Commentary Politics

Sex Education for Politicians – Herman Cain Edition

Debra Haffner

As a new allegation emerges against Republican Presidential hopeful, Herman Cain (this time of a long-term, extramarital affair), it is once again time for politicians to get a little sex education. 

I’ve written a version of this column several times before.  I think the first one was pre-blogging in a piece on Bill Clinton.  Most recently, I wrote a similar blog on Anthony Weiner and John Edwards.  Herman Cain is the latest public figure in the long line of men in or seeking public office who have risked their families and careers for sex.  In addition to the allegations of sexual harassment that have come to light over the past month or so, a woman is now alleging that she and Mr. Cain had a long-term affair that started over thirteen years ago and ended only when he began his campaign. Surely if the allegations are found to be true, Mr. Cain had to know that they would likely come out during his campaign.  Surely he might have remembered what happened to Gary Hart during his run for the Presidency. 

There’s not much new about this. There have been many well-known men who have potentially risked everything for a sexual encounter, relationship, or thrill. Think Gary Hart, Marv Alpert, Bill Clinton, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Bill Cosby, Elliot Spitzer, Bill O’Reilly, and Mark Sanford. Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Cosby continue on with their work and Mr. Spitzer got a TV show; others have not been so lucky.

One can legitimately wonder whether it is appropriate for us to know about politicians private sexual lives, particularly as a qualification for office.  While Mr. Cain was denying the affair on CNN, his attorney Lin Wood said just that

“This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace—this is not an accusation of an assault—which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate. Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults—a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public.  No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life.  The public’s right to know and the media’s right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one’s bedroom door.”

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I support that right to privacy, and think that the best answer is, “this is a private family matter that I will not discuss” rather than “I did not have sex with that woman” which only impels the media investigation forward.  We already know about Newt Gingrich’s divorcing two wives, one while she was in the hospital, and so his past stays off the front page. 

But I also think that in our 24/7 tabloid-driven news cycle people in the public eye, whether politicians, clergy, or celebrities, need to know that nothing is ever really private for them.  And more importantly, that a sexually healthy adult understands the difference between sexual behaviors that are life enhancing and those that might be harmful to oneself or other.

Here are some other basic principles for sexually healthy adults.  My fantasy would be that every public figure would read them.   

Honor your commitments to your partner. A sexually healthy marriage is based on honesty and trust; only you and your spouse know what you have agreed to, but don’t put her in the position of having to stand by you at a microphone while you confess to the entire world. Keep that picture in your head as you are considering your behaviors. I think it is unlikely that Mrs. Cain had agreed to an open marriage or one where her husband could have private dinners and cab rides with a succession of women.

Understand that you can have a sexual feeling without acting on itwithout even telling anyone about it.  As I have said—if Bill Clinton had thought to himself, “Cute Intern. Too Young, Too Risky” and moved on, he would not have been impeached. If your partner isn’t interested in exploring a particular part of your eroticism with you, the safest thing is to explore it only in the confines of your mind. No one has ended up on the front pages because of a privately held fantasy.

Nothing, really nothing, is ever private between two people. Someone always tells someone. And the less the other person has to lose, the more likely they are to tell more people. In fact, unless it’s your life partner, only have sex with someone who has as much to lose as you do. Sex workers don’t. Neither do women or men in their twenties. And sexual bantering, sexting, tweeting, emailing and Facebook messaging are NEVER private. We tell our teens don’t post anything you don’t want your grandmother to see. To men in public office, don’t post anything you don’t want to see on the front page—anywhere or ever.  And as Mr. Cain has just found out, your cell phone history isn’t private either; one has to wonder how he can explain away a 4:30 a.m. phone call to a woman he barely knows. 

If there’s a chance that the behavior could cost you your partner, your career, or your reputation, just say no. Visiting a sex club, sexual encounters on the Internet, using a sex worker, having sex with an employee, tweeting a sexual photo, sexting, or soliciting someone in a public bathroom or park: chances are it’s going to land you on the front page and you’ll lose your job or prospects and probably your marriage. It’s even worse if you’ve campaigned or worked against other people’s sexual rights, like Cain’s support for a federal ban on same-sex marriage.  

Remember that a moral sexual relationship is consensual, nonexploitative, honest, mutually pleasurable, and protected. Does the relationship meet those criteria?  My advice is that if you can’t answer yes to all five of these criteria, just say no. It appears that if this latest allegation is true Cain and this woman were in a long-term consensual relationship.  The four women who have brought sexual harassment allegations against him, however, seem to be arguing that their interactions with him were not consensual.  And again, I’m guessing that honesty in his marriage about his time with other women may be missing.

Always ask if the behavior is consistent with your values, expressed and internal. If you’re found out, will you be accused of hypocrisy? More importantly, can you live with yourself?

Of course, this ethic applies to all of us, not just people in political power. May we once again be reminded that sexuality is both sacred and powerful, and we need to honor its role in our lives.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Law and Policy

Three Crisis Pregnancy Centers Served for Breaking California Law

Nicole Knight Shine

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act.

The Los Angeles City Attorney is warning three area fake clinics, commonly known as crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), that they’re breaking a new state reproductive disclosure law and could face fines of $500 if they don’t comply.

The notices of violation issued this month mark the first time authorities anywhere in the state are enforcing the seven-month-old Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency (FACT) Act, advocates and the state Attorney General’s office indicate.

The office of City Attorney Mike Feuer served the notices on July 15 and July 18 to two unlicensed and one licensed clinic, a representative from the office told Rewire. The Los Angeles area facilities are Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

The law requires the state’s licensed pregnancy-related centers to display a brief statement with a number to call for access to free and low-cost birth control and abortion care, and for unlicensed centers to disclose that they are not medical facilities.

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“Our investigation revealed,” one of the letters from the city attorney warns, “that your facility failed to post the required onsite notice anywhere at your facility and that your facility failed to distribute the required notice either through a printed document or digitally.”

The centers have 30 days from the date of the letter to comply or face a $500 fine for an initial offense and $1,000 for subsequent violations.

“I think this is the first instance of a city attorney or any other authority enforcing the FACT Act, and we really admire City Attorney Mike Feuer for taking the lead,” Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, told Rewire on Wednesday.

Feuer in May unveiled a campaign to crack down on violators, announcing that his office was “not going to wait” amid reports that some jurisdictions had chosen not to enforce the law while five separate court challenges brought by multiple fake clinics are pending.

Federal and state courts have denied requests to temporarily block the law, although appeals are pending before U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In April, Rebecca Plevin of the local NPR affiliate KPCC found that six of eight area fake clinics were defying the FACT Act.

Although firm numbers are hard to come by, around 25 fake clinics, or CPCs, operate in Los Angeles County, according to estimates from a representative of NARAL Pro-Choice California. There are upwards of 1,200 CPCs across the country, according to their own accounting.

Last week, Rewire paid visits to the three violators: Harbor Pregnancy Help Center, Los Angeles Pregnancy Services, and Pregnancy Counseling Center.

Christie Kwan, a nurse manager at Pregnancy Counseling Center, declined to discuss the clinic’s noncompliance, but described their opposition to the state law as a “First Amendment concern.”

All three centers referred questions to their legal counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an Arizona-based nonprofit and frequent defender of discriminatory “religious liberty” laws.

Matt Bowman, senior counsel with ADF, said in an email to Rewire that forcing faith-based clinics to “communicate messages or promote ideas they disagree with, especially on life-and-death issues like abortion,” violates their “core beliefs” and threatens their free speech rights.

“The First Amendment protects all Americans, including pro-life people, from being targeted by a government conspiring with pro-abortion activists,” Bowman said.

Rewire found that some clinics are following the law. Claris Health, which was contacted as part of Feuer’s enforcement campaign in May, includes the public notice with patient intake forms, where it’s translated into more than a dozen languages, CEO Talitha Phillips said in an email to Rewire.

Open Arms Pregnancy Center in the San Fernando Valley has posted the public notice in the waiting room.

“To us, it’s a non-issue,” Debi Harvey, the center’s executive director, told Rewire. “We don’t provide abortion, we’re an abortion-alternative organization, we’re very clear on that. But we educate on all options.”

Even so, reports of deceit by 91 percent of fake clinics surveyed by NARAL Pro-Choice California helped spur the passage of the FACT Act last October. Until recently, a person who Googled “abortion clinic” might be directed to a fake clinic, or CPC.

Oakland last week became the second U.S. city to ban false advertising by facilities that city leaders described as “fronts for anti-abortion activists.” San Francisco passed a similar ordinance in 2011.