Fanaticism In Missouri

Let’s start today’s adventure into the strange world of fanatical belief with Pat Robertson of 700 Club fame. As Daily Kos reported, Robertson, who is 84 years old, took a question on his program from a woman who, along with her husband, is also in her eighties. She said the couple had an old car that had just broken down and they had to borrow the money to fix it. Plus, they “both need dental work, but can’t afford it.” Add to that the claim that they have to use their “credit card to pay for medical needs.” They wonder what they could be doing wrong, since they have demonstrated their faith by declaring “that this is our time of prosperity”—a confessional requirement in the so-called “prosperity gospel” business movement. She said they also “have no unforgiveness” in their lives, which answers an excuse prosperity gospel preachers offer to their followers who don’t experience any promised prosperity.

Oh, and most important, she says she and her husband “give willingly and our tithe is over 10 percent.”

Got it? These older folks love Jesus, give a helluva lot of their income to God, and have a junky car and no money of their own to pay for their health needs. So, naturally, Robertson, who specializes in giving wise Godly counsel, gave these desperate folks some wise Godly counsel:

Ask God to show you some ways of making money. There are many ways of making money, even at 80 years old. You know, you can get on the telephone, people are hiring.

Words fail me.

Our next adventure in fanaticism, though, deserves many words. It is happening here in Missouri.

Mother Jones published an article today (“Missouri Republicans Are About to Pass One of the Harshest Abortion Laws in the Country“) that reports on the fact that next week Missouri legislators, most of them fanatical Republicans, will meet in a special session to attempt, among other outrageous things, to override Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of their fanatical legislation that would essentially rob Missouri women of their right to exercise what reproductive rights they have left in this state. As MJ notes, that legislation “would force women seeking an abortion—including victims of rape and incest—to wait 72 hours between their first visit to a clinic and the procedure itself.”

Yes, even victims of rape or incest would have to wait three days—currently they are forced to wait 24 hours—to avail themselves of their fading constitutional right to not be further violated by having to bear the offspring of rapists or relatives. But that is only the latest restriction on reproductive rights here in this state:

Missouri lawmakers proposed more than two dozen abortion restrictions this year, all of them targeted at the St. Louis clinic. Missouri already has more abortion-related restrictions on the book than almost any other state in the country. Abortion providers must offer women the opportunity to view an ultrasound of the fetus, and abortion clinics in Missouri must meet the requirements of an ambulatory surgical center; these requirements are expensive to meet and they are not medically necessary for most abortions. These laws have resulted in the closure of all but one of the state’s clinics.

The sponsor of the bill in the House, a man—I repeat: a man—from nearby Nixa, Missouri, said,

Taking it from one day to three days? I don’t think it’s creating an extra obstacle for the mothers.

I wonder if this man, whose name is Kevin Elmer and who was elected in 2010, the year that just keeps giving and giving, would want to wait for three days if he had been raped and impregnated? Oh, sorry. Not applicable. And that is the point. But it doesn’t stop Mr. Elmer, and apparently nearly every Republican man (and woman) in the legislature, from taking it upon themselves to force their fanaticism on Missouri women.

Elmer says:

I believe that life begins at conception. And I’m not to discriminate against any life because of how it was conceived. I don’t disregard the significance of the tragic events that those women suffer from. But we’re still weighing that against the right of the unborn child to live…We’re asking all mothers just to give it another 48 hours to think about what is it they’re doing when they kill their unborn child.

First of all, Republicans aren’t “asking” the “mothers” to do anything. They are forcing them. Forcing them to “think.” Forcing them to think about killing “their unborn child.” Now, it seems to me that if you really believe in your bones that zygotes or embryos or fetuses are unborn children, then allowing women—”mothers” in Elmer’s certainty-plagued eyes—one day or three days or thirty days is too many days. They simply shouldn’t be allowed to kill their kids at any time, for any reason. It is absurd to say that mothers have permission to kill their children—if they take sufficient time to think about it. But that is what these confused zealots are actually saying.

Let’s be clear. What Republicans are doing, all over the country, is using the power of government, through various restrictions on female reproductive rights, to essentially force women, even women who have been impregnated by rapists, to become mothers.

Oddly, when Mr. Elmer was running for office, he said the following:

I believe in smaller government that is limited in its taxes, regulation of businesses and controls of local communities…People know what is best for their families and businesses not the collective thought of a government. 

Okay. Now, again, words fail me.



Texas Spring?

Tuesday night I followed on Twitter the progress of Texas state senator Wendy Davis’ heroic filibuster against evangelical governance in that state, governance represented by a proposed law—which earlier in the special session had passed the Texas House—that would essentially rob many Texas women of their constitutional right to govern their own reproductive lives without interference from an Old Testament Yahweh, a first-century Jesus, or their self-proclaimed representatives in the state legislature.wendy davis

If you think that first sentence was a mouthful, you should have seen Democrat Wendy Davis in action, all 11 hours of action performed before her frustrated Tea Party colleagues, an admiring gallery, and almost 200,000 livestream viewers of the filibuster on the Internet.

That last datum is significant. For most of us, the only available means of seeing Senator Davis in action, of watching the proceedings—which were quite exciting at the end because of a midnight deadline at play and Republicans’ willingness to lie about the vote taken after the deadline—was the Texas Senate Livestream on YouTube, not on cable television news. Or, like me, one could follow it on Twitter and get updates from folks who were watching on YouTube.

I tried in vain to get live TV coverage of the rather unique and significant event that was unfolding as midnight approached in Texas.  MSNBC’s tagline is “The Place for Politics,” and since there was some interesting politics going on in the Lone Star State, particularly a liberal-versus-conservative style of politics, naturally I figured I could follow it on The Place for Politics.

Except that MSNBC wasn’t covering it live (they did mention it during evening programming). Neither was the Cable News Network or the Fox “News” Channel. Nothing live. As James Poniewozik of Time pointed out,

As midnight approached in Austin, political observers were watching a nailbiter on YouTube; but on cable, you could see an interview about Iraq on Fox, a climate debate on MSNBC, and, toward the end of Anderson Cooper’s CNN show, a report on an attempt to ban the wearing of saggy pants.

Poniewozik also noted:

It was online and in social media where the story really took off, and even played out. As partisans from both sides traded shots on YouTube, Twitter became an extension of the Senate gallery, with users weighing in (President Obama’s twitter account directed attention to the filibuster at one point), cracking jokes, and even offering unsolicited  advice to the legislators on the points of Texas parliamentary procedure.

If all this sounds like an American version of “Arab Spring,” in which social media has played a critical role in the attempted dissolution of Middle East despotism, then maybe it is, at least a tiny little bit. Cable news, whether it was because of producer indifference, lack of resources, or poor editorial judgment, missed something exciting and, we can hope, ultimately game-changing—there is talk already of Wendy Davis running for Texas governor in 2014!

The point in all this is that these days, just because the official news bidness misses something, that doesn’t mean it will escape the instant notice of motivated people who care about, in this case, the right of women to control their own reproductive health and to keep religious and other zealots from dictating to them when to become parents.

“Stop Terrorizing Women”

We’ve been treated to a lot of talk about terrorism since the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent events. I want to talk about another kind of terrorism that goes on every day somewhere in America.

The Good Men Project describes itself this way:

We are a community of 21st Century thought leaders around the issue of men’s roles in modern life. We explore the world of men and manhood in a way that no media company ever has, tackling the issues and questions that are most relevant to men’s lives…

Guys today are neither the mindless, sex-obsessed buffoons nor the stoic automatons our culture so often makes them out to be. Our community is smart, compassionate, curious, and open-minded; they strive to be good fathers and husbands, citizens and friends, to lead by example at home and in the workplace, and to understand their role in a changing world.

According to the website, one of The Good Men’s Project’s most popular stories involved a man named Aaron Gouveia, who wrote a story that began this way:

“You’re killing your unborn baby!”

That’s what they yelled at me and my wife on the worst day of our lives. As we entered the women’s health center on an otherwise perfect summer morning in Brookline, two women we had never met decided to pile onto the nightmare we had been living for three weeks. These “Christians” verbally accosted us—judged us—as we steeled ourselves for the horror of making the unimaginable, but necessary, decision to end our pregnancy at 16 weeks.

After extensive testing at a renowned Boston hospital three weeks earlier, we were told our baby had Sirenomelia. Otherwise known as Mermaid Syndrome, it’s a rare (one in every 100,000 pregnancies) congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together. Worse than that, our baby had no bladder or kidneys. Our doctors told us there was zero chance for survival.

Gouveia says he’s not religious, doesn’t believe in heaven or hell, but:

…there is a hell on Earth. Hell is sitting next to the person you love most and listening to her wail hysterically because her heart just broke into a million pieces. Hell is watching her entire body convulse with sobs because she’s being tortured with grief. For as long as I live and no matter how many children we have, I will never forget that sound. And I vowed to do everything in my power to make sure she’d never make it again.

One of the things Gouveia has done is create for us and present to us the video encounter below, now more than two years old. He shows us that religious zealots, no matter how sincere they may be, need confronted. They need challenged. They shouldn’t exercise the right of public protest over reproductive rights, over what they call “baby killing,” without at least knowing that there are lives on the other side of the argument that are very much affected by their zealotry, and those lives have a voice, sometimes a loud voice, that needs to be heard, too.

Aaron Gouveia ends his written piece with a plea both to the zealots and to the rest of us:

My wife and I wanted our second child. We loved her. We even had a name for her, Alexandra.

You never know the circumstances surrounding this kind of decision. Consider this my plea: stop terrorizing women. Stop adding trauma to their trauma. If you’re able, stand up to these bullies in nonviolent ways. Speak out. And if you have a camera, use it.

Iowa Personhood Bill “Just Simplifies Everything”

Undoubtedly, the two Republican front-runners for  the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 are Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, both practicing Catholics.

Here is how Michelle Goldberg accurately described Ryan’s position on abortion:

He believes ending a pregnancy should be illegal even when it results from rape or incest, or endangers a woman’s health. He was a cosponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, a federal bill defining fertilized eggs as human beings, which, if passed, would criminalize some forms of birth control and in vitro fertilization.

In the context of the Republican Party platform’s complete ban of abortion—with no exceptions for rape or incest or to save the life of the mother—here is how Marco Rubio answered a question:

Rubio told “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer that for those opposed to abortion, “this is not an issue about denying anyone rights. This is an issue about protecting the rights of a human being to live – irrespective of what stage in development they may be. And so I think that’s what Mitt Romney and the Republican Party stand for…It’s about protecting the rights of human beings that have not yet been born.

That’s pretty clear, no? For both Ryan and Rubio, at the earliest stage of development humans have “rights” that trump the rights of their mothers in all circumstances.

Which brings us to this:

Iowa Bill Would Jail Raped Women for ‘Murder’ of Single-Cell Zygotes

A bill introduced by nine Republican state lawmakers in Iowa on Wednesday would define abortion as “murder,” sending doctors and raped women who terminate pregnancies to jail.

State Rep. Tom Shaw says that he authored House File 138 to protect human life, whether “you’re a zygote, an infant, a teenager or an adult.”

The bill defines a “person” as “an individual human being, without regard to age of development, from the moment of conception, when a zygote is formed, until natural death.”

“Murder includes killing another person through any means that terminates the life of the other person including but not limited to the use of abortion-inducing drugs,” the measure states without making any exceptions for rape or incest.

Republican state Rep. Rob Bacon, who is co-sponsoring the bill, told the Ames Tribune that he wanted to “protect the life of the unborn” because “[t]here’s still some of us that believe life begins at conception.”

During a Wednesday interview with Denver Bible Church pastor Bob Enyart, Shaw explained that defining a fertilized egg as a “person” in Iowa’s murder statute “just simplifies everything.” 

“So when anyone has any questions towards us — the war on women, are you doing this, are you doing that? — no, it’s a simple response,” he insisted. “We are only defining who a person is.”

“There was a lot of concern with former bills about who would be charged, what would they be charged with… This puts it in the hands of county attorneys, just like any other murder investigation. A person is a person.”

We must thank these Iowa Republicans for following anti-choice logic and making plain what two leaders of the Republican Party, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, actually believe the law should be for the entire country, not just Iowa.

And we must thank Democrats in Iowa—who still control the state senate—that this bill has zero chance of becoming law.

Intrusive, Vagina-Probing, Have-The-Rapist’s-Baby-Or-Else Big Government

From HuffPo:

Notice the “at least” in the subheader. There could be more. And remember, too, that Romney and Ryan are just as extreme, when it comes to their preferences, even though Romney, but not Ryan, has tried to have it three or four or more ways on abortion.

Again, for the record, Romney’s real position, as ABC News reported in 2007 after a Republican debate:

“I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said, we don’t want to have abortion in this country at all, period,” Romney said at the time. “That would be wonderful. I’d be delighted.”

Pressed CNN host Anderson Cooper, “The question is: Would you sign that bill?”

“Let me say it. I’d be delighted to sign that bill. But that’s not where we are,” Romney replied. “That’s not where America is today. Where America is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority. But if the Congress got there, we had that kind of consensus in that country, terrific.”

As for Paul Ryan, he said in an interview with WJHL in Roanoake, Virginia:

REPORTER JOSH SMITH: Our viewers would love know…specifically where you stand when it comes to rape, and when it comes to the issue of should it be legal for a woman to be able to get an abortion if she’s raped?

PAUL RYAN: I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that, the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life.

These are radicals. These are reactionaries. These are, in fact, radical reactionaries. Democrats have to keep pounding this into Americans’ heads, not just American women’s heads. These folks mean it when they say they want to use government—intrusive, vagina-probing, have-the-rapist’s-baby-or-else big government—to eliminate all abortions. All of us have to tell our friends, our family, our co-workers, our neighbors, about what is happening. Then we have to keep reminding them.

Even 76% of non-candidate Republicans believe abortion should be legal in the case of rape, for God’s sake, which is why Romney has tried to hide his extremism by copping a relatively less radical, but still radical nonetheless, position summarized as “only legal in the case of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.”  In the context of what he have heard from the mouths of Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, that sounds like a pro-choice liberal speaking. But it isn’t. It’s still a reactionary speaking, still a radical position to hold. And besides that. Romney is still—still!—supporting Mourdock.

Whether it is this year’s crop of Republican senate hopefuls, or whether it is Mitt Romney’s expressed delight in signing a potential law that would eliminate all abortions, or whether it is Paul Ryan’s strange claim that rape is, in terms of the abortion issue, just another “method of conception“—God, that’s offensive—the message that these extremists would radically change the cultural landscape for women in this country has to be broadcast far and wide and often.

These zealots aren’t kidding, and Americans need to be told that again and again and again.

I Told You Todd Akin Was Missouri’s Freakiest Conservative

I told you so. Todd Akin is freaky. He’s bizarre, outlandish, queer. He’s unusually strange. Weird. Dangerously dizzy—and “legitimately stupid.”

Watch the offending 30 seconds below and notice the response of the interviewer, Charles Jaco. He has just been told something—by a man who wants to be Missouri’s U.S. Senator—that is monumentally dumb, offensive, and obviously newsworthy. What does Jaco say? “Let go to the, uh, uh, economy.”

Nope, let’s go to the tape:

Claire McCaskill said in response:

It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape.

Nope. It is perfectly comprehensible, if you have snooped around in Todd Akin’s trove of extremism. It’s just that this time he is on a national stage for all to see and hear.

Sarah Steelman, Akin’s opponent in the primary (and who I thought would win), tweeted:

Todd Akin’s remarks about “legitimate rape” were inexcusable, insulting, and embarrassing to the GOP.

Notice it is the GOP she is worried about in her tweetful response. And there is reason to worry. So much reason that the Romney campaign, which is directing the larger war on women,  issued a statement about Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment and his willingness to force rape victims to bear the rapist’s child:

Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.

Well, first of all, Paul Ryan can’t disagree with Akin’s statement all that much because he too opposes abortion even in rape cases and has sponsored legislation that would grant “personhood” rights to embryos.

Second, that meek statement obviously won’t be enough to stop the tide that is coming. The consensus on Morning Joe this morning, including Republican Joe Scarborough, was that this is a test of leadership for Mittens. Scarborough, who said, “this is a nightmare for Republicans,” and that it “hurts every candidate,” forcefully argued that this should be Romney’s “Sister Souljah moment,” in which Romney should call Akin “every day” and tell him to “get out!

Well, it will be very difficult for Romney to express much outrage over Todd Akin, when by his side as his running mate is a man who sponsored an outrageous anti-abortion bill as one of the first acts of the Tea Party House.

Zerlina Maxwell of the New York Daily News wrote:

Akin and Ryan were the original co-sponsors of the controversial bill H.R. 3, “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which initially included language which changed the definition of “rape” to “forcible rape,” until public pressure forced the bill’s supporters to remove that unacceptable and narrow definition. As I wrote previously, Paul Ryan is not just anti-choice, his anti-choice views are extreme and just plain bad for all women.

So, if Romney comes down too hard on Akin, he will have to answer an important question:

In what way is Akin’s “legitimate rape” comment different from the language that Paul Ryan and Todd Akin used in H.R. 3’s original version?

And as long as he is fumbling around trying to answer that question, he is only reminding women across America why they can’t trust Republicans with their personal life decisions.*

As for Akin, he may survive this train wreck, and given the hatred for Mr. Obama in the hinder parts of Missouri—voting against Claire McCaskill is a vote against Obama, don’t you know—I am sure he would still overwhelmingly win my part of the state.

The bright side, though, is that perhaps folks in other, more sober parts of Missouri, will, as Claire McCaskill said this morning, pay attention to the race because,

This statement is kind of a window into Todd Akin’s mind.

And at least now, if Akin is not forced to withdraw from the race, he will have forced folks here in Missouri, and across the country, to look through that window and consider the craziness and creepiness within, a craziness and creepiness that also describes the minds of many Republican Tea Party candidates.


* My congressman, Billy Long, also sponsored H.R. 3’s original language, which I pointed out in February of 2011 in “Ozark Billy Long Signs On To Redefine Rape.’ 

Will It Be The Long Or The Short Straw, Romney Fans?

I saw parts of the following video on MSNBC’s The Last Word on Monday night. If, after viewing the complete video essay below, you are still a Romney fan, the only question left is whether you would suck sweat from Romney’s butt crack through a short or long straw in order to beat President Obama in November:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Women Beware

I wanted to call your attention to an excellent post by Katy Hall on HuffPo:

9 Lies Republicans Tell About Women’s Bodies

For the details go to the site and get educated. Here is the list:

1. Birth Control Causes Prostate Cancer.

2. Abortion Causes Breast Cancer.

3. Birth Control Is A Sex Pill.

4. Abortion Industry Is “Selling Abortions.”

5. Women Can’t Get Pregnant From Rape.

6. Prenatal Testing Leads To Abortion.

7. HPV Vaccine Causes Retardation.

8. Plan B Causes Abortions.

9Your Fetus Is Just Fine. (Proposals to protect doctors from “wrongful birth” lawsuits that involve physicians “withholding information that may lead a patient to get an abortion.”)

“A Seat In The Shaming Room”

Amazingly, some people are shocked over a Doonesbury cartoon, but not as shocked at the underlying policies that led to it.

From the Associated Press:

KANSAS CITY, MO. — A national syndicate will offer replacement “Doonesbury” comic strips to newspapers that don’t want to run a series that uses graphic imagery to lampoon a Texas law requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion, executives said Friday.

Here’s the problem some folks have with the cartoon:

The comic strips feature a woman who goes to an abortion clinic and is confronted by several people who suggest she should be ashamed. Among them is a doctor who reads a script on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry welcoming her to a “compulsory transvaginal exam,” and a middle-aged legislator who calls her a “slut.”

One panel equates the invasive procedure to rape and describes the device used to perform it as a “10-inch shaming wand.”

Here are a couple of panels, reprinted in The Guardian:

Now, I can understand why this stuff upsets people, but what I can’t understand is why more folks aren’t upset over the reality behind the cartoon: Republicans in places like Texas have decided that women ought to be shamed and bombarded with guilt while exercising their reproductive rights, and in some cases they want the government to violate their bodies by forcing women seeking abortions to get invasive sonograms.

Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau defended his cartoon, saying,

In Texas, the sonograms are the least of it. The legislature has also defunded women’s health clinics all over the state, leaving 300,000 women without the contraceptive services that prevent abortions in the first place. Insanity.

And one would think that such insanity would be the controversy, not a cartoon designed to call attention to it.

Women Beware: Republicans Will Probe Your Privates

The Republicans in Virginia—seriously—want a government so big that it can literally get inside individual citizen’s genitals, by force and without their consent.

—Rachel Maddow

Transvaginal” is not a word one comes across routinely on a blog about politics. But it is a word women had better get used to, if what is happening in Virginia—which has already happened in Texas—makes its way across the country.

It isn’t enough that extremist legislation—with Missouri Republican Roy Blunt’s fingerprints all over it—has been proposed in the U. S. Senate that would, in the words of The Huffington Post:

amend the Affordable Care Act to allow any employer to exclude any health service coverage, no matter how critical or basic, by claiming that it violates their religious or moral convictions.

Get that? “Any health service coverage” can be denied to women because of her boss’s—frequently a man—religious or moral sensibilities. That is preposterous. But it is not as preposterous as what has happened in Texas and what is going on in Virginia.


On the last day before bills crossover between the House and the Senate for this General Assembly session, the House of Delegates passed H.B. 1 a bill granting personhood status and rights to fertilized eggs by a vote of 66-32.

The House also passed a bill to force women to have an ultrasound — and potentially an invasive transvaginal ultrasound — 24 hours before an abortion regardless of if it is medically necessary or if a woman wants it.

This isn’t a joke. This is really happening. In America.

First, granting personhood status to fertilized eggs—which would annihilate abortion rights and have implications for contraception—has been tried in Colorado and Missisippi, both efforts failing by a vote of the people (failing in Colorado twice).

Second, the bill requiring ultrasounds will in fact require that many of the ultrasounds be transvaginal because most abortions occur early on in gestation and the invasive procedure would be needed for, as the law requires, the woman to see the fetus or hear its heartbeat.

Just for your information, the following is how one source, Ovarian Cancer Facts, describes the beginning of the transvaginal procedure—which Big Brother in Texas requires and Virginia soon will. Read this and keep in mind that this is mandated—mandated!—by government:

Your bladder must be empty in order for the test to be accurate. For this reason, the physician may ask that you not drink anything for several hours before undergoing the sonogram. Once the time for the test arrives, you will be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on a table. During the process, the feet are placed in stirrups and the knees are bent.

With you in place, your physician will initiate the process by preparing a transducer for insertion into your vagina. Commonly referred to as a probe, this device uses waves to create images that help your doctor assess the current condition of the reproductive system. A monitor that is attached to the probe allows your doctor to view the images in real time. After placing a condom over the probe and lubricating the device with a gel, it is inserted into your vagina and begins to transmit the images.

That, my fellow Americans, is what Republicans mean by “limited” or “small” government—probing its female citizens as part of a theological or moralistic crusade.

In Virginia, the Senate has already passed an ultrasound bill identical to that passed by the General Assembly and Governor Bob McDonnell—a conservative Catholic—has indicated he will sign the final product, and Virginia, like Texas, will begin Big Brother’s foray into Virginia women’s vaginas.

Here is part of St. Rachel Maddow’s jaw-dropping segment from last night’s broadcast:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Abortion And Testicular Values

“The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.

~Dante Alighieri

The Joplin Globe, published here in the heart of hard-headed Republican America, naturally prints some god-awful opinions authored by right-wingers from time to time, but most of them don’t come with the description “Pulitzer Prize-winning” attached to the author’s name, as Sunday’s column (“A moment of clarity, thanks to Race for the Cure“) by Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg did.

Mr. Greenberg—a Southern gentleman, don’t you know—attacked Susan G. Komen for the Cure for its yo-yo-ish relationship with Planned Parenthood. You see, Mr. Greenberg doesn’t much like Planned Parenthood and thus the Komen foundation’s association with it makes Komen a ripe target for the Arkansan’s moralizing.

He wrote,

What a mess…It’s not easy trying to stay neutral between right and wrong. No wonder Dante gave those who manage to bring it off their own special circle in hell or vicinity thereof.

You know a guy ain’t messing around when he brings in Dante to close out the contest. Nothing quite says “game over” like being dispatched to an imaginary hell made famous by a 750-year-old Italian poet.

In any case, during the course of his column, we soon find out specifically why the ireful writer felt the need to reach so far back in the bullpen of history for a flame-throwing closer:

The same phenomenon can be observed in the kind of people who wind up either ignoring moral questions or trying to minimize them. Hey, abortion is only a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s total activities, even if it represents a lot of the organization’s income…

Now we’re told that destroying the most innocent and vulnerable, the least of these, shouldn’t be cause for such concern. How many babies in total does Planned Parenthood do away with every year anyway — a few hundred thousand? Big deal.

It does so year in, year out, with the generous help of outfits like the Komen foundation and the federal government. Why make a fuss about it? Abortions are only a sideline at Planned Parenthood anyway, except maybe when it comes to its bottom line. Nine out of 10 pregnant women who enter a Planned Parenthood clinic get an abortion, according to its annual report for 2010. So what? Couldn’t we all just look the other way?

Ah, there it is. The A word.  Abortion. An issue near and dear to the uterus-challenged class. That is why the moralizing columnist is tossing folks in the fictional Inferno. He’s upset that womenfolk who don’t share his manly understanding of gestation’s mysteries are “ignoring” or “trying to minimize” the moral questions and looking “the other way.”

By God if these featherheaded dames would only face up to the morality of abortion the way Paul Greenberg has, they would surely discard their devilish delusions and come to embrace the testicular values of a Pulitzer-winning columnist and his trusty testicle-totin’ muse from the Middle Ages.

It’s just that simple, ain’t it?

Beyond A Doubt?

I want to connect two issues, recently in the news, that may not seem related. 

In a piece in Tuesday’s USA Today, “When will USA get over breastfeeding hang-ups?,” Katherine Chretien hopes that one day, “breastfeeding in public will be seen as nothing out of the ordinary”: 

Let’s face it, we live in a society that has sexualized breasts so much that any display (even in its primary, all-business function) is seen as indecent, allowing the hardy vestiges of American Puritanism to place shame-hexes on nursing moms.

Now, I have never understood the hang-up about breastfeeding, in public or private, but I do understand “the hardy vestiges of American Puritanism,” the unrelenting bigotry of which is able to survive in our otherwise permissive culture.

There is another form of puritanical bigotry increasing in this country, almost unnoticed by the mainstream press, that also has to do with women: the harsh, inflexible anti-choice movement. Here is a story from CNN that illustrates the point:

(CNN) – Texas Gov. Rick Perry revealed a hardening in his stance on abortion Tuesday, telling a crowd in Iowa that he opposed abortions in all cases, including when a woman had been raped or the victim of incest.

Previously, Perry had not opposed the procedure in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life was threatened.

Perry claims that his just-in-time-for-the-Iowa-caucuses “transformation” happened after watching a propaganda film produced by Southern Baptist preacher and Fox “News” host Mike Huckabee, who was the former governor of Arkansas and a former presidential candidate who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.

From the CNN story:

“…I really started giving some thought about the issue of rape and incest. And some powerful, some powerful stories in that DVD.”

Perry said a woman who appeared in the movie who said she was a product of rape moved him to change his mind about abortion.

“She said, ‘My life has worth.’ It was a powerful moment for me,” Perry said.

I find it interesting that men like Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee and many leaders in the anti-choice movement, a movement that has been very effective in limiting the choices women can make, will never be victims of rape or incest, but feel comfortable forcing women to have children under such circumstances. More than interesting, I find it appalling.

But Rick Perry—who earlier this year signed a bill in Texas forcing women seeking abortions to undergo sonograms and forcing doctors to tell those women the size of their fetuses’ body parts—isn’t the only GOP candidate/extremist against abortion rights. Oddly, the man most people identify as a libertarian, Ron Paul, is staunchly anti-choice. He said in 2005:

I believe beyond a doubt that a fetus is a human life deserving of legal protection, and that the right to life is the foundation of any moral society.

“Beyond a doubt?” That man is expected to finish first or second in Iowa next week. He also said that,

Abortion on demand is the ultimate State tyranny; the State simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not persons, and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law…the new regime has enlisted the assistance of millions of people to act as its agents in carrying out a program of mass murder.

Again, that is a so-called libertarian running for the GOP nomination speaking.

Mitt Romney, whom the mainstream media treat as a “moderate” and whose evolving-devolving position on abortion is legendary, has essentially confessed—to none other than Mike Huckabee himself—that he is an extremist on the “life begins at conception” issue. The two former governors were discussing Romney’s now-controversial health care plan in Massachusetts, which Romney claimed the courts determined must provide the right to an abortion:

Mike Huckabee: “Was there any way that you could have blocked [Romney’s health care plan paying for abortion] administratively or through forcing the legislature to have created enabling legislation before it went into effect?”

Romney: “This was something which existed exactly even before our bill was passed. They said people who are receiving care in that was in any way subsidized by government had the right to get abortions as part of that care. And they said that was constitutionally required. So the only way to we could have changed that would be to carry out a constitutional amendment to block the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Mike Huckabee: “Would you have supported the constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?”

Mitt Romney: “Absolutely.”

It is true that the Romney campaign disputes the claim that he is in favor of so-called “personhood amendments,” which would grant political rights to minutes-old fertilized eggs, but even in the context of Massachusetts politics, how can a man say he would be in favor of a constitutional amendment that would establish “life at conception,” if that didn’t also mean granting that “life” political rights, most notably the right to be born? If it doesn’t mean that, then just what does it mean?

And remember, Romney made his statement about the constitutional amendment establishing life at conception in the context of restricting “the right to get abortions.” Clearly, he is willing to support measures that would prohibit women from controlling their reproductive decisions.

When Romney vetoed a bill in Massachusetts in 2005 that would have expanded access to emergency contraception, known as the “morning after” pill, he explained his veto by saying this:

The bill does not involve only the prevention of conception: The drug it authorizes would also terminate life after conception…I have spoken with medical professionals to determine whether the drug contemplated under the bill would simply prevent conception or whether it would also terminate a living embryo after conception. Once it became clear that the latter was the case, my decision was straightforward.

Romney tried to hide his extremist position by saying that his decision was based on the “promise” he made to “the citizens of Massachusetts” that he would “not change our abortion laws either to restrict abortion or to facilitate it.” Similarly, he tries to hide his extremism by claiming that such things should be left in state hands. His spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho said,

Mitt Romney is pro-life, and as he has said previously, he is supportive of efforts to ensure recognition that life begins at conception. He believes these matters should be left up to states to decide.

That, in perfect Romney style, is trying to have it both ways. He wants to send the message to the anti-choice community that he is committed to their extremist views, while sending the message to the rest of America that he will not change, as a federal official, the status quo. He wants to send Rick Perry’s and Ron Paul’s message without actually sounding like Rick Perry and Ron Paul.

But who can believe a man who has been a true-believing bishop in the ultra-conservative Mormon church and who once was thrown out of the house of a man who lived in a Boston suburb for insisting that the man not allow his daughter to have an abortion. According to a  report, the man was “appalled at the arrogance of Romney.

Bigotry is a form of arrogance, of course. And whether it is the comparatively trivial impulse to stop women from breastfeeding in public or whether it is the profoundly important matter of trying to restrict a woman’s right to choose to become a mother, the bigotry that goes with the  “hardy vestiges of American Puritanism” is evident, particularly in the politics surrounding abortion in the Republican Party.

Even if the mainstream media largely ignore it.

The Republican War On Women

While Americans still wait on the jobs promised by Tea Party Republicans, they can take comfort that those Tea Party Republicans haven’t exactly been doing nothing:


It’s important to note that the 2005 number was itself a record. The only question is: Where are the women willing to fight back?  Where are the marches on Washington and the nation-wide protests?

Tea Party Governance In Kansas Means Regulating Abortion Clinics Out Of Business

Whenever you hear Republicans waxing nasty about all the government regulation that hinders businesses and therefore hurts the economy, most of the time you can be confident they are lying through their gold teeth.

Such is the case in neighboring Kansas, where the legislature, completely controlled by Republicans, and the governor, a right-wing Christian Republican fanatic, have conspired to close down the state’s three—three!—remaining abortion clinics by using, what else,  so-called safety regulations, thirty-six pages of which are designed only to put the abortion clinics out of business.

As The Kansas City Star editorialized:

The latest political attack on abortion providers in Kansas is misguided, arrogant and dishonest, and opens up a state struggling to pay for schools to a long list of clearly indefensible lawsuits.

This attack came in the form of what is known as a TRAP law, a “targeted regulation of abortion providers.”

Under the guise of ensuring the safety of patients, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature this year created a new regulation category for abortion providers, and gave the Kansas Department of Health and Environment broad authority to write the rules.

Officials gave the details to abortion providers in mid-June, noting that clinics had until July 1 to be in compliance or lose their license to operate.

The intent was to close down clinics and end the legal practice of abortion in Kansas.

The proof, as the Star offered, is that of the 241 ambulatory surgical clinics, “only the state’s three abortion clinics are subject to these regulations.”  And, “Many regulations have nothing to do with patient safety, and many are impossible to meet within two weeks.”

The editorial makes it clear that those who proposed these regulations aren’t really hiding their motivation: they want to make Kansas “the first abortion-free state.”

Religious zealots and anti-choice fanatics hitched a ride on the Tea Party train as it pulled out of Big Government Station just after President Obama assumed office in 2009, and after the train reached its November 2010 election stop, the zealots and fanatics got off and went to work attacking abortion rights.

The Star:

The attack on legal abortion is a cheap legislative trick to get around the law of the land. Legitimate safety regulations would be phased in, giving clinics time to get up to code. But these regulations were never meant to be legitimate.

Of course not.  And neither were the claims of many in the Tea Party movement who held signs at rallies around the country protesting the size and reach of government and making the outrageous claim that Obama and the Democrats were after our liberties.

What legitimacy there was in the Tea Party movement was soon undermined by Republican political operatives who moved in to take partisan political advantage of the Obama-induced angst on the Right by pretending to run “grassroots” operations.

And worse than that, Christian moralists and quasi-theocrats used the small-government, love-the-Constitution movement to gain power in order to enact their extremist anti-choice agenda, an agenda which includes using state governments to effectively eliminate in America the constitutional right to abortion.

Big government? You betcha.

Vaginal Probes: Possible Instruments Of Republican Governance

Yesterday, Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, signed yet another law that demonstrates how phony are the Republican demands for smaller government. 

Now in Texas women can’t get an abortion until they first undergo a sonogram. For God’s sake people, the government is forcing them to get a sonogram.  And if women don’t want to see the sonogram image or hear the “heartbeat,” their doctor must—that means the use of government force—describe the image, including the size of the embryo or fetus and whether it has organs or limbs.

All over the country, Republicans, who were elected to office promising smaller government and  jobs, jobs, jobs, have been using their large state legislative majorities in conjunction with their governorships to essentially overturn Roe V. Wade through unprecedented intrusions into doctor-patient relationships and through burdensome requirements.

And where is the outrage?  Especially from women, who value not only their reproductive rights, but their right not to be forced to undergo unwanted medical procedures?

To the right is a photo of Texas State Rep. Carol Alvarado, who opposed the law, as she displays a vaginal probe during a floor debate in March over the law Perry signed yesterday.  The vaginal probe, which is used to produce the clearest sonograms in the earlier stages of pregnancy, may now become an instrument of Republican governance.

Think about that.

And if that doesn’t outrage women—as well as men—then apparently nothing will.

The following is a description of the transvaginal procedure, which Texas women seeking or contemplating an abortion may be forced—by Texas Republicans in control of the government—to undergo:

You will lie down on a table with your knees bent and feet in holders called stirrups. The health care provider will place a probe, called a transducer, into the vagina. The probe is covered with a condom and a gel. The probe sends out sound waves, which reflect off body structures. A computer receives these waves and uses them to create a picture. The doctor can immediately see the picture on a nearby TV monitor.

Orwellian Fever

The South Dakota legislature (guess which party has a super majority?) has sent to the governor a bill that would force women to wait 72 hours, as well as listen to anti-abortion propaganda, before obtaining an abortion.

In what may be the worst example yet of Republican’s embracing big government’s intrusion into the private lives of Americans, a woman facing already difficult circumstances will now have to survive an emotional assault from anti-choice zealots.

Hopefully, this Orwellian law—forcing someone to listen to propaganda—if signed by the governor, will not pass constitutional muster, but these days, it’s a roll of the conservative-loaded dice. 

And these are the same people who believe forcing people to purchase health insurance is an assault on liberty.

Did Billy Long Help Murder George Tiller?

Little did I know that yesterday, as I was criticizing Ozark Billy Long for his co-sponsorship of an abortion bill that would essentially redefine rape, that The Auctioneer was tweeting this:

Let me make his tweet clear:


Shock Investigation: Planned Parenthood Advises ‘Pimp’ on Underage Sex Trafficking, Secret Abortions for Minors


You will notice that Ozark Billy references a site called Big Journalism.  Guess what?  That site is officially called:

Andrew Breitbart.  Let me see. Why is that name familiar?

Oh, yeah:  Breitbart tried to destroy a woman named Shirley Sherrod by painting her as a racist via carefully edited video, which when viewed in its entirety, revealed her to be a thoughtful critic of racism.

Oh, yeah:  Breitbart helped destroy ACORN through promotion of James O’Keefe and his highly edited videos of ACORN employees that were later found to be false representations of those employees.  Subsequent investigations of ACORN vindicated the organization, but overreaction in Congress directly related to Breitbart’s and O’Keefe’s accusations effectively killed the group.  O’Keefe is now serving three years probation for “entering a federal building under false pretenses,” as he attempted to set up LouisianaSenator Mary Landrieu in another one of his video “gotchas.”

Now we find that Breitbart is promoting the work of a group called “Live Action,” whose president is Lila Rose, whom you may have seen on Fox’s O’Reilly or Hannity or Glenn Beck.  Rose is a 21-year-old anti-abortion activist who has ties to James O’Keefe, and both admit to learning some of their tactics from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals.”  How sweetly ironic. 

Live Action produced an O’Keefe-like pimp video, this time in order to entrap Planned Parenthood, the most hated target of the anti-choice movement.  The video is called “Undercover at Planned Parenthood” and was released yesterday. You can watch the highly edited version here or watch the allegedly complete unedited version here

Does anyone in southwest Missouri believe that Ozark Billy actually watched these videos before he tweeted about this “Shock Investigation“?  Most of us know that anyone who would get his news from Andrew Breitbart wouldn’t bother to actually do any research before he forwarded such propaganda.

Essentially, in the video a “pimp” and his “prostitute” enter the Central Jersey Planned Parenthood clinic and pretend to be in the sex business, “managing” underage girls, mostly illegal immigrants. They are seeking help for the girls in the form of testing, birth control, and possibly abortions.  The manager of the clinic, Amy Woodruff, assisted them in ways that are obviously inappropriate.  So, the sting engineered by Live Action successfully indicts Ms. Woodruff and she has been fired by Planned Parenthood.  Its executive director said:

“We have a zero tolerance policy for this kind of behavior, and the employee in the video was immediately suspended from her duties [Tuesday] morning and was terminated [Tuesday] evening,” Kinsler said. “We are fully committed to delivering high-quality reproductive health care to the women of our communities, complying with all laws, and upholding the highest ethical standards.”

But the real question is this: Does the video indict Planned Parenthood itself?  Of course not.  Remember that Billy Long’s tweet said that “Planned Parenthood Advises ‘Pimp’ on Underage Sex Trafficking, Secret Abortions for Minors.”  The truth is, though, that Planned Parenthood had already alerted Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department of “potential sex trafficking” well before the Live Action video was released on February 1.  An AP story titled “Planned Parenthood seeks FBI probe” appeared on January 24.  That story noted that the FBI investigation was already under way

So, we have Planned Parenthood notifying federal authorities about suspicious visits to its clinics by men purporting to be sex traffickers prior to the release of the sting video. And we have Planned Parenthood firing an employee who acted improperly during one of those visits. 

Additionally, if one watches the sting video, one sees that Ms. Woodruff is very careful to note that what she is doing would get her in trouble, suggesting strongly that she knew her superiors would not approve of her actions. In that sense, the video exonerates Planned Parenthood as an organization, which isn’t exactly what its creators intended.

And if we applied the logic of this unseemly attack on Planned Parenthood to the so-called pro-life movement, we could say that the entire pro-life movement murdered Dr. George Tiller in Wichita.  Does anyone want to play that game?  Does our anti-choice congressman want me to tweet:


Shock Investigation: “pro-life” Billy Long “advised” Scott Roeder to kill Dr. Tiller


Huh?  Of course not.  That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it?

I want to end with a comment posted on Live Action’s website.  The passionate comment demonstrates why Planned Parenthood is so valuable:

commonsense permalink

This video is highly disturbing, however, I don’t believe for one minute that this is planned parenthood policy, that is condoned behavior, or that this type of behavior is rampant within planned parenthood. Hint #1 to this, would be the fact she specifically says “you didn’t hear this from me” (so must know she would be in trouble if she were heard saying any of this), the fact that she calls the nurse who actually treats the girls a c*nt, (I feel pretty safe presuming that nurse would not condone this behavior) and that there is no one else around.

This is disgusting, this is alarming, and this women should be dealt with swiftly and harshly, but there are bad seeds everywhere in life, as well as good ones. Planned parenthood as a whole should not be condemned for this.

I was young and poor many years ago, and the only female health care I could afford was planned parenthood. I found them to be very concerned, legitimate, and attentive to my health needs. I am quite certain if anyone in the office I went to thought I was being pimped, they’d have addressed it properly. This women didn’t call anyone right away and report it, because she is garbage…but someone else did!

Remarks and Asides

Yet another federal judge rejected arguments that our new health care law’s insurance mandate is unconstitutional.  This time it was in Virginia, via a lawsuit brought by Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, which is where Baptist brains go to die.

The “university” sued claiming not only that the Commerce Clause cannot be used to justify the mandate, but that the law violates the university’s religious rights (universities have religious rights?) because it forces the anti-choice zealots to subsidize abortion in some strange way that nobody can understand, including those who actually wrote the law. 

Oh, well.  It’s on to the Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court, where the zealots believe they have a fighting chance with their fellow zealots who happen to control the court.  God is good, you know.


Republican presidential hopefuls are demonstrating orgasmic enthusiasm for doing something about the WikiLeaks fiasco.  Something violent.

Mike Huckabee, whom God made governor of Arkansas as part of his Plan to make the Huckster president (it worked once before), not only wants to execute the source of the leaks, he also wants to execute the New York Times for publishing some of the leaks.  How do you electrocute a newspaper?  

Sarah Palin wants the President to hunt down WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is from the Land Down Under, like a terrorist marsupial:

Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?

Oh my God!  First Afghanistan, then Iraq, now Australia! 


Speaking of Sarah Palin, Joe Scarborough, a conservative with his own show on “liberal” MSNBC, has officially taken her on.  Well, actually he has taken on the Republican establishment for not taking her on:

If Republicans want to embrace Palin as a cultural icon whose anti-intellectualism fulfills a base political need, then have at it. I suppose it’s cheaper than therapy.

But if the party of Ronald Reagan, Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio wants to return to the White House anytime soon, it’s time that Republican leaders started standing up and speaking the truth to Palin.

Why speak the truth to her?  Why piss her off?  She’s not going to run for president, and anyone who wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party will need her loyal legions, whom she commands through Facebook and Twitter.  And it would be dumb, and unpresidential, to attack her for her anti-intellectualism, since that is what makes her so attractive to her anti-intellectual followers.

What was Scarborough thinking?


Speaking of anti-intellectuals, in case you missed it, Steve King, Republican congressman from Iowa, has his hood and robe all in a tangle over the fact that black farmers might get their due, after the USDA admitted it had discriminated against them between 1983 and 1997 by not loaning them money to purchase farms or to save the farms they had. 

King, a follower of Jesus Christ, said,

We’ve got to stand up at some point and say, ‘We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress.’ That war’s been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there’s no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one’s filing that claim.

But besides all that, did you know Obama supported the black farmers?  And did you know Obama was (whisper) b-l-a-c-k?  Well, actually King said Barack Obama was “very, very urban.” Apparently, that’s how folks in Sioux City and Council Bluffs refer to “negroes.”

Another fun fact about Steve King: Last year, the House voted to place a plaque in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center that would acknowledge the role of slavery in the construction of the Capitol.  The measure passed 399 to 1.  Yep. You guessed it. Here was part of King’s explanation:

This is just the latest example of a several year effort by liberals in Congress to scrub references to America’s Christian heritage from our nation’s Capitol. Liberals want to amend our country’s history to eradicate the role of Christianity in America and chisel references to God or faith from our historical buildings.

Our Judeo-Christian heritage is an essential foundation stone of our great nation and should not be held hostage to yet another effort to place guilt on future Americans for the sins of some of their ancestors.

This man sits on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil LibertiesWho knows, next January he may be the chairman. God willing.

Are Some Abortions More Humane Than Others?

On Thursday, a panel of outside experts will make a decision as to whether to recommend that the Food and Drug Administration approve a new “emergency contraceptive” pill called ella, which reportedly is effective up to as many as five days after unprotected sex.

The pill, which was approved for use in Europe last year, is guaranteed to start yet another fight over the issue of abortion, still very much a radioactive topic in America and one with a very long half-life.

My interest is not in whether the drug is an abortifacient (as anti-abortion folks claim) or whether it does not affect an existing pregnancy (as the reproductive-freedom folks claim). 

I will grant for the sake of argument that it is indeed an abortifacient.  Now what?

Surely, we can all agree that, even if ella or any similar drug actually induced an abortion, aborting a pregnancy within a few days of fertilization is better than waiting longer. 

If late-term abortions are axiomatically reprehensible, then surely abortions in the earliest possible stages are less reprehensible, right?  Who could argue with that?

Here is a color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a 2-3 day old human embryo, the cells of which are about 33 micrometers in diameter*:

And here is a color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph of a human embryo at 6 days and beginning to implant into the uterine lining:

[Credit for both images: Yorgos Nikas, Wellcome Images]

If abortion is a fact of life—and it is no matter the legality of it—then certainly it’s better if women who want to end their pregnancies have access to drugs that work early on to abort a small group of undifferentiated cells, rather than use other methods that work later, when there are recognizable human attributes.

The argument over the morality of abortion can go on despite women having access to what even anti-abortion advocates would have to concede is a more humane way of terminating pregnancies, assuming their claim about the abortifacient nature of the drugs is correct.

In fact, maybe that gesture of humanity would go a long way in convincing all of us of the righteousness of their cause.


*One strand of human hair is about 100 micrometers wide.

Oklahoma Legislature Embraces Big Brother

Just two paragraphs from a Macleans story say most of what needs to be said about the Republican hypocrisy on the issue of big government. 

The story is about the latest attempt by the “Republican-dominated Oklahoma legislature” to place the government between women—parents, really—and their doctors:

New legislation in Oklahoma means a woman seeking an abortion will have to undergo an ultrasound at least one hour before having the procedure, and listen as a doctor describes the fetus’s heartbeat, organs and lungs—even in cases of rape and incest…

A second law protecting doctors who withhold information about fetal defects from being sued by parents was also passed last week. Two other abortion bills are still on the table that, if passed, could make Oklahoma home to the most restrictive abortion laws in the U.S.

Even as conservatives protest Obama’s secret desire to curb our individual liberties and Tea Partiers all over the nation moan and groan about Big Brother’s long reach into our lives, the truth is that most conservatives love government when it obstructs the rights of women—even victims of rape—to obtain an abortion or when it prevents homosexuals from attaining 100% American citizenship or when it is killing terrorists in a far away land.

But when it comes to big oil, Wall Street, the insurance industry, and the rich, they suddenly don’t love government any more. They want government to get out of the way of corporate and monied interests and stick its nose in one of the most personal decisions anyone could ever make.

Phonies, all.

Woes Of The Pharisees

“They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders…”   

 —Jesus, on the Pharisees


Kaje, another Globeblogger, has alerted me to a fine example of conservative hypocrisy, this time perpetrated by Cynthia Davis, the strange Missouri House legislator and Christian bookseller from St. Charles County, aided and abetted by our own Marilyn Ruestman, whose defense of this duplicity can be found here.

These crusading conservative legislators have concocted a bill that truly would place the government in between a woman and her doctor.

HB 1327 would require a physician to utter government-coerced and government-approved speech to a woman seeking an abortion in the state of Missouri. 

Under the bill, doctors must give the following information: 

  •  …medically accurate information including a description of the proposed abortion method, the medical risks, alternatives to the abortion, and follow-up care information. 
  • The gestational age of the unborn child.
  • The anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child. 

In addition to these verbal mandates, other material and explanations must be provided, as demanded by the state. 

Now, when liberals propose legislation designed to provide health insurance to those who don’t now have it, conservatives claim that the government is taking over the health care system and  interfering with the doctor-patient relationship, which conservatives claim is sacrosanct. 

About the Democratic health care plan, Cynthia Davis has said: 

When we go to a national healthcare system, the first step is for government to gain greater control of our lives.

Apparently, her lying logic doesn’t apply to state government. 

Marilyn Ruestman was a co-sponsor of a bill that would require Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster “to file an independent lawsuit” in “challenging the constitutionality and validity” of the Democrats health care reform law because, among other things, it  “tramples upon the rights and prerogatives of states and their citizens.” 

However, when moralizing Christian legislators have a cause dear to their hearts, suddenly it’s okay for the state to use its power and trample on the rights of its citizens, including forcing doctors to speak for the Christian moralists and place psychological burdens on any woman seeking an abortion—a Constitutionally-protected procedure.

What a couple of Constitutional Pharisees.

The Issue Is Choice, Not Abortion

CBS has said no way to an add featuring a couple of football fans (boy-boy, of course) making out during a game, while it has decided to show Tim Tebow and his mother discussing the story of her refusal to get an abortion in the face of medical advice to do so.

Now, we can argue whether what the Tebow’s are advocating is proper for airing during the Super Bowl.  But since CBS paid a lot of money for the rights to broadcast the event, obviously it can choose to broadcast whatever commercials it wants.  Personally, I don’t care one way or the other.  If Focus on the Family wants to finance the Tebows’ message, so be it.  If pro-choice advocates don’t like it, they can pool their resources and counter its message.

Maybe they could have a commercial featuring a mother who elected to do what Tebow’s mom did but had vastly different results.  Maybe her son is now languishing in an institution somewhere that struggles for funding because Focus on the Family advocates “smaller government.”  Or maybe her son was born, suffered tremendously, and then died.  Such a mother could lament the choice she made.

The point is that pro-choice advocates, rather than attacking CBS or the ad, should begin to conduct an offensive of their own, designed to highlight the benefits of actually having a “choice” in the matter, like the choice Pam Tebow had.  After all, frequently, “pro-choice” means having the baby, rather than electing not to have it. Otherwise, being pro-choice can plausibly be seen as just a euphemism for being pro-abortion, as the enemies of choice have claimed, effectively, for years.

In any case, since the Tebow ad is unavailable for preview, here is the rejected add, which was sponsored by ManCrunch, a gay dating site:

Rita, Bill O’ And The Necessity Defense

An AP story in the Globe this morning examined an interesting legal question surrounding the upcoming trial of Scott Roeder, the “pro-lifer” charged with the murder of George Tiller in Wichita.

Roeder has confessed to the crime (to the AP, no less), so his guilt is not in doubt, but his apparent defense will be to contend in some way or another that the murder was “necessary” to prevent the killing of unborn “babies.”

Now, even though such a “necessity defense” or “choice of evils defense” will likely fail, I understand why someone like Roeder would raise it. In fact, I’ve written before about the difference between those people in the anti-abortion movement who are “serious” about the rhetoric they use and those who are not.

Many months ago, I criticized our own abortion foe and Globe letter-writer, Rita Crowell, who had submitted a letter to the paper in which she compared President Obama to King Herod, one of the worst figures in Christian history:

A vote for Obama is a vote for dead children and an attack on God Himself. Let us not elect a Herod in this forthcoming election.

I wrote in response:

…the real problem with Ms. Crowell’s position on abortion is that she isn’t serious. I mean really serious. Imagine if, in Springfield, Mo., there were hundreds of elementary schoolchildren being systematically slaughtered every year. Imagine Ms. Crowell knowing where such slaughter was being perpetrated. Imagine her finding out who was doing the killing. And then imagine her merely writing letters to the Joplin Globe about it.

No, what she would do, hopefully along with others who share her convictions about murdering schoolchildren, is go to the slaughterhouse and put a stop to it, even if violence against the perpetrators were necessary.

In the case of Scott Roeder, merely protesting in front of George Tiller’s clinic wasn’t enough for him.  He is one anti-abortion true believer who takes his beliefs seriously, who really believes that abortion is tantamount to murder, thus justifying his actions.  His beliefs, as abhorrent as they are, are buttressed by almost the entire “pro-life” culture, whose members, like Rita Crowell, routinely say and write things like the following:

The No. 1 issue for the forthcoming Nov. 4 election should be the elimination of abortion. Abortion is a grave sin, an unspeakable crime against God and nature. Elimination of abortion supersedes and overshadows all considerations of the economy, poverty, health care, war and illegal immigration. Abortion is concerned about whether an innocent child lives or dies.

Whether local people like Rita Crowell or national figures like Bill O’Reilly realize it or not, their extreme, Manichean rhetoric makes the world safe for Talibanic extremists like Roeder, who see themselves as God’s instruments to accomplish the “elimination of abortion.” 

To be sure, Ms. Crowell, despite her hate-filled missives to the Globe, is not directly responsible for Roeder’s actions. His decision to shoot Dr. Tiller at point-blank range was his and his alone.

But I certainly don’t remember the frequent letter-writer ever submitting a letter condemning the murder of Dr. Tiller, whose gruesome killing really did remind one of the King Herod of old.

The AP story indicates that Roeder’s attorneys probably won’t  use the necessity defense, a legal long shot, but instead:

Legal experts and others close to the case have suggested his public defenders may actually be aiming at a conviction on a lesser offense such as voluntary manslaughter — defined in Kansas as “an unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.”

Part of any “unreasonable but honest belief” would certainly include being persuaded by the incessant extremist rhetoric pervasive throughout the anti-abortion culture, even if most of those who author such rhetoric—hopefully that includes Rita Crowell—don’t take it as seriously as the Scott Roeders of the world.

Abortion and King Herod

Rita Crowell, a frequent letter-writer to the Joplin Globe, is all too typical of the kind of religious believer who tends to populate the fundamentalist and evangelical churches in our area, even if she happens to be Catholic. She is also typical of the religious fanatic who just assumes that all sensible people share her assumptions about the authority of Scripture, not to mention the extreme conclusions she draws from some of its passages. I label such people “certaintists,” which is shorthand for anyone who possesses certitude in unquantifiable and unjustifiable amounts.

In a letter to the Globe last fall, she claimed, “Abortion is a grave sin, an unspeakable crime against God and nature.” Such a breathtaking claim should at least come with a scriptural reference or two, but she offered us no biblical support. That’s because there aren’t many enlightening references to abortion in the Bible, and the usual conservative biblical position is derived from cobbling together various passages and attempting to derive a coherent understanding of God’s will. Truthfully, very limited inferences can be drawn from those “in the womb” passages that are usually cited as biblical support for the anti-abortion position.

I’ve always found it a bit odd that for such a stunningly important issue and, to many Christians, one so profoundly critical to our nation’s survival, the Bible is strangely silent. You’d think somewhere in all those Old Testament laws and regulations there would be one reference like, “Thou shalt not kill your baby before it’s born.” Something simple like that would settle the matter, at least for Bible-believers.

Ms. Crowell may be right that abortion is in some sense a crime against God and nature, but if it is she must do more to convince us than just say so. Merely saying it is a “sin” and moving on will not do it. There are some people who agree with her position on abortion without even believing in God. Nat Hentoff comes to mind.

Mr. Hentoff has written extensively about his anti-abortion views. He has also written about speaking before pro-life groups, many predominantly Christian. On one such occasion he made some anti-Republican comments, and the crowd’s aggressive reaction led him to believe that he had reason to fear for his safety:

As it happened, the souls on fire only wanted to say that I was in grievous error about these Christian presidents because I had not yet found God. Indeed, I often get letters from religious pro-lifers telling me that it is impossible for me to be simultaneously an atheist and a pro-lifer. Some of the pro-abortion-rights leaders whom I have debated are certain of the same correlation. No serious atheist, no Jewish atheist, no left-wing atheist could want to–as my fiercely pro-choice wife puts it–enslave women.

Yet being without theology isn’t the slightest hindrance to being pro-life. As any obstetrics manual—William’s Obstetrics, for example–points out, there are two patients involved, and the one not yet born “should be given the same meticulous care by the physician that we long have given the pregnant woman.” Nor, biologically, does it make any sense to draw life-or-death lines at viability. Once implantation takes place, this being has all the genetic information within that makes each human being unique. And he or she embodies continually developing human life from that point on. It misses a crucial point to say that the extermination can take place because the brain has not yet functioned or because that thing is not yet a “person.” Whether the life is cut off in the fourth week or the fourteenth, the victim is one of our species, and has been from the start.

If Ms. Crowell would make reasoned arguments such as these, instead of resorting to God-language or biblically-inspired injunctions, she may sound more convincing, or at least less hysterical.

In her letter she goes on to say, with the certainty of a certaintist, that, “A nation that allows the murder of its innocent children by abortion will never survive.” Again, she may be right, but what evidence, historical or otherwise, can she offer? There are many reasons why nations have failed, or may fail in the future, but if there is strong evidence that a cultural attitude toward abortion was or will be a significant factor, bring it on. Otherwise, such opinions are virtually worthless, if the goal is persuasion.

But even if Ms. Crowell’s abortion position had God’s blessing, surely she can’t be justified in any “Christian” sense to say something like the following about a fellow Christian:

A vote for Obama is a vote for dead children and an attack on God Himself. Let us not elect a Herod in this forthcoming election.

Leaving aside the questionable syntax, I think it is fairly clear what she means: Barack Obama cannot be a Christian. He is a bad man. He hates God.

To compare someone to Herod is, in the biblical sense, worse than comparing him to Hitler, Stalin, or, say, Bill Ayers. Herod, according to Matthew’s Gospel but no other extra-Biblical source, was guilty of killing little Bethlehem boys in hopes he would get the boy Jesus, presumably because the “Anointed One” would pose a threat to the King of Judea. Ms. Crowell, who I assume is a Christian in good standing, apparently has no reluctance about relegating another confessing believer to a level reserved for the worst of Christian super-fiends. Perhaps she needs to spend a little time in prayer over Matthew 7:1.

But the real problem with Ms. Crowell’s position on abortion is that she isn’t serious. I mean really serious. Imagine if, in Springfield, Mo., there were hundreds of elementary schoolchildren being systematically slaughtered every year. Imagine Ms. Crowell knowing where such slaughter was being perpetrated. Imagine her finding out who was doing the killing. And then imagine her merely writing letters to the Joplin Globe about it.

No, what she would do, hopefully along with others who share her convictions about murdering schoolchildren, is go to the slaughterhouse and put a stop to it, even if violence against the perpetrators were necessary.

But even though Ms. Crowell equates abortion with murder, even though in her mind terminating an early pregnancy is the same as slaughtering a second-grader, she does not—thank God—follow her belief to its logical conclusion. I would bet she does not support bombing abortion clinics or killing doctors who perform abortions. Even if she did support such things, I would bet she doesn’t support jailing or executing women who seek and receive abortions. My question would be, given her abortion-is-murder claim, why not?

If what goes on in abortion clinics is tantamount to murder, then how in good conscience do abortion opponents live with it in their midst? The truth is that most of them do not really, in any profound moral sense, believe that terminating a pregnancy is like killing a kindergartner. There is something different about it, even if that something is not readily definable or explainable. This very fact alone should give pause to those who go to such extremes to label people who disagree with them, “Herods” and “babykillers.”

None of this is to say that there aren’t legitimate concerns about the prevalence of abortion and what that prevalence says about our culture. As President Obama put it:

I do think that those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren’t expressing the full reality of it. But what I believe is that women do not make these decisions casually, and that they struggle with it fervently with their pastors, with their spouses, with their doctors.

Our goal should be to make abortion less common, that we should be discouraging unwanted pregnancies, that we should encourage adoption wherever possible. There is a range of ways that we can educate our young people about the sacredness of sex and we should not be promoting the sort of casual activities that end up resulting in so many unwanted pregnancies.

Ultimately, women are in the best position to make a decision at the end of the day about these issues.

Doesn’t sound like King Herod to me.



From Kaje:

Friday, March 6, 2009, 05:11 PM

Hey Duane,

I’ve been a reader of the letters to the Globe for years. I’m such a fan I even have my own blog dedicated to them.

Rita is one of my favorite regulars. Where else can you find such crazy on such a regular basis? Still, I have suspicions that she’s much more than she appears to be.

But no matter how much I enjoy the unintentional hilarity of the Voices page, it’s always so much more refreshing to read the words of someone who actually has something rattling around in their brain case. For this I thank you. You’re a breath of fresh air.

Keep writing!

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