Sometimes the unexpected happens in campaigns to change everything and it happened this week in Missouri. Republican Representative Todd Akin of Missouri, running against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, spoke out about his beliefs on rape and abortion and shocked even his own party by his outspokenness. The result threatens Republicans up and down the ticket.
As reported by CNN on Sunday, Rep Akin :
Answering a question about whether or not he thought abortion should be legal in the case of rape, Akin explained his opposition by citing unnamed bodily responses he said prevented pregnancy.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said of rape-induced pregnancy in an interview with KTVI. A clip of the interview was posted online by the liberal super PAC American Bridge.
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” Akin continued. He did not provide an explanation for what constituted “legitimate rape.”
He added: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
The Republican response was seemingly to denounce Akin’s comments. As the Washington Post reported on Monday:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the entire GOP national political apparatus launched a swift and relentless crusade against one of their own Monday, seeking to drive Rep. Todd Akin out of the U.S. Senate race in Missouri after his controversial comments on rape and pregnancy threatened the party with widespread political harm.
But the reality of the situation is that Akin’scomments are mainstream Republican these days. And Romney’s running mate illustrates the hypocrisy. While asking Akin to leave the Senate race, the truth is that Ryan is a Republican ally to Akin in attempts to oppose all abortion. As noted in a New York Times editorial entitled “New Frontiers of Extremism”:
Mr. Ryan has said he doesn’t believe in a rape exception when outlawing abortion, and he worked with Mr. Akin in the House in trying to narrow the definition of rape so Medicaid would pay for fewer abortions of poor women. Mitt Romney says he supports a rape exception, but many of the politicians he has invited to speak at next week’s Republican convention disagree with him.
And the Republican Party as a whole supports this position and has for years, based on the Party platform. As noted on the Huffington Post:
Draft language for the 2012 Republican Party platform includes support for a constitutional ban on abortion without specifying exclusions in the cases of rape or incest, according to CNN.
One issue that seems left out of most of this current discussion is if the pregnancy endangers the life of the woman. While Romney is saying he does not support Akin, an article in New York Times today again raises a question as to what he believes:
Mr. Romney’s views align with that of the Mormon Church, which opposes abortion except in cases of rape and incest or when the life of the woman is in danger. He has said he is personally opposed to abortion; as a Mormon bishop in the 1980s he attempted to talk a congregant out of terminating a pregnancy after doctors advised her to do so because of a potentially lethal blood clot.
Romney has changed his views repeatedly on issues like abortion. The real question is which Romney would show up as President. The above quote indicates that by trying to persuade a woman to not terminate a pregnancy he was seemingly not even consistent with his professed Mormon beliefs. What is one to believe regarding Romney and the Republicans these days. The best guide is perhaps to look at their history and as the same article notes:
… as a legislator, Mr. Akin has a record on abortion that is largely indistinguishable from those of most of his Republican House colleagues, who have viewed restricting abortion rights as one of their top priorities. …
It is an agenda that has enjoyed the support of House leaders, including Speaker John A. Boehner and Representative Eric Cantor, the majority leader, who has called anti-abortion measures “obviously very important in terms of the priorities we set out initially in our pledge to America.”
If you believe that rape, incest or circumstances that threaten the life of a woman should be grounds for terminating a pregnancy, it would be a mistake to vote for putting Republicans in power. They are hell bent to restrict and end abortion for women no matter what the circumstances.
The same New York Times article also had the following which sums it up very well:
“All you need to know is that the House Republicans were willing to shut down the government rather than fund Planned Parenthood,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, in an e-mail on Tuesday. “This is in keeping with their efforts — whether it’s Congressman Akin or Chairman Ryan or others — to deny investments in critical women’s health services, weaken the definition of rape, and take away access to preventive care like cervical and breast cancer screenings.”
NARAL Pro-Choice America issued a press release this afternoon announcing that Verizon has reversed it’s decision of Sept 25, 2007 prohibiting it from using its text messaging services. The other major carriers never saw a problem. Verizon got a black eye for its censorship of NARAL Pro-Choice America, claiming abortion was too controversial.
From NARAL Pro-Choice America’s press release:
“Let’s hope Verizon has learned a lesson today: citizen participation in democracy is neither ‘unsavory’ nor ‘controversial,’” NARAL Pro-Choice America’s ‘s President Nancy Keenan said. “As soon as the story first came out last night, we were deluged with calls from Americans outraged over Verizon’s corporate censorship. We thank all of our members, bloggers, and other concerned citizens who joined us in putting pressure on Verizon to reverse this decision. We should take great solace in this initial victory, but we must remain vigilant in preventing corporations, business interests, and other third parties from blocking Americans’ ability to participate in the democratic process.”
See our earlier post “Are Democrats Next to be Banned from Texting by Verizon?” for more background.
The headline on an article in the New Times today reads, “Verizon Rejects Text Messaging From an Abortion Rights Group.” Verizon has teamed up with the political philosophy of the Chinese Government in saying it has the right to block “controversial or unsavory text messages”.
Verizon has rejected a request by Naral Pro-Choice America to allow its customers to sign up to receive text messages. The New Times notes that the other major wireless carriers have allowed their customers to sign up to receive text messages.
Verizon, by refusing the request to set up the text messaging program, prevents all messaging by Naral – including those that for example ask someone to contact their US Senator to oppose pharmacists refusing to provide US approved birth control or opposing Bush’s global gag rule against birth control for the world’s poorest women.
What wasn’t clear from the article was how Verizon arrived at its decision that the Naral text messages were controversial. Does Verizon, or would it, also ban text messages from any Pro Life group then as a result of this decision? It was a blanket denial for Naral.
By its action Verizon is saying it has the right to censor any group it deems controversial. I wonder if Verizon had existed in the South in 1860 if they would have banned texting by any group opposing Slavery as this was surely controversial.
Or would they if they had existed in 1890 have opposed any groups advocating for the Right of Women to Vote as this was surely controversial then.
Entering the world of corporate censorship is pretty scary to say the least. It puts Verizon in the category of the form of censorship that China does, prohibiting the free exchange of ideas. Some of this censorship is self imposed by business like Goggle so they can do business in China. For example Goggle Blogoscoped found about 9% of a list of 10,000 commonly used words were self censored by Goggle from the Chinese, including words like democracy, democrat, democratic, political, politics, rights and repression.
Is the issue of gun control controversial in Verizon’s eyes? Would Verizon accept text messages from the National Rifle Association and ban those from Cease Fire? Or would it ban all messages from groups advocating or opposing any gun use issue.
What about a group sending out messages about the Iraq War? Will it accept messages from some political groups and not others or ban all messages by groups with a position on this controversial issue? What about the recent controversy over MoveOn.org and General Petraeus? Would it now ban text messaging from MoveOn.org but allow those of a group calling itself Swiftboat Veterans for Petraeus? I made up the swiftboat name and am not aware of such a group but how does Verizon as a private company intend to make decisions as to which organizations to censor and which issues are controversial?
The original question of Verizon banning Naral text messaging actually has a swiftboating analogy. The company, Creative Response Concepts , that produced the swiftboat ads against Kerry is actually involved in the abortion /”Pro Life” issue, as AlterNet reports in a post entitled “Swiftboaters Recruited to Push Abstinence”
Creative Design Concepts has been hired involved by the National Abstinence Education Association to run a public relations campaign supporting abstinence only education policies. Does Verizon’s rejection of Naral’s controversial text messages also mean that the National Abstinence Education Association and Creative Response Concepts are also prohibited from using Verizon’s text messaging program or would Verizon allow them to do so if they wanted to.
Verizon has created a huge public relations blunder and in fact has now contributed greatly to the rationale for net neutrality. As the NY Times notes
“The dispute over the Naral messages is a skirmish in the larger battle over the question of “net neutrality” — whether carriers or Internet service providers should have a voice in the content they provide to customers.
“This is right at the heart of the problem,” said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan law school, referring to the treatment of text messages. “The fact that wireless companies can choose to discriminate is very troubling.”
In turning down the program, Verizon, one of the nation’s two largest wireless carriers, told Naral that it does not accept programs from any group “that seeks to promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.”
OK I am a Verizon user and so is my family. I am going to take Verizon at their word saying that they not accept message programs from groups that may be seen as “controversial or unsavory to any of our users” I am sure I am not alone in saying that I as a user find the Republican Party’s agenda for America offensive and I find the Iraq War offensive. So please , Verizon, do not allow any group that supports the Republican Party or the Iraq War to set up a text messaging program. I do not consider the Democratic Party controversial so please allow any Democratic organization to text. Thanks for listening and responding.
Addendum: For the record, according to AlterNet, the Swift Boat Ad Group, “Creative Response Concepts’ other clients have included the Christian Coalition, Concerned Women for America, the Discovery Institute (a Seattle-based think tank that promotes “intelligent design” creationism), Regnery Publishing (a conservative publisher with David Limbaugh, David Horowitz, and Oliver North among their authors’ list), the Coalition for Patient Choice (a group advocating against managed care reforms, and which includes the conservative Eagle Forum as a member), the Media Research Center (a conservative media watchdog organization which recently honored Rush Limbaugh with the “Buckley Award for Media Excellence”), and a group called USA Next (which was formed as an alternative to the “liberal activism” of the AARP).”
Update – As reported on ClickZ this afternoon Verizon has reversed itself and now will allow text messages from Naral Pro Choice America. Naral issued a press release noting that over 20,000 messages protesting Verizon’s action were sent to Verizon in just 2 hours..
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