Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is the Republican Party Pro-Life? A look at the new GOP party platform

I have tried to back up every statement of fact that I make.  For the most part, I have linked to respected unbiased organizations and news sites and resisted posting to blogs and advocacy groups, and when I couldn't find an original source, I tried to state that.  That doesn't mean I always did; sometimes an advocacy group has a much better presentation of facts in a format that is easy to read and understand.  You can judge for yourself the legitimacy of the information, but remember: you are always entitled to your own opinion, but you are never entitled to your own facts. 

Republicans are usually considered the "Pro-Life" party.  They certainly are anti-choice, though of course there are a few pro-choice Republicans and more than a few anti-choice Democrats (remember Bart Stupak?)  But as a national party, the GOP takes a strong stand against abortion, and accomplished many legislative victories across the country, while for the most part, Democrats aren't nearly as committed.  Oh, they say they're for reproductive freedom, and there are Democrats in both state and federal legislatures that fight for choice, but they don't have near the amount of victories (just an impressive string of failures) or passion as their Republican opponents. 

But are Republicans really Pro-Life?  I decided to take a look at the newly approved party platform.  You can read the entire platform here.  I will be quoting the relevant bits.

Regarding Abortion...

Faithful to the “self-evident” truths enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage. We support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life.

Note that there is no provision for rape and incest victims, even after the whole party seemed to pile on Todd Akin.  Now, Akins remarks were stupid, but when the party platform supports his policy position, these guys are just living in a big glass house throwing really, really large stones.  I think they want all of us, the media, activists, to focus on Todd Akin.  That way, we don't focus on the fact that they are doing the exact same thing Akin advocated (without all the mystical woman stuff--they don't even pretend to have compassion for rape victims).  Maybe if we all focus on Todd Akin, we'll all forget that Paul Ryan co-sponsored legislation with Akin that would limit abortion and change the definition of rape as well as co-sponsoring legislation with Akin that would have outlawed ALL abortion, regardless of circumstance, as well as many forms of birth control.  Look at Todd Akin.  Look at Paul Ryan.  Ryan is Akin with better speaking skills and less compassion.  Regardless of their reasons and justifications (which, really, I couldn't care less about), if they had their way, the legislative outcome would be the same.   

Note as well that in the GOP platform there is no provision for the life of the mother.  According to the GOP platform, because a fertilized egg is a human being, we cannot induce an abortion even if the mother would die without one.  How far does this go?  Are we going to see girls die of leukemia because abortion bans don't allow cancer treatmentsAre 13 year old rape victims going to be paralyzed for life because abortion bans keep them from being treated?  These are not made-up straw arguments.  These situations really happened, are happening.  Right now, they're happening outside the US.  If the GOP has its way, the problems of these third-world countries will be right in the good o'l USA.

Think about that for a second.  If the GOP gains the legislative and executive authority to implement their platform (and considering what's been happening in states with Republican control this year, it's a good bet that if they can do it, they will) women will effectively receive a death sentence if they are insufficiently capable of being good incubators.  This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a pro-life position.

And this all ignores the fact that abortion bans do not work.  Countries where abortion is illegal do not have no abortion, or even less abortion.  Women will continue to have abortions, at similar or even higher rates, even when abortion is illegal. The only thing illegal abortion does is kill women.  No unborn children are saved by abortion bans.  In some countries, it seems that even more abortions are performed (but that's probably due to the lack of available birth control rather than the ban itself).  Abortion bans do kill women, however: about 13 of maternal deaths in countries where the procedure is illegal are due to botched back-alley abortions.  That's about 70,000 women a year.  Maybe you think that's a necessary sacrifice, maybe you think that's what those sluts deserve.  But don't pretend you're pro-life. 

Oh, and if you think such a thing would never happen here?  US women are already traveling to Mexico to seek dangerous unregulated abortion drugs and services. Talk to doctors, read what life was like before Roe v. Wade.  There's a reason women paint coat hangers on signs when they protest restrictive abortion laws. 

Last point before we move on: what are we talking about by "unborn child"?  At what point do we consider a woman to be pregnant, to be carrying another protected life?  At fertilization?  That kind of "Personhood" legislation would outlaw IVF and many forms of birth control. It's so extreme that it couldn't even pass Mississippi, one of the most conservative anti-abortion states in the US.  Education about and access to birth control is the only thing proven to lower abortion rates.  Is it "pro-life" to outlaw the only thing that can stop abortion?  And if we're not talking about fertilization, what are we talking about?  Implantation?  When the embryo becomes a fetus?  And who determines when and why there is suddenly a new life?  Judging by the rest of the platform, I'm assuming science will play a very small part, if any, in the determination,

We urge Congress to strengthen the Born Alive Infant Protection Act by enacting appropriate civil and criminal penalties on healthcare providers who fail to provide treatment and care to an infant who survives an abortion, including early induction delivery where the death of the infant is intended.

Induction abortions account for less than 1% of abortions in the US.  Contrary to the signs and pictures you get from pro-life groups, the vast majority of abortions (91%) occur in the first trimester (look, I gave the conservatives a Fox News link--fair and balanced!) before the embryo is even a fetus.  Only .1 to .8% of abortions are 3rd trimester abortions, and they are always performed because of either a threat to the life and health of the mother or because of fetal abnormalities that either have or will kill the fetus.  These abortions have to be signed off by two separate doctors.  The pictures that get thrown about of perfectly formed, beautiful aborted fetuses are lies, half-truths, and hyperbole for two reasons: 1) the vast, vast majority of aborted fetuses and embryos do not reach that stage of development, and 2) those that do have massive deformities and don't look at all like that, usually.  You're talking about babies with their brain or lungs growing outside of the body, with organs that have never formed, with Harlequin-type ichthyosis (don't click unless you have a strong stomach).  For all the horrible invective launched against Dr. Tiller, he believed his clinic was his mission from God, and his beautiful, compassionate care to women in tragic situations eventually led to his assassination inside his own church.  He was not a monster that indiscriminately killed babies for profit, and it is sick that those who demonized him were never held accountable for their actions, and that his name is still slandered after his death.  If you celebrate the death of this man, you are not pro-life.  You barely qualify as human. 

Oh, and any baby that survives an induced abortion is already, by law, required to be treated.  Another call to action to solve a problem that doesn't exist.  This is a common theme of the GOP platform.  (It wasn't relevant, so I didn't post the section on voting restrictions, but that is a prime demonstration of how the party is willing to restrict rights in order to solve a non-existent problem.  You have a better chance of being hit by lightning than finding a case of voter fraud.)

We call for legislation to ban sex-selective abortions – gender discrimination in its most lethal form –

Well, look, another example of solving a problem that doesn't exist.  Other than a hoax video made by activists that tried to prove Planned Parenthood encouraged sex-selective abortions (the tape was heavily edited, but even so, the counselor was new and subsequently retrained.  I believe that another counselor was fired, though I'm having trouble finding the original article) there is no evidence that this is a problem within the US.  Yes, it is a problem in other countries, primarily India, but simply banning sex-selective abortion does little to solve the problem, and may cause more harm than good, as in the case of a 27 year old Indian woman who was brutally murdered by her husband after giving birth to a girl. Much like abortion in general, this is a complex issue--but thankfully, not one we have to deal with in the US.

and to protect from abortion unborn children who are capable of feeling pain; and we applaud U.S. House Republicans for leading the effort to protect the lives of pain-capable unborn children in the District of Columbia.

"Fetal Pain" is a myth.  It is scientifically impossible for a fetus to feel pain before the third trimester.  Fetal Pain laws usually target abortions after 20 weeks, well before the fetus is capable of feeling pain.

I also find it astonishing that these "small government" conservatives who just love local government so much are interfering in the way D.C. chooses to regulate abortions (link goes to a clip from the Rachel Maddow show).  Not only have they overturned the ability for D.C. themselves to offer help for low-income women seeking abortions, they are now trying to limit abortion further.  The bill to limit abortion in D.C. to 20 weeks was sponsored by someone from Arizona.  The representative from D.C. is not only not allowed to vote, they wouldn't even allow her to speak.  Yeah.  That's democracy.  That's a commitment to local government.  That's small government. (Well. I've always said Republicans want a government so small it can fit into every woman's vagina.)

We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Bull. Shit.  The most comprehensive examination of long-term data shows that abortion does not harm women's mental health.  Of course women may be depressed after an abortion, for both physical (hormonal) and emotional reasons.  Guilt placed on them by their communities doesn't exactly help the situation.  But there is no such thing as "Post-Abortion Syndrome" according to The American Psychological Association, nor do they believe abortion itself contributes to mental health problems.  The American Psychiatric Association has said the same thing. There is no evidence that abortion causes breast cancer (regardless of the fact that certain states are now forcing doctors to lie to their patients and tell them that it does, disregarding serious protest from medical organizations and local OB/GYNs).  Every unbiased medical group, from the Komen Foundation to the NCI (and many others), all agree that there is zero evidence to suggest a link between breast cancer and abortion.  To repeat: abortion is safe (less than 1% have complications, and it's 10x safer than childbirth) and it does not cause cancer or health problems later in life.

This is as much a myth as the idea that when a woman is "legitimately raped" her body can magically guard against the sperm and keep from getting pregnant.  But, hey, there are many Republicans, including a Romeny supporter whom Romney subsequently praised that also believe women can't get pregnant from rape, so it's obvious science and facts aren't really important, and mystical "just-world" thinking* guides what people believe about female reproduction.  But there's a lot of unscientific thinking in the GOP platform (although the Texas GOP platform still wins on that front), so maybe I shouldn't be surprised. 

*The Just World fallacy leads to people believing that "human actions eventually yield morally fair and fitting consequences, so that, ultimately, noble actions are duly rewarded and evil actions are duly punished."  This is why people have so much trouble with the "why do bad things happen to good people?" concept.  Why is this relevant?  Well, if you believe in a just world, than a rape victim, already traumatized, will not get re-traumatized by a pregnancy.  A woman who gets pregnant, then, was obviously not really raped; she deserves her punishment.  And the women who have abortions can't get off scott-free with committing murder!  There must be consequences, so obviously "in their bodies they received the punishment for those wrongs" (Romans 1:27 ERV).  Breast cancer, mental health problems...to people who believe in a Just World, these are just the natural consequences for their actions.  

Let's move on.

"Conscience Laws"

No healthcare professional or organization should ever be required to perform, provide for, withhold, or refer for a medical service against their conscience. This is especially true of the religious organizations which deliver a major portion of America’s healthcare, a service rooted in the charity of faith communities. We do not believe, however, that healthcare providers should be allowed to withhold services because the healthcare provider believes the patient’s life is not worth living. We support the ability of all organizations to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty.

This is truly astonishing.  There are no provisions for people who are dying.  The only language that comes close is that health care providers can't "withhold services because the healthcare provider believes the patient's life is not worth living."  Let's think about what this means for a minute.  We're talking about pharmacists refusing to provide birth control or the morning after pill (which does NOT cause abortions).  There are so many stories of rape victims being denied emergency contraception due to conscience clauses.  If a woman is frantically trying to get her birth control or EC--rape victim or not--what happens if she is prevented?  What happens if she gets pregnant?  Do you think she's just going to happily settle into the idea of motherhood?  More likely, she's going to then seek an abortion.  That is an abortion that could have so easily been prevented.  Is that the pro-life thing to do?

(To be personal: after I was raped, the hospital I was at denied me EC, saying they didn't have any and I could get it without a script at any pharmacy.  The police officer who drove me to that hospital--which was far from my home because no local hospital had a Sexual Assault Response Team--would not let me stop to pick up EC, even though I begged him, telling him I didn't have transportation at home and my parents were away for the week.  It wasn't until several hours later that a friend finally was able to pick it up for me.  EC is best effective the sooner you take it, and I had to wait almost 24 hours before I was able to get it.  Luckily, I didn't get pregnant.  What if I had?)

Taking this further: what happens when a woman is in a hospital, dying, her fetus no longer viable, who needs an abortion immediately or she will die?  Should conscience laws give doctors cover so they can leave this woman to die?  And lest you think I'm creating a mythical strawman, this exact situation happened in Kansas.  How would her death have been "pro-life"?

What about gay patients?  Should pharmacists deny them HIV medication because of religious beliefsShould hospitals be allowed to deny life-saving treatments to gay, lesbian, or trans* patients, or keep them from seeing their loved ones

(Denying visitors is also related to the "traditional marriage" language in the GOP platform, something else I didn't have time for because it wasn't really relevant.  However, you should know there are real, serious consequences to these kinds of laws.  I have heard so many heartbreaking stories of people being kept away from their spouses and children, left to die alone, because of bigotry and hate.  Maybe it doesn't have a lot to do with being pro-life, but it sure as hell has lot to do with being a decent human being,) 


Abstinence Only Eduction

We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior.

This cannot be stated loudly or often enough, it appears.  COMPREHENSIVE SEX EDUCATION IS THE ONLY THING THAT REDUCES TEEN PREGNANCY AND STIs.  Studies have confirmed this over and over and over.  If you record abstinence like you do all other forms of contraception, by including the human failure rate (that's why the pill is only 98% effective, condoms are 87% effective, etc.) abstinence has one of the worst success rates.  Teens who go through abstinence only education will still have sex, they're just far less likely to use contraception than their peers.  More evidence?  States with Abstinence Only policies have the highest rates of teen pregnancy.

Stem Cell Research:

We oppose federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

I had a lot to say about this, but every time I sat down to write, I ended up just paraphrasing Sam Harris.  So I'll just give a long quote:

Consider the present debate over research on human embryonic stem cells. The problem with this research, from the religious point of view is simple: it entails the destruction of human embryos. The embryos in question will have been cultures in vitro (not removed from a woman’s body) and permitted to grow for three to five days. AT this stage of development, an embryo is called a blastocyst and consists of about 150 cells arranged in a microscopic sphere. Interior to the blastocyst is a small group of about 30 embryonic stem cells. These cells have two properties that make them of such abiding interest to scientists: as stem cells, they can remain in an unspecialized state, reproducing themselves through cell division for long periods of time (a population of such cells living in culture is known as a cell line); stem cells are also pluripotent, which means they have the potential to become any specialized cell in the human body – neurons of the brain and spinal chord, insulin-producing cells of the pancreas, muscle cells of the heart, and so forth.

Here is what we know. We know that much can be learned from research on embryonic stem cells. In particular, such research may give us further insight into the processes of cell division and cell differentiation. This would almost certainly shed new light on those medical conditions, like cancer and birth defects, that seem to be merely a matter of processes gone awry. We also know that research on embryonic cells requires the destruction of human embryos at the 150-cell stage. There is not the slightest reason to believe, however, that such embryos have the capacity to sense pain, to suffer, or to experience the loss of life in any way at all. What is indisputable is that there are millions of human beings who do have these capacities, and who currently suffer from traumatic injuries to the brain and spinal chord. Millions more suffer from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Millions more suffer from stroke and heart disease, from burns, from diabetes, from rheumatoid arthritis, from Purkinje cell degeneration, from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and from vision and hearing loss. We know that embryonic stem cells promise to be a renewable source of tissues and organs that might alleviate such suffering in the not to distant future.

Enter faith: we now find ourselves living in a world in which college-educated politicians hurl impediments in the way of such research because they are concerned about the fate of single cells. Their concern is not merely that a collection of 150 cells may suffer its destruction. Rather, they believe that even a human zygote (a fertilized egg) should be accorded all the protections of a fully developed human being. Such a cell, after al, has the potential to become a full developed human being.. But given our recent advances in the biology of cloning, as much can be said of almost every cell in the human body. By the measure of a cell’s potential whenever the president scratches his nose he is now engaged in a diabolical culling of souls.

Out of deference to some rather poorly specified tenets of Christine doctrine (after all, nothing in the Bible suggests that killing human embryos, or even human fetuses, is the equivalent of killing a human being), the U.S. House of Representatives voted effectively to ban embryonic stem-cell research on February 27, 2003.

No rational approach to ethics would have led us to such an impasse. Our present policy on human stem cells has been shaped by beliefs that are divorced from every reasonable intuition we might form about the possible experience of living systems. In neurological terms, we surely visit more suffering upon this earth by killing a fly than by killing a human blastocyst, to say nothing of a human zygote (flies, after all, have 100,000 cells in their brains alone). Of course, the point at which we fully acquire our humanity, and or capacity to suffer, remains an open question. But anyone who would dogmatically insist that these traits must arise coincident with the moment of conception has nothing to contribute, apart from his ignorance, to this debate. Those opposed to therapeutic stem-cell research on religious grounds constitute the biological and ethical equivalent of a flat-earth society.

Our discourse on the subject should reflect this. In this area of public policy alone, the accommodations that we have made to faith will do nothing but enshrine a perfect immensity of human suffering for decades to come.

Letting millions of people suffer and die is not pro-life.

Death Penalty:

Courts should have the option of imposing the death penalty in capital murder cases.

Do I have to explain why the death penalty is not pro-life?  Really?  Okay, for the morally impaired, I'll spell it out.  1) Many people on death row have been proven to be innocent. One innocent person executed is too many.  2) The death penalty is not a deterrence.  3) The death penalty is more expensive than life in prison.  4) The death penalty is racist.   But all of that shouldn't matter at all.  By definition, executions are not pro-life.   

I know this is a waste of time, though.  When pro-life Republicans can cheer for executions, and the same guy that supports personhood amendments can grin when he talks about executing the most prisoners in the country, we know the term "pro-life" has lost all meaning.


We must deter any adversary who would attack us or use terror as a tool of government. Every potential enemy must have no doubt that our capabilities, our commitment, and our will to defeat them are clear, unwavering, and unequivocal. We must immediately employ a new blueprint for a National Military Strategy that is based on an informed and validated assessment of the potential threats we face, one that restores as a principal objective the deterrence using the full spectrum of our military capabilities. As Ronald Reagan proved by the victorious conclusion of the Cold War, only our capability to wield overwhelming military power can truly deter the enemies of the United States from threatening our people and our national interests.

In order to deter aggression from nation-states, we must maintain military and technical superiority through innovation while upgrading legacy systems including aircraft and armored vehicles. We must deter the threat posed by rogue aggressors with the assurance that justice will be served through state-of-the-art surveillance, enhanced special operations capabilities, and unmanned aerial systems.

We will employ the full range of military and intelligence options to defeat Al Qaeda and its affiliates who threaten not just the West but the community of nations. We will have a comprehensive and just detainee policy that treats those who would attack our nation as enemy combatants. We will accept no arms control agreement that limits our right to self-defense; and we will fully deploy a missile defense shield for the people of the United States and for our allies.

OK, I'm sorry, I admit it. I'm exhausted.  For the most part, I'm just gonna let this stand, except to point out that so far we have killed 108,423 - 118,475 civilians in Iraq, an estimated 12,000 in Afghanistan, and 551 civilians killed by drone strikes, though the number could be much higher, not to mention the untold number of suspected terrorists. 

This is not pro-life.

Maybe you say that war is pro-life because you're protecting American lives.  Let's put aside the false premise of the war in Iraq, the fact Iraq was not a threat.  Let's just focus on that last bit: American lives.  What, the lives of the Iraqi children who have been blown to pieces don't count?  The number of innocent babies born with horrible deformities because of the depleted uranium we use in our anti-tank weapons, they don't count?  The kids playing at a birthday party until a bomb from overhead kills and maims them, they're just a necessary sacrifice?  NO.

I hear a lot of "pro-life" people complain about how terrible it is that the government makes them pay for abortions (which, no), but what about people like me who are sick to our stomachs that our tax money is going to pay for the bomb that blows up a nine-year-old girl in Yemen?  You know, if it was a clear situation of self-defense, where it was my life or someone else's, I don't know what I'd do.  But I do know that my life is not worth more than the life of a girl or boy overseas.  The color of my skin or the fact that I was lucky enough to be born in America does not make my life more valuable that a person of a different color, of a different faith, in a different country.

The "pro-life" movement in America has decided to focus its attention on scared teenage girls who are just trying to make it through life the best they can, who are "killing" something that cannot think or feel, because they believe it's their best option.  That is the enemy.  Not the thousands upon thousands of children, mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, babies and great aunts, thinking, feeling, loving people, who have done nothing wrong except have the misfortune to not be born in the US.  Their deaths are ignored.  Hell, sometimes they're even celebrated

THAT IS NOT PRO-LIFE.  It's fucking sick.


Let's review.  Unsuprisingly, Republicans are committed to: ending abortion without any exceptions for the life and health of the mother; ending family planning, even though study after study after study has shown that the only  thing that stops teen pregnancy and STIs (including AIDs) is comprehensive sex education and access to contraceptives; allowing doctors and pharmacists to not help patients if for any reason their "conscience" tells them not to, without any exception for patients who are dying; stopping life-saving stem cell research;  supporting the death penalty; supporting unlimited arms; continuing our detainee policy that has been proven to both torture and imprison innocent people (including children) as well as encouraging anger towards us in the Muslim world; supporting military action has killed and is killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, as well as, again, encouraging hatred towards the US in the people whose homes and towns have been destroyed and their children blown apart. 

Is the Republican Party anti-choice?  Of course.

Is the Republican Party pro-life?  The answer to that is an unqualified NO.


  1. Excellent and insightful writing. Thank you! I'll be sharing widely. :)

  2. Wait... didn't Scalia state that the 14th Amendment doesn't apply to women? And now the GOP wants it to apply to zygotes? Blastocysts?

    What about the female blastocysts? Eh?

    Thanks for writing this!

  3. Excellent points! Great links and citing - thanks for that!! Keep it up.