NOW with Alex Wagner | February 04, 2013
>>> waems health concerns begot all male hearings on contra vepgs and a national smear campaign directed at a georgetown law student.
>> can you imagine if you were her parents, how proud of sandra fluke you would be? your daughter goes township a congressional hearing and testifies she's having so much sex she can't afford her own birth control pills .
>> vintage rush limbaugh . in the months since then the obama administration has sought to quell controversy by proposing an expanded set of rules. ones which increase the types of nonprofits that can opt out of the affordable care acts contraception mandate while insuring that employees in need of birth control have access to free contraception. the new policy outlined by the department of health and human services on friday guarantees that employees at really just nonprofits like universities, hospitals, and charities, still have access to free contraception coverage, but it allows the institutions to avoid having to pay for the contraception directly. instead, insurance companies will pick up the tab. in addition, the rule broadens the types of institution that is can opt out of the mandate. no longer would a nonprofit have to site the promotion of religious values as its purpose or primarily employ persons who share the same religious beliefs or primarily serve people who share the same religious tenants in order to be eligible to opt out. while some religious groups , including the u.s. conference of catholic bishops reacted cautiously to the new policy, others weren't satisfied saying secular for profit businesses with over 50 employees should also be able to opt out over religious objections. the beckett fund for religious liberty , a group representing plaintiffs in eight lawsuits, said the compromise was "still unacceptable and unconstitutional" noting that the proposed rule does monthing to protect the religious freedom of millions of americans. the administration is soliciting feedback on the proposed changes until april 8 after which final rules will be published. joining us now to discuss is the president of pro choice america ellise hoeing. congrat laegs on the new gig. we're happy to have you on the show.
>> thanks so much, alex. it's great to be here.
>> what a day.
>> there's been a lot of talk and reaction to these proposed rules changes. some people saying this is eminently reasonable. it seems eminently reasonable to me, and, yet, the president of ave maria university said what they're doing is, the administration, they've obviously established a new federal entitlement, something like contraception stamps.
>> you know, it's so funny, alex. i was watching your last segment and thinking perhaps the only area where politics is as out of touch with culture as guns is actually this debate about women 's choices, right? we know that 90% of women in this country use contraception. that's true across religious denominations . what we're seeing here is the last dying gasps of a political constituency who think they can exert more power than their constituency will support. one of the things we're seeing in these responses is this sort of dynamic of they can't take yes for an answer, right?
>> and so what they're laying bare is this idea that they actually just don't want women to have that fundamental freedom to choose when, with who, and how we have families, which we know is key to women being able to live empowered lives.
>> what i don't understand, is we keep thinking that someone is iffing to be shaken to their senses and by someone we mean some of these conservatives who are proposing radical personhood amendments and the like, and, yet, the train moves forward. the debate here isn't even about choice. this is about basic contraception, and so on some degree you're saying it's a last dying gasp of a movement that is -- at the same time on the state level the movement continues. defunding planned parenthood , taking away basic health care for 150,000 women in texas. i mean, what gives?
>> yeah. no, absolutely. look, we cannot soft pedal the fact that our job is to actually catalize and expedite the closing of the gap between where culture is and where politics is because daily there are women who are victimized by these regressive policies. i mean, in my home state of texas half of poor women are without basic health care , much less access to contraception or safe and legal abortion because of the defunding of planned pirnthood there, and our job is to make visible the number of americans who have actually thought that it was fine to let this go because this was decided by the highest court of the land, you know, several decades ago, and say enough. not only are we going to enshrine these basic fundamental rights for all women into our culture and our politics, but, many of the, we're going to start moving forward and look at what a policy agenda looks like to support all of women 's modern day choices. they're very different than they were 40 years ago.
>> i want to bring in our panel here, jared. the other thing about that statement from the president of ave maria university , the idea of contraception stamps, this is also a battle against the affordable care act , and this notion that the president is creating this entitlement society and is a socialist and sort of cradle to grave government, and that's as much at the root of that statement as is the resistance to women having choice of contraception.
>> unquestionably, and, of course, there's been a campaign against the affordable care act ever since it was signed. the supreme court decided it. these days one of the things congress does is -- it's very undemocratic, which seems to be a theme of everything we've talked about so far. you have large majorities supporting a particular policy, but small minorities blocking them. what congress does when it doesn't look something, you see the stam thing with financial reform. they don't implement it. if you don't implement a policy that's passed, you will literally thwarting democracy.
>> they're trying to basically unwind the forredable care act . snoo piece by piece .
>> starve the consumer financial protection bureau. right? this is the piece. what you can't do in the big picture , you do in --
>> fundamentally undemocratic in my view.
>> death by 1,000 cuts.
>> not just are they out of touch with the culture, but they're completely out of touch with the facts around it too. my favorite part about the whole rush limbaugh thing, and it was in the clip that you played is that he seems to think that birth control works like vicodin. like if you take more of it, it's more effective. it's like she's having so much sex, she needs lots of berth control zoosh she needs extra pills.
>> i don't know, rush, where to start with that.
>> i mean, this is such a bizarre -- i mean, i still can't really wrap my head around it, and why republicans think this is a good issue for them. it doesn't even seem to be that much activity on the grassroots level. certainly among women who are clambering about these laws and around birth control . i think it was a good issue for democrats because it allowed democrats to character tour republicans as anti- birth control when, in fact, mitt romney 's position on birth control and religious institutions was pretty close to what's been laid out by the president. i just find it so baffling that we're talking about birth control at this point.
>> let me ask you, elyse. e.j. dionne , you know, initially i think had some issues with the way the administration handled this, was filled with positive accolades on this and said -- he calls this an olive branch to the catholic church and says america's big religious war ended on friday or at least it ought to. the decision the administration's second attempt to -- ought to be taken by the catholic bishops as the victory it is. we know that the u.s. conference on catholic bishops has sort of given an initially positive review of this. to what degree are you guys -- are women 's groups like yours in touch with catholic groups like the u.s. conference on catholic bishops to come to consensus on something like this?
>> well, i mean, to some degree our mandate is to make sure, as many women as possible have access to the health care that they need to get contraception or safe and legal abortion, or for that matter, prenatal care and family planning if they choose to have a family. you know, i think that there is infighting within the catholic sect that is really not our business to get involved in. that's going to play itself out however it plays itself out. we are pleased that the new rules make sure that there is not a single woman that would have been covered otherwise that will not continue to be covered, and, you know, back to ryan's point about sort of playing fast and loose with the facts, one of the things that folks need to realize, particularly when you start looking at private businesses who want to dabble in this playing father to their employees, is this not only is an issue of equality for women and empowerment for women , it's an issue of economic commonsense, right? the insurance companies know this. the more that women have access to contraception, the more unintended pregnancies go down, which costs the economy. squared knows more about this than i do, but it's commonsense.
>> and just in terms of, like, the precedent this sets, right, ben, and like, if you open it up to, say, anybody that has any religious or moral objection says to any part of the affordable care act regardless of whether they're religious institutions, you know, doing good works to religious people, i mean, it just opens the door to complete chaos in terms of the affordable care act .
>> it feels like a nonstarter. i think there's another interesting thing going on here, though. one of the things we're talking about with this issue and the gun issue is what is going to happen with the culture wars moving forward. you know, what is the trajectory of cultural politics look like for the next four years, and one of the things that happened -- that's happening in both places and in gay marriage and many other issues is the republicans are on the losing side of many of these issues nationally, they're not locally, and so it feels like there is a kind of regional and federalism fight that may define some of these issues over the next four years.
>> elyse, we would think, one would think, that these kind of debates bring more people to your corner given the eminently reasonable position that many of these women 's groups are taking on this issue. is that the case?
>> well, absolutely. i mean, any time someone like todd akin opens his mouth, it does remind women and men for that matter, supportive men who don't want unintended pregnancies either, that the stakes are real. at the same time what we like to do is, as i said, surface that critical mass so we can put these very basic issues of freedom aside and start moving on to what a pro active agenda for choice looks like. you know, i think as your last panelist was saying, look, all of this comes down to democracy. it's the exact reason why redistricting and the electoral college debate is as much an issue for women 's groups as it is for anyone because what we're seeing is that the republicans will gerrymander districts to support extreme positions, including the round choice, that are not popular nationally.
>> i bet there are plenty of moderate republicans who would like to have a say in this debate as well. ilyse, thank you so much, and congratulations again.
>> thanks for having me.
>> coming up, a new battle is brewing among the gop's ranks. william f. buckley versus rush limbaugh . in other words, the past versus the near past. does either side have the elixir? we will discuss