July 6, 2006

"Rape Gurney Joe."

There's some new terminology in the demonization of Joe Lieberman. I saw it first today in this post at Firedoglake, complaining about Democratic Senators who are supporting Lieberman in his reelection campaign. Tracing back, I found this earlier use, also in Firedoglake, commenting on something Boxer said at Yearly Kos and calling it "damn close" to "the dumbest thing anyone said":
Boxer enthusiastically expressed her support of her esteemed colleague with whom she had worked many times over the years, and said all of the opposition to Joe was based on his support of the war. She said other groups, like women, were backing Joe because he was so good on their issues. I like many things about Barbara Boxer so I’m going to assume here that she’s an idiot and not a liar.

The fact is that women in Connecticut are NOT happy with Joe Liebeman on their issues. In fact the head of Connecticut NARAL and Connecticut Planned Parenthood are EXTREMELY upset about Rape Gurney Joe telling rape victims to take a hike (literally) if they want emergency contraception and have the bad luck to be taken to a publicly funded, Catholic emergency room. In fact in a recent poll 74% of Connecticut voters think that Catholic hospitals should have to provide this necessary treatment to rape victims or get out of the fucking emergency medical business. Barbara Boxer seems, at best, a tad out of touch with what’s going on with Joe in his home state of Connecticut as she shows her support for the incumbency protection racket.

That Boxer is out of touch was backed up moments later in the hall when she turned on Curry, miffed at having been asked the question in the first place. "Why are you so focused on Lieberman?" she snapped. "Because everyone here is," he answered. This seemed to shock Boxer. Where exactly did her aides tell her she was speaking?
Boxer is one of the Senators who, we now see, will be campaigning for Lieberman (second link, above). So the shock she experienced at YearlyKos propelled her away from the candidate they are pushing (Ned Lamont), and caused her to become especially conspicuous in her support for Lieberman. Firedoglake's reaction to today's news -- first link, above -- goes this way:
If Boxer wants to come to Connecticut and spend some of her political capital on Rape Gurney Joe, she better bring a Brinks truck. Because the last time I encountered Barbara Boxer talking about Lieberman, she was sadly misinformed. It was during Yearly Kos, and she was saying that opposition to Joe was "all about the war" and that on women’s issues, he was great.

The women of Connecticut don’t think so. Before Boxer steps in the deep doo-doo Lieberman has created for himself with women in this state by his stance on Plan B and publicly funded Catholic hospitals, she might want to educate herself on his history. I’ll quote the great Connecticut Bob here:
Lieberman said he believes hospitals that refuse to give contraceptives to rape victims for "principled reasons" shouldn’t be forced to do so.

"In Connecticut, it shouldn’t take more than a short ride to get to another hospital," he said.
Well Joe, that’s not very helpful. I mean, I know that you’ll never need emergency contraception at two o’clock in the morning after having been brutally raped. So I guess it’s easy for you to disregard any woman who is unlucky enough to have gone through that trauma....

Well I’m off to start calling the ladies of Connecticut Choice Voice, I’m sure they’ll be there when Boxer shows up to ask a few pointed questions. And that will be me with the camcorder.
Well, what can I say? The label "Rape Gurney Joe" is so ugly that ordinary citizens will feel quite put off. I support abortion rights reproductive freedom, but I dislike the heavyhanded political use of abortion reproductive freedom to threaten those who have some moderate position. Surely, a willingness to accommodate the religious scruples of Catholic hospitals is not something that outrages ordinary people, even ordinary abortion rights reproductive freedom supporters. Firedoglake says that Catholics -- whose religion has caused them to devote so much hard work to providing medical care over the years -- need to "get out of the fucking emergency medical business" because they want to follow their religion's teaching about contraception. That's going to sound bizarre and scarily angry to a lot of people.

UPDATE: Firedoglake responded to me. She called me an "idiot" and depicted me as a baboon. Her main substantive point is that the Connecticut law is about contraception and therefore the politics surrounding it is disconnected from the abortion politics I've referred to. There's a lot of discussion of this point in the comments, and but clearly the imposition on Catholic beliefs doesn't depend on whether the drug is a contraceptive or an abortifacient. And the politics is of a piece with abortion rights, which is why NARAL and Planned Parenthood are talked about. I couldn't tell what drug was being referred to from the post of hers I commented on. Obviously, my concern is the ugly rhetoric, and her response to me is to go all out to alienate me with additional ugliness. Sigh.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I struck "abortion" and replaced it with "reproductive freedom" in the original post. Now, can you focus on my real point?


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Elizabeth said...

osvaldo, you prove my point, thanks. I would never take a job that required me to strip down to my skivvies while I work. People whose religion says they can't dispense medication without picking and choosing what meds they think are okay, shouldn't take a job as a pharmacist. As lucas points out, Catholic hospitals don't include contraceptives in their employees' insurance policies. If that really bothers an employee, she should take another job elsewhere.

Aspasia M. said...

What Elizabeth says.


osvaldo, you prove my point, thanks. I would never take a job that required me to strip down to my skivvies while I work.

Osvaldo - the name for this job is called stripping.

Like Elizabeth, I would not choose to do this work. Yes, it is legal. No, I do not choose to do it.

I'd be quite annoyed if a pharmacist refused to fill a doctor's script for their own personal resons.

If the store was out of the medicine -- that's a different story. But for a pharmacist to randomly decide that he, say, was worried about the over prescription of anti-biotics? Or if he had a religious or moral problem filling women's birth control pill scripts?

Whatever - don't become a pharmacist if you have a problem filling prescriptions.

Aspasia M. said...

Ann Althouse said...

Ooooh... I get it now. You're defining pregnancy as implantation, not conception. I really couldn't understand how a rape could get a woman pregnant if she had not yet ovulated. You were saying the pill prevents ovulation, but if the woman had not yet ovulated, wouldn't the rape have taken place too soon to impregnate her?

So the line between abortion and contraception for you is implantation? I would not have thought that, because "contraception" seems to refer to conception. I think something is very confusing her. Women use things that are called "contraception" that do something some would object to if they really understood. I think there is a lot of deliberate distortion of the facts going on in discussing birth control to make it more palatable. Abortion is a form of "birth control," but it's not a form of contraception. Some forms of birth control that we don't ordinarily call abortion are not really, literally contraception, right?

1) A pregnancy is medically defined as implantation. Meaning that if a woman is pregnant, but she takes the birth control pill and or plan b, this will not abort the pregnancy.

A doctor cannot test to determine pregnancy unless there is implantation. It wasn't a political point on my part, but a medical judgement. And also because people occasionally take birth control pills while pregnant (by accident) and while it's not recommended it doesn't look like it hurts the future baby.

The hormones in birth control and Plan B primarily work by shutting down ovulation. There is a secondary mechanism in many birth control pills & plan b which makes the uterus inhospitable to implantation.

However, the reason that it is important for Emergency Contraception to be taken within the first 24 hours is to shut down ovulation because that is the most effective way to prevent a unwanted pregnancy.

2) The reason rape can get a woman pregnant if she hasn't yet ovulated is because the sperm can live in a woman's body for (I believe a week) I'd have to check on the exact ammount. So the sperm can be hanging around in the fallopian tubes waiting for the egg to ripen and pop into the tube.

3) Many Roman Catholics who follow Rome's teaching strictly on birth control and abortion believe that birth control pills cause abortions.

They will call the birth control pill an "abortificant."

I understand that they sincerely believe this because there is a small chance that a fertilized egg will not be implanted because of how the birth control pill works. (There is some debate among these groups if there are some birth control pills that do not operate in this manner.)

4) In the 19th and first third of the 20th century people often conflated contraception with abortion, for reasons of morality and religion.

5)I personally believe that the birth control pill and plan B are contraceptives.

But I understand that some people sincerely believe that the birth control pill is a abortifiacient.

What is important to understand is that the same hormones are used in Plan B and Birth control pills.

6) Entirely different medicines are utilized in RU486. One needs to be pregnant(meaning implantation) for RU486 to work. RU486 is an abortifacient. RU486 causes a medical abortion.

Usually RU486 is used from about the 5-12th week, I believe.

Aspasia M. said...

The following is copied from MedLine Plus online -- from it's information on the Birth Control Pill.

The pill works in several ways to prevent pregnancy. The pill suppresses ovulation so that an egg is not released from the ovaries, and changes the cervical mucus, causing it to become thicker and making it more difficult for sperm to swim into the womb. The pill also does not allow the lining of the womb to develop enough to receive and nurture a fertilized egg.

In the unlikely event that a egg does become fertilized during sex, the uterus is not lined and thus not hospitable to implantation.

This is one of the reasons that the birth control pill has always be controversial.

The linguistic history of contraception vs. abortion is very interesting. Right now in some quarters religious groups would like to classify the birth control pill as an abortificient. This, of course, is not a popularly accepted position in the United States at present.

Since the the 1960s, the birth control pill has be advertised, sold and accepted as contraception.

However, this view of the birth control pill as contraception, is, of course, contested.

Aspasia M. said...

More medical information if anybody is interested:

The active ingredient in Plan B is Levonorgestrel.

The active ingredient in RU486 (which causes a medical abortion) is Mifepristone.

lucas m. said...

Regardless of the drug class or one's perception of the issue, I maintain that government regulation over administration of medication is an exceedingly poor idea. That's what we have medical professionals for. I don't know about you, but I don't want the (in)famous governmental effiency and speed in my healthcare, or in the care of my loved ones.

Aspasia M. said...

Here's Medline Plus on Emergency Contraception -

Emergency contraception has several potential effects on a woman's reproductive system that could help to decrease her risk of getting pregnant. Emergency contraceptive drugs appear to work primarily by preventing or delaying egg release (ovulation) from the ovaries. They may also slow egg or sperm transport in the fallopian tubes, and they may make the uterine lining less hospitable for implantation of a pregnancy.*


ema said...

1) There is no evidence that Plan B prevents fertilization or implantation.

Briefly, looking at ECPs’ effect on:

*Ovulation (release of mature egg from the ovary)

- inhibit or delay [established, main mechanism of action]

*Fertilization (union of egg and sperm)

- no direct evidence for prevention [effect cannot be ruled out]

*Gamete Transport

- no evidence of impaired transport in humans

*Effects on the Function of the Corpus Luteum

- all pills disrupt this phase, however it is not known whether such changes are incompatible with pregnancy. [Better evidence for mifepristone vs. the other types of ECPs.]

*Implantation (burrowing of a fertilized egg into uterus)

- …although the postovulatory administration of estrogen or levonorgestrel inhibits implantation in some animals, evidence of similar effects in women has been difficult to obtain. Minor changes in the histologic and biochemical features of the endometrium occur when high-dose estrogen, the estrogen/progestin combination, or danazol is administered after ovulation, but the effects may not be sufficient to inhibit implantation. In a recent morphometric study, postovulatory administration of estrogen plus progestin had only minor effects on the endometrium, and danazol had no effect.

- Mifepristone administered immediately after ovulation delays endometrial maturation

Bottom line:

…the proven mechanisms of action [of the hormones found in ECPs] consist of inhibiting or delaying ovulation.

2) Surely, a willingness to accommodate the religious scruples of Catholic hospitals is not something that outrages ordinary people, even ordinary abortion rights supporters.

In medicine, the standard of care is not based on the willingness to accommodate the religious scruples. So, when a hospital (any hospital) does not provide proper care to its patients, ordinary people should indeed be outraged.

No New Comments

lucas m. said...

True, Standards of Care do not rely on the willingness to accommidate moral scrupalson the part of the provider. That would be unethical. However, to force somone or an organization to repeatedly commit acts which violate it's moral codes and dogma is not ethical either. To make myself perfectly transparent, I have to say that I belive in informed decisions by the patients. They need to be aware of the medication's existance, and aware of the fact that some hospitals do not provide it. Being informed about choices is an inportant part of being a consumer, and, for better or for worse, that is what you are when you are using the healthcare system.
That said, perhaps (Connecticut, was it?) the state should require the woman in question to be informed of the nearest location where such services are avalible. As a healthcare provider, I am exceedingly concerned about the implications of putting such legislation into place. I belive the legal term is 'Setting the precedent'. This would set a bad precedent for the gov. to interfere int eh healthcare of millions of Americans, and like I have my opinion before, this would not be a good thing.

Tibore said...

Swinging back to the topic of demonization and ugly rhetoric: Slate had an article, not on what was posted on FDL, but more about the sense of anger at Lieberman:


Key graf:

"Since political observers have come to see this race as a test of the power and limitations of the blogging class, this new political force faces as much a challenge as Lamont does. There's sensitivity among online activist to the charge that they're merely angry. Their critics use this claim to characterize them as an unthinking horde. But it has always been easier in politics to tear down an opponent than to inspire. So, which will the bloggers do now? Will they limit their role to delivering repeated blows to Lieberman, as they did after the debate Thursday night? Or will they be able to transfer all of their passion into making the case for Lamont in a way that is convincing and doesn't sound like mindless boosterism?"

'Nother graf:
"(Lamont) said, "I don't want you to vote against somebody, I want you to vote for somebody. I want you to vote for your dreams. I want you to vote for your heart." That was a start. Will bloggers hear the message and be able to sell it, too?"

NDC said...


I'm curious: would you be satisfied with laws that prohibited emergency personel from taking rape victims to private hospitals that wouldn't give emergency contaceptives? (and I suppose the hospitals could be required to "advertise" their unwillingness to despense contraception, so that victims who take themeselves to the hospital, would know not to go)

I want to understand why the choice has to be on the side of the medical professional to either offer a service or not to be in business, as opposed to allowing patients to make the choices themselves.

Do you tend to believe, as Mary seems to, that the Catholic hospitals will offer the emergency contraceptives before they choose to go out of business; therefore, the requirement for all emergency rooms to offer this treatment to rape victims will simply push the Catholic hospitals along?

Or do you believe that the public in general would be better off without emergency rooms at Catholic hospitals if they are unwilling to offer this treatment?

It seems to me that contraception and/or abortion would make up such a relatively small part of either hospital or phamaceutical practice that not allowing health care professional with moral reservations about either to practice is extreme, as long as the public is made aware in advance of the limitations of the practice.

Mary said...

"Do you tend to believe, as Mary seems to, that the Catholic hospitals will offer the emergency contraceptives before they choose to go out of business?"

Nope. Mary tends to believe that "creative" solutions would be found on the ground to circumvent the community losing other necessary emergency services. (ie. partnering with nearby secular hospitals in such situations where there are no moral reservations about dispensing such pills; making it standard procedure to take rape victims to non-Catholic hospitals, should they come in through non-private transportation, unless the patient specifically requested the Catholic hospital, etc.)

Speaking practically, I don't buy the threat that Catholic ERs would choose to close en masse out of spite, if they were not thinking of getting out of the business already. (Look up the details of the similar Boston Catholic Charities before go spouting off on that one. No one was "left hanging" as the numbers of adoptions had been dropping, and there were plenty of other adoption services available to help when CC closed.)

It's like civil disobedience: if there's a law you don't like, either you find a lawful way to work around it (that's what attorneys are for, right?), or you break the law and accept the consequences. We've recently seen what can happen though when you elevate religion "above" the law. I do think those days of special treatment are over, particularly where they don't threaten the existence of a religion, just require them to play by the same rules as everyone else or else lose public funding.

NDC said...


I think you are still more open to the possibility that Catholic hospitals would circumvent official Vatican teaching to stay open than I am.

(I agree that state policies of not taking rape victims to Catholic hospitals would work, and I wonder why that wouldn't just solve the problem. It does seems a little close to the response that Lieberman gave that earned him the nickname, which was essentially "rape victims should go to a different hospital if they want this service.")

No matter what the state elects to do, I wouldn't characterize the Catholic hospitals'
potential closing as "out of spite." I just don't think that the Church would permit this big a deviation from Catholic teaching by a Catholic institution, which in my opinion is exactly what happened in the later stages of the adoption decision. Officials at the Vatican said "if the state is requiring an adoption policy contrary to church teaching, then we've got to get out of the adoption business." It doesn't particular matter what the local institution was willing to do; I don't think it would matter how many adoptions were pending when the decision were made: eventually the local group be confronted with the choice: quit offering the service or quit being Catholic.

(I agree that many Catholics don't follow the teaching of the Church on contraceptive or accept its position about homosexual parents, but that doesn't change the official position of the Church.)

By lose public funding, do you include the public funding that comes as reimbursement for gov. employees or Medicaid, medicare patients?

Because I agree that for all other public funding, it would be fair to attach provisions requiring kinds of treatment offered. An individual private institution could decide what funds they were willing to take.

But I don't think hospitals whose only source of government aid is patient insurance through the gov. should have the same types of provisions. The patients who receive care are choosing to accept the terms of the hospitals treatment limits; why should the government prohibit this choice?

Jonathan said...

A clarification on Catholic teaching, particularily as it relates to the issue of emergency contraception:

While pregnancy may be technically (medically speaking) defined as beginning with implantation, the concern of Catholic moral theology begins with conception. Implantation has no bearing on the newly formed human person's status (and yes, I consider a person to exist from the moment of conception).

The concern of the Catholic Church in this regard isn't actually about contraception per se. The raped woman certainly didn't consent to the sexual assault, and for that reason has no obligation to allow fertilization to take place. So, a raped woman would be justified in using various means, whether physical or medicinal, to reduce the potential for fertilization.

However, once fertilization has in fact taken place, the whole issue changes. Human life, which we belive begins at conception, is so sacred that very little can justify its termination. The desire to avoid having a child because of a rape is not one of those things.

If there were a medicine that was purely contraceptive and never had any affect whatsoever on the new person in the cases where conception has already occurred, there wouldn't be anything intrinsically wrong with its use in rape situations. However, that doesn't appear to be the case with the current birth control medicines. Thus, the Catholic hospitals cannot in good conscience administer them.

One might object and say that the only intended affect is the prevention of conception. Its abortifacient potential would be a completely unintended side effect. In response to that, it must be pointed out that while it is unjust for a mother to carry a rape-caused child, that injustice cannot compare with the injustice of killing that same child, however unintended its death might be.

NDC said...


Can you provide me evidence that Catholic teaching would permit the use of contraception in this case?

The idea that because the woman didn't consent, she isn't obligated to allow conception sounds wonderful to me and probably to most Catholics, but I need some evidence that it reflects actual Catholic teaching.

I've never seen anything that indicated circumstances under which contraception is allowed. Is there such a document?

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Snitch said...

It's already becoming evident that the hard-left propagandists are not going to be able to swing an election for Lamont. It's like asking a butcher to perform brain surgery - the patient's gonna die, and that's all there is to it.

I had speculated that the Republicans should pull their candidate and quietly support Lieberman. I was off there. What they should do, and probably will do, is direct the Republican campaign so that it draws the usual fire from the Dems, supporting Lieberman in practical aspects without openly embracing him. I suspect Rove is/will be involved in this business.

Simply running a candidate blunts attacks that 'Lieberman is a Republican', since if he were (the public will reason), a GOP candidate would not be running.

Meanwhile, many Republicans will decide that 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend'. They will decide that their candidate cannot win, but Joe can, and he'll do fine. Since Republicans otherwise would not have a chance in a CT statewide race, they should be persuaded to come out in droves for this election.

What do the Democrats have to offer by way of strategy? Well, they have hate and more hate. They'll pile on the rhetoric and accusations, hoping to bury their opposition by sheer weight. But what worked in the primary won't work now - they actually have to get some Republican votes. Their party is stuck on a track to bash Republicans. What gets the vote out is hate for the other side. To motivate the troops AND woo the other side would derail them.

Lieberman wins. And the great weakness of the 'Kos approach' to poiltics is revealed – it's too iinflexible. What timing, too. It's one thing to fail when no one knows who the hell you are, but now the kiddies can fail in the white hot national spotlight. WIll there be accusations, recriminations, and splintering among the Kos minions? You betcha.

the27yanks said...

No contraceptives at Catholic hospitals?

What next, no pork chops in the Beth Israel cafeteria?

Technogypsy said...

Hi Ann,

Wow. I jumped to this thread because my mother lives in Connecticut, and while she dislikes Lieberman for his stance on guns, she'll end up voting for him.

I got to admit I am shocked at the position of your commenters. The idea that the law should require you to voliate your moral beliefs has horrid consquences all over the place. I guess I'm glad I read these because I now realize a good chunk of the people out there are statists of the ilk of Stalin, Mao, and the mullahs. Man, and people say us christian conservatives are trying for a theocracy...

I'm think I'll go find a quiet corner and re-read Paine now...

jtb-in-texas said...

One needn't go very far in this conversation to note that leftists in America hate any thought other than their own.

This makes them contemptible, unworthy of quoting.

But, since you have, isn't firedoglake the one who p-shopped "Joe" into blackface?

solerso said...

you know the worst thing about ol rape gurney joe? what ever your politics are, you cant deny that the man actually ENJOYS, betraying his freinds. hows the connecticyt for lieberman party these days?

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