Tony Perkins' genital politics

So back on Wednesday the House of Representatives passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, approving funding for the State Department and the Peace Corps for another two years. The official summary for H.R. 2410 reads:

To authorize appropriations for the Department of State and the Peace Corps for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, to modernize the Foreign Service, to authorize democratic, economic, and social development assistance for Pakistan, to authorize security assistance for Pakistan, and for other purposes.

"Other purposes" you say? Ah, Tony Perkins smells a fundraising opportunity. Those "other purposes" may provide the fodder for something he can use to terrify the members of his Family Research Council, and if he can keep them scared, he can keep them writing checks. So Perkins sifted through the 342 pages of this appropriations bill and found there a couple of items that might loosen the sphincters and purse strings of his eager-to-be-frightened followers.

If you're familiar with Perkins' career, you won't be surprised to learn that these two things are the same two things he's always shrieking about: Abortion and homosexuality. When you've had as much practice as Perkins has, it's not hard to sniff out traces of these in every omnibus appropriations bill and then to elevate them to its primary themes so that you can pretend that a bill "to authorize appropriations for the Department of State and the Peace Corps for fiscal years 2010 and 2011, to modernize the Foreign Service, to authorize democratic, economic, and social development assistance for Pakistan, to authorize security assistance for Pakistan, and for other purposes" is nothing more than a Yes/No vote on abortion and gays.

This is, after all, how Perkins reads the Gospels. None of those books contains even a hint of anything that can be wrestled into a statement on abortion and gays, but he treats them all as treatises defending his peculiarly obsessive strain of genital politics.

Perkins' "Eeek! Gays!" response to H.R. 2410 is at least somewhat explainable. What has his panties in a twist is this section, 140 pages in:

Sec. 333. DISCRIMINATION RELATED TO SEXUAL ORIENTATION

(a) TRACKING VIOLENCE OR CRIMINALIZATION RELATED TO SEXUAL ORIENTATION. — The Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor shall designate a Bureau-based officer or officers who shall be responsible for tracking violence, criminalization, and restrictions on the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, consistent with United States law, in foreign countries based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

(b) INTERNATIONAL EFFORTS TO REVISE LAWS CRIMINALIZING HOMOSEXUALITY. — In keeping with the Administration’s endorsement of efforts by the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality in member states, the Secretary of State shall work though appropriate United States Government employees at United States diplomatic and consular missions to encourage the governments of other countries to reform or repeal laws of such countries criminalizing homosexuality or consensual homosexual conduct, or restricting the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, consistent with United States law, by homosexual individuals or organizations.

Sec. 333 also contains a provision stating that reports tracking systematic and legal discrimination in other countries will now keep track of discrimination based on "actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity" as well as the religious and ethnic discrimination they previously tracked. Perkins is happy that these reports keep track of systematic and legal discrimination against Christians in countries in which they are a religious minority, but he's appalled at the notion that the State Department would also be concerned by the exact same kinds of bias and oppression when it is exercised against "actual or perceived" sex or gender minorities.

Rights for me but not for thee is the opposite of the rule of law. It's also the opposite of the Golden Rule. Opposing this section of this bill is impossible to reconcile with the Family Research Council's claim to "hate the sin but love the sinner." Perkins & Co. believe that homosexual sex is a sin, and that GLBT people need to pray away the gay — to get saved and let Jesus straighten them out. I understand that view, but I don't follow the leap from such a belief to the idea that we must ignore and implicitly condone the imprisonment or disenfranchisement of GLBT in other nations.

Perkins says that Sec. 333 above constitutes a "radical agenda" that would mean "one of the State Department's biggest priorities would be pressuring other countries to overturn laws that restrict homosexual and transsexual behavior."

Perkins isn't just exaggerating by saying this would become "one of the State Department's biggest priorities," he's lying. It is not possible that he believes his own hyperbole here or his own deliberate distortion. The language of the bill is timid and requires no measurable outcomes. It says that the secretary of state "shall work … to encourage" the "reform or repeal" of laws criminalizing homosexuality. Just imagine if the bill directed the secretary "to encourage the reform" of North Korea's nuclear weapons program, would Perkins then accept the claim that this was "one of the State Department's biggest priorities"? Of course not.

Note also the liar Tony Perkins' blanket approval of "laws that restrict homosexual and transsexual behavior." He thinks it is wrong to encourage the reform of laws "criminalizing homosexuality or consensual homosexual conduct." He approves of such laws. And more than that, he approves of laws "restricting the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms … by homosexual individuals." He wants to outlaw gayness and gay sex and he favors laws denying GLBT people the rights of free speech, free assembly, free exercise of their religion, the right to bear arms, to own property, to vote, etc. He favors such laws abroad and he favors such laws here at home.

So for Tony Perkins, restricting fundamental human rights is OK provided it's only for an unpopular minority. That argument always works out so well. …

It takes a bit more imagination for Perkins to characterize H.R. 2410 as an abortion bill, but the man has no shortage of imagination when it comes to injecting abortion politics anywhere and everywhere that he possibly can. Here is how Perkins introduces his diatribe against this bill for the funding of the State Department and the Peace Corps:

While the Obama Administration has made the claim that they want to reduce abortions in America, they've made no such claims abroad. On the contrary, the current administration is already planning the groundbreaking ceremony for an Office of Global Women's Issues, which is certain to become an international abortion headquarters. …

I'm not quite sure what "an international abortion headquarters" is supposed to describe, but it's hard to see how the Office of Global Women's Issues, as described in the legislation, would be anything of the sort. See if you can figure out what Perkins is talking about from the text of the bill:

SEC. 334. OFFICE FOR GLOBAL WOMEN’S ISSUES.

(a) ESTABLISHMENT. — There is established an Office for Global Women’s Issues (in this section referred to as the ‘‘Office’’) in the Office of the Secretary of State in the Depa
rtment of State. The Office shall be headed by t
he Ambassador-at-Large (in this section referred to as the ‘‘Ambassador’’), who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Ambassador shall report directly to the Secretary of State.

(b) PURPOSE.—The Office shall coordinate efforts of the United States Government regarding gender integration and women’s empowerment in United States foreign policy.

(c) DUTIES.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The Ambassador shall —

(A) coordinate and advise on activities, policies, programs, and funding relating to gender integration and women’s empowerment internationally for all bureaus and offices of the Department of State and in the international programs of other United States Government departments and agencies;

(B) design, support, and as appropriate, implement, limited projects regarding women’s empowerment internationally;

(C) actively promote and advance the full integration of gender analysis into the programs, structures, processes, and capacities of all bureaus and offices of the Department of State and in the international programs of other United States Government departments and agencies; and

(D) direct, as appropriate, United States Government resources to respond to needs for gender integration and women’s empowerment in United States Government foreign policies and international programs.

(2) COORDINATING ROLE.—The Ambassador shall coordinate with the United States Agency for International Development and the Millennium Challenge Corporation on all policies, programs, and funding of such agencies relating to gender integration and women’s empowerment.

(3) DIPLOMATIC REPRESENTATION.—Subject to the direction of the President and the Secretary of State, the Ambassador is authorized to represent the United States in matters relevant to the status of women internationally.

(d) REPORTING.—The heads of all bureaus and offices of the Department of State, as appropriate, shall evaluate and monitor all women’s empowerment programs administered by such bureaus and offices and annually submit to the Ambassador a report on such programs and on policies and practices to integrate gender.

Note that nothing in the above mentions abortion or reproductive health at all. Perkins is certain, though, that everything listed there as the agenda of the Office for Global Women’s Issues means one and only one thing: abortion. All that talk about integrating women and empowering them to become full and equal members of society is, to Perkins, nothing more than code words for abortion, abortion, abortion. And therefore, since Perkins is opposed to abortion, he concludes that he must oppose the empowerment of women and any effort to integrate them as full and equal members of male society.

That "therefore" in the preceding sentence is where so much of the anti-abortion movement either goes off the rails or shows itself to never have been on the rails in the first place. That "therefore" does not follow.

Tony Perkins is not a good person nor an honest broker, so let's set him aside for the moment to consider how a different person — someone truthful and arguing in good faith — might approach something like this Office for Global Women's Issues.

I used to work on anti-Apartheid stuff with a woman named Leah who was a devout Catholic who believed in the full humanity of the unborn from the moment of conception. Because of that premise, she argued that the unborn had a "right to life" which, in the case of abortion, she believed should outweigh the competing rights of the mother. She did not deny the existence or the validity or the importance of those competing rights, but simply argued that in this one circumstance, the unborn person's rights trumped them. Given her premise, that's a reasonable conclusion. It parallels the logic of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' observation that your right to extend your arm ends where my nose begins.

But I'm afraid that people like Leah have not become the leading voices of the anti-abortion movement in this country. The leading voices belong to those who do not simply argue that one set of competing rights ought to outweigh the other, but who argue that only one set of competing rights is legitimate. Because my nose exists, they argue, you have no right, ever, to extend your arm. This is the sweeping non-sequitur we hear all the time from people like Perkins. He isn't satisfied to argue that a "right to life" for the unborn deserves to be weighed against the competing rights of the mother or of all women, but instead he races beyond anywhere his premise suggests or allows to insist that no such rights of the mother or of all women even exist.

We saw this absurdity on display here in Pennsylvania when it got our former junior senator, Rick Santorum, laughed out of office. Roe v. Wade was decided, in part, on the recognition of the fundamental right to privacy. Santorum's purported belief in the full humanity of the unborn ought therefore to have led him to argue that the right to privacy was, in the case of abortion, outweighed by the competing rights of the unborn, but Santorum wasn't satisfied to make that claim. Instead, he went mad. Santorum declared that the right to privacy does not exist, that any claim to such a right was a "myth," and that all that is not expressly permitted is forbidden. He thus became an advocate not merely of "big government," but of boundless government. He was thus invited, by a huge bipartisan majority, to return to the, um, private sector.

Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council are here following Santorum off the same cliff, repeating his lunacy as it applies to "gender integration and women’s empowerment." Perkins goes far, far beyond what logically flows from or is required by his premise of a commitment to a "right to life" for the unborn, choosing instead to deny, denounce and reject the very existence of any rights that might possibly compete with it.

As evidence that gender integration and the empowerment of women are simply code words for "unlimited abortion," (meaning only and exclusively that), Perkins quotes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: "We are now an administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care." If reproductive health care might be construed to include legal abortion, then Perkins concludes that women must be denied reproductive health care. And if "protecting the rights of women" necessarily entails reproductive health care, then Perkins concludes that he must oppose rights for women — all rights for women. Thus he arrives at this astonishing place of fierce opposition to the integration and empowerment of women anywhere on earth.

Again, Perkins' position does not logically flow from his alleged premise of rights for the unborn. That premise does not and cannot carry him to the place at which he has arrived. So how did he get there?

I think it's safe to assume that this is where he has arrived because this is where he always intended to go. Tony Perkins opposes gender integration and women's empowerment. He opposes protecting the rights of women and he opposes women having any right to reproductive health care. He claims that he opposes all of these things based on his opposition to abortion, but that train won't get him there. He got there all on his own. Concern for the rights of the unborn had nothing to do with it.

  • Froborr

    It was interesting how reluctant the doctor was to perform it; my then-wife had to come in and personally swear that, yes, she was totally fine with that. Maybe it’s just because I lived in Ohio then.
    It isn’t just Ohio — I was just wondering where you found a doctor willing to perform a vasectomy on a 25-year-old. Many doctors are extremely reluctant to perform them on child-free young men, for a combination of factors. One being that it is possible for a vasectomy to spontaneously undo itself, and the likelihood of this occurring drops off dramatically after 30. Another is that vasectomy doesn’t protect against STD transmittal, and they’re afraid of encouraging unsafe sex in young people. But by far the biggest is the near-universal assumption that any young person who doesn’t want children is immature and confused, and will regret the vasectomy when they get older.
    Bitter? Me? Nah.

  • Anton Mates

    But by far the biggest is the near-universal assumption that any young person who doesn’t want children is immature and confused, and will regret the vasectomy when they get older.

    Yeah, that was pretty much it–hence the need for my then-wife to assure them that we’d talked about it. Had I not been married, therefore obviously sexually responsible and possessed of a mature opinion on fatherhood, I doubt they would have agreed to it at all. (Which kind of means that anyone who doesn’t want kids should run out and marry someone else. Damn pro-natalists, assaulting the sanctity of marriage!)
    I know about vasectomies undoing themselves; my little brother was conceived that way, and his dad was in his mid-forties at the time. Of course, you can forestall that just by getting tested now and again.

  • Lori

    So… is there anyone left on this board who actually thinks there are circumstances under which abortion should be illegal? Or are we just arguing about the morality of abortion?

    @Frobarr: Yes, I believe there are. They may not be participating on this thread right now, but they exist in the slacktiverse.

  • http://city-of-ladies.blogspot.com Rebecca

    In particular, if a woman is raped, she’s not legally allowed to hunt down and kill the rapist for the sake of her own mental or physical well-being. So why–if a fetus has the same right to life as an adult, and if the mother’s right to bodily autonomy doesn’t override that–should she be legally allowed to kill the resulting fetus?
    Because the fetus is inside her body, and the rapist is not. This has been another edition of…

  • http://city-of-ladies.blogspot.com Rebecca

    …misinterpreted the question. Never mind.

  • Katz

    So… is there anyone left on this board who actually thinks there are circumstances under which abortion should be illegal? Or are we just arguing about the morality of abortion?
    The people with moderate positions (moderate meaning the belief that there is at least one circumstance under which abortion should be legal, and at least one circumstance under which it should be restricted) know better than to participate.

  • Not Really Here

    Well, actually, I think abortion should be illegal in cases where the pregnancy has gotten past the point when the fetus is viable, and could be delivered safely alive with minimal risk to the mother, and she has decided for reasons that have nothing to do with either her health or severe fetal deformity that she’s tired of being pregnant, or changed her mind about wanting the baby.
    But since these cases only exist in the minds of anti-abortion extremists, and not in the actual, real world, it’s kind of a moot point to argue.


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