Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) To Resign Monday

Robin Marty

Congressman Eric Massa (D - N.Y.) will resign from the House on Monday morning.

Less than 48 hours after announcing he would not be running for re-election, Congressman Eric Massa (D – N.Y.) will now be resigning on Monday morning.  Sources within his office confirmed the rumor to Time magazine.

Massa, a first term congressman, stated Wednesday that he would not be running again due to health issues stemming from his previous brush with cancer.  Allegations quickly rose that he was in fact involved in an ethics controversy involving harassment of a male staffer.

Massa was a key vote against the Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House.  His conservative district in New York will no doubt move even higher on the Republican Party’s list of key races for 2010.

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Commentary Abortion

Rep. Justin Harris Wants to Make It Harder for Teenage Rape Survivors to Get Abortions

Amanda Marcotte

Arkansas state Rep. Justin Harris, who handed his adopted daughters over to a man who raped one of them, still thinks he's entitled to pass legislation that could force teen girls to bear their rapist's child.

The news out of Arkansas the last few weeks just keeps getting more horrifying. First it was revealed that state Rep. Justin Harris (R-West Fork) had once employed Eric Cameron Francis, a man accused of raping a 6-year-old girl last year, at Harris’ day care, Growing God’s Kingdom Preschool. Then it was discovered that Harris had actually given the little girl in question over to Francis, after having adopted and then “rehomed” her when Harris and his wife felt they couldn’t care for the girl or her little sister any longer. Then there were reports that Harris believed the girls, who had suffered abuse in their biological mother’s home, were possessed by demons and had subjected them to “exorcism.” Oh yeah, and while Harris loves bashing other people for getting government money, there are allegations that he continued to cash the checks he got for adopting the girls even after they were “rehomed.” And that’s on top of the dazzling stream of money he got—$4 million so far—from the government to run his day care, even though there are strong indications that the facility—which, again, is called Growing God’s Kingdom—was not following rules forbidding religious indoctrination.

Could this story get any worse? Of course! Now it’s been revealed that Harris is sponsoring a bill that could force underage rape victims to bear their rapist’s children. Despite his public statements expressing sadness over his adopted daughter being assaulted by the man he gave her over to, Harris appears not to have learned a single thing about compassion or empathy for rape survivors.

The bill in question, HB 1424, would change Arkansas’s current parental consent law to make it harder for underage rape victims to get abortions. Right now, the law requires minors who want abortions to either get parental consent to do so or subject themselves to the humiliating, arbitrary judicial bypass process. However, there is an exception for girls who have become pregnant through rape or incest. This new legislation would remove that exception. Apparently, Harris and his colleagues don’t think life is hard enough already for these individuals.

To make it worse, this kind of legislation might actually force teenagers to ask their own rapists for “permission” to abort, given, again, the parental consent clause. A lot of sexual abuse of minors happens in the home, often at the hands of people who are supposed to be the child’s guardians. Harris really should know this. After all, not only were the girls he adopted exposed to sexual abuse in their original home, but he handed them over to a man who raped one of them. If he had a lick of sense in him at all, he would know better than anyone how adolescents are sometimes abused at the hands of people who are supposed to be caring for them.

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But instead of learning anything, he evidently wants to give men who rape their daughters more control over whether or not their victims will have their baby. He’s also working to make judicial bypass harder to get, so all girls, rape victims or not, will have to endure more obstacles—and take more time that may push them over the legal threshold—to get an abortion. Harris needs to worry a little less about alleged demons and pay a little more attention to the evil in the real world—the kind of evil he is perpetuating by trying to restrict abortion care for rape survivors. 

This additional restriction isn’t just about girls who have endured assault at the hands of their family members, either. Not every rape survivor has a loving and supportive family. Take, for instance, this “men’s rights activist” that Jeff Sharlet interviewed for GQ:

A sore point for Factory, who has two daughters, who, like young women everywhere, he says, compete for the most exaggerated rape claim. It is, he says, a status thing. When one of his daughters came home one night and said she’d been raped, he said, “Are you fucking kidding me?” Sitting with us, he hikes his voice up to a falsetto in imitation: “‘Oh, I just got raped.'” He laughs. There’s a moment of silence. A bridge too far? “I told her if she pressed charges, I’d disown her.”

If the daughter of a man like that is pregnant from rape, what are the odds that she’s going to be able to talk through her options with her parents? Basically zero.

I am somewhat grateful to Justin Harris in one way: By sponsoring this bill, he has become the perfect distillation of the entire patriarchal conservative Christian mentality. Not just because he is alleged to have done exorcisms on both his adopted daughters and on the kids in his day care while ignoring or even perpetuating ordinary human evil. No, Harris perfectly embodies the Christian right because he’s all about mindless, unquestioning support of control over women’s bodies.

Emphasis on mindless. After all, all these restrictions on abortion are created under the assumption that women and girls cannot be trusted to make the best decisions for themselves about their own bodies and therefore need someone else—politicians, judges, or parents—to decide for them. Harris, with his strict anti-choice views, clearly believes he deserves more say over a woman’s body than she does.

There’s also a deeper irony in this story. Harris felt entitled to say “no thank you” to raising two little girls, after he had asked for them, overruled people’s reported objections to adopting them, and finalized the adoption—all because he and his wife realized after the fact that they were in over their heads. But while he reserved the ability to say “no” to parenthood after making all these commitments, he wants to begrudge women who are saying “no” responsibly, by doing it before they have a baby and before someone else has come to depend on them, of the same right. This isn’t even “abortion for me and not for thee.” Harris, as a mighty patriarch, wants to put his personal comfort before the needs of actual human beings who require care, all while demanding that women sacrifice their own wellbeing for people that don’t even exist yet.

The hypocrisy and cruelty on display here is truly astounding. Harris is a man who has amply demonstrated that he can’t handle taking responsibility for himself and his family, but he still mindlessly demands control over the bodies of teen girls, even those who have been raped. Looking over the landscape, it’s hard not to wonder if this country would be better off if we took all the conservative men out of government and replaced them with teenage girls. After all, teen girls seem to be better decision-makers.

News Politics

Tommy Thompson Wisconsin GOP Senate Nomination, Faces Baldwin

Robin Marty

The former Health and Human Services Secretary pulls off a win over three other challengers.

The defeat of Democratic Senator Russ Feingold at the hands of Republican Ron Johnson in 2010 was one of the biggest political surprises to hit Wisconsin in years. The next biggest? Whether former governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson could win in a four way primary.

Thompson will go on to face Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the November general election. The victor in that race is likely to be linked to successful presidential candidate in the state, and a sign of whether or not Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s coattails were strong enough to bring out the GOP for Romney.

Although four Republicans were running, the real race has turned into a three-way between former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, former Congressman Mark Neumann, and businessman Eric Hovde. The race was originally believed to be a fight between Thompson and Neumann, and a classic “establishment v. Tea Party” narrative, until a last minute surge by Hovde, who has also been garnering Tea Party support, and has used his mostly self-funded campaign to attack Thompson.

Heading into the primary itself, however, the winner was anyone’s guess.

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Regardless of who won the nomination, Baldwin’s campaign was taking nothing for granted. Yesterday they announced that she is the first politician to be endorsed by LPAC, the country’s first lesbian super PAC.

“Tomorrow morning, Tammy will have a challenger, who will be able to spend 100% of his energy attacking her. Secret groups funded by the Koch brothers, the US Chamber of Commerce, and Karl Rove have already spent millions of dollars attacking Tammy. Because she stands up for women. Because she believes in economic justice. Because she’s a lesbian.”

Baldwin was unconcerned about who gets the final nod. “Whoever emerges from the bitter GOP primary battle tomorrow, I’ll be ready,” the congresswoman stated via twitter.

Ready she was. Within moments of the race being called for Thompson, Baldwin released the following statement tying him to the GOP and especially the reactionary “Ryan Budget” being touted by the likely vice presidential nominee.

Tommy Thompson supports the policies of the past. Policies that have failed. Policies from the past that crashed our economy, and got us into our fiscal mess in the first place. He believes we should slash the very investments we need to move our economy forward, in education, innovation, and infrastructure — all while cutting taxes for those at the very top. 

Tommy Thompson would actually cut taxes for millionaires like himself while increasing taxes on the middle class, increasing out-of-pocket health care costs for seniors, increasing the cost of higher education for students and their families, and ending Medicare as we know it for future generations. 

That is not the America we believe in and it is not the Wisconsin we believe in. I believe that path is wrong for Wisconsin, wrong for our nation, and that we need to do what’s right for the middle class.”

Thompson and Baldwin are facing off to replace Democratic Senator Herb Kohl, who is retiring at the end of the year, and is part of the equation in which party holds the Senate in the fall.