Why NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s Support of Lieberman Matters

Christy Hardin Smith of Firedoglake is a lawyer, a former prosecutor and a political junkie who’s supporting Ned Lamont in his bid to unseat Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary. She knows the issues of the race inside out.

What you might not know about her is that she’s also the survivor of a brutal rape. And in this post, she reminds us of the real stories behind the anger at Joe Lieberman for his cloture vote on Alito, his remarks about rape victims and Plan B that earned him the name “Rape Gurney Joe,” and at Planned Parenthood and NARAL for endorsing him (their national organizations; the Connecticut chapters haven’t, to my knowledge).

If you have never had to deal with the emotional and physical aftermath of a violent rape, be thankful. What NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s national organizations seem to forget is…there are a LOT of women who can never forget.

No matter how far away from the rape you get, there are things that bring you right back into that moment, and they can be as little as someone touching your arm from behind in a certain way that feels so terrifyingly familiar; or a voice at just the right pitch and tone when you aren’t expecting it; or simply walking out to your car at a time of day when the lighting hits you just right; or, for me, that moment on an elevator when the doors are just about to close, and then someone reaches in to grab it and steps on…and for a moment, I have to gut check to be certain the person is not…well, let’s just say that I gut check and leave it at that.

I have my own experience with sexual assault, though it wasn’t violent, just frightening and disempowering. It’s been 10 years, and there are certain things that induce a panic reaction in me. I can’t even imagine the trauma that someone who’s been violently raped experiences. And I’m sure that Joe can’t, either.

But you’d think that NARAL and Planned Parenthood might have an inkling.

Apparently not.

Christy’s work as a prosecutor brought her into contact with rape victims who’d been impregnated by their rapists, a fate she herself was lucky to escape. As she explained in the post where she originally spoke about her rape:

But every single time I hear someone talk about being pro-life without giving a thought to the woman involved, I cringe. Because I could have easily been impregnated against my will. Violently, viciously impregnated.

And now, some young girl in South Dakota who is raped and finds herself pregnant will be forced to carry the child of her rapist, feeling it grow and move, a daily reminder of the rape — with the flashbacks, the terror, the nightmares, the gut-wrenching fear — everything that you have to overcome after being raped, along with handling the emotions and the responsibilities that come along with a pregnancy.

Wealthy women will be able to travel to other states and obtain an abortion. But, as with so many other things, the poor will be disproportionately affected because they will not be able to pay to travel, stay overnight somewhere, have an abortion and then get the necessary adequate follow-up medical care, let alone the necessary counseling.

Poor women will face the unenviable choice of carrying the child of a rapist or a child conceived of incest (imagine the hell of being impregnated by your own father for a moment)…or perhaps the choice of a back-alley, unsafe abortion and then the resulting sterility or worse, an infection that leads to death, that caused abortion laws to be fought so hard for in the 1970s….

Christy also made this point in her post about why she was opposed to the Alito nomination. And as she put it now:

That I have to explain this to the national organizations of NARAL and Planned Parenthood — AGAIN — is beyond irritating. And that’s something else that I will not forget — you can bet on it.

I’ve written a bit about why I found Lieberman’s remarks about rape victims brought to Catholic hospitals not being inconvenienced by the “short ride” to the nearest public hosptial so odious. I’m a former resident of Connecticut, and I know well that the “short ride” Lieberman talks about isn’t necessarily so short, especially if you’ve been waiting for hours just to be told that you won’t get all the treatment you need and maybe you have to find another hospital where they may or may not take your insurance and you may or may not have to wait hours again. But my sexual assault didn’t require a trip to the emergency room, so I have no first-hand experience of what that entails. Christy does:

A woman who has been raped suffers intense emotional and physical trauma, is often drugged, beaten, stabbed, shot, physically brutalized, and often left for dead. (And I say this having dealt with these types of cases in my criminal legal practice.) That Joe Lieberman would have so little compassion for these women that he would toss off a remark like he did — just get up from the hospital and take a short ride or walk to another one (never mind that it is not a short walk after all) – is appalling enough.

But when you add in the emotional indignity and the physical discomfort of a pelvic examination in the wake of a rape at the hospital, the trauma of having to give the police all the details as you relive the rape step by step, the evidentiary rape kit swabbing that is both invasive and humiliating, and having to confront your family and friends, some of whom are often less than supportive to some women…sure, just get right up off the hospital gurney and hail a cab or take a hike.

Did I mention that violent rapists are also like to rob you blind after they soil your body? So, hopefully you’ve tucked away some cab fare in a secret stash somewhere, because your money, your credit cards, your ATM card, and your car keys are more than likely long gone, honey. Or maybe your vaginal tearing and bruises aren’t so bad that walking won’t be too uncomfortable — and hopefully your rapist has left you with some clothes intact, because those hospital gowns can be a little breezy, especially in New England in the wintertime.

You ask why Jane or I find this rationale on the part of Lieberman, NARAL and Planned Parenthood so appalling? That’s why. I’m pissed. And someone had better damn well not tell me to calm down about this, because this is going to be on a high boil for a long, long time.

Boil away, Christy. Your anger is righteous.


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18 Responses to Why NARAL and Planned Parenthood’s Support of Lieberman Matters

  1. J.H. Bowden says:

    Lieberman is being targeted for one reason, and that is for his support for the war against militant Islam. Senator Reid openly wants restrictions on abortion rights, but Democrats have yet to mount a jihad to oust him. Much of the nitpicking of Lieberman is a rationalization not to vote for him rather than a substantive reason.

    Nevertheless, as an independent or as a Democrat, I project Lieberman to retain his Senate seat.

  2. Puzzled? says:

    The topic of Rape seems to appear quite frequently here and in other posts. I am puzzled that you all seem to be in the dark on the rape of an 11 year old Fresno runaway. She claims that 10 Freson City College football players gang raped her. They have 2 black football players in custody as of yesterday.

  3. Jill says:

    Lieberman is being targeted for one reason, and that is for his support for the war against militant Islam. Senator Reid openly wants restrictions on abortion rights, but Democrats have yet to mount a jihad to oust him. Much of the nitpicking of Lieberman is a rationalization not to vote for him rather than a substantive reason.

    Is Harry Reid up for re-election against a more progressive Democratic candidate right now?

    Maybe, just maybe, that’s why we’re focusing on Lieberman.

  4. Jill says:

    Puzzled-

    Can’t speak for Piny and Zuzu, but I’m aware of it. Just waiting for a little more information before I write something.

  5. Jill says:

    Lieberman is being targeted for one reason, and that is for his support for the war against militant Islam.

    And it’s a war against militant Islam now? Someone needs to keep track of what exactly we’re waging war on this week, because I keep falling behind.

  6. Jeebus H Christ, isn’t Ann Richard’s DAUGHTER the current president of Planned Parenthood? She’s no idiot. Let’s get on the phone and bring her up to speed!

  7. KnifeGhost says:

    Senator Reid openly wants restrictions on abortion rights, but Democrats have yet to mount a jihad to oust him.

    Awwww, that’s cute.

  8. Dianne says:

    Someone needs to keep track of what exactly we’re waging war on this week, because I keep falling behind.

    Eurasia. Or maybe Eastasia. It doesn’t matter. Whoever it is, we’ve always been at war with them.

  9. Christopher says:

    I think that that Lieberman quote demonstrates that if you have no goddamned clue about a subject, ESPECIALLY one as important and emotional as rape, you should keep your fool trap shut until you can do some research.

    Eh, Congress. They pull that kind of crud all the time.

  10. libdevil says:

    Lieberman is being challenged in the primary for many reasons, none of which have to do with any supposed war on militant Islam. He’s being challenged because he’s in bed with the President on the illegal and morally bankrupt occupation of Iraq. Because he tried to destroy Social Security (switching sides only when it became apparent that his buddy Bush was going to lose that particular fight). Because he screwed over the country to support the bankruptcy bill. Because he’s awful on womens’ issues. Because he’s miserable on free speech. But most of all, because he’s more interested in maintaining power for Joe Lieberman than in remaining loyal to either his constituents or his party. That, in the end, is what drives all these other considerations. It’s why he aligns himself with Republicans when he thinks it’s to his advantage. It’s why he spends so much time on Fox News slamming other Dems. It’s why he won’t abide by the results of the primary. He’s all about himself.

  11. Beet says:

    I know very little about hospitals, but it seems that by starting up a hospital in a particular location, Catholic groups use up demand for hospital services in that area, thus depriving other potential hospital entrepreneurs of customers and employees. That would be fine, except that they are now no longer providing services on the basis of religious beliefs, services marginal enough that the demand created by such services wouldn’t support another hospital in the same community. Thus aren’t they in a way depriving the community of certain services? Again, I know very little about Connecticut hospitals, but theoretically that reasoning holds.

  12. Azelie says:

    Re: lack of uproar about Reid

    I can never keep it straight – is it supposed to be a good thing that we don’t get upset about some senators having positions outside of the party mainstream or is it a bad thing? We get accused of being purists who won’t accept anyone who deviates one iota from lefty ideology, then we get accused of being inconsistant and having base motives for accepting some people who deviate from mainstream Democratic views.

    For elected representatives, there has to be some combination of exercising your own judgment and representing your constituents. Where Reid is concerned, we know that he’s ultimately going to work toward advancing the Democratic agenda. There are some senators and congresspeople that we know have to take centrist and even some conservative positions to retain their offices, otherwise the seat will go to a Republican. The problem with Lieberman is that Democrats can’t trust that he’s going to work for our party, and it’s not just a matter of taking a few positions, either prinicipled or strategic, that don’t fit into a progressive agenda (see libdevil’s comment above).

  13. NBarnes says:

    Senator Reid voted against cloture on Alito. Liebermann voted in favor. No, I don’t have a problem with Reid. He keeps his pro-life views in his goddamn pants.

  14. NBarnes says:

    Also, libdevil in 10. is 100% correct.

  15. Erika says:

    Poor women will face the unenviable choice of carrying…a child conceived of incest (imagine the hell of being impregnated by your own father for a moment)

    I believe that’s also known as rape. That father would be a r-a-p-i-s-t. Sorry, I know it’s nit-picky, but it annoys me when people differentiate between rape and non-consensual incest.

  16. Kristen from MA says:

    The problem with Lieberman is that he is a conservative republican who calls himself a democrat.

    Recently he stood up on the floor of the senate and argued the GOP’s position on a particular issue – I think it may have been Kerry’s proposed timetable for withdrawing from Iraq. He argued on behalf of the republicans. That’s why liberals/progressives/democrats are so upset.

  17. Shinobi says:

    I can’t even believe there is a debate about this. How could a religious group be so full of their own morality and so empty of empathy that they would want this.

  18. Beet says:

    How could a religious group be so full of their own morality and so empty of empathy that they would want this.

    That’s rather the point. Religion places the locus of morality at an entirely different place than human instinct left to its own devices. The mechanism is the same, but the ends are by no means the same. At the extreme, terrorism is either a profoundly moral or immoral act based on the acceptance and interpretation of religious teaching. At a lesser extreme, you have situations like this. Somewhere in the middle are the parents who do not allow their children to receive medical attention.

    As I mentioned above, this creates a market inefficiency whereby the behavior of some supplier behaves in a way that is not “pareto optimal” if you measure utility from the perspective of “secular morality” or objectives, because rather than attempting to maximize their performance w.r.t. aforementioned objectives, they are actually attempting to maximize similiar, but different objectives. A society where religious belief and disbelief, or varying different religious beliefs are observed, is objectively worse off, because market actors cannot simultaneously optimize their behavior with a set of different value sets; the more different value sets exist the worse off society is, and religion artifically inflates these differences in a way that human instict by itself would not.

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