During last night's vice presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz asked a great question: whether people who are pro-choice should be worried if Romney is elected. And as if we weren't scared already, Paul Ryan played into our deepest fears.
Ryan explained that he has an anti-choice stance based in “reason and science.” And in support of his dedication to reason and science, he explained that he's Catholic and his child was shaped like a bean while in the womb. Sentimental, but not exactly peer reviewed. And then he tore into Obamacare for undermining religious liberties by forcing coverage of contraception. It seemed like a generic Religious Right response, but let's unpack it a bit.
This week a study confirmed that providing free contraception lowers abortion and teen pregnancy rates. From the New York Times:
“Free birth control led to greatly lower rates of abortions and births to teenagers, a large study concludes, offering strong evidence for how a bitterly contested Obama administration policy could benefit women's health… Women's health specialists said the study foreshadows the potential impact of the new health care law, in which millions of women are beginning to get contraceptives without a co-payment.”
And yet these are the kinds of services now available for the first time through the Affordable Care Act that the Romney-Ryan ticket is seeking to end. Romney and Ryan clearly want to make sure that it's the government that prevents you from having an abortion. Because they don't want women to have the tools to prevent it themselves.
Unfortunately, this far-right stance is a recent development for Romney. As with health care and many other issues, Romney was pretty moderate when he was in the nice progressive state of Massachusetts. In a 2002 gubernatorial debate, he said, “I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose. I am not going to change our pro-choice laws in Massachusetts in any way. I am not going to make any changes which would make it more difficult for a woman to make that choice herself.”
Things took a quick turn for the worse when he got national ambitions. Running for president in the last election, he said in a 2007 debate that he had “changed his mind,” wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade, and would be “delighted” to sign a bill as president that would outlaw abortion. And he kicked it up a notch in this campaign, pledging to cut Planned Parenthood funding and saying he would support a Constitutional amendment banning abortion.
And now that he has right-wing lunatics as his base, he's decided to add one to his ticket. Ryan has out-done his anti-choice peers by opposing abortion even in the cases of rape and incest. And he has made it clear that even Romney's anti-choice platform is something he's “comfortable” with, but clearly a step to the left for him. He has even compared abortion to slavery. From Salon:
“In a 2010 speech called 'The Cause of Life Can't be Severed From the Cause of Freedom, Ryan compared the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade abortion decision to its Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, which sanctioned slavery. 'Twice in the past the U.S. Supreme Court – charged with being the guardian of rights – has failed so drastically in making this crucial determination that it 'disqualified' a whole category of human beings, with profoundly tragic results,' Ryan said. The first, he said, was Scott, and the second was Roe, 'when the Supreme Court made virtually the identical mistake' it had made in the slavery case.”
Well, except one of the decisions denied people freedom, and one of them gave them control over their bodies.
So props to Martha Raddatz for reminding America that beyond jobs and Libya, there's a lot at stake in this election. We have a choice in this election, but with a Romney-Ryan victory, some of our most importance choices may disappear.