Category Archives: Politics

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

So let’s have some injustice links.

Yes, we’re putting immigrants in concentration camps. And the Trump administration says not giving kids baths or somewhere to sleep beside cold concrete floors is acceptable. It’s not the first time we’ve gone this route, but that’s no excuse. Points to Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez for calling a spade a spade, and not backing down when she got flak from the media (among others) that she shouldn’t say things like that.

Radley Balko, a libertarian who actually says intelligent stuff, looks at how destructive being kept in jail before trial is for the poor. So bad, they’ll plead guilty just to get out and back to their jobs. LGM adds more.

In Tennessee, Sheriff’s Detective Grayson Fritts told his church the government needs to gather up and start executing gays. Subsequently, Cracker Barrel chose not to serve his church group. Over in Alabama, Mayor Mark Chambers also advocates for killing gays.

California legislator Evan Low has introduced a non-binding resolution opposing conversion therapy and asking for compassion for gays. The religious right’s response? Lie through their teeth.

Laura Ingraham, who claims legal immigration is destroying America now says Democrats are trying to replace the white population. That’s so close to the Nazis’ “You will not replace us!” that I wonder she doesn’t come out with a swastika tat.

“The religious right showed no mercy and no charity toward these groups when it had the power to impose its will, but when it lost that power, it turned to invoking the importance of religious tolerance and pluralism in a democratic society.” Adam Serwer on how some on the right, having failed to win that way, now reject democracy.

It’s not unusual to have lawmakers skip a session to prevent a vote. But threatening violence if you’re brought back?

The Minnesota Historical Society identified one state location by its old Native American name. To some Republicans, admitting the Dakota were there first is revisionist history.

In Alabama, the new forced-birth bill makes no exception for rape victims. And guess what, the state also gives rapists visitation rights to the kids.

The Trump Administration wants to charge stores a fee for accepting food stamps.

To end on a justice note or two, Sandy Hook parents have won a couple of court victories against the liars who claim the shooting never happened. And students at one Catholic School pushed back against the administration’s arguments that harassment was the fault of female students for dressing sexy.

 

 

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Update on NC Senator Thom Tillis

Despite his record of supporting bad alternatives to Obamacare, Tillis is enthusiastically claiming  the Republican Protect Act will shield people with pre-existing conditions from being charged higher premiums. See, he cares!

Even if true, is a much, much worse deal for most of us than the post-ACA status quo. This fits with most of the Republican alternatives. And while the bill says a plan may not discriminate between people based on pre-existing conditions, the LA Times says there’s nothing to stop an insurer from offering two tiers of plans, one for healthy young people, and a pricier one for older sicker people. Which fits, too; a stock conservative solution is that if we don’t let states set minimum standards for insurance, the free market will fix everything (they are amazingly flexible on “state’s rights” when it gets in the way of big business, aren’t they?

Here’s the text, if you’re curious.

Given Tillis lies like a rug, I am not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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Words to the wise: quotes about politics, with links

“I had a hard time believing that wealthy people in the 1950s had a different attitude toward the taxman than wealthy people do today. And guess what? I was right.” A look at the days of the 90 percent top tax rate.

” To maintain his pose, the centrist must always be shifting his positions to somewhere close to the midpoint between the dominant political ideologies, even if one of them (let’s call it “the Republican party”) is racing at light speed toward the most extreme radical reaction.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter says he “Probably killed women and children, if there were any left in the city when we invaded. So do I get judged, too?”

“The animating impulse of Trump’s campaign — the beating heart of ‘Make America Great Again’ — was a defense of traditional hierarchies. Trump promised, explicitly, to weaken America’s commitment to principles of fairness and equality to strengthen privileges of race, gender and wealth.”

According Alabama’s George Faught, people calling for a rape exception to the state’s anti-abortion bill are “saying that God is not sovereign with every activity that happens in someone’s life and can’t use anything and everything in someone’s life, and I disagree with that.”

“The notion that an in-custody stillbirth at 27 weeks is not a death, but that an abortion at six or eight weeks is a murder punishable by up to 99 years in prison, requires wild feats of mental jujitsu.”

“But on the other hand why not send the message directly? In Donald Trump’s America, why be subtle?”

“Before you ask them to respect our borders, ask yourself: Has the West ever respected anyone’s borders?”

“The rot extends further than Trump.”

“Like many right-wing attempts at historical revisionism, [it]ignores the long and violent imposition of Jim Crow apartheid in the former Confederate states after the Civil War—not to mention official and unofficial policies that have continued to perpetuate glaring racial disparities in opportunity, income, wealth and well-being.”

“The reason that there’s enhanced punishment on domestic violence is to recognize and protect the sanctity of marriage. And I said, ‘there’s no marriage to protect.’ So I don’t prosecute them as domestics.” — anti-gay bigot DA Craig Northcott on why he won’t prosecute domestic violence cases involving gay marriages.

“The U.S. Catholic Church spent $10.6 million on lobbyists to prevent victims of clerical sex abuse from suing for damages.” And yet they say they have no money to pay damages.

“Despite this — the use of the swastika, a far right symbol and the fact that nearly every single anti-Semitic offense reported was perpetrated by the far right — despite this, the Times writer(s) nevertheless repeat their utterly false equivalence of right, left, and Muslim.”

“Who rolls back environmental regulations in the face of a massive climate crisis? Republicans — all of them, or nearly all.

“The belief that the Key to Everything is “the startling news that the media isn’t reporting!” always leads, ultimately, to anti-Semitism.”

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The rage over Kavanaugh

Last week I linked to a post on LGM, about the views of one well-connected Republican. Said Republican told the blogger that conservative rage is fueled by liberals criticizing Trump, resentment over Nixon leaving office (I’m strongly suspicious that he does not feel the same about Republicans trying to remove Clinton from office); and “the entire conservative establishment remains outraged about the attempt to block Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination, which its members almost unanimously see as a weaponization of metoo# for purely partisan aims. He insisted that it was almost impossible to overstate how deeply held this view is. ”

Another LGM post concludes the interviewee was right: they are indeed still furious about Kavanaugh. Right-wingers Josh Hammer and Sohrab Ahmari have tweeted about how it radicalized them; Hammer describes it on Twitter as a “civilizational wake-up call.” He does not mean he woke up and realized a number of conservatives said that even if Kavanaugh had done the things he was accused of (including exposing himself to a woman, groping and assaulting Christine Blasey Ford and participating in drugging women for gang rapes) it was no big deal. Boys will be boys, everybody does this stuff (e.g., business professor Mitchell Langbert).  It’s just rough horseplay.  No the wakeup call was the opposition to Kavanaugh.

As LGM says, it’s no surprise right-wingers were furious at the time. A lot of them want to see liberals, Democrats, feminists all crushed and humiliated; that’s part of why they like Trump (I’ve had people on FB say “triggering libs” is the main reason they support the Shit-Gibbon). Our resistance pissed them off, even though Trump would have someone just as conservative and right-to-life if Kavanaugh hadn’t made the cut. But even though they won the fight, they remain enraged.

I doubt they’re really pissed about the supposed politics of it. As others have pointed out, nobody made rape accusations against Neal Gorsuch, and he was the Justice who took the seat Obama was entitled to fill. That would have been a logical place to try a smear campaign, but it didn’t happen. And it’s not as if they object to political hatchet jobs or even actual attempts to fake a rape charge (by inept right-winger Jacob Wohl).

True, I still see some conservatives pissed off by the Senate rejecting Reagan’s Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, even though Reagan went on to fill the seat. Resentment’s what right-wingers do. But they lost that one, just like Nixon’s defeat was a loss for them. Kavanaugh was a victory.

My theory? I suspect a lot of the anger is because they really do think the things he’s accused of were no big: being raped, groped or assaulted is something men, in general, have a right to do. Hammer didn’t think politician Roy Moore’s alleged interest in underage girls was disqualifying, and he wasn’t alone.

And some of them are undoubtedly thinking about what they might have done themselves. As one right-wing lawyer put it, “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.”  Actually those of us who didn’t do anything needn’t be worried. Fake rape accusations are rare.The only people who have to worry that accusations of sexual assault are a time bomb ticking under their careers are the people who’ve actually committed assault. And now look at someone like Ford and feel righteous rage at the thought they, or someone like them, would actually be held accountable for such a trivial act.

I don’t like thinking the worst of people, but in this case, I certainly do think it.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Mars, monsters, black hair and copyright: books read

Leigh Brackett’s THE NEMESIS FROM TERRA reads like a mash-up of Brackett’s Martian adventures with her hardboiled movie scripts (she worked on both The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye). It’s set in an era when a powerful Earth corporation has taken over Mars, press ganging lower-class Martians and Earthers to work in the mines (reminding me of Diana Wynn Jones’ joke about how miners in fantasy novels are always slaves, never actual miners). Tough-as-nails protagonist Rick is on the run from the press gang when a Martian seer tells him he’s destined to rule. To succeed, though, he’s got to defeat the corporation, it’s ruthless leader and deal with their mutual interest in an attractive revolutionary (the Bacall to Rick’s Bogart). Plus, of course, a lost city.

This is a grimmer, tougher yarn than most of Brackett’s Mars stories (people smoke a lot more than they do in her other stories too), but it also fits what Edmond Hamilton (Brackett’s husband) saw as the theme of her work: a man who pursues a great dream only to find it hollow. A good story, in any case.

HAIR STORY: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps does an excellent job tracing the history of African-American hair and hairstyles from Africa (where elaborate hairstyles were as much a status marker as a bespoke suit today) through slavery to post-Civil War segregation. In both freedom and slavery, straight “white” style hair became the marker of a superior person (and also more acceptable to the white world); later in the 20th century, the popularity of the Afro (and later dredlocks) led to debate whether this represented True Blackness, meaningless fashion or was just tacky. There’s a lot more stuff covered in the book; while I know some of these issues exist, the authors did a great job making me understand them.

TwoMorrows Publishing’s MONSTER MASH: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America, 1957-1972 by Mark Voger looks back to the late 1950s when Universal released its Shock Theater package to TV, containing its classic monster films (and a lot that weren’t so classic), introducing Frankenstein, Dracula and others to a generation of kids who’d never seen them (the last film in the cycle was 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein). Kids were blown away (so was I when I encountered the films in syndication a dozen years later), leading to an explosion of marketing (sweat shirts, Aurora models, Count Chocula cereal, board games) and TV spinoffs such as The Munsters (surprisingly Voger never mentions the film version, Munsters Go Home), The Addams Family and Dark Shadows. Voger argues that while the classic horrors and their spinoffs are still around this era of film horror ended in 1972 as The Exorcist took the genre in another direction. A good job.

HOLLYWOOD’S COPYRIGHT WARS: From Edison to the Internet by Peter Decherney, shows how copyright struggles were part of the movie industry from the early days, when it wasn’t clear if copyright applied to photography (if you just photographed real life, what creativity was there to protect?), let alone to films, which were seen as collections of photographs. Following that debate would come battles over pirating other studios’ films (a common problem in the early years), adapting books and plays for the screen, whether TV editing movies violated creator rights (the Monty Python were one of the few who won that fight, when they sued ABC for butchering their skits for a late-night showing), then into the age of the VCR, DVD and Internet (while I’m more familiar with the issues of this period, Decherney still told me a lot I didn’t know). An excellent job.

#SFWApro. Brackett cover art is uncredited; all rights to images remain with current holders.

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The American people wanted Trump elected so impeachment is bad! Um, wrong

That is actually the argument of Fred Hiatt in the Washington Post (not a direct link): “We thought his unfitness was evident before he was elected, and Americans chose him anyway. (No, he didn’t win the popular vote. But he won.) He is endangering the future of the planet — but we knew he was a climate denier. He ripped children from their parents at the border — but his racism and anti-immigrant animus, like his contempt for the Constitution, were no secrets.

To impeach him now for what the electorate welcomed or was willing to overlook isn’t the democratic response. The right response is to defeat him in 2020.”

Where to start? Well first off, Hiatt’s premise that the people chose Trump despite his flaws is, as he admits, bullshit: he didn’t win the popular vote. The people picked Clinton despite the supposed email scandal and James Comey’s letter and the Russian tampering. Yes, Trump won, but not by democratic means; the electoral college is, and was designed to be, antidemocratic. So it’s hard to see why impeachment, as a non-democratic response, is any more objectionable.

And no, we did not know what we were getting in 2016. Sure, we knew he was bad, but the Mueller intel about obstruction of justice, which could certainly justify impeachment, was not available. Nor is it a logical to say that voters, knowing Trump’s “anti-immigrant animus,” somehow knew he’d be snatching kids from their parents and imprisoning them and were cool with that (it appears hardcore Trump supporters are fine with it, but not all Trump voters are that devoted). Is Hiatt seriously suggesting that because Trump was obviously unfit, nothing he does can now justify impeachment?

Possibly this reflects something blogger Paul Campos wrote about a while back, that there’s huge resentment on the right over liberals continuing to bring up how bad Trump is. Campos says the attitude is that sure, Trump is a bad guy, but we already knew that! Rubbing our noses in it just makes us feel like you look down on us for supporting him! We resent that! (Campos says there’s also a lot of resentment about the fight over Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment, something I’ll come back to later).

No More Mr. Nice Blog makes another good point: before the election, pundits such as WaPo’s Kathleen Parker actually assured us that Trump wouldn’t be that bad. Congress would rein him in. Republicans wouldn’t just go along with his worst impulses. “He won’t impose any religion-based immigration restrictions, because even Trump isn’t that lame-brained,” according to Parker. So there were definitely reasons voters might have underestimated how bad he’d be. I’ve read interviews with conservative women who insisted nobody with Trump’s playboy lifestyle would actually block funding for Planned Parenthood or be seriously anti-abortion. And there’s my friend who claimed (and he wasn’t alone) Trump would make up for his mental limits by hiring the best and the brightest.

And most importantly, Americans didn’t chose him. Democracy did not put Trump in the Oval Office. So Hiatt’s column is wrong from the ground up.

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The Shirley Exception and other links

SkepDick: “The Shirley Exception is a bit of mental sleight of hand that allows people to support a policy they profess to disagree with. It’s called the Shirley Exception because… well, I mean, *surely* there must be exceptions, right?” The post is talking about the belief that it’s okay to have extreme, harsh laws about immigration, abortion, etc. because in practice, on a case-by-case basis, the law will spare people who don’t deserve it: “Surely, they think, surely the leopards will know to only eat the “right” faces, the faces that need eating, and leave alone all the faces that don’t deserve that. But if we try to lay out rules to protect faces from being eaten by leopards, people will take advantage. Best to keep it simple and count on decency and reason to rule the day.”

And so they support a policy which has no exceptions or wiggle room in the conviction that “deserving” people will get some wiggle room anyway. And therefore figure they shouldn’t be criticized for supporting an abortion ban with no exceptions or an immigration ban or a medical policy that allows insurers to deny coverage to pre-existing conditions — sure, the law says that, and they support the law, but that’s not how they want it enforced! They should get credit for good intentions right?

I’ve seen similar arguments elsewhere. Libertarian economist Bryan Caplan, for example, argues that the absolute authority husbands had over their wives and their wives’ money in the 19th century didn’t affect women’s freedom: most husbands probably didn’t abuse it, or the couple worked out some sort of arrangement. So it’s not like he’s in favor of husbands beating their wives or spending their money, he’s just cool with them having the right to do it. Or consider Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who argued that pre-existing health conditions are the result of people not taking care of their health. He implies at the link that pre-existing conditions that don’t result from unhealthy lifestyles should maybe sort of get an exception — but none of the plans the Republicans have proposed require insurers separate the sheep from the goats. And insurers are unlikely to do it: if they can exclude or charge higher prices for pre-existing problems, why wouldn’t they?

The simple fact is, laws which do not allow exemptions or exceptions are often applied without any exceptions or exemption. It’s like novelist Kristine Kathryn Rusch says about contracts: don’t sign if someone tells you “don’t worry that’s just boilerplate we won’t actually do that.” Assume they’ll actually do that, then ask if you can accept that.

In other news:

Religious conservatives suddenly discover Bill Clinton shouldn’t have been impeached.

What Republican controlled states and Democratic controlled states do differently. Vox explained the anti-BDS laws referenced at the link, which I hadn’t heard about.

Some states still allow marital rape.

LGM argues the driving force on the right is the desire to protect the social hierarchy (white and male on top). Perhaps that explains why they’re still sore about the fight against Brett Kavanaugh — how dare a woman block the path of an upper-class white dude just because he assaulted her!

The Supreme Court has made it easier for police to arrest protesters or people filming police misbehavior.

Someone suggest to anti-gay Pensacola state Rep. Mike Hill that we should have the death penalty for homosexuals. Hill’s response: “I wonder how that would go over?

 

 

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Worlds in collision: why I don’t write utopias

In a recent thread on Twitter (sorry, I don’t have a link), NK Jemisin took issue with people pushing for fewer dystopias, more utopias: people of color, women and gays (for example) all have good reasons not to feel optimism. Where utopian fiction is sunny escapism, dystopian fiction grapples with the darkness.

I see her point about the appeal of dystopia, but I think breaking utopia and dystopia into some kind of escapism/serious fiction dichotomy is wrong. Utopian fiction is traditionally educational, not escapist, starting with Sir Thomas More’s original Utopia. The goal isn’t to entertain with a fantasy but to show how an ideal society would work, or how we get from there to here.

Conversely, a lot of dystopia is escapist. Hunger Games. Cyberpunk. It can be the horror of the protagonist being ground under by a corrupt system, or the excitement of being the rebel fighting against tyranny, but the goal is, as with most fiction, entertainment. It may satisfy because it speaks to our fears about the future or our experience of life, but I don’t think it’s inherently more serious than utopian fiction.

And that got me thinking, again, about how when I write stories that change the setting’s social order — Southern Discomfort, Atoms for Peace, Questionable Minds — I change some things, improve some things, but I don’t improve everything. In Atoms for Peace, women are much better off, 1950s sexual standards are looser, but people of color haven’t gained anything. In Southern Discomfort, the McAlisters prevented the worst violence of Jim Crow from affecting the black residents of Pharisee County, but women and gays aren’t any better off. And by 1973, younger blacks see the McAlisters as more patronizing and outdated than protective.

I could have shot for utopian, or closer to it, but dramatically it doesn’t interest me. A system that’s changed from our own, or in upheaval (in Questionable Minds, Victorian England is still attempting to fit psi-powers into the established caste system) has more storytelling potential for me than a utopia where everything works.

That’s personal taste, not a writing rule: I could imagine the alt.1950s of Atoms for Peace reluctantly embracing civil rights and still tell the same stories. But a setting that works imperfectly appeals to me more. That’s not meant as an excuse — if someone thinks Southern Discomfort should have had a larger gay presence, they’re certainly entitled to criticize my storytelling decisions — just a statement of fact.

Of course, I don’t write dystopias either. But that’s just because I don’t write the kind of SF that imagines dystopia, so no great lessons to learn.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

 

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Filed under Atoms for Peace, Politics, Southern Discomfort, Writing

Link, link, link, for I tell you the night is coming

“it’s not helpful to try to understand Fox News as the right-wing version of CNN. That’s not what it is. It’s the news-and-politics version of the WWE.”

Back in the early 21st century, people sometimes suggested that to make gay marriage legal, we stop having the government authorize marriages. Conservatives are now down with this. Even though the purpose is to give local authorities a way not to issue licenses to gays, it seems like a reasonably workable solution (it doesn’t require the marriage be conducted by Christian or Jewish clergy to be valid, as a proposed bill elsewhere).

In response to the recent spate of forced-birth bills, the WaPo pondered what other legal rights fetuses might have — could parents claim them as a dependent before they’re even born? The ever batshit Federalist website (which once argued banning conversion therapy is the equivalent of banning the Bible) claims quite inaccurately that parents already can: if the baby is born in November, say, you can claim the kid as a dependent for the whole year so there you are! Actually if the baby is born, say, after the end of 2019, you can’t claim them as a 2019 dependent, so the Federalist is wrong, as usual.

There’s no excuse for the Democratic Party defending conservative, forced-birther Democrats from primary challenges.

Good news: Legislators around the country are pushing back against employers who require janitors and kitchen-prep staff to sign non-compete agreements, effectively trapping them in their current jobs.

Moby claims he had a relationship with a young Natalie Portman, but it appears to have been a creepy fantasy.

“The only problem with that as a reason for appearing on a network that is a propaganda organ for the White House is that it implicitly assumes that there’s just no other way to talk to conservatives besides going on Fox.” More here on why Dems are supposed to reach out to conservatives but not vice versa.

Shakezula celebrates a British right-winger getting doused with milkshake, and argues that no, this ain’t “political violence.”

A journalist tries mocking a teenage Elizabeth Warren supporter by quoting her with all the “ums” and “ers” left in. As The Mary Sue says at the link, it’s unlikely he does the same when quoting anyone he considers important.

Five children have died in detention camps since December. Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro insists they’re all treated humanely. Of course, Shapiro wants to pretend white Judeo-Christians invented science.

“Jubilee is always a beautiful thing.”

Not a beautiful thing: jailing sexual assault victims to make them testify. Louisiana’s legislature is considering a bill to prevent this; state district attorneys want the bill killed.

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Ignorant or lying, but definitely unethical: forced birthers speak!

So last week I mentioned Rep. John Becker, the Republican in Ohio whose proposed bill bans private coverage of abortion or birth control methods that prevent fertilized eggs implanting. It also exempts efforts to transplant an ectopic pregnancy back into the womb — that will remain legal and insurable. Of course the procedure  doesn’t exist, but Becker’s a big picture: the details of exactly which birth control methods are uninsurable will be left to “people smarter than me.” (I suspect this is both a way to duck responsibility for the bill’s effects and that he doesn’t give a crap if women can’t get birth control).

Now it turns out Becker’s dug up a couple of medical journal articles, one from 1917, that say the procedure is possible, so he claims vindication. Sure, a doctor told him that this was pretty much pie-in-the-sky, but he didn’t say it was absolutely never going to happen, right? So Becker’s just being forward-thinking. I remain unconvinced he’s arguing in good faith, but perhaps he’s just an idiot.

Over in Missouri, ex-cop and Republican state Rep. Barry Hovis supports an anti-abortion bill with no rape exception, but explains it’s not that big a deal: “Most of my rapes were not the gentlemen jumping out of the bushes that nobody had ever met. That was one or two times out of 100. Most of them were date rapes or consensual rapes, which were all terrible.” Despite the “terrible” it seems he’s distinguishing stranger rape (the real rape) from date rape which is, you know, not real rape. Otherwise why bring it up? Hovis went on to say that rape victims could get a chemical abortion any time up until the no-abortion deadline kicks in, so it’s no big.

Right-wing male supremacist Matt Walsh meanwhile asserts that abortion after rape destroys evidence of the rape, so “Abortion restrictions can actually protect rape victims, whereas abortion clinics often exploit rape victims and can cause rape to continue.” Of course it’s quite possible to get DNA samples as evidence (which is presumably what he’s alluding to, assuming he’s alluding to anything) without a pregnancy. However this bilge lets Walsh pretend that advocating 12 year old rape victims be denied abortions is somehow compassionate rather than cruel.

Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick points out that some Alabama pols claim they support a rape exemption even though their new law doesn’t have one. If they’d put one in the bill would be less likely to get Supreme Court review, so there’s less likelihood of reversing Roe v. Wade. Rape victims, isn’t it nice to know you’re just political pawns?

And let’s not forget, while Republicans claim abortion is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust, many of them still think women using contraceptives is even worse.

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