOP completely turned its back on Todd Akin, I noted that—despite their harumphing—few Republicans disagreed with the substance of Akin’s remarks. In Congress and across the country, GOP lawmakers have supported a raft of bills designed to restrict or end abortion, as well as most forms of contraception. Look no further than the Republican platform, which—as CNN reports—will include radical and restrictive language on abortion:
Mitt Romney's choice of Paul Ryan to be his running mate, as the Prospect's Jamelle Bouie points out, leaves no doubt that if elected Romney will pursue Ryan's agenda of savage cuts to the already threadbare American safety net in order to finance upper-class tax cuts and additional defense spending that even the Pentagon doesn't want. The Ryan choice does not merely reveal, however, Romney's commitment to 19th-century fiscal policy. It also demonstrates Romney's commitment to a 19th-century view of women and gays and lesbians. Not only would Medicare be unlikely to survive a Republican administration, Roe v. Wade would almost certainly be gone as well.
Last Friday, the Obama campaign released an ad in several swing states attacking Mitt Romney for his stance on abortion. “It’s a scary time to be a women—Mitt Romney is just so out of touch,” says a woman named Jenni. A narrator explains that Mitt Romney opposes requiring insurance coverage for contraceptives, supports overturning Roe v. Wade, and once backed a bill that would outlaw all abortion, even in cases of rape or incest. The ad concludes: “We need to attack our problems, not a woman’s choice.”
Dissenting in Gonzales v. Carhart, the 2007 case that upheld a federal ban on "partial birth" abortion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg charged that the majority "refuses to take [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey ... seriously." This inclination, not surprisingly, has filtered down to the lower federal courts as well. Two recent cases conspicuously refuse to take a woman's reproductive rights seriously, and indeed one judge failed to apply Casey at all.
As Salon's Irin Carmon reports, a Republican appointed district-court judge has prevented a new statute that would force the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi to close. (The new law was necessary because, despite the best efforts of past Mississippi legislatures, one lone clinic in Jackson has managed to heroically persevere through a maze of state restrictions.) The stay is temporary, and the issue will presumably have to be resolved by a higher appellate court, possibly ending with the Supreme Court of the United States.
On April 12, Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill making Arizona the eighth state in the union to ban abortions beyond 20 weeks. Like most other laws of its kind, House Bill 2036 had been camouflaged as a measure against suffering, predicated on the notion that a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain. Every woman who’s ever been pregnant, however, knows what the law really means: Twenty weeks marks a crucial point in a pregnancy, when fetal abnormalities can be detected, often for the first time. Many women confronted with a grim prenatal diagnosis choose to have an abortion. Now, in Arizona, they can’t.
A new Gallup poll shows that the percent of Americans calling themselves pro-choice has fallen to 41 percent. In 2008, when that number hit 42 percent, there was a predictable flurry of news attention. So I want to call attention to what I wrote then. In short, this “pro-life” vs. “pro-choice” question obscures the true nature of American attitudes toward abortion. Support for the right to abortion depends strongly on the circumstances of the pregnancy. They cannot be summarized with the labels “pro-choice” and “pro-life.”
Moreover, and most importantly, more nuanced measures show little of the fluctuation that Gallup’s pro-choice vs. pro-life measure shows. Indeed Gallup’s new poll confirms this finding:
However, it is notable that while Americans’ labeling of their position has changed, their fundamental views on the issue have not.
Former CNN anchor Campbell Brown had an interesting op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, where she criticized Obama for condescending to women voters in his attempt to gain their support:
It’s obvious why the president is doing a full-court press for the vote of college-educated women in particular. The Republican primaries probably did turn some women away. Rick Santorum did his party no favors when he spoke about women in combat[…]; when he described the birth of a child from rape as “a gift in a very broken way”; and how, if he was president, he would make the case for the damage caused by contraception.
Women's health and abortion access have dominated state legislatures across the country and, until recently, dominated the headlines as well. But as legislative sessions are wrapping up and final decisions get made, there's been less focus on the issues. Perhaps it's because, in several cases, the bills are dying with whimpers instead of bangs.
I’ll have to work this in quickly before it becomes a cliché, but despite the show's title, female characters have eclipsed male characters in audience sympathies on Mad Men. Identity is the show’s primary concern, putting the rapidly changing gender roles of the '60s at the center of its plot developments. And, the face showrunner Matthew Weiner gave post-'60s America is a female one. One thing seems certain to pass, despite the show’s unpredictability: Peggy Olson will eventually eclipse Don Draper, her mentor.
Tigger and Eeyore are battling it out inside me this week. I can’t tell whether to be depressed over what Maureen Dowd calls “the attempt by Republican men to wrestle American women back into chastity belts” or invigorated by the myriad ways women are chronicling it and fighting back. Are women really gonna get dragged back to the scarlet-letter era—why not just repeal the 19th amendment!—or is all this going to set off a revitalized third feminist wave?
Eeyore: In a surreal move, the Arizona Legislature’s Senate Judiciary committee has introduced a bill that would:
I definitely agree with the central point of Sarah Kliff's post—namely, that the ultrasound law that ultimately passed in Virginia is almost as bad as the bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds that was initially proposed.
Pro-choicers, for obvious reasons, were inclined to celebrate when Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell backtracked on a bill that would have required women to obtain transvaginal ultrasounds before obtaining an abortion. Finding an arbitrary abortion regulation that was actually politically toxic feels like a major victory, especially if it could translate to other states.