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On this episode of Reality Cast, Teddy Wilson [reporting fellow at Rewire] will explain what’s going on with anti-choice protests in New Orleans. Todd Akin is trying to make a comeback, and the fallout from Hobby Lobby continues.
The Daily Show took a break in the summer and came back to find that they had a lot of ground to cover. Their take on the Hobby Lobby case and the success of the argument that corporations can do what they want as long as they invoke religion was phenomenal.
- daily show *
Todd Akin has wormed his way back into the news again. Akin became a figure of national infamy when he was running for Senate in 2012, after years of being a congressional representative. He lost the race after he told a reporter that there was no real need for rape exceptions in his proposed abortion ban because, well, let’s just give it one more go-round.
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What most people didn’t understand at the time and probably don’t know now is that Akin came into politics by the way of the anti-choice movement, including a history of getting arrested at clinic protests. This wasn’t just some random argument from a guy who doesn’t think about this much. On the contrary, Akin is an anti-choice fanatic down to his bone marrow and trying to control women’s bodies is the most important issue to him. Because of this, he’s a pretty good stand-in for the way that anti-choice activists think about sex and women. This comment was offensive because it was biologically inaccurate, but it was also super misogynist. Not only did he accuse rape victims of lying to cover up for consensual sex, it’s clear he doesn’t think of women as people at all. He says punish the rapist not the “baby,” which is not a baby. But the woman herself doesn’t even factor. I’d say he wants to punish the woman for being a rape victim by forcing her to have a baby, but I don’t know that he even considered the possibility that women have feelings.
I’m retreading this ground because Akin is back, and he’s reminding everyone that anti-choice fanatics are just that, fanatics. In this case, fanatics devoted single-mindedly to this cause of reducing women to objects and stripping us of our basic human rights. Akin made a half-assed apology for his statements when he tried to win the election, but now that he’s lost and he’s promoting a book, he’s retracting that apology. His claim is that we just didn’t understand what he meant by “legitimate rape.”
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The thing you learn when dealing with anti-choice fanatics is that what he’s doing here, which is clearly just making word salad garbled B.S. to deflect criticism, is fairly common. That’s what so frightening about anti-choicers. We’re talking about people who see a multi-celled zygote and have convinced themselves it’s a wee baby waving its hands and cooing at you. In some cases they’re glib liars and in some cases, just fantasists who struggle to tell reality from wishes, but in either case, we’re not talking about reality-based people. Just to be sure, I did a Google search for both “legitimate rape” and “legitimate case of rape” for the years prior to Akin’s statement and found no evidence that either term is used in law enforcement. In both cases, it mostly turned up people saying what Akin was saying in the first place, which is that rape victims are lying about being raped because they are trying to conceal consensual intercourse. There continues to be no evidence that this is more than a misogynist myth and actual law enforcement experts say most rape reports are real.
Things just got weirder from there during this interview with Chuck Todd from MSNBC.
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See what I mean about wishful thinking? He is suggesting that pregnancy from rape is so rare we can assume that most women who say they are pregnant from rape are lying. But then he flips around and buys, wholesale, this notion that there’s just tons of people running around who were “conceived in rape,” enough to help build his staff. This is a pretty big contradiction, but basically it’s a result of just believing whatever is convenient. The “conceived in rape” thing is one of those big things on the anti-choice circuit. There’s a handful of people who make a living claiming that they were conceived in rape and arguing therefore that if you’re raped, you should not be allowed an abortion. Because you get to be a mother to someone who makes a living trying to get rid of women’s human rights. Yeah, it’s not an argument that actually persuades anyone outside of anti-choice circles, but really it’s more there to soothe their guilty consciences when they consider that they literally want to force rape victims to give birth. Plus, as with a lot of testimony in Christian right circles, a healthy dose of skepticism is well-advised. I mean, Akin believes that women emit some kind of contraception when raped, so he’s not exactly the most trustworthy source here.
The narcissism that really drives the anti-choice movement is also on full display when it comes to Todd Akin, who argued that running around accusing rape victims of lying and just generally denying the humanity of women is God’s work when he was a guest on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
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Sounds terrible. I mean, not terrible like being raped and then having politicians accuse you of lying and trying to force you to have a baby. But that’s the sort of thing that can only happen to women, and it’s quite clear that Akin does not care one bit what happens to women.
The fallout from the Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby continues as people grasp the implications for religious freedom, for being able to protect your privacy rights with regards to your employer, and for contraception access generally. There was a lot of hope at first that the supposed limitations put on the decision would in fact be limitations, but since the Supreme Court turned right around and not only gave employers the right to not include contraception in their health-care plans but to openly sabotage women’s attempts to get that coverage elsewhere, it’s clear that the supposed limitations were offered in bad faith. Because of this, we have to worry about all the larger implications of the decision, including some of the concerns about giving corporations more rights than people, even to religious freedom, and the possibility that contraception will soon be subject to the same kind of major attacks on access you get with abortion. Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood [Federation of America], was on Bill Moyers to talk about the wide-ranging attacks on women’s rights, but I was particularly interested in some of the talk about the Hobby Lobby case.
- hobby 1 *
That’s the evil genius of this entire thing. Hobby Lobby and their supporters were able to hijack widespread misogyny and hostility towards female sexuality to push the larger corporate agenda of trying to take away the rights of workers and give rights to corporations. Even though your health-care plan belongs to you, since you earned it, and not your employer, your employer’s religious beliefs count for more than yours when it comes to how you can use it. The door is now open to more expansive arguments about how the employer’s religious freedom depends on taking it away from employees. We see that with the Supreme Court letting lawsuits go forward that could allow employers to refuse to fill out paperwork if doing so makes it easier for employees to get birth control. They are arguing that their religious freedom is only protected if your religious freedom to decide to go outside of their health-care plan for contraception is restrained. I worry they’re not going to stop here. I’m sure there’s already people looking for more ways that bosses will say their religious freedom can only be protected if they get to prevent employees from using contraception.
- hobby 2 *
This entire situation is a huge mess, because it’s not like corporations are “tricking” people into giving them rights to control our private behavior and religious beliefs by using sex-phobia. I mean, that’s part of it, but that implies incorrectly that the misogyny of all this is insincere. Believe me, it’s a both/and situation. Conservatives who threw a fit over the no-copay contraception aspect of the Affordable Care Act knew full well that it would do exactly what Richards said, which is even the playing field for women by making it much, much easier to choose your contraception based on how effective it is and how much control it gives you over your life and not on considerations like how much time you have to take off from work to get it or whether you can afford it. Above all other things, they don’t want women, especially low-income women, to have that control. Which is why any effort, including this Hobby Lobby gambit, that deprives any women of that control is considered a victory.
That’s why it was purely bad faith on Ted Cruz’s part to say this:
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It’s the “don’t believe your lying eyes” gambit. Cruz is trying to convince us that the Democrats just made the attacks on contraception up for political purposes. Even though Rush Limbaugh called women who use contraception “sluts.” Even though Hobby Lobby literally sued and won the right to stop women from using their own health-care plans to cover contraception. Even though there’s been a widespread statewide assault on family planning clinics that has created a documented surge in unwanted pregnancies in places like Texas. Did the Democrats pay all these conservatives to attack contraception to make Republicans look bad? Was this all a false flag operation? I doubt Cruz would go that far, so this needs to be understood as hand-waving to try to scare people from acknowledging what is clearly happening here.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, rape jokes are okay as long as they’re vintage edition. Charles Payne was the single male guest on the sexism-rationalization program Outnumbered on Fox News, and he had some vintage cufflinks.
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Yes, I do believe the point of the joke when it was popular in the 1950s was to remind women that they can be raped. But I guess that trying to gain power over women with a rape joke is just light-hearted humor on Fox News.