A threat to women, not a 'distraction'

Posted: August 29, 2012

THROUGHOUT this election year, Republican candidates have competed to see which one could take the most retrograde positions on issues concerning women's health and rights. These antics were dismissed by many as little more than posturing for primary votes. This week, reality will intervene when the Republican Party embraces some of the worst of these for its official party position.

Just last week, the Romney-Ryan-led Republican Party voted to include dangerously restrictive language into its party-platform position on abortion. In doing so, they are adopting backward-looking and anti-woman policies that cannot be dismissed as campaign rhetoric. The positions candidates have been taking are now displayed as the goal they seek. Positions once thought to be extreme are officially mainstream for the Republican Party of 2012.

The Republican Party platform includes a human life amendment that would criminalize abortion nationwide, with no exceptions for rape and incest. That's right: The party that claims to abhor the heavy hand of government is using it as a club to impose its own view on a woman's most private and deeply personal decisions, making her and her doctor criminals in the process.

Party platforms are declarations of principles and values used to show voters what the party stands for and how a party would like to see its leaders govern. These platforms are written with the direction and consent of the presidential candidates. Through this action, we now know precisely what Mitt Romney hopes to accomplish if elected president.

Some have argued that Romney's position is not as extreme as the platform, that Romney accepts exceptions to the general criminalization of abortion. They are especially quick to say Romney's position differs from that of Paul Ryan, the person he chose as his running mate. Apparently they are fearful that women will come to understand that Ryan is ultra-conservative on more than fiscal issues: He also has co-sponsored 38 anti-abortion measures, one of which attempted to redefine rape as "forcible rape."

The attempt to distinguish between Romney and Ryan is an exercise in deception. Both of them vow to take away federal funding for Planned Parenthood's birth-control programs, a vital health-care service for millions of women. More importantly, the platform language on which Romney will run reflects Ryan's extreme position, the very one apologists attempt to say is "not Romney's."

The apologists also point to Romney's and Ryan's efforts to distance themselves from Todd Akin and his outrageous comments on legitimate rape and the mythology that women who are raped rarely get pregnant. The record shows that Ryan and Akin have been in lockstep on principle, if not rhetoric, for years - even working together to narrow the definition of rape and outlaw abortion for rape victims.

In an interview last week with KDKA News in Pittsburgh, Paul Ryan called this important conversation a "distraction." That's what politicians say when the public starts to pay attention to one of their positions that is unpalatable and usually promoted in the shadows of the legislative process to appease the base.

But what is a distraction for Paul Ryan is an existential threat to American women. Our full social, political and economic equality has never been in greater political jeopardy. That's why we have to pay attention, and we have to get involved.

Kate Michelman is president emeritus of NARAL Pro-Choice America and co-chair of WomenVote PA.

Leno gets a big 'Boo!'

Re: "Hooray for Jay! (letter, Aug. 22).

You can't possibly believe that Jay Leno actually took a salary cut to keep his writers' jobs. NBC makes millions of dollars off "The Tonight Show," which consistently wins the late-night ratings war (although I don't know why). The network is certainly not struggling financially and could easily pay the staffers their salaries. The story as reported makes absolutely no sense.

The fact of the matter is the almighty Jay himself likely wanted to cut his staff . . . not NBC. This farce was manufactured by both him and NBC so he doesn't come off as the bad guy. To quote the great Howard Stern, Jay is nothing but a "spineless maggot." Take a few hours and watch the 1996 movie "The Late Shift." Perhaps then your perception of the "generous" Jay Leno will change.

Mike J. Mannato


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