Sunday, August 12, 2012

Can a Pregnant Woman Drive in the Carpool Lane? (or Why I Cannot Vote For Paul Ryan)

Yesterday Mitt Romney announced his choice of running mate.  By all accounts Paul Ryan, U.S. Representative from Wisconsin, is a serious man with actual knowledge of how national budgets work.  It is clear that Mr. Romney has engaged in some vicarious learning based on John McCain’s choice of a running mate in 2008.  Paul Ryan is someone who could be President Day One if he had to be.  He is also someone who will energize the Republican base.  It seemed as if many Republicans were going to vote for Romney out of duty rather than excitement.  Come Election Day they were going to lie back, stare at the ceiling, and think of England as they cast their half-hearted vote.  Now those same lukewarm supporters might actually wake up on Election Day hot and bothered and eager to do the deed.

To be honest, I do not think that Mitt Romney’s choice of a running mate had the power to swing this election his way.  Mitt is just too different from the average undecided voter to actually convince them to change horses midstream.  He comes across as what he is—a very rich man who has no idea how most of us really live.  In the interest of full disclosure I feel obligated to say that I do not think Mitt Romney would be a terrible President.  Based on his performance in Massachusetts and his willingness to adopt any position at all, (even if it is in direct contrast to an earlier position), I think his guiding principle would be pragmatism. 
His term or two as President would probably look a lot like Barack Obama’s.  He would propose all sorts of middle-of-the-road policies, some of which had enjoyed wide support from Democrats in the past, and the Democrats would oppose them all as too radically conservative.  He would manage the country just fine.  Given the choice in November I will certainly be voting for Barack Obama, but I would not be moving to Canada if Mitt Romney were to win.

Having said that, Paul Ryan scares me.  He is not a pragmatist.  In his own quiet, competent way, he is a right wing bomb thrower.  His economic policies, based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand, are so radical that they would be unacceptable to most Americans. 
But I am not going to talk about Ryan’s economic policies today.  Instead I want to focus in on his beliefs about reproduction.  Paul Ryan is as far right as a politician can be when it comes to limiting Americans’ right to make choices about their own reproductive lives. 
If you follow this link you can see the details of Ryan’s many votes over his years in the House.  I want to home in on two of his positions that make it clear Representative Ryan wants to dictate what women should do with their eggs.  Paul Ryan co-sponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which states  “each human life begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent, at which time every human has all legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”  He also co-sponsored a bill that would grant the pre-born equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

Taken together, this position that a fetus is a person with full rights leads to all sorts of ridiculous situations.  For example, does a fetus need a passport?  Can a pregnant woman drive in the HOV lane? Can she claim a fetus as a dependent on her taxes? Can she buy life insurance on a fetus and then cash it out after a miscarriage?  Can a woman going through fertility treatments be charged with a crime if some of her embryos are frozen or discarded before implantation?  Can a fetus have a Social Security number? Can a corporation be a fetus?  Can a fetus who resides in a woman who is in prison sue for illegal imprisonment?  Paul Ryan may be a smart man, but this position that a fertilized egg is a citizen of the United States with all the rights and protections guaranteed in the United States Constitution is just plain bonkers. 

Another Ryan position I want to mention is his belief that ALL abortions should be illegal.  He makes no exceptions for rape, incest, or medical risks to the life of the mother.  Ironic that even if a girl or woman gets pregnant against her will, she is then forced to have the baby against her will as well.  Just who is it that holds Ryan’s all-important freedom in these cases.  Apparently, freedom belongs to rapists and the state in Paul Ryan’s dream country.  An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says,  “Ryan said he opposes abortion, period.  He said any exceptions to a ‘partial birth’ abortion ban would make that ban meaningless.”  

Here is what Ayn Rand has said about abortion:

"A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn). Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered."

I would be willing to hope for the best with Mitt Romney in the Oval Office—I do not think he would push the abortion issue.  Being practical, he knows it would really only energize the left and take away a perennial Republican issue while squandering any possible chance at bipartisanship.  But if something awful were to happen and Paul Ryan were to become Chief Executive, I fear he would forget his Objectivist roots and instead tap into his Talibanist tendencies and push to make all abortions illegal.

Maybe we can talk about all of the holes in the Romney/Ryan budget plan another day.  For now, I just needed to vent a little about my fears of Paul Ryan in the White House, a heartbeat away from the Oval Office, and what that would mean for the ability of women to choose to have a family or not.  Paul Ryan reminds me of some of the protesters who stand outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in New Haven with their pictures of dismembered fetuses.  I walk my dog by them sometimes and sometimes, when I am feeling strong, I engage them in conversation.  I genuinely try to get to the point where we can see some common ground.  

People who are pro-choice are not pro-abortion.  Of course we would all like to see a reduction in the number of abortions performed in this country each year.  One way to do that is to provide easy access to low cost birth control and reproductive health consultations with trained nurses and doctors.  When I mention this to the protesters, they often freak out and take an all-or-nothing position.  They say it is God's plan that we not have sex outside of marriage and that we carry to term any children that result from the sex we do have.  While idealistic, this belief is at odds with millions of years of biological imperative and ignores people's reproductive realities.  Paul Ryan has shown through his numerous votes and public comments about abortion and family planning that he is willing to impose his narrow religious view on all Americans, in spite of what the Constitution guarantees in the First Amendment.  This is not the only reason I would not vote for a Romney/Ryan ticket, but it is the reason that bubbled out first when I heard Ryan was chosen yesterday.


  1. i am with you except for the view that four or eight years of mittens would be like obama's. there would be no use of the federal agencies to get the epa to monitor carbon dioxide, there would be no effort to clean up the coal fired power plants in the midwest, there would be no effort to prevent children with diabetes and other diseases from being denied health insurance, there would be no effort to increase regulation of oil drilling and lending and so fact there would be efforts to undo these things. so i like your blog, i even like the ride from Whitney Point to Ithaca (though for a city with tens of thousands of students and their visiting parents the restaurant food is pathetic) and this is not a void and thanks for providing one more place where i can vent a bit.

  2. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this. It is truly a scary prospect that Ryan and Romney could take the White House and impose their monstrous plans on this country, especially Ryan. Although I agree that Romney is less scary because he is more pragmatic than Ryan, I think he is just as scary precisely because his pragmatism, seemingly unbalanced by any strong personal convictions, is likely to make him sign any legislation that the most powerful interests around him want him to sign. For instance, Grover Norquist, an extremely influential lobbyist who is extremely pro-Ryan, has outrightly stated that all the GOP needs in a president is not a strong leader but some puppet with "enough working digits to handle a pen" that can sign the Ryan budget. Romney, with all his pragmatist and opportunist flip-flopping, seems to be that kind of puppet. Romney can be easily persuaded to do anything by the extremists around him.