Race Baiting in Religious Right Anti-Abortion Movement
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Fri Jan 06, 2006 at 11:06:37 PM EST
A division of the American Life League (ALL) issued a report on January 5 with a race-baiting message aimed at the Latino population. Headed by Judie Brown, ALL is a Catholic-based, ultraconservative anti-abortion and anti-contraception religious right group with an annual budget in the $6-$7 million range.  

The ALL group declared that Planned Parenthood clinics are located in states of "high Latino population" and this is the designated Planned Parenthood "current target" to "limit the births of minority children." Not only is this ugly and untrue, it's factual distortion.  Moreover, nowhere is this race-baiting challenged in the media.  

The division of ALL that released the statement, STOPP, is headed by James Sedlak. STOPP is not exactly an acronym but is meant to stand for "Stop Planned Parenthood," and has as its goal the elimination of all Planned Parenthood facilities.  

It should be noted at the outset that over 70 percent of the Planned Parenthood facilities have nothing to do with abortion, but are devoted to other aspects of women's health care.  Only 27 percent of the facilities offer abortion services.

In releasing a survey of Planned Parenthood clinics, the press release from STOPP said:

The new report also demonstrates that 30 percent of Planned Parenthood's 825 full-service clinics are located in three states: California, New York and Texas. "The high Latino population in these states," says Sedlak, "gives a clear picture of Planned Parenthood's current target market. Since its founding in 1916, Planned Parenthood has focused its efforts and programs on minorities. From its 'Negro Project' of the 1930s to today, we see evidence that the abortion chain works hard to prevent and limit the births of minority children."

This unsupported statement by Sedlak does not bear up to even the most simple analysis.  California, Texas and New York are the nation's most populous states. So it is not surprising that they would have the greatest needs for services.

Latino demographics are misrepresented, too. The largest per capita Hispanic (U.S. Census term) population is in New Mexico (42.1 percent). And several states have greater per capita Latino populations than New York (15.1 percent): Arizona (25.9 percent), Nevada (19 percent), Colorado (17.1 percent), Florida (16.8 percent.)

More than demographics, the comments are demagoguery. Planned Parenthood is widely seen as positive by the vast majority of the public.  It is a major source for birth control, especially for low-income and disadvantaged women.

But STOPP has engaged in relentless campaign of attack and distortion against Planned Parenthood, including its provision of contraception. For example, the Jan.5 release said:

Our research shows that Planned Parenthood sells a monthly supply of birth control pills for anywhere from $16 to $25, but pays just $1.50 for them. That's killer profit.

"STOPP's newest study clearly exposes Planned Parenthood's true agenda: making millions of dollars by selling sex and killing children," said Sedlak.

STOPP also seeks to end all government funding to Planned Parenthood facilities, even those that do not provide abortion.  The real-life consequences, vividly described by moiv on defunding contraception in Texas, are tragic.

To STOPP, it's victory to isolate women. While urging their supporters to expand activities outside clinics - that would be protests and intimidation  - it urges political goals:

Focus on having your state legislators remove funding from family planning in general and Planned Parenthood specifically. Planned Parenthood gets one third of its income from the American taxpayer. If we can cut that sharply, PP will begin to lose its position of influence.

STOPP's false statements about Latinos are clearly intended to foster bad feelings and undermine the credibility of Planned Parenthood. But race-baiting is an outlandish and socially-destructive tactic that goes beyond the parameters of decency.  It really should Stop.  And just as clinic bombings are inadequately reported by the media, as Fred Clarkson wrote, this ugly behavior needs a strong dose of public accountability.  

Isn't it time for the media to challenge the statements of religious right groups that engage in race-baiting and divisiveness, ethnic and otherwise, and to expose these tactics?

I can understand the arguments about "framing." I think it's CW that that the Right is resistant to facts (including statistics) although they might very well be of value to folks on this site. To think in terms of reframing messages to reach the intended audience is a valuable exercise.

What puzzles me is the implication that this post is somehow OT for this site. Perhaps it reflects, in part, a gender difference in perception. Theocracy isn't primarily about religion (that's the tool). It's about control. Major targets of this control are minorities (including races and gays) and women - especially their reproductive autonomy. Given the current battle over the SCOTUS nominee, the implications for women's reproductive choice and the theocrats commitment to seat a justice that they think will enable their agenda, it seems that this is one topic that would be considered central. Am I missing something? Is this a nexus that isn't generally apparent?  

by Psyche on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 02:11:32 PM EST

Thank you.  I saw this after I responded to Bruce's post above.  

You articulated the thinking much more clearly than me.  I couldn't agree more.

by cyncooper on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 02:26:25 PM EST

I agree that Cindy's post is on topic. She knows, as all of the featured writers know, that "issue" discussions here need to flesh out the relationship of the issue to the purpose of the site -- which is esentially discussion of the religous right and what to do about it. I think this post more than meets that test, and I am glad she has surfaced the issue of race-baiting in this context.

That said, let me take this opportunity to say a few words about what I think, or hope, we are trying to do here.

And I say this for the benefit of  all participants.

One of the reasons why this site was created has been the failure of issue-based organizations, and for that matter, the political parties to come to grips with the political realities of the religious right. As a general rule, there has been little effort to understand the players, the insitutions, their strengths and weaknesses. Little has changed in the way they do business in the past 30 years.  And if you think I exaggerate, let's let the record speak for itself. Does anyone dispute the idea that the religouis right has signficant power in Washingon and in most of the states?  If that is so, isn't it reasonable to think that maybe folks on our side have gotten a few things wrong? Figuring out how to do some things better, is a goal of this site.

There is certainly no one correct formula for posts and comments here. But always consider that part of our task here is to break old bad habits of mind, of language, and political analysis. One of the ways we do that, is taking the time to understand the make up of the religious right.

One of the first things we took on, long before we launched this, Phase II of Talk to Action, was the matter of language.  Led by Chip Berlet, Bruce Wilson, Pastordan and I took on the-one-size fits all reductionism of labeling, demonization and cheap name-calling that has proved to be such an historic failure as a main feature of progressive and centrist approaches to the religious right. One cannot have a thoughtful conversation if the main mode of conversation is based on characterizing everyone with whom one disagrees as "wing nuts," "extremists," or "the American Taliban." Changing that culture is an important first step. It is a step that has not been taken everywhere, but we have taken our stand here, and are taking it to the wider blogosphere. Some vigorous debates about this took place over at the Daily Kos last year. And I have to say that I think our effort has had an impact across the blogosphere.  I'm glad that this is a point that people have gotten on board with very quickly here. It allow us to have the far more thoughtful writing and conversations that we really need to change our polical culture and our political thinking.

As we evolve beyond basic matters of language in how we present and discuss these things, different kinds of differences of opinon necessarily emerge, and sorting them out is a healthy, if not always an easy thing.

And as far as Psyche's concern about gender priorities, I can say first of all, that I personally recruited all of the writers on this site including Jonathan, Cindy, and most recently Moiv, whose extraordinary first post was mentioned above. I know Jonathan from when we worked together at Planned Parenthood Federation in New York doing front line research on the antis. People will never know, but I will attest to, his heroism in the pro-choice cause. And I can say with great confidence that there is no basis for suggesing that his thoughts, whether you agree with them or not, have any basis in gender priorities. For future reference, I would personally appreciate it if people would not speculate about people's motives. That is not helpful in sorting out differences of opinion about anything at all -- unless you can demonstrate underlying motives and show their relevance.  

Finally, one last thought about all this. Let's all keep in mind that we are in this for the long haul. No one blog post can possibly cover all aspects of any subject.  But all good posts will hopefully seek to make a contribution to our understanding and help us along the way towards figuring out how to be more effective in response.

Reasonable people are going to differ sometimes. In the blogosphere, just as in real life, there will also be misunderstandings.

Be generous in spirit.

We are all on the same side.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 03:23:11 PM EST

I agree with your suggestion that people 'be generous in spirit,' Fred, but with all due respect, I think they are aimed at the wrong comment.

by cyncooper on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 05:44:55 PM EST
this is directed to all participants, not to any comment in particular.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 05:46:55 PM EST


There may have been some understanding because the order of comments was changed but I'm not sure that that explains the contentiousness on this post.

To clarify further. I was responding to Jonathan's comment:

First, it's not clear what this squabble has to do with the fight against theocracy, which is what Talk2Action is about.

Second, countering propaganda with data is not effective, and is actually counter-productive.

I don't particularly consider this kind of statement to be "generous in spirit." In addition, I wasn't attributing "motives" to anyone but raising the legitimate possibility that there can be gender differences in perception. That was not a criticism since differences in perception can often be valuable - provided they are dealt with openly and honestly.

I don't know that any of it called for a lecture on how to behave on this site. I'm well aware, as I'm sure many others are, of the flaming that has occurred on kos and some other sites. Yet those sites have survived and prospered, in spite of it, with minimal editorial comment. My experience on this site has been that most of the material is well thought out and on topic and the discussion has been respectful. I've also noticed that some of the feature writers are quick to call posts 'off topic' or to question approach.

Included in the guidelines for the site are the following:

About Talk to Action
What if there was a place you could increase your knowledge, hone your skills and network with concerned and knowledgeable people all over the United States? What if that place was not controlled by an organization with a narrow agenda?

Site Guidelines
Talk to Action is a platform for reporting on, learning about, and analyzing and discussing the religious right -- and what to do about it.

None of the above seems to rule out posts of an informational and/or strategic approach. My concern is that editorial over-control is more likely to discourage people from posting and inhibit creativity and networking rather than enhancing the quality of the blog. After all, it is a blog and, as far as I know, we're not here to write term papers. In fact, I'd wager most of us are far past that point.

I assume that none of us, including feature writers, have all the answers or we wouldn't be here. If that is the case then it seems a collegial rather than student-teacher relationship is appropriate. And we, as well as others, need to exercise some care that we don't end up with too "narrow an agenda."  

by Psyche on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 12:27:20 AM EST

and it will stay that way.

The reason it will stay that way is because of a degree of editorial control -- and whatever degree we deem necessary to keep the site focused, and to sustain a good site culture. Please do not set your expectations of how this site will function based on what happens elsewhere. This is not elsewhere.  

The question of what is on and off topic may come up with some frequency as Talk to Action grows and evolves. It is a fair question, and one that should be treated with respect, even when people disagree about it. In this instance, I did not agree with Jonathan and said so.

But as for the matter of speculation about motive, I am afraid we part company on that.

You wrote:

"I wasn't attributing "motives" to anyone but raising the legitimate possibility that there can be gender differences in perception. That was not a criticism since differences in perception can often be valuable - provided they are dealt with openly and honestly."

Well, actually you were speculating as to Jonathan's motives as to why he made a statement with which you take exception.

You wrote:

"What puzzles me is the implication that this post is somehow OT for this site. Perhaps it reflects, in part, a gender difference in perception."

Your speculation was not neutral, but in the specific context of your disagreement with the bluntness of Jonathan's comment, which is now also deemed to be ungenerous in spirit as well. While none of this is remotely like the stupid flame wars that occur on more freewheeling sites with some regularity, I want to make clear from early on that we do not want to take any steps in that direction. Speculation about people's motives in dissagreement, is in my opinion, a step in the wrong direction.

As for occasional comments and essays about site behavior, purpose, and tone from me, you might as well get used to it. It goes with this territory, since as a site owner, I will speak whenever I feel it is appropriate. Hopefully, that will not be often. So far, it hasn't been.

I am glad that you appreciate the site guidelines, since I wrote them.  They seem to be working out just fine.

Our differences on this matter not withstanding, Psyche, I certainly appreciate your participation on this site. I value your thoughtful comments, and I know that you have a clear sense of the purpose of the site.

I am sorry if you took my comment as a whole as directed at you. It was not. I should not have written it as a reply, but as a stand alone comment.  With the exception of the matter of speculation about motives, my comment was directed to all participants.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:56:49 AM EST

The comments in this grouping were originally made after Jonathan's comment and those that follow it, which is now, visually, below.  They refer to his commentary.

Sorry for any placement out-of-order. I may have caused it by pushing the wrong button.

by cyncooper on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 05:31:58 PM EST

What do "CW" and "OT" mena?

by MaryOGrady on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 08:24:21 PM EST

by MaryOGrady on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 08:33:36 PM EST
. . . are keyboard shorthand for "common wisdom" and "off topic."

by moiv on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 09:10:31 PM EST
"CW" mostly commonly referes to the "conventional wisdom"

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 09:18:42 PM EST

D. James Kennedy devoted approximately 15 minutes of his "Coral Ridge Hour" on the TBN television network to a prolonged denunciation of Planned Parenthood and tax funding to their clinics. No mention was made of services such as well-women annual exams, Pap smears, etc., which are normally provided to women like me who do not necessarily seek their birth control or abortion services.
An African-American woman who reportedly received two abortions from Planned Parenthood clinics in the past was prominent among the interviewees.

by MaryOGrady on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 08:31:04 PM EST

Well, I'm not sure that Talk2Action is the place to "challenge statements of religious right groups that engage in race-baiting and divisiveness, ethnic and otherwise, and to expose these tactics." While I agree with your analysis that STOPP's propaganda aimed at Latinos is factually incorrect, I disagree on the suggested methods for countering this type of propaganda.

First, it's not clear what this squabble has to do with the fight against theocracy, which is what Talk2Action is about.

Second, countering propaganda with data is not effective, and is actually counter-productive. STOPP has effectively framed its propaganda as an appeal to Latinos (and especially to Latina mothers) to safeguard their families and extended families. The message frame of making the world a safer place for children and families is strong in American society, and especially strong among Latino demographic groups. Therefore, merely throwing corrective data points at this well-framed message will have a couple of counterproductive effects. That is, data points don't trump effective message frames. But engaging STOPP about the accuracy of its effective emotional appeal is not just ineffective, it actually reinforces the message frame, and legitimates the controversy that STOPP is trying to raise.

What would be an effective message frame to counter STOPP's effective message frame? It would be more effective to say that, as it's name makes clear, STOPP is a group that aims to STOP women's clinics from providing health care for Latinas. They want to shut down Planned Parenthood clinics that provide a full range of health care that are needed for healthy children and families. By closing down these women's clinics, they want to STOP prenatal health care for Latinas and their babies, and they want to STOP mammograms that help keep Latina mothers safe from breast cancer. One could go on and name a full range of health care services, but those two should be enough, because they effectively bring o mind images of pregnant mothers and breast-feeding mothers and their babies.

An effective message frame would not "slap the tar baby" -- not legitimate the "debate" on whether PP is "targeting" Latino populations, and not throw wimpy data points at a strong emotional appeal. An effective message frame would say: STOPP wants to STOP affordable, accessible health care for Latinas and their babies. By aiming to close Planned Parenthood clinics, they want to STOP the very health care services that Latina mothers need, including prenatal care for healthy babies and mammograms and physicals that nourish the mother's health.

by jhutson on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 07:59:10 AM EST
You write:

(I)t's not clear what this squabble has to do with the fight against theocracy, which is what Talk2Action is about

Aside from the minimizing use of the word 'squabble,'  you ask a "fundamental" question.

What does a race-baiting attack on women's healthcare have to do with theocracy?

The reality is that 'theocracy' for women has already begun.  A religious fundamentalist order is installing laws that govern women's lives, propagandizing to build animosity against women's needs, and using all of this as a wedge issue to overtake the Congress, Presidency, state legislatures, Supreme Court, school boards, city councils -- and overcome other rights.

It's not hypothetical, it's not vitrual; it's happening, as moiv reported from Texas.  And STOPP is a real part of the religious right fabric that is enacting this theocratic order over women.  

Does theocracy begin as a lion? Or does it come tiptoeing as a kitten?  As Joan Bokaer wrote they won't need theocracy to put women under theocratic restrictions.

by cyncooper on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 12:04:34 PM EST

I am speaking from Texas, here.
Religious conservative attacks on Planned Parenthood matter a whole lot in the larger struggle.
Planned Parenthood has been an easy target for religious conservatives for years, because way back decades ago Planned Parenthood advocated confidential access to reliable, non-barrier methods of contraception for minors. In most jurisdictions, including, remarkbly, the entire State of Texas, Planned Parenthood succeeded in making this bit of common sense law.
I remember what it was like when young people had no access to contraception under any sort of confidentiality. I was one of those young people, in a very religious sinkhole of a town in South Texas. Young people died, at least one female schoolmate of mine died, because the good Christians in my town had the upper hand over Planned Parenthood when I was growing up.
We can't go back.

by MaryOGrady on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 08:42:40 PM EST
From woman who - while married and with children - was denied access to birth control by a doctor in 1971 : in Massachusetts.

This concerns not only Texas but the nation.

One thing comes to mind for me : the need for the story of how far attacks on reproductive rights and women's access to reproductive health care have gone in Texas.

That narrative flows together in my mind with abstinence mis-education in Texas. Rates of major STD's except for Gonorrhea have been on the rise in Texas since around '97, before which they had been steadily dropping.

I don't know how much - if any - of that to assign to the effect of teaching "abstinence" ( and little to nothing about condoms or birth control except to depict the use of condoms as a nearly certain route to HIV/AIDS ) but I suspect there's a fair connection.

In Texas young adults in the 15-24 age range suffer by far the highest rates of STD's of any age group, and women in that group suffer around 50,000 cases of Chlamydia per year. Rates of both Syphilis and HIV have risen since 2000. Young adults in the 13-24 age range suffer about 16% ( as of 2004 ) of total HIV cases in Texas - the same age group in Massachusetts suffers only about 7% of total HIV cases per year in Mass.  

But, you probably know that already.

This story needs to be held up for national attention : how the Christian right's implementation of its social agenda in Texas ( and I'm sure elsewhere ) has in many cases failed to produce significant results and in some cases seems to be implicated in noticeable declines in public health. The "morality" crusade has largely been a failure.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:17:04 PM EST

Cindy, I'm as inclined as you to want to believe that logic and facts will prevail. But I can see Jonathan's Lakoffian point which I interpret, in short, as this : facts and logic won't work here because the territory is emotionally visceral and because trying to rebut spurious claims tends to implicitly support them.

STOPP has shown up in the public square with a bullhorn, shouting its baseless and inflammatory accusations, and is in the process of attracting onlookers and whipping them up into an angry mob targetted at Planned Parenthood.

That's a close enough depiction of the nature of the situation. Notice, there's a "first mover" advantage to this - perhaps others in the political arena were reluctant to make baseless accussations, or to do so didn't even occur to them. But inflammatory and baseless charges are weapons of choice for groups such as STOPP, and by getting in first they've implicitly claimed the high ground as "defenders" of Latino self interest.

So, there's STOPP, in the public square with a bullhorn, egging on the angry mob:

"What's the PROBLEM ? - Planned Parenthood. Whadda we got to do ? SHUT those CLINICS !"

That's the situation.

Now, enter [ stage left ] an indignant opponent, armed with facts, a believer in the power of reason, who tries to project a logical, factual rebuttal over the roaring of the crowd.

Simply showing up and trying to rebut the baseless charges  reinforces STOPP's "frame" - all the crowd notices, if it notices at all, is a defensive voice protesting "no, no, it isn't true !". But, many in the crowd have already bought the allegations and are preparing to march to war.

What can be done ?  Well, Jonathan offered a good counter-frame. Imagine that the mild mannered opponent gets a little mad and not-so-mild, and goes into the local WalMart to buy a bullhorn and then, from across the street, starts to address the mob :

"Good people, STOPP wants to take away your health care ! STOPP wants to STOPP the health care that keeps Latino babies healthy !"  Repeat over. and over. and over. and over. On and on.

What happens ? Well, probably some of STOPP's mob breaks away and drifts across the street towards the new bullhorn.

Now, there are some dangers here - were the now not-so-mild speaker to wax demogogic, the mantra might come to include "STOPP is trying to STOPP La Raza !".  But racial politics may not be the best direction to take things in, and whatever the professor says needs to be in line with the facts. The idea in the end is still to claim the moral high ground.

So, the speaker might begin to develop the theme, to take it in positive directions and even begin to add some facts :

"As Cezar Chavez would certainly have said, Latinos in America have got to organize and work to advance and they need to know who their allies are. Now, Planned Parenthood helps out [ insert number here ] Latina mothers a year, and it does [ number ] of breast cancer screenings, it tests [ number ] of Latinos for STD's. Planned Parenthood works hard to keep Latinos healthy. STOPP wants to STOPP that critical work."

To address Jonathan's point about the appropriateness of the topic, well - I'd tend to view STOPP as one organization advancing an implicitly theocratic Christian right agenda, sure...

I'm not ashamed to say that Frederick Clarkson has roundly criticized many of my arguments - enough for it to have sunk in a little at least - for a lack of "connective tissue" : in this case I'd say that the activities of many organizations such as STOPP - attacks on women's and reproductive rights - represent a major point of advance of a wider theocratic social agenda. So the "connective tissue" that strengthens the relevance to Talk To Action might address these sorts of questions:

What do Christian theocratic groups tend to advocate in terms of their agendas for women's and reproductive rights ?  

How is STOPP connected ( or not ) to similar groups working to advance the theocratic agenda on women's rights and reproductive rights ?

Are STOPP's tactics characteristic of other similar groups ? What can be done to effectively combat such tactics ? [ Jonathan's point ]

Who are the major players, at the national scale, actively attacking women's reproductive rights ? What's the lay of the land ?

One of the dangers of deep familiarity with subjects is to understand how particulars fit into the wider context - it's very easy to forget that many people, including readers on Talk To Action - may not have that contextual awareness. How does any given battle over women's or reproductive rights fit into the ultimate focus of Talk To Action ? Establishing those connections may not be too difficult but it's a good way of keeping focus on the site. In other words, one approach might be to think in terms of this question "how does X fit into the fight against theocracy and the promotion of religious liberty ?"  Addressing that is what elevates discussions here beyond issue advocacy ( no matter how significant or central the issues are ) as such and distinguishes Talk To Action as unique and invaluable.

We're all learning here - I know I certainly am ! - new ways of thinking about and talking about religion and politics in America. That was pointedly discussed in initial conversations long before this website and project were launched :  We're breaking new ground, we're all learning, and none of us have a perfect sense of where this is going.

In the end I believe the majority of American women - and men I'd also hope - would be appalled were they fully aware of the extremity of the social agenda vision shared by many leaders of the Christian right. Establishing that awareness - and just as critically a wider awareness of the overall theocratic agenda - represents a major portion of the work we all need to do here on Talk To Action.

To sum up with a cliche that is still apt, think of "the blind interest groups and the elephant" :

To list some of the interest groups:

Women's rights
Reproductive rights
Gay Rights
Teachers and educators/Public Education
State and Federal Employees
MD's and medical professionals
Liberal and non-theocratic religious groups
Trial Lawyers
The Democratic Party

That's a very abbreviated list, one that could go on much, much longer.

Now all of those interest communities, and organizations representing those interests, have encountered and battled aspects of the advancing theocratic agenda - but do they actually perceive the whole elephant of theocracy as it rampages about in its frenzy to trample existing American institutions, pluralistic democracy, and religious liberty and to reconstruct America along radically different lines ?  

Well if all of those interest groups I've listed perceived the elephant for what it truly is they would be talking together,  establishing common ground and collaborative strategies and pooling resources. But, they cannot yet see - or accept - the elephant for more than the parts of it each perceives.

One says : "It's a horrible noise, screeching propaganda on the radio !"

Another: "It's a huge thing, a giant foot that stomps on social programs that benefit the common people!"

A third: "It's a giant club-like thing, but flexible like an elephant's trunk, and it smashes away at the common ground in American politics - leaving no center, only polarized camps."

Will the coalition of interests that - bound together - once made the Democratic Party strong reconnect as a cooperative political whole ? Those communities of interest must learn to see that elephant for what it is and recognize their interest in joining together in common opposition : they must realize their collective political power. Otherwise they will each in turn be stomped, alone, to bits.

I think they are now starting to open their eyes to that reality.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 12:07:51 PM EST

My initial post was about a problem of race-baiting. I didn't suggest a solution: I was raising an issue of concern.

Although I did not posit a solution, it's nice, I guess, that Jonathan is full of so many framing suggestions, which are ok if you have an outlet and an audience and an opportunity to frame a response.  I'm not sure who is to make them, or to whom.  

George Lakoff's framing suggestions have not really had much headway into the reproductive rights arena. The issues go far beyond 'framing' to power and control.  There has been a takeover of power positions by a religious right allied with a corporatist right, and they are using control of women's freedom as a bargaining chip despite a majority of people who oppose it.  

The bigger problem lies in those who do not see women's freedom as important, whether for news coverage, commentary, or a post on a site devoted to the religious right takeover over democratic ideals.

As for context, the American Life League is listed on this site as one of the religious right organizations. It has connections to pretty much every religious right group and funder named on this site.  (I included on link to an article that lays out some.)

Is there any question about what the Christian right wants for women?  Back to the kitchen and the pew.

by cyncooper on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 02:22:43 PM EST

I suppose I'd rather discuss - for my part anyway - possible solutions to address concerns rather than concerns alone.  What sort of resources can be brought to bear against that 6-7 million dollar budget of STOPP ?  

As I understand it, STOPP is trying to shift attitudes in the Latino community, to turn folks against Planned Parenthood. Now, I don't know how to better get good messages out, but I will say this : one has to know what to say first, how to craft a winning message or money won't help much.

The audience for well crafted, "framed" messages would have to be - in this case - the same audience STOPP targets. How to deliver such messages I don't know. But I do know this : envisioning solutions is the first step to enacting them. If one can imagine solutions they become possible.

The long term solution - which you sketched out - is the need for more people in positions of power who support women's rights. The solution involves getting people who hold those values into positions of political power.

So - regardless of the obstacles involved  - doesn't that come down to the nuts and bolts of political organizing, learning how to achieve political power ?  One of the deep background problems I hope this site can help address concerns the extent to which the left has become disengaged from electoral politics. I can see it from my backyard almost, in liberal Massachusetts. Turnout for the latest city council election in Worcester Mass. hit a historic low. For my part I have never been to a local town meeting in the town where I live.

I hardly think I'm unique in that regard - I have my values, sure, but I haven't done a great job of fighting for them in the political realm.

Most of us here on this site are here for deeply felt motivations - concern, anger, conviction that something needs to be done. I suspect we share a great deal in terms of our long term goals too. I suppose this site presents in microcosm a key problem of the American left : learning how to work together to so that our values are supported in the political realm.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Jan 07, 2006 at 06:21:26 PM EST

I appreciate your suggestions, Bruce.

You are right to go to the voting level.  I don't think this is a problem only about STOPP or ALL, but something that bodes ill for the future rhethoric coming out of religious right organizations -- that is, trying to get Latino voters to join their cause.

My preferred solution would be for Rep. Chris Smith, head of the ProLife Caucus in the House, or Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and the rest, to step forward and say, 'Whatever you think about abortion, these attacks are inappropriate.'

My second preferred solution would be for Democratic leaders to say 'we call upon ALL to end these baseless claims.'

My third preferred solution would be for Democratic leaders to say, 'so this is what the so-called pro-life movement is about and, you know what, we won't buy into it, and we want to re-energize our support for candidates -- including in Pennsylvania -- who support women's reproductive rights.'

My fourth preferred solution would be that when the next piece of legislation is introduced trying to end the right to privacy, eliminate abortion, add restrictions to abortion care, reduce access or remove funding from Planned Parenthood (which is then, almost always, diverted to religious right organizations in the form of Christian-based crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence only education programs -- about which you wrote separately) that legislators on both sides of the aisle say that the attacks on Planned Parenthood, an effective organization, are driven by an agenda that seeks to lower the level of conversation in this country and reduce people to race-baiting.  We will not agree.'

As I see it, 'framing' is a campaign strategy.  It's really for politicians.  It's to convince people to vote a certain way.  I've worked in politics and as a political speechwriter, and it's the heart of what we did day-after-day.  Messaging, spin, bites, positioning .... all the same.  

But ordinary people, men and women, need some straight talk, people to help them connect the dots and people willing to stand up for them.  That's what I hope comes out of this site.


by cyncooper on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 07:03:04 PM EST

On the issue of topicality, I stand corrected. And I'm truly sorry if my expression of doubt about topicality caused offense to Cynthia, whom I respect as a colleague and fellow defender of democracy. Next time, I will take more time to think about how the dots connect between specific issue areas and the theocratic big picture, and I will take more care in raising questions and concerns.

Because I do consider the issue vitally important (although I erred in failing to immediately grasp its connection with theocracy), I did suggest some constructive solutions, in terms of effective message framing. I stand by my analysis that throwing logic and data points at emotionally compelling propaganda is not effective, and is in fact counter-productive. But that should not be construed as a criticism of any other proposed solution, because no other solution had been proposed. Essentially, what I meant to say was, "I see that this problem is important, so even though I'm not sure if this is the proper place to talk about it, I agree that it should be addressed. So how do we fix it together? We could do it the traditional way, which wouldn't work but would worsen the problem, or we could try a new approach based on analysis of what makes right-wing propaganda message frames effective."

Apparently I didn't express my intentions too well, and my bluntness irked some colleagues and participants whose contributions I truly welcome and respect. And for that, again, I'm sorry.

by jhutson on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 10:21:44 AM EST

I'm not real shocked that STOPP is claiming "abortion is Latino genocide"--because during the 80's and 90's, one big thing that the dominionist right-to-lifer groups did in promoting their agenda to the African-American community was promoting the idea that abortion was planned as a form of genocide against black people and poor people in general.

In fact, quite a few dominionist groups spout this, including Renew America, American Family Association, National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families (a dominionist pro-censorship group whose links section is entirely comprised of dominionist groups, some of which (like NARTH and "Christian Counseling" groups) are known to be harmful and some links even promoting "Christian counseling" to captive audiences like prisoners); in fact, entire websites like blackgenocide.org (operated by "Life Education and Resource Network", a dominionist anti-reproductive-choice group targeting the African-American community that promotes the exact same canards regarding not only abortion but birth control as are promoted by other groups like American Life League) and even the offensively-named Klan Parenthood (operated by a group called Pro-Life America which not only spouts the usual dominionist urban legends about condoms and birth control (much less abortion) but is also hardline dominionist, operates a small radio empire, and whose links page is a veritable who's who of dominionism including hardline Christian Reconstructionist groups tied with militia orgs like the Constitution Party).  This sort of pap is also regurgitated by more "mainstream" right-to-life groups like National Right to Life Committee.

by dogemperor on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 11:55:52 AM EST

Thank you very much for that historical background.  You do an amazing job of collecting these resources and posting them for all of us.

One reason I posted this (about STOPP) is because I see this Latino allegation as a new extension of an old trend.  As you point out, most of these claims have previously been directed at African Americans.  

Extending these same arguments to the Latina population is dangerous and also may tell us a lot about the future direction of the religious right.  It is, I think, a reflection of two things: 1) the battle for votes of Latinos which the Republican Party is trying to woo, and; 2) new developments in Latin America that are loosening to the laws on abortion, in opposition to the Catholic hierarchy.

It may also relate to some of the issues over immigration that are percolating, but I feel now that I need to understand more about how. I do know that immigrant status is a conflicted area that divides the corporate interests that want available cheap labor and the right wing people who oppose relaxed status, and that the religious right interacts with both of these groups.

I think that Latina race-baiting is definitely something to watch, and I am willing to bet that we are going to see much more more of it in the near future.  Please keep a lookout -- I, for one, would be very interested in learning about anything else.

by cyncooper on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 12:30:12 PM EST

With ongoing vicious attacks on gays by leaders of the Christian right.  Also, I'm reminded a bit of the "Satanic Panic" of the 1970s ( dogemperor knows quite a lot about that ).

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:25:50 PM EST

Texas has a population that is 32% Hispanic according to the last census.  

by bakirita on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 01:48:53 PM EST
You are totally right.  In the interests of brevity, I left out the stats on Tex and Calif.

But, yes, Texas and California both had Latino populations of 32 percent in the 2000 census.  

I think it points up just how important the Latino population will be in the next elections.  There will undoubtedly be a big effort to bring them over to voting with conservative and religious right perspectives.

by cyncooper on Sun Jan 08, 2006 at 06:32:14 PM EST

So, where does this lovely group get that $6-7 million for their budget? Who is fronting them? Who is donating to them? Does anyone know? Does anyone know anyone who might know?

I suspect that, if we knew the answers to those questions, an action plan would be easier to come up with. Following the money works just as well in the religious realm as it does in any other.
- -

Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Those who study history are doomed to know it's repeating.

by Alice Venturi on Mon Jan 09, 2006 at 03:14:03 PM EST

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