Katamari Wingnuttery

Amanda Marcotte

Abortion can't fairly be considered a "single issue" issue for the right -- it's better characterized as a Trojan Horse for a whole host of right wing-nuttery that has trouble breaking into the mainstream.

Mike Huckabee plays an "aw shucks" nice guy who just happens to have bone-ignorant opinions on social issues for most campaign stops, but make no mistake, his recent speech at a gathering of Christian conservatives demonstrated that his opinions on abortion are born more out of mean-spiritedness than homegrown ignorance. His statements were a perfect storm of all sorts of hard-right hobby horses.

"Sometimes we talk about why we're importing so many people in our workforce," the former Arkansas governor said. "It might be for the last 35 years, we have aborted more than a million people who would have been in our workforce had we not had the holocaust of liberalized abortion under a flawed Supreme Court ruling in 1973."

But this column is not about Mike Huckabee's views. Most of the surprise at his statements comes from the astonishment that he made them in public, not at what he believes. This column is about why abortion can't fairly be considered a "single issue" issue, as it's commonly treated, and how it's better characterized as a Trojan Horse for a whole host of right wing-nuttery that has trouble breaking into the mainstream, precisely due to the nuttery factor.

Or actually, the better metaphor might be the video game Katamari Damacy, a game where you play this little dude who rolls up all sorts of things, from candy to toys to pets to cars to people, into a big ball of crap. Trust me, it's more fun than it might seem at first glance. Because a lot of otherwise rational people both have issues with female sexuality and with the sense that abortion is icky, anti-choicers have a sense that abortion is their sticky issue that will get people's attention, and then they can roll up all sorts of other issues into it like it's an abortion katamari. Sometimes they fail at keeping people's attention, and sometimes their radical ideas about banning contraception will just turn people off, but they succeed often enough that it's worth paying some attention to what right wing hobby horses they're trying to attach to the abortion issue. Huckabee's little comment points to some.

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The swarthy menace from the South. Irate that someone is speaking Spanish to a friend in front of you in line at the grocery store and you can't understand what he's saying? Blame the sluts of America for the dent in your eavesdropping opportunities. If fornicating women just took their baby-punishment like the good Lord intended, the thinking goes, then we'd have a hefty bastard population to fill our cheap labor needs and wouldn't have to "import" Mexican nationals to do it.

It's hard to gauge how well this idea will go over with the general public. People can be whipped into a racist frenzy fairly easily, on occasion. However, most people probably will not cozy up to the argument that they should have more kids than they can afford to drive down wages, just so that everyone in their family can enjoy the pleasures of sleeping six to a bed. Maybe it would work better if they were reminded that six to a bed supplies the warmth you can't buy in utilities with your brand spanking new $5-a-day wages.

What Holocaust? The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has a good FAQ sheet on why the constant invoking of the Holocaust as a point of comparison to abortion is so insulting and wrong-headed. Calling abortion a "holocaust" has a twofold purpose, the first being that it implies that 1/3 of American women are genocidal towards their own offspring (not sure how that is supposed to work, but maybe if you think men make babies by themselves and just leave them hanging out in wombs, it makes more sense). The second and also relevant point is that it makes Nazis look like sweet, cuddly teddy bears compared to the whores of America who wish to control their own fertility. And while it's not strictly Holocaust denial, it's close enough to it.

It's hard to understand why so many right wingers see the allure of minimizing the atrocities of the Nazis, but it's worth noting that the Nazi regime was "pro-life," i.e. anti-abortion, and used roughly the same line about how we need to make more of us and have less of them that appeals so strongly to the people raising the connection between abortion and illegal immigration. The appeal of imagining that fornicating American women are worse than Nazis might be a way of reconciling some of those unpleasant comparisons.

Liberals are the real bad guys. A common right wing tactic to distract from their racism is to point to liberals and claim that they're the real racists, that liberal attempts to address poverty are a secret conspiracy to get poor black people dependent on eating and housing, so that we can control them to do our bidding, and that affirmative action programs are secret attempts to hurt black people by LOOK A PONY!

Yeah, the tactic doesn't work very well, but it's hoped that abortion will make the ridiculous story stick. After all, black women get abortions and maybe if you wave your hands hard enough, you can make people believe that liberals are making them do it at gunpoint. A story about how black women are being deprived of the opportunity to be treated like ambulatory wombs doesn't strike me as anything but another stripe of racism, as does the idea that black people are dumb enough to buy the idea that right wingers want to ban abortion out of anti-racist sentiment. One is forced to conclude that the "black genocide" story is one white conservatives tell themselves to give themselves a boost of moral superiority, but that it doesn't really translate into any kind of mainstreaming of their ideas.

News Politics

Missouri ‘Witch Hunt Hearings’ Modeled on Anti-Choice Congressional Crusade

Christine Grimaldi

Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) said the Missouri General Assembly's "witch hunt hearings" were "closely modeled" on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans' special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life.

Congressional Republicans are responsible for perpetuating widely discredited and often inflammatory allegations about fetal tissue and abortion care practices for a year and counting. Their actions may have charted the course for at least one Republican-controlled state legislature to advance an anti-choice agenda based on a fabricated market in aborted “baby body parts.”

“They say that a lot in Missouri,” state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) told Rewire in an interview at the Democratic National Convention last month.

Newman is a longtime abortion rights advocate who proposed legislation that would subject firearms purchases to the same types of restrictions, including mandatory waiting periods, as abortion care.

Newman said the Missouri General Assembly’s “witch hunt hearings” were “closely modeled” on those in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, she drew parallels between Republicans’ special investigative bodies—the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Missouri Senate’s Committee on the Sanctity of Life. Both formed last year in response to videos from the anti-choice front group the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) accusing Planned Parenthood of profiting from fetal tissue donations. Both released reports last month condemning the reproductive health-care provider even though Missouri’s attorney general, among officials in 13 states to date, and three congressional investigations all previously found no evidence of wrongdoing.

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Missouri state Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R), the chair of the committee, and his colleagues alleged that the report potentially contradicted the attorney general’s findings. Schaefer’s district includes the University of Missouri, which ended a 26-year relationship with Planned Parenthood as anti-choice state lawmakers ramped up their inquiries in the legislature. Schaefer’s refusal to confront evidence to the contrary aligned with how Newman described his leadership of the committee.

“It was based on what was going on in Congress, but then Kurt Schaefer took it a step further,” Newman said.

As Schaefer waged an ultimately unsuccessful campaign in the Missouri Republican attorney general primary, the once moderate Republican “felt he needed to jump on the extreme [anti-choice] bandwagon,” she said.

Schaefer in April sought to punish the head of Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis affiliate with fines and jail time for protecting patient documents he had subpoenaed. The state senate suspended contempt proceedings against Mary Kogut, the CEO of Planned Parenthood of St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, reaching an agreement before the end of the month, according to news reports.

Newman speculated that Schaefer’s threats thwarted an omnibus abortion bill (HB 1953, SB 644) from proceeding before the end of the 2016 legislative session in May, despite Republican majorities in the Missouri house and senate.

“I think it was part of the compromise that they came up with Planned Parenthood, when they realized their backs [were] against the wall, because she was not, obviously, going to illegally turn over medical records.” Newman said of her Republican colleagues.

Republicans on the select panel in Washington have frequently made similar complaints, and threats, in their pursuit of subpoenas.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the chair of the select panel, in May pledged “to pursue all means necessary” to obtain documents from the tissue procurement company targeted in the CMP videos. In June, she told a conservative crowd at the faith-based Road to Majority conference that she planned to start contempt of Congress proceedings after little cooperation from “middle men” and their suppliers—“big abortion.” By July, Blackburn seemingly walked back that pledge in front of reporters at a press conference where she unveiled the select panel’s interim report.

The investigations share another common denominator: a lack of transparency about how much money they have cost taxpayers.

“The excuse that’s come back from leadership, both [in the] House and the Senate, is that not everybody has turned in their expense reports,” Newman said. Republicans have used “every stalling tactic” to rebuff inquiries from her and reporters in the state, she said.

Congressional Republicans with varying degrees of oversight over the select panel—Blackburn, House Speaker Paul Ryan (WI), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI)—all declined to answer Rewire’s funding questions. Rewire confirmed with a high-ranking GOP aide that Republicans budgeted $1.2 million for the investigation through the end of the year.

Blackburn is expected to resume the panel’s activities after Congress returns from recess in early September. Schaeffer and his fellow Republicans on the committee indicated in their report that an investigation could continue in the 2017 legislative session, which begins in January.

News Law and Policy

Purvi Patel Could Be Released From Jail by September

Jessica Mason Pieklo

In 2013, investigators charged Patel with both feticide and felony neglect of a dependent, based on the theory that Patel had self-induced an abortion and delivered a live infant, which then almost immediately died post-delivery.

The State of Indiana will not appeal a decision vacating the feticide conviction of Purvi Patel, the Granger woman who had previously faced 20 years in prison for what state attorneys described as an illegal self-induced abortion.

Patel was arrested in 2013 after she sought treatment at a hospital emergency room for heavy vaginal bleeding. While being examined by medical personnel, Patel told doctors she’d had a miscarriage and had disposed of the remains. Investigators located those remains and eventually charged Patel with both feticide and felony neglect of a dependent, based on the theory that Patel had self-induced an abortion and delivered a live infant, which then almost immediately died post-delivery. In February 2015, a jury convicted Patel of both counts.

But in July, the Indiana Court of Appeals vacated Patel’s feticide conviction, holding the statute was not designed to be used to criminally charge people for their own failed pregnancies. However, the court largely upheld Patel’s felony neglect of a dependent conviction, deferring to controversial medical testimony offered by the state that claimed Patel’s fetus was on the cusp of viability and had taken a breath outside her post-delivery.

Patel had initially been sentenced to serve a total of 20 years. But because attorneys for the state failed to appeal the July decision, she could be available for re-sentencing as soon as the court can schedule a hearing—which could mean a possible release as early as September, depending on her new sentence and credit for time served.

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