Paul Ryan’s Abortion Views, Pre-Natal Depression, and the Return of Komen


Jessica Grose exposes us to the very under-covered issue of prenatal depression. Romney picks a hardline anti-choice running mate, and Komen gets back into the news because of their attempts to fix their massive P.R. problem.

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Elizabeth Banks talks about her heavy flow

Paul Ryan and personhood

Paul Ryan opposes reproductive health access in various ways

Michelle Goldberg on Paul Ryan

Komen leadership shake-up

Sperm have more rights than women in Todd Akin’s view

On this episode of Reality Cast, Jessica Grose will be on to talk about the very under-covered issue of prenatal depression. Romney picks a hardline anti-choice running mate, and Komen gets back into the news because of their attempts to fix their massive P.R. problem.

Elizabeth Banks is now the latest celebrity to make a video supporting Planned Parenthood and making sure women have access to contraception.

  • heavy flow *

Okay, while “heavy flow” is really funny, I’m really frustrated by the fact that it seems nearly every woman who is willing to speak about birth control “excuses” it by saying she used it for some other reason than birth control. Seriously, the fact that you didn’t want to raise a kid while you were broke and uninsured is nothing to be ashamed of. You should be proud! Women using contraception are women taking responsibility. We should be patting ourselves on the back for how awesome we are for making sure that we’re only having babies when it’s right for ourselves and those babies. Still, she’s exactly right that no one should be forced to talk about intimate matters like this with their boss.

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After much speculation that invariably looks a bit foolish in hindsight, Mitt Romney finally announced his running mate on the Republican presidential ticket, Representative Paul Ryan, who is an aficionado of P90X and of complex schemes to bring an end to Medicare as we know it. The vast majority of the attention being paid to Ryan is regarding his extremely dim view of social safety nets and his committed belief towards keeping wealth concentrated in the hands of the 1%. But Ryan’s views on reproductive rights are also extremely interesting as well! And in an election where women’s issues are so front and center, you can bet a lot of attention is going to be paid to Ryan’s views on abortion and contraception. After doing a couple of minutes on how much voters hate the very notion of “personhood” laws that grant fertilized eggs the status of people who have more claim to a woman’s body than she does, and adding that Mitt Romney has been trying hard to run away from his comments claiming to support such laws many months ago, Rachel Maddow said this about Paul Ryan.

  • ryan 1 *

More rights, really, because as a legal person I don’t have a right to set up shop in your body and start leeching nutrients against your will, but anti-choicers want to give that right to fertilized eggs.  As Rachel said, on the surface this just seems baffling, because even people who want serious restrictions on abortion often balk at personhood laws, both because they want abortion laws they believe will make an exception for them and because anti-choicers aren’t doing a good job of concealing how much they hope these laws could be used as leverage to restrict access to contraception.

Indeed, Ryan has a long history of hostility to greater access to health care, especially with regards to reproductive health care. Amy Goodman on Democracy Now interviewed Nicole Safar from Planned Parenthood in Wisconsin about Ryan’s record on reproductive health care. She specifically talked about Ryan’s strong opposition to the contraception mandate.

  • ryan 2 *

Ryan’s claim that opposition to the contraception mandate is about “religious freedom” is simply implausible. He and Romney have strongly supported cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funding for contraception and other non-abortion services. While there’s a different excuse for each attack, there’s a common thread throughout the policies Ryan supports, from banning abortion to cutting back on various ways  to pay for contraception. That thread is reducing women’s ability to say when and if they give birth. At a certain point, you have to look at these patterns. The claim from conservatives that it’s all a coincidence is straining all belief.

Michelle Goldberg from the Daily Beast also reported on how Paul Ryan is really far to the right of the country and even to the Republican Party generally on the issue of reproductive rights, which isn’t easy to do.

  • ryan 3 *

A lot of commentators are baffled that Romney went with someone who seems so hardline, but I think it fits with what we’ve seen of the campaign so far. Romney clearly thinks the way to win is to maximize turnout from the conservative base. There’s still some suspicion on the right that Romney is more moderate than he seems, so picking someone who is so hostile to expanded health care access and reproductive health care especially is a way to signal that Romney is being serious with his stated opposition to abortion rights, Planned Parenthood, and universal health care.

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insert interview

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Remember months ago when Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure injected themselves foolishly into the debate over Planned Parenthood and subsidized contraception access generally by cutting off grants that Planned Parenthood was using for breast exams, and then, under an absolute ton of controversy, quickly reinstating them and pushing out the anti-choice extremist Karen Handel, who was blamed for the decision. Reinstating the grants and getting rid of the problem person was a desperate move, and it was largely, as Brian Williams explains, unable to do much for  the reputation of the organization.

  • komen 1 *

How badly the brand was damaged wasn’t immediately easy to measure, but it was understood that by mid-summer, everyone would know. That’s because the early summer is when Komen has their annual races in a whole messload of cities, races that raise millions upon millions of dollars for their organization. If there wasn’t a substantial drop in fund-raising, then it could be assumed Komen weathered the storm. But if there was one, then it would be difficult to conclude that these dust-up hadn’t created lasting P.R. problems for the non-profit. Unfortunately for them, the latter is what happened.

  • komen 2 *

After numbers like that, it seems the leadership of Komen is realizing that their efforts to recover from this P.R. disaster were insufficient. CEO Nancy Brinker announced she’ll be stepping down to take a smaller role. The foundation denies that this was a direct response to the controversy, but that’s a line exactly no one, including those involved with the affiliates, appears ready to buy. Indeed, NBC interviewed many women who still work with Komen but were disappointed by all this and hope that this is the move that’s finally going to get the ship right again. But there’s reason to be skeptical.

  • komen 3 *

Komen does genuinely do a lot of good for low-income women, but of course, that’s the problem at the center of all this. By pulling that grant in the first place, they sent the signal that they would sacrifice the health care needs of low-income women to pander to misogynist forces, who really are the last people you should ever listen to when it comes to women and health care. You can take it back, but the fact that you ever gave credit to the opinion of misogynists in the first place is something that’s hard to forget. It’s hard to blame people for being wary, especially since there are a lot of demands on your charitable giving. Most people care about a variety of issues, and it’s very easy for them to just switch causes in the light of something like this.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, having a discussion that involves no relationship to reality edition. This is a clip on Rep. Todd Akin being asked about the so-called morning after pill, which is a pill that prevents pregnancy after sex but before the sperm has a chance to get near an egg.

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Emergency contraception works by preventing ovulation before sperm can make the multi-day journey to the fallopian tubes. Any opposition to it, therefore, is rooted in the assumption that once a man ejaculates in a woman, the sperm actually have more rights than she does to determine what happens to her body. Throw in the no exceptions for rape thing, and you’re basically arguing that men have a right to force random women to get pregnant against their will. I’m not accepting the plea of biological ignorance anymore. They’ve been told that emergency contraception works by preventing ovulation. At this point, it’s basically an expression of the belief that a woman’s basic rights disappear the second sperm touches her body. 

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte