There are 17 Republican candidates for president who get the New York Times stamp of legitimacy. In a field like that, standing out is hard. The easiest way to catch media attention–and attract voters in the notoriously conservative Republican primary voting base–is to get competitively nutters. Which most of the candidates are doing, hard, when it comes to bashing reproductive health care. It’s impossible to really hand out lifetime achievement awards when it comes to the ugliest slams against reproductive health care, but here are the worst things they’ve said recently.
1) Mike Huckabee. Huckabee is a notorious spewer of sexist garbage, but his latest–defending the Paraguay government forcing a 10-year-old rape victim to have her rapist’s baby–is low even for him. “When an abortion happens, there are two victims,” he argued. “One is the child, the other is that birth mother, who often will go through extraordinary guilt years later when she begins to think through what happened, with the baby, with her.”
He wants a 10-year-old to endure childbirth for her own good, lest she feel “guilt” over reneging on her Huckabee-prescribed duty to having babies for rapists. Not very convincing, that.
2) Scott Walker. During the Fox News GOP debate, Walker affirmed his support for forcing pregnant women to give birth, even if their doctors tell them it will kill them. He doubled down later in an interview with Sean Hannity, saying, “I’ve said for years, medically there’s always a better choice than choosing between the life of an unborn baby and the life of the mother.”
It is true that you don’t have to choose, since Walker’s preference, doing nothing, tends to kill both a woman and her fetus. How that’s pro-life, however, remains a mystery.
3) Ben Carson. “It brings up a very important issue and that is do those black lives matter,” he told Fox News host Eric Bolling recently when discussing Planned Parenthood. “The number-one cause of death for black people is abortion.”
Undermining the Black Lives Matter movement while implying that black women are somehow race traitors because they control their own bodies? It’s the kind of viciousness that motivates the modern American right.
4) Rick Santorum. “It is not any more than the Dred Scott decision was settled law to Abraham Lincoln,” Santorum said, during the Republican debate, about a recent court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. “This a rogue Supreme Court decision.”
“We passed a bill and we said, Supreme Court, you’re wrong!” he continued, citing a 2003 law he wrote that undermined Roe v Wade. Dred Scott v Sanford was a notorious 1856 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that black people cannot be U.S. citizens.
Santorum was suggesting that denying black people their basic humanity is somehow the equivalent of letting women control their bodies or letting gay people marry for love.
5) Bobby Jindal. “Today’s video of a Planned Parenthood official discussing the systematic harvesting and trafficking of human body parts is shocking and gruesome,” Jindal said, announcing an investigation of Planned Parenthood inspired by videos that have been repeatedly shown to be anti-choice hoaxes.
Investigations into Planned Parenthood have found, no surprise, that there is no “trafficking of human body parts” going on. Jindal has yet to weigh in on what other surgeries should be banned because they are “gruesome.”
6) Marco Rubio. Rubio’s argument on CNN for why women should not be allowed to remove unwanted embryos from their uteruses: “It cannot turn into an animal. It can’t turn into a donkey.”
“Well, if they can’t say it will be human life, what does it become, then?” he added. “Could it become a cat?”
All surgery, as well as tooth removal and hair brushing, removes living human cells, aka human life. It’s not donkey. It’s not cat. Human. We look forward to Rubio’s upcoming ban on dentistry on the grounds that human life is not cat life.
7) Carly Fiorina. Fiorina considered denying her daughter the HPV vaccine, even though nearly all sexually active people will get it at some point in their lives. “And she got bullied. She got bullied by a school nurse saying: ‘Do you know what your daughter is doing?'” Fiorina complained at a campaign event.
Sorry, Fiorina, but assuming your kid will likely grow up and have sex one day is not bullying. Signaling to your kid that you expect her to be a lifelong virgin or risk cervical cancer? That’s what I’d call bullying.
8) Jeb Bush. Bush got a lot of negative attention for a campaign event where he said, “I’m not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”
His attempt to “clarify” this, however, showed that he really does mean it. He proposes taking the money away from family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood and redirecting it to general service community health centers. Which is to say, take away money bookmarked for women’s health, forcing women to give up their gynecologists and go to general clinics instead, where they can expect longer wait times, less direct access to contraception and less access to specialized services.
9) Ted Cruz. When the hoax Planned Parenthood videos came out, Cruz floated a conspiracy theory accusing the media of censorship. “The mainstream media wants to do everything they can to hide these videos from the American people,” he argued. “And the reason is virtually every reporter, virtually every editor, virtually every person who makes decisions in the mainstream media is passionately pro-abortion.”
In the real world, every major newspaper, cable news network, and many nightly news shows covered the videos. They also debunked the lies in the videos, though telling the truth is probably not what Cruz was hoping the media would do with these deceitful videos.
10) Donald Trump. Trump says a lot of foul things about women and reproductive health care generally, including calling Planned Parenthood an “abortion factory.” But he’s probably the candidate in the race who is the least opposed to reproductive health care, which is a sad statement about the state of the modern GOP.
11) Rand Paul. Paul has been pushing the idea of banning Medicaid patients from Planned Parenthood and redirecting them to already overcrowded general service clinics instead. “We’ve doubled the amount of money we put into women’s health care through government, and so it’s just an absurd argument to say we need Planned Parenthood,” he argued on Fox News last week. “It’s only about abortion.”
In reality, 97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are not about abortion and 0 percent of federal money goes to Planned Parenthood’s abortion services. Nor can women just go to a community health center. When Texas defunded Planned Parenthood, there were over 63,000 fewer claims for birth control services. Community health centers try to pick up the slack, but it’s more than they can handle.
12) Chris Christie. Christie’s attempts to ingratiate himself with the religious right led him to start defunding Planned Parenthood in New Jersey years ago. But his enthusiasm for preventing women from using contraception stops at his bedroom door. “I’m a Catholic, but I’ve used birth control, and not just the rhythm method,” Christie recently told a New Hampshire crowd.
Birth control for me, but not for thee? It’s probably what all these candidates, none of whom have Duggar-size families, actually practice. But Christie doesn’t get bonus points for honesty. After all, he didn’t admit his hypocrisy and continues to bash Planned Parenthood every chance he gets.
There are five other guys in the race, all eager to dump on affordable contraception services and legal abortion. But as of now, few have shown the vim to really stand out from the crowd in their tedious denunciations of reproductive health care technologies that, in the real world, are a normal part of everyday life. But give them time. It’s a long campaign season and the anti-woman competition is only just getting started.