Last week, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell buckled under nationwide pressure and forced his allies in the state’s legislature to revise a bill they had passed mandating forced, medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions. That the bill was tweaked to no longer require women to be vaginally penetrated without their consent – a requirement that McDonnell, until he was met with a national outcry, was all set to sign into law -- was an important victory for pro-choice and common-decency activists.
But we need to remember just how far anti-choice politicians are willing to go. Just a few years ago, before the War on Women kicked into full swing, we wouldn’t have known that we’d have to be fighting state-mandated vaginal probes. In fact, just a few years ago, the amended bill passed by the Virginia Senate today would have been seen as extreme in itself.
The bill that the Virginia Senate passed in a 21-19 vote today requires all women seeking an abortion to first undergo a medically unnecessary external ultrasound – unless they can prove they are pregnant as a result of rape or incest.
It’s important to remember just how extreme the bill still is. Virginia Republicans are mandating that doctors perform a medically unnecessary procedure whether or not their patient requests it, unless that patient can produce a police report to prevent it. It creates a situation that’s ethically difficult for doctors and absolutely demeaning for women.
If Gov. McDonnell signs the bill, which he is expected to do, Virginia will join seven other states that currently require pre-abortion ultrasounds.
On Meet the Press yesterday, David Gregory questioned GOP presidential frontrunner Rick Santorum about the social issues – opposition to reproductive choice and gay rights – on which he has built his career. Stunningly, Santorum denied that he has focused on social issues and claimed, “There’s no evidence at all that I, that I want to impose those values on anybody else.”
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: It's so funny. I get the question all the time. Why are you talking so much about these social issues, as they, as, as people ask about me about the social issues. MR. GREGORY: Senator, no, wait a minute.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Look, the... MR. GREGORY: You talk about this stuff every week. And by the way, it's not just in this campaign. FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: No, I talk about, I talk... MR. GREGORY: Sir, in this campaign you talk about it. And I've gone back years when you've been in public life and you have made this a centerpiece of your public life. So the notion that these are not deeply held views worthy of question and scrutiny, it's not just about the press. FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Yeah, they, they are deeply held views, but they're not what I dominantly talk about, David. You're taking things that over a course of a 20-year career and pulling out quotes from difference speeches on, on issues that are fairly tangential, not what people care about mostly in America, and saying, "Oh, he wants to impose those values." Look at my record. I've never wanted to impose any of the things that you've just talked about. These are, these are my personal held religious beliefs, and in many forums that I, that, that are, in fact, religious, because I do speak in front of church groups and I do speak in these areas, I do talk about them. But there's no evidence at all that I, that I want to impose those values on anybody else.
This is, of course, a bunch of baloney. While Santorum has spent a lot of time in his presidential campaign talking up regressive tax policies, irresponsible deregulation and anti-environmentalism, the core of his brand has always been social conservatism. His campaign has consistently and explicitly distinguished his anti-choice, anti-gay record with Mitt Romney’s in order to successfully appeal to culture-warring voters.
Santorum has also never shied away from wanting to “impose” his far-right values on the rest of the country. In a 2005 interview with NPR, for instance, he railed against the libertarian wing of the Republican party, saying, “They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do. Government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulation low and that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues, you know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world.”
Santorum’s interview on Meet the Press is far from the first time he’s claimed that he’s not overly interested in social issues. PFAW’s Right Wing Watch found a speech he gave in 2008 in which he claimed that it’s liberals who have made sex an issue on the campaign trail. For liberals, he said, politics “comes down to sex” and that the Democratic Party has become “the party of Woodstock.”:
And it’s just insidious. And it’s most of the time focused on the sexual issues. If you’re a hard-core free-market guy, they’re not going to call you “zealous”. They’re not going to call you “ultra-conservative”. They’re not going to do that to you.
It comes down to sex. That’s what it’s all about. It comes down to freedom, and it comes down to sex. If you have anything to with any of the sexual issues, and if you are on the wrong side of being able to do all of the sexual freedoms you want, you are a bad guy. And you’re dangerous because you are going to limit my freedom in an area that’s the most central to me. And that’s the way it’s looked at.
Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become the party of Woodstock. The prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom. That’s what it’s about. Homosexuality. It’s about sexual freedom.
All of the things are about sexual freedom, and they hate to be called on them. They try to somehow or other tie this to the Founding Father’s vision of liberty, which is bizarre. It’s ridiculous.
Apple’s electronic personal assistant Siri made headlines back in November for drawing a blank when asked for the location of the nearest abortion clinic. If you thought that was bad, meet Iris, Siri’s evil twin sister (or fundamentalist cousin).
Iris – Siri spelled backwards – is the popular electronic assistant created by Dexetra for Android phones. It’s been downloaded over 1 million times and is powered by ChaCha, the Internet’s “leading answers service with more than a billion questions answered.” In other words, Iris may be a knockoff, but it’s no joke.
That’s why we were surprised when we heard the Family Research Council crowing about the Android being “as pro-life as they come” and watched their video. We've posted the video and radio segment here:
After swimming through a sea of iPhones and Blackberrys, we found an Android and tried it for ourselves – sure enough, Iris did everything but condemn us to eternal suffering in hell.
Iris’ answers are drawn from ChaCha, which provided a string of anti-choice answers to our questions:
It must be said that Iris isn’t all fire and brimstone. Iris failed to quote scripture in response to questions about adultery, birth control, homosexuality, working on the Sabbath, and eating shellfish (which is an “abomination before the Lord”). And if you ask Iris whether she is “pro-life or pro-choice,” you get this far more reasonable response:
Android certainly has a right to include a right-wing personal assistant in its app store, and ChaCha has the right to provide slanted answers, but that surely isn’t what the companies had in mind. This appears to be the work of a single employee with an agenda. ChaCha should take appropriate action to ensure that its service isn’t being used to inappropriately foist the views of certain employees on the public.
People For the American Way criticized the House for passing H.R. 358 yesterday, which seriously endangers women’s health. This bill would take away
abortion coverage for those who already have it, prevent others from obtaining coverage even through private insurance and give states the power to
make private medical decisions.
The current wave of political attacks on Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of reproductive health care for women, is the latest example of a now-familiar kind of coordinated propaganda campaign waged by right-wing activist groups, far-right pundits and media outlets, and politicians willing to collaborate in promoting false information for political purposes.
Here's the video of Ellison's comments on Haiti and introduction of Marshall:
"From a spiritual standpoint, we think the Dr. Robertson was on target about Haiti, in the past, with voodoo. And we believe in the Bible that the practice of voodoo is a sin, and what caused the nation to suffer. Those who read the Bible and study the history know that what Dr. Robertson said was the truth."
It is not an accident that Marshall and Ellison echoed one another and Pat Robertson. They all believe that God exacts vengeance on those who do not follow their peculiar and ultraconservative interpretation of the Bible.
Ellison may like to believe that Robertson's comments merely "angered a lot of the so-called, in my opinion, liberals." But the truth is that Americans overwhelmingly reject such views, just as they reject Marshall's views on disabled children and abortion – including a not-so-liberal Governor named Bob McConnell.
Watch Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall claim at an anti-Planned Parenthood press conference that disabled children are God's punishment for abortion:
After his remarks set off a national controversy, Marshall tried to claim that he had somehow been misunderstood:
A story by Capital News Service regarding my remarks at a recent press conference opposing taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood conveyed the impression that I believe disabled children are a punishment for prior abortions. No one who knows me or my record would imagine that I believe or intended to communicate such an offensive notion[.] I regret any misimpression my poorly chosen words may have created[.]
But the video speaks for itself. Marshall explicitly stated that he believes God punishes women who have abortions by giving them disabled children. And then he backed up his claim with what he evidently considered to be evidence (and the gentleman to his left nodded in agreement).
Marshall is entitled to his offensive views, but he should not run from them.
He said this about abortion in the case of rape: "[T]he woman becomes a sin-bearer of the crime, because the right of a child predominates over the embarrassment of the woman."
And he said this about contraception: "[W]e have no business passing this garbage out and making these co-eds chemical Love Canals for these frat house playboys in Virginia."
Marshall was not the only one at last week’s press conference to say something completely ridiculous and offensive, or as Marshall calls it – creating a “misimpression.”
Rev. Joe Ellison said he agrees with Pat Robertson’s comments that Haitians brought the recent devastating earthquake on themselves by striking a deal with the Devil and practicing voodoo:
From a spiritual standpoint, we think the Dr. Robertson was on target about Haiti, in the past, with voodoo. And we believe in the Bible that the practice of voodoo is a sin, and what caused the nation to suffer. Those who read the Bible and study the history know that what Dr. Robertson said was the truth.
And let’s remember. These guys aren’t just some sideshow attraction in Virginia’s state capital. They hold sway with top Virginia Republicans, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, and are making gains in their war on the reproductive rights of Virginia women.
Dr. George Tiller, a physician who has been targeted for years for his willingness to provide abortion procedures often in the most difficult circumstances, was assassinated today in his church in Kansas. People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan said, "I am deeply saddened by the killing of Dr. Tiller. He was a man who was dedicated to the belief that all women deserve access to safe reproductive health services including abortion. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his friends, and his community.
People For the American Way today applauded Barack Obama's presidential campaign for pulling out of an event that was moderated by militant anti-abortion activist Rob Schenck. Schenck is best known for his involvement in a publicity stunt that included shoving a fetus in the face of then-candidate Bill Clinton. He was also involved in founding the aggressive anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and led protests against Dr. Barnett Slepian, who was later assassinated by an Operation Rescue activist.