Nick Cannon: Anti-Choice Double Standards on the Airwaves

Sarah Seltzer

It would be nice if Cannon could treat all women the way he'd like his own wife, sisters and daughters to be treated; with respect and privacy to make their own reproductive decisions.

In my household, we’ve recently started listening to top 40 radio morning shows because the loud music, gossipy tone and cracking noise of listener call-ins is a great formula for vaulting us out of bed. Our recent station of choice features a daily show hosted by Nick Cannon, the rapper and R+B singer who made headlines when he married the much older Mariah Carey (both had clearly had previous intimate experience, but made a giggly fuss about waiting to consummate their love until their marriage). Cannon appears to have recently been making a new bid to become another Ryan Seacrest-type all-around celebrity, thanks to this radio gig, and his job hosting “America’s Got Talent” which has sidelined his unexciting singing career.

But last week, I heard a discussion on his show that really had me jumping out of bed–a debate over the new emergency contraceptive pill, “ella.” My flag was immediately raised because Cannon belongs to a special class of celebrity whose personal story influences their political views: that is the “my mom didn’t abort me, therefore abortion is wrong” spokespeople, with Tim Tebow the most famous and egregious example.

Back in the day, Cannon released a song called “Can I Live?” sung from the perspective of a fetus to its mother. It’s a silly, sentimental and nonsensical song that launched a thousand jokes and parodies, but its tone is dead serious. You can listen to it here and catch a sample of lyrics (“mommy, I don’t like this clinic”) at this Bitch magazine blog post comparing Cannon’s position on the issues to Tebow’s.

Writes Kelsey Wallace:

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With lyrics like ‘Your friends will look at you funny but look at you mommy/ That’s a life inside you look at your tummy/ What is becoming ma I am Oprah bound/ You can tell he’s a star from the Ultrasound.”

Mr. Mariah Carey’s message is pretty clear. Though Cannon claims to be ‘passing no judgment’ it is obvious that he wants us to leave this video with the idea that an unplanned pregnancy could result in a guest appearance on Oprah if only the woman in question is willing to make the sacrifice.

This line of thinking on the part of celebrities like Cannon and Tebow also underscores the fact that anti-choice crusaders often come from personal experiences that make them feel negatively towards abortion: they regretted an abortion or “my mother chose life” therefore everyone’s circumstances must mirror theirs. Meanwhile the pro-choice position is one of empathy and nonjudgment for people whose circumstances may be vastly different from their own. The Cannon-Tebow position also defies logic: our own Amanda Marcotte has done an excellent job debunking the “what if your mother had aborted you?” line of thinking here at Rewire.

To ask it is to ignore the fact that any of us exist by pure chance, and that many things could have changed it so we weren’t here.  What if your parents never met at all?  …Men make enough sperm in a week to populate the planet; women are born with almost half a million eggs.  Many eggs that are fertilized never even implant, and even when pregnancy happens, 15 to 20 percent miscarry… This creates a lot of “what ifs” that never come to fruition, and obsessing over what if too long will drive you mad.  On any given day, there are billions of theoretical babies never born for the thousands that are born.

Cannon, a typically jovial media personality who mixes a juvenile interest in celebrity scandals, a share it all attitude about his own sex life, with an occasionally moralizing tone, doesn’t seem to have a coherent and rational perspective to offer, but his anti-choice side keeps poking out. You can listen to some of last week’s program here at Cannon’s website, where he seems to take pride in tackling such a “controversial” topic and describes “ella” thus:

“The ELLA Pill works almost as homemade abortions [sic] but was still recently given the official ‘OK’ to be used in the country.” 

During the course of the radio recording he initially makes a crack about all the women he’s sent running for the morning-after pill (yuk, yuk) and then later jokes about women who need prescriptions for the pill being “whores”– mixed messages. Meanwhile his patient female sidekick Nikki explains over and over again that it’s an emergency pill that won’t somehow open the door for unsafe sex. He also can’t seem to get it into his head that the pill is not an abortion pill  It’s a shame to hear someone with such a huge platform spouting psuedo-science and poorly-informed opinion straight out of the Concerned Women for America playbook. As Cannon’s star rises and he becomes a higher-profile celebrity, expect more of his distaste for women’s reproductive rights to be trumpeted out as well, with caveats about everyone’s experience being different, but…

Nick Cannon isn’t the first celebrity to spout ill-informed opinions. There are plenty of celebs on the left and right who adhere to conspiracy theories and bunk science. But it’s a particular shame considering the fact that Cannon’s wife, Mariah Carey, has long been held under scrutiny over her body and her choices, including a recent tabloid obsession over whether or not she’s expecting a child. As Jezebel’s Dodai Stewart wrote:

“Gossips are prying so deep into Mariah’s uterus that they sourced a dress she wore as coming from maternity store A Pea In The Pod.”

It would be nice if Cannon, like other men in this country, could treat women at large the way they’d like their own wives, sisters and daughters to be treated; with respect and the privacy to make their own reproductive decisions.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Selects Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to Join His Ticket

Ally Boguhn

And in other news, Donald Trump suggested that he can relate to Black people who are discriminated against because the system has been rigged against him, too. But he stopped short of saying he understood the experiences of Black Americans.

Donald Trump announced this week that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to join him as his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, and earlier in the week, the presumptive presidential nominee suggested to Fox News that he could relate to Black Americans because the “system is rigged” against him too.

Pence Selected to Join the GOP Ticket 

After weeks of speculation over who the presumptive nominee would chose as his vice presidential candidate, Trump announced Friday that he had chosen Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, adding that he will make the official announcement on Saturday during a news conference.

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The presumptive Republican nominee was originally slated to host the news conference Friday, but postponed in response to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. As late as Thursday evening, Trump told Fox News that he had not made a final decision on who would join his ticket—even as news reports came in that he had already selected Pence for the position.

As Rewire Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson explained in a Thursday commentary, Pence “has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs.” Jacobson further explained: 

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a ‘religious freedom’ law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only ‘amended’ it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his ‘conservative values,’ rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

Trump Suggests He Can Relate to Black Americans Because “Even Against Me the System Is Rigged”

Trump suggested to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he could relate to the discrimination Black Americans face since “the system [was] rigged” against him when he began his run for president.

When asked during a Tuesday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor what he would say to those “who believe that the system is biased against them” because they are Black, Trump leaped to highlight what he deemed to be discrimination he had faced. “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying [is] they are not necessarily wrong,” Trump went on. “I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play,” he said, concluding that he could “relate it, really, very much to myself.”

When O’Reilly asked Trump to specify whether he truly understood the “experience” of Black Americans, Trump said that he couldn’t, necessarily. 

“I would like to say yes, but you really can’t unless you are African American,” said Trump. “I would like to say yes, however.”

Trump has consistently struggled to connect with Black voters during his 2016 presidential run. Despite claiming to have “a great relationship with the blacks,” the presumptive Republican nominee has come under intense scrutiny for using inflammatory rhetoric and initially failing to condemn white supremacists who offered him their support.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Tuesday, Trump is polling at 0 percent among Black voters in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What Else We’re Reading

Newt Gingrich, who was one of Trump’s finalists for the vice presidential spot, reacted to the terrorist attack in Nice, France, by calling for all those in the United States with a “Muslim background” to face a test to determine if they “believe in sharia” and should be deported.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a public option for health insurance.

Bloomberg Politics’ Greg Stohr reports that election-related cases—including those involving voter-identification requirements and Ohio’s early-voting period—are moving toward the Supreme Court, where they are “risking deadlocks.”

According to a Reuters review of GOP-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules, “as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds” a 2013 law that bans voters from casting ballots outside of their assigned precincts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the election goals and strategies of anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, explaining that the organization plans to work to ensure that policy goals such as a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood “are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts.”

Multiple “dark money” nonprofits once connected to the Koch brothers’ network were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week after hiding funding sources for 2010 political ads. They will now be required to “amend past FEC filings to disclose who provided their funding,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum and Ben Weyl explain how Trump’s budget would end up “making the deficit great again.”

“The 2016 Democratic platform has the strongest language on voting rights in the party’s history,” according to the Nation’s Ari Berman.

News Abortion

Anti-Choice Legislator Confirms Vote on House Conscience Protections (Updated)

Christine Grimaldi

The Conscience Protection Act would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Act allows providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

UPDATE: July 14, 10 a.m.: The House passed the Conscience Protection Act Wednesday night in a largely party line 245-182 vote. Prior to floor consideration, House Republicans stripped the text of an unrelated Senate-passed bill (S. 304) and replaced it with the Conscience Protection Act. They likely did so to skip the Senate committee referral process, House Democratic aides told Rewire, expediting consideration across the capitol and, in theory, ushering a final bill to the president’s desk. President Barack Obama, however, would veto the Conscience Protection Act, according to a statement of administration policy.

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote next Wednesday on legislation that would allow a broadened swath of health-care providers to sue if they’re supposedly coerced into providing abortion care, or if they face discrimination for refusing to provide such care, according to a prominent anti-choice lawmaker.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told Rewire in a Friday morning interview that House leadership confirmed a vote on the Conscience Protection Act (H.R. 4828) for July 13, days before the chamber adjourns for the presidential nominating conventions and the August recess. Pitts said he expects the bill to be brought up as a standalone measure, rather than as an amendment to any of the spending bills that have seen Republican amendments attacking a range of reproductive health care and LGBTQ protections.

The office of U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had no immediate comment.

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Pitts’ remarks came during and after he hosted a “Forum on Conscience Protections” in the House Energy and Commerce Committee room to garner support for the bill.

Energy and Commerce Democrats boycotted the forum, a House Democratic aide told Rewire in a subsequent interview.

Legislation Builds on Precedent

Conscience protections are nothing new, the aide said. The latest iteration is a successor to the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (S. 1919/H.R. 940), which remains pending in the House and U.S. Senate. There’s also the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (S. 50) and similarly named bills in both chambers. The fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health, and Human Services funding bill, which guts Title X and Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, includes the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

At the leadership level, Ryan’s recently released health-care plan mimics key provisions in the Conscience Protection Act. Both would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face alleged coercion or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in abortion care. The Conscience Protection Act goes a step further, allowing providers to sue not only for threats, but also for perceived threats.

The proposals would also codify and expand the Weldon Amendment, named for former Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who participated in Pitts’ conscience forum. The Weldon Amendment prohibits states that receive federal family planning funding from discriminating against health-care plans based on whether they cover abortion care. Currently, Congress must pass Weldon every year as an amendment to annual appropriations bills.

Administration Action Provides Impetus

There hadn’t been much public dialogue around conscience protections with the exception of some anti-choice groups that “have really been all over it,” the aide said. The National Right to Life issued an action alert, as did the Susan B. Anthony List, to galvanize support for the Conscience Protection Act.

The relative silence on the issue began to break after the Obama administration took a stand on abortion care in June.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights rejected anti-choice groups’ “right of conscience” complaint against California’s requirement that insurance plans must cover elective abortions under the definition of “basic health-care services.” Anti-choice groups had argued the California law violates the Weldon Amendment, but the administration found otherwise.

The California decision reinvigorated support for the Conscience Protection Act, the aide said. Ryan’s earlier health-care plan also specifically references the decision.

“We think this is going to be a big issue for us throughout the rest of this Congress,” the aide said.

Aide Outlines Additional Consequences

Beyond creating a private right of action and codifying Weldon, the Conscience Protection Act contains additional consequences for abortion care, the aide said.

The legislation would expand the definition of health-care providers to employers, social service organizations, and any other entity that offers insurance coverage, allowing them to raise objections under Weldon, the aide said. The aide characterized the change as a direct response to the California decision.

The legislation also broadens the list of objectionable services to include facilitating or making arrangements for abortion care, according to the aide.

The Republican-dominated House is likely to pass the Conscience Protection Act. But the aide did not expect it to advance in the Senate, which would all but certainly require a 60-vote threshold for such a controversial measure. More than anything, the aide said, the bill seems to be catering to anti-choice groups and long-time proponents of conscience clauses.

“The House oftentimes will pass these kinds of anti-choice proposals, and then they just go nowhere in the Senate,” the aide said.