Beware the GOP's (Un)Scientific Sexism | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Beware the GOP's (Un)Scientific Sexism


JFP Editor Donna Ladd

Be afraid, be very afraid. Granted, it's been difficult to parse through everything the Republican presidential candidate has said about abortion over the years and in recent weeks to figure out where Romney stands on this difficult issue. But one thing is clear: The majority of Mississippians who voted last fall to block the passage of the "personhood" initiative should be very nervous about the Nov. 6 election.

Why? Because Romney's wishy-washy stance--to overturn Roe v. Wade and send abortion decisions back to state legislatures--puts states like Mississippi with radical-right politicians in office in a dangerous place. Under a Romney administration, Mississippi would lose federal dollars and jobs that we so desperately need, not to mention health-care assistance. But we could also see our individual rights to choose reproductive tools such in vitro fertilization and the birth-control pill, snatched away. Romney knows this, but seems not to care. It doesn't matter what he personally believes about abortion; the tricky details are in his vow to overturn Roe v. Wade. And make no mistake: The only thing standing between families and government takeover of reproductive choices is the federal government and Roe v. Wade.

We certainly don't have leaders who are going to help protect those rights. Gov. Phil Bryant was co-chairman of the "personhood" campaign with all its disdain for contraception. All our U.S. congressmen, except Rep. Bennie Thompson, have supported congressional attempts, led by Reps. Paul Ryan, Todd Akin and others, to try to redefine "forcible" (or "legitimate") rape in order to keep as many rape victims as possible from having access to abortion (their so-called "exception").

Based on their records and statements, all these men want to deny women access to any abortion, even when our lives are in danger or when a 13-year-old gets pregnant from incest. They prefer no exceptions. And at various points, Romney has told these men--whose support is, sadly, considered vital to the GOP increasingly extreme "base"--that he would be "delighted" to oblige them.

Now, Romney is engaging in a wink-wink punt. By saying he will get Roe v. Wade overturned--which means an anti-abortion litmus test for Supreme Court appointments and/or an act of Congress--he is promising these men they will get to do what they want back home in the states. And all of them have shown that they want the anti-birth-control regulations of "personhood."

Not to mention, all these men crawled on the very cynical, and false, bandwagon against the federal regulation that employers cannot forbid female employees from using their health insurance to pay for contraception (not just abortion, mind you). They claim that companies should have the "religious freedom" to decide what their employees can use their insurance for: that old "corporations have constitutional rights" shtick. Meantime, those corporate rights would trump the individual religious and health-care rights of individual employees.

That stinks. Employees pay for their insurance with their labor and, often, dollars; it's not the employers' right to tell them how to use it. This is America, not Afghanistan.

Meantime, to justify these caveman tactics, these men, and others in the GOP, are engaging in what I like to call "scientific sexism." They are making up "scientific" myths to justify their backward ideas about rape, women's health and reproductive processes.

These men are taking a page from the playbook of racists who have long couched bigoted assumptions in "scientific" language and graphs that sound official. This disgusting tradition goes back to eugenics in the early 20th century when the "feeble-minded" were forcibly sterilized around the nation, including here in Jackson. "Scientific racism" was funded in the 1960s by think tanks up north and helped disseminate disgusting ideas about black people's intelligence capacity, including here in Jackson through the late Bill Simmons and the Citizens Councils of America. A popular book of the time was "Race and Reason" by Yankee academic Carleton Putnam in which he excused Jim Crow and segregation based on, er, science.

Scientific racism had a resurgence in 1994 when Charles Murray and Richard J. Herrnstein wrote "The Bell Curve"--a widely panned book supposedly proving, again, that blacks were inferior. (It was followed the next year by another terrible book, "The End of Racism," by Dinesh D'Souza that spread more backward ideas about African Americans. D'Souza is, predictably, in the spotlight again for his film "Obama's America 2016").

Now, the men leading the charge against contraception and all abortion are just making up (un)scientific excuses for their crazy, sexist views on reproductive rights.

Try this one: Rep. Joe Walsh, running against legless veteran Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, said last week that "thanks to advances in science and technology," abortion is no longer used to protect the mother's life.

This statement astounded doctors, just as Romney's false statement that people never die due to lack of health insurance. Abortions often save the lives of mothers, such as in cases of ectopic pregnancy, UCLA obstetrics and gynecology professor Lawrence Platt told Bloomberg News. In ectopic pregnancies, the fetus is not in the right place in the womb and can cause the uterus to rupture, causing the mother to bleed to death, said Platt, the director of the Center for Fetal Medicine and Women's Ultrasound.

This, of course, was only the latest anti-science outrage from a Republican trying to justify a strict prohibition on abortion. Rep. Akin, who this week compared his female opponent for the Missouri Senate to a dog, famously said that women can't get pregnant in "legitimate" rapes. That echoed positions of men like Ryan and our Rep Alan Nunnelee who want to distinguish between "forcible" rape (maybe an abortion) and statutory and incestuous rape of children by grown men who get girls to consent (no way).

Of course, all these men demonize Planned Parenthood. Nunnelee actually stood before Congress and accused Planned Parenthood of protecting men who "rape our granddaughters."

In fact, Planned Parenthood provides nearly 800,000 pap smears and 750,000 breast exams a year to women, not to mention helps with treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. They also help educate young people about preventing pregnancy--vital since these men don't want young people to get substantial sex education to prevent the abortions they rail about so much.

These men spread lies and myths--bad information that will actually increase unwanted pregnancy, and abortion, in our state and nation. This is scientific sexism and denial like I've never seen in my lifetime.

It also shows they're not serious about these difficult problems. If Romney is elected, he will owe the Tea Party-influenced extremists in his party (like the female Tea Party leader who told the JFP this summer that she questioned women's right to vote). Romney must at the minimum do what he is saying now: Return the right to decide reproductive rights back to the states.

Here in Mississippi, we know exactly what that means: Men like Phil Bryant, Alan Nunnelee and their ilk will insure that women can't have abortions under any circumstance and will also limit our rights to contraception, fertilization assistance and affordable pap smears.

Their own terrifying words prove it. Be sure you listen carefully.

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