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The summer of our political discontent

 Posted: 2:00 AM June 26, 2013

This summer events will unfold on the national stage that will be worth following (I understand "¦ paying close attention to politics when toes are in the sand and sunshine beckons requires an act of will). But stuff will happen and there will be high drama in Washington. And not to forget the Supreme Court.

Let's begin with what U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recently characterized as the Republican death spiral. He was referring to his party's unwillingness to embrace the immigration bill soon to emerge from the Senate, a bill crafted by a bipartisan "gang of eight."

Truth be told, the GOP is decidedly uncomfortable with the fact that minorities in our nation will soon become the majority, meaning a quilt of people of color will define America. Or, as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said, when discussing his and Romney's election defeat, it was all those "urban people" who showed up and tenaciously voted. Despite all best efforts by his party to disenfranchise them.

It is the House Republicans who keep insisting that we must create an impregnable southern border barrier that's the equivalent of the Korean DMZ. Keep in mind that what we're talking about is the equivalent of having a fence from San Francisco to Chicago. Some might argue that the GOP leadership knows that the requirement of absolute border security (finish the fence and double the size of the Border Patrol at a cost of some $40 billion) is ultimately a bridge too far. But it does provide them with the justification for blocking the rest of the immigration bill, to include a pathway to citizenship, which Republicans believe amounts to amnesty for some 11.5 million undocumented residents.

I would argue, however, that part of the Republican death spiral that Graham is referring to includes not just immigration but the GOP's attitude toward women, expressed most concretely when discussing abortion and rape.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., recently introduced the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection" bill that would make an abortion illegal after 20 weeks, no matter if the pregnancy was caused by incest or rape. When asked why there was no exclusion for either, Franks explained, with studied insouciance, that "the incidences of pregnancy due to rape are very low," reminiscent of statements made by Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., when he opined that when a rape is "legitimate," a woman's body has a way of shutting down, thus preventing pregnancy. House Republicans quietly inserted the two exceptions before the bill was brought to the House floor for a vote (but only if the victim of incest is a minor and only if the victim of rape reports the assault to authorities).

There are no exceptions in the Franks bill for the woman who discovers fetal anomalies after 20 weeks.

Recently, in the New York Times, Judy Nicastro, a past member of the Seattle City Council, wrote candidly and painfully that 22 weeks into her pregnancy she was told by her physician that one of the two fetuses she was carrying had a herniated diaphragm. All the organs "were in the chest and not developing." Tearfully she asked if her baby was "fixable"? The prognosis was not hopeful. By the 23rd week Nicastro and her husband had to make a decision (after 24 weeks an abortion would be illegal). The doctors explained that if the baby was carried to term and delivered it would be in extremis and have to struggle simply to survive. For how long was uncertain. The couple wrenchingly agreed that an abortion was the most humane outcome. Her other child survived the procedure and was, happily, carried to term.

The Trent Franks bill passed the House early this month.

But Franks and the Republican House membership mirror what is a nationwide attempt by Congress and conservative state legislatures to undermine a woman's right to choose. There is now a ban on abortion in North Dakota after six weeks; 12 weeks in Arkansas. Clinics that perform abortions (as well as offering other health care services for women, often of low income) have been burdened with rules and regulations with which they cannot comply and are forced to close.

Other states, such as Michigan and Indiana and Texas, will mandate transvaginal ultrasound examinations prior to granting an abortion, absent any medical justification. A stunning intrusion by the party of small government into the private lives of women.

So while the nation's unemployed and underemployed await Congressional action regarding job creation, and our recession continues to impact so many, Republicans have doubled down on truncating a woman's right to choose.

Conservatives cannot seem to shift their focus to legislation that would alleviate the suffering of millions of our citizens, to include a suspension of the sequester which continues to do real damage. And so the summer of our political discontent continues.

Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.

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