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On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Anna Holmes and Kate Harding about the new Book of Jezebel. The rest of the episode is all about the Values Voter Summit, an annual gathering of the Christian right that gives you a good idea what conservatives are saying about reproductive rights these days. Not good things, you can imagine!
If there’s one bright side to the federal government shutting down as Republicans try one last ditch effort to kill Obamacare, then it’s that the whole thing is drawing more coverage generally to the Affordable Care Act. It got the Daily Show to cover the lack of a Medicaid expansion in red states, for instance.
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Yep, Republican-controlled states are rejecting free money to cover the working poor because they’re mad that the country re-elected Obama. There’s not much more to this story. Really, everything wrong with our country right now is explained by this story.
The annual Values Voter Summit is always a delightful peek into what really gets your average right winger out of bed in the morning. The official leadership might say things like “fiscal conservatism” or even “pro-life,” but the Values Voters Summit is where the Christian right gets together and makes it clear that it’s really all about the gays and women who are “promiscuous,” a word whose definition has been expanded to mean any woman who has had sex at any point in time for any reason other than making a baby. Oh, you may think I’m exaggerating, but it’s clear from Gary Bauer’s irate speech that was exactly what’s going on. He’s really mad that President Obama made a call to Sandra Fluke to congratulate her for supporting the HHS requirement that insurance plans cover birth control.
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To reiterate, Fluke did not ask for you to pay for her birth control. She asked that women’s insurance plans, which they pay for either in cash or by working, cover their preventive health care, even if it allows them to have sex without being punished according to right wing standards. In other words, she asked that women not pay twice for their birth control is all. But what I really loved about this speech was it really seemed to make it official: The word “promiscuous” and its corollary “slut” have been defined down to mean “any woman who may have had non-procreative sex or simply appears to believe that’s a right.” If Sandra Fluke, who is engaged and didn’t even really speak about her own health care needs during her testimony, is “promiscuous,” then so are 99 percent of women. Indeed, by the Gary Bauer definition, pretty all women are sluts. While that may get your hackles up, I appreciate it. Makes it clear that he’s just a misogynist who wants to exclude all women from the public conversation, because most virgins are usually too young to be on the public stage in a prominent position.
Rick Santorum had a really awesome if completely confusing conspiracy theory about how the requirement that your insurance plan cover preventive medicine, including contraception, was all a plot to turn our country into a secular democracy like France. He was skeptical that the mandate was about making sure everyone had access to birth control pills if they want.
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No, I guess “they” did not. For one thing, it seems fairly obvious that your insurance coverage should cover your medications, and we didn’t need a separate system for what Santorum calls “those pills.” Where did we get this loony idea that your insurance should cover your medications? Even if you’re a woman? Next, you’re going to tell me insurance covers gynecological visits. Just kidding. No one tell Rick Santorum that, or he may go into total meltdown.
I mean, the irony here is that I’d love it if you could just get birth control pills for free from a vending machine, but if that was actually the plan, I can tell you right now that Rick Santorum would be at the front lines of the people fighting it.
Lila Rose reached new levels of self-congratulatory egomania during her speech.
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Yep, she compared her work in trying to end access to abortion and contraception to the fight for girls to get educated. In fact, those goals are in opposition to each other—even in the U.S., one of the major reasons girls drop out of school is an unintended pregnancy. She compared herself to a young woman who got shot fighting for women’s rights. That is, of course, completely backwards. People do get shot in the U.S. for defending women’s rights. Those people are called abortion providers, and 18 of them have been injured or killed in shootings or bombings by people who, egged on by rhetoric like Lila Rose’s, have decided there’s something noble about trying to end a woman’s right to say no to a pregnancy.
And now for part two of the Values Voter Summit coverage! This year was a real smorgasbord of riches for those of us who try to follow the escalating hysteria of the Christian right over feminism and gay rights. Recent years have seen an onslaught of attacks on abortion rights and contraception access around the country, to the point where a lot of people are beginning to wonder if conservatives have a single-minded obsession with how women are using their vaginas these days. Despite this, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah felt that the fundies of America aren’t concerned enough with controlling sexuality.
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“The family,” of course, being a euphemism for attacking reproductive rights and gay rights. Indeed, I sometimes think I need to come up with a translation dictionary some year before the Values Voter Summit so that the speeches make more sense. When they say “the family,” they’re talking about controlling and punishing sex. When they say “civilization,” they mean “patriarchy,” which makes all those warnings about the end of civilization make way more sense. “Religious freedom” means “the right to impose our fundamentalist faith on everyone else.” It makes otherwise confusing speeches easier to understand.
Anger at women for being disobedient and having sex on their own terms is always a popular theme at Values Voter Summit, but Dr. Ben Carson’s speech attacking women was even a standout under the circumstances.
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Yep, he said that women should simply accept being forced to give birth against our wills and to go through our bodies being dramatically affected and the pain of labor and the serious hardships that often come from unwanted child-rearing … so that some people are occasionally nice to us and open doors for us. He felt that the only reason women don’t love being forced to give birth against our will is we’re stupid.
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It’s not just that he blithely assumes that women choose abortion and contraception because we’re stupid and uneducated. It’s that he does so while exhibiting a profound lack of curiosity and understanding of women’s lives. This is a man who stood before an audience and claimed to believe that the entire experience of pregnancy is about having people pull out chairs for you. He doesn’t understand the weight gain and the morning sickness and the massive pain of labor and the way your body changes and the emotional and physical feat that is being pregnant and bringing forth a baby. But it’s women who need to be “re-educated.” Okay.
Of course, it’s not a Values Voter Summit without speakers repeatedly insinuating that legal abortion and contraception are going to bring on the end times or fascism or both. Like Joel Rosenberg.
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He’s talking about abortion, of course. Never mind that abortion rates are actually higher on average in countries that restrict it. As long as it’s illegal and particularly hard for women to get, for conservatives, abortion stops being “murder” and starts being just a way to prevent having a baby when you don’t want one. But if it’s legal, it’s genocide.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, non-Values Voter edition. Not all the crazy right-wing conspiracy theories available was going on at this single influential conference last weekend. Pat Robertson was happy to trot out some HIV-related conspiracy theories on his TV show as well.
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Literally not a single word of that was true, including the “ums.” That theory was floated in a 1999 book and disproved two years later. HIV didn’t come to worldwide attention until the ’80s, but researchers have traced the first incidence of it back to 1931. The World Health Organization was started 17 years after that and the polio vaccine was invented 21 years later. So not only wrong but impossible. But thanks for playing, Pat!