Sunday, September 19, 2010

Must-watch segment on Maddow: "Women candidates vs. women's rights" (with transcript)

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow recently had a segment on her show called "Women Candidates vs. Women's Rights," which dealt with women candidates (specifically from the GOP) and with the fact that there are five GOP Senate candidates (not all women) who believe that not only should abortion be illegal, but that abortion should be illegal even in the case of rape and incest. This is must-watch TV, especially for the commentary offered by the always great Melissa Harris-Lacewell. You can see the full 13-minute segment here (by the way, that video offers subtitles and a transcript if you hover over the video). The video I've included is an excerpt of the segment, starting around 8:40 in, (h/t Jezebel), with a transcript of that excerpt under it.

Transcript (emphasis mine):

RACHEL MADDOW: Joining us now is Princeton University professor and MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris-Lacewell. Professor Harris-Lacewell, thank you for joining us.

MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: Can we please have the whole hour, Rachel? This one is really -- there's a lot here.

MADDOW: I'm going to make my first question very short so you can just start. Huh? What do you -- what do you make of this, Melissa?

HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, again, you've got really a lot of complicated things going on here. On the one hand, this kind of group of insurgent young women in the GOP who are doing something that, you know, scholars of women's politics would say is very unlikely. They are running with little experience, with little name recognition, against incumbents. I mean, this is precisely why we've said we don't have many women in national government. It's precisely because it is so hard to be a person of less experience running against an incumbent. So, on the one hand, there's this little tiny bit of me that want to cheer for the fact that you have women candidates willing to be sort of courageous enough to put themselves forward in this very tough political situation. On the other hand, let's be completely clear about the facts here. There is no place in the world and no time in history where restricting women's reproductive rights makes a people or a nation more free or more equal. These extreme positions on abortion are without any question a war on American girls and women. And the fact that there are women who are both complicit and participatory in it is really neither surprising nor unprecedented.

It has always been true and incredibly important that we recognize that despite the fact that we can be very proud of these women as women and as politicians, that the question is: how do women as citizens fare on the other side of them either elected or not elected?

MADDOW: We now have at least five Republican Senate candidates on the record espousing this view of no exceptions to a nationwide abortion ban, even in cases of rape or incest. This is -- the reason I say that I'm stunned by the not getting more attention, is this is unprecedented to have this many real anti-abortion radicals running for national offices at this high a level. But do you think that we got five of them, we got so many of them because that view is becoming mainstream in Republican politics or just because we just have extreme candidates running this year?

HARRIS-LACEWELL: You know, I don't have the evidence yet that this has become a mainstream view. What I suspect is actually that it has more to do with kind of our ignorance of our understanding about women's life experiences, even as women. When you talk about the rape and incest clause, I suspect that many Americans, maybe even many pro-choice Americans, think that rape and incest and pregnancy resulting from it is a pretty unusual occurrence. They suspect that, you know, that maybe there's a -- there's a few dozen women for whom that would make a difference in any given year. But the fact is that sexual assault is an embarrassingly common experience. I don't mean embarrassing for those who are victimized, but rather embarrassing that in our country, it's still true that one in four girls and women is likely to be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. And we know that particularly in cases of incest, the question of possible pregnancy -- because incest is often a repeated violation and one that does not often include protection -- that the possibility of pregnancy is very real. We're talking about hundreds of women, thousands of women in pregnancies. And, look, I'm from a people who really did experience the need to hold on to a God who would see them through difficult times, including generations of black women who in slavery were forced to bear the children of their rapists. And I do believe, because I'm a person of faith, in an interceding God that can help people through difficult circumstances. But I'm also an American who believes that the point of government isn't to make life so hard for half of our citizens that the only force there to help them is God. We, as a government and as a people, deserve and should do better.

MADDOW: Princeton University professor and MSNBC contributor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, who didn't wirte what she just said right there. She just said it because she can do that. You're amazing. Melissa, thanks.

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