South Dakota has now passed legislation making it illegal for a woman to have an abortion even in the case of rape or incest. It's a law perfectly timed to test the new Supreme Court now that Samuel Alito has joined their ranks. How exactly did we get to this place?
Ask Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
They sat back, bilked their membership like an ATM then didn't show up to fight Alito's confirmation, frolicking in their mountain of hoarded cash even as they pissed and moaned. Worse yet, afterwards they told their members to thank those in the Senate -- like Joe Lieberman -- who cast their votes to let this happen.
Now women across the country are enraged and they're "irritated" by the phone calls and faxes they're getting. Their disconnect from the real world of pro-choice is both dangerous and astonishing.
The religious right has been preparing for this moment for decades, and so have NARAL and Planned Parenthood. All their fundraising literature invoked this threat to Roe v. Wade like a bogeyman that could only be held off with cash:
"NARAL Pro-Choice America surpassed its fundraising goals in the hours following Justice O'Connor's announcement," said President Nancy Keenan. Donors "are deeply concerned that President Bush will choose to further divide this nation by nominating a radical right-wing conservative."
Moderation is not the tone of fundraising appeals in the nomination contest. "This is big, people. Huge," NARAL wrote to supporters. "It's true, there is no freedom without choice. Without choice, we are not free."
But what did NARAL do when the time came? Nothing.
The conventional wisdom in Washington these days seems to be that the Democratic party will be just fine if it shifts dramatically to the right and "goes with the flow." NARAL was birthed by pioneering feminists like Betty Friedan who had fire in their bellies, but somewhere along the line they became an institutional behemoth who wanted to court the rich and the powerful more than they wanted to actually serve the cause that so many hard working Americans entrust them to do -- guard choice.
They began endorsing Republicans like Lincoln Chafee and giving money to Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Yet when the Alito cloture vote went down -- the only meaningful vote, which could've been stopped with 40 "nay" votes from getting to the floor -- all of these people voted "aye." People like Chafee and Joe Lieberman later voted "nay" in the final vote which only required a simple majority of 51. They then ran around and huffing and puffing about this coathanger-wielding like they'd done something really brave on behalf of choice. Nobody was fooled.
Well, nobody but Planned Parenthood:
SUPREME COURT WRAP UP
On Tuesday, January 31, 2006 the Senate voted to confirm Samuel Alito, Jr. 58-42 as the next U.S. Supreme Court Justice after failed efforts by Senate Democrats to filibuster his nomination. Take time to thank Senator Chris Dodd and Senator Joseph Lieberman for opposing Samuel Alito's nomination. We thank all our supporters and activists for their energy and effort to defeat this nomination.
And nobody but NARAL, who said "Thank your senator for opposing Alito!" and then listed a whole slew of Senators who hadn't supported them on cloture.
Lest you think there was some kind of collective brain atrophy on the part of the institutional pro-choice forces, take comfort in the fact that NOW gets it:
LIEBERMAN HAS TURNED HIS BACK ON WOMEN
Senator Lieberman turned his back on this country's women by refusing to support a filibuster against the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Judge Alito was confirmed yesterday by a vote of 58-42. While Connecticut NOW recognizes the 42 senators who voted against confirmation, the crucial vote happened the day before, when senators voted on whether or not to end debate on this nomination. Since the Republican leadership had enough votes to confirm Alito, a filibuster was the only way to prevent his confirmation.
Connecticut NOW applauds Senator Dodd for his support of the filibuster. Shamefully his colleague, Senator Lieberman, demonstrated a lack of respect and concern for the women and girls of Connecticut and the nation by his refusal to support the filibuster. Senator Lieberman pointed out that he had studied Samuel Alito's record carefully and so he was aware of the threat Alito poses to a woman's most basic constitutional right: to control her own body and decide whether or not to bear a child. As reported by The Hartford Courant, Senator Lieberman stated that he did not support a filibuster because Alito's confirmation vote did not meet the standard of "extraordinary circumstances" decreed by the Senate "Gang of 14." "This is a slap in the face to every woman of this state, no matter her political beliefs, economic status or race," stated Rosemary Dempsey, President of CT NOW. "What could be a more 'extraordinary circumstance' than when a woman's right to make her own reproductive health decisions is seriously threatened?"
Former NARAL head Kate Michelman gets it, too -- she herself has endorsed Chafee's opponent Matt Brown. This particular brand of GOP sycophancy while choice burns seems to be a product of Nancy Keenan's fevered money hunger. Meanwhile, although NARAL asked their members what they thought about the Alito vote on their Bush v. Choice blog, when people like noted feminist Katha Pollit challenged their continued support for Chafee their comments were deleted.
Striking fear into the hearts of their memberships with Supreme Court terror alerts they use for the purpose of shaking them down is bad enough. That these organizations continue to endorse people like Lincoln Chafee and ask women to grovel before those who whallop them and blacken their eyes is worse. That the Democratic candidates who are now running against Chafee both say they would not have voted for cloture on Alito, yet NARAL continues to endorse Chafee anyway, is a disgrace.
Planned Parenthood won't even count the cloture vote on their scorecard. To them it is "not significant." I would accuse them of being stupid but there is no way they are that profoundly ignorant of the political process. They have become Washington insiders and have clearly made some kind of decision to court power by ignoring the destruction of choice being carried out by the very candidates they continue to bootlick for their beatings.
Should one of the pro-choice judges on the Supreme Court retire before the end of the Bush junta, choice in this country will not survive another nominee confirmed by this Senate. There is no more important task before the pro-choice movement today than the defeat of Senators in states that are solidly pro-choice like Joe Lieberman, Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe -- Senators who have proven that they will knuckle under to the Bush junta first and care about choice only when they're let off their leash, only when it doesn't matter.
The NRA would've yanked their endorsement from any Senator who voted against them like that in a heartbeat.
Why not NARAL and Planned Parenthood?
Ned Lamont is a solidly pro-choice candidate running against Joe Lieberman in Connecticut. If you care about pro-choice in this country, thank NOW for having the clear-eyed vision to understand the dangers that are imminent. Contact NARAL and Planned Parenthood and tell them you are cutting them off until they denounce the members of the Gang of 14, yank their funding and use that money to support Senate candidates who will actually stand up to George Bush and the bullies of the Republican party next time there is a Supreme Court vacancy.
Don't give them any more money for their fancy vases and swank offices and expensive lunches with the GOP forced childbirth lobby. Give your money to true pro-choice candidates for the US Senate like Ned Lamont who will take a stand when the time comes, and it will come. Give 'til it hurts. Then give some more.
That NARAL and Planned Parenthood don't seem to care about this simple truth is nothing short of shocking and they do not deserve to be the guardians of pro-choice in this country until they make a commitment to show up and defend it.
Jane Hamsher blogs daily at firedoglake.blogspot.com