How are these two news stories related?

Item No. 1:

[Ark. state] Sen. Jason Rapert filed legislation that would require a test to detect a fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed. If one is detected, a woman could not have an abortion, except in cases of rape, incest and if a mother’s life is in danger.

… By leaving just two weeks for most women to find out they’re pregnant and get an abortion, laws like these are essentially out-right bans.

Item No. 2:

Sen. Jason Rapert: “We’re going to take this country back for the Lord. We’re going to try to take this country back for conservatism. And we’re not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in!”

The first item is about a devout Christian and socially conservative Republican working to save the lives of the unborn by passing tough new laws criminalizing abortion after six weeks.

The second item is about a Koch-funded tea-party activist whipping up crowds with a xenophobic rant against “minorities” and anyone who isn’t a straight, white, Christian and therefore not a legitimate member of “this country,” which belongs to “the Lord” and to the Lord’s chosen children, the aforementioned straight, white Christians.

And they’re both the same person.

That’s the obvious connection and the obvious relationship between these two stories: They’re both about Arkansas state Sen. Jason Rapert.

But do these stories have anything else in common? How else are these stories related? Are they contradictions? Or are they complements?

It could be that the values Rapert expresses in the second item contradict the values he expresses in the first. That one of these stories shows Rapert following a false god, while the other shows him following the One True God of real, true Christianity.

Or it could be that the values Rapert expresses in the first item reinforce the values he expresses in the second, and that Rapert’s behavior in the second item is perfectly consistent with his behavior in the first.


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  • Baby_Raptor

    I’ve never understood why the fetus’ heartbeat is so important. Do they not understand that the heart isn’t beating on it’s own, that the mother’s body is controlling it? The fetal heartbeat means nothing more than that, thus far, the mother’s body is still doing it’s job and development is at least somewhat correctly proceeding. 

    Is it just something that can be easily used to pull the heartstrings? 

  • Hexep

    Yes, basically. You have struck it true.

  • Tricksterson

    I would think that if you were going to use a measure of “personhood” it would be brainwave function, not heart beat.

  • John (not McCain)

    If it was brainwave function it would be legal to abort Rapert right now.

  • Wednesday

    It’s heartstrings in part, but I think it’s also got to do with making a false clear dividing line between “alive as a person” and “not alive as a person”, and making people think early-stage embryos are more like born humans than they actually are. (I’ve noticed a lot of anti-legal-abortion propaganda that
    “promotes” embryos to a later stage of development — probably because “at 1 month, your embryo is a tiny speck that cannot think or feel anything” is not as persuasive as “at 1 month, your unborn baby is 1 inch long, has fingers, loves you, and can write this shitty email forward poem”.)

    If you ask people how to determine if something or someone is alive (animal, not plant), outside of the context of the abortion debate they’ll generally cite heartbeat and respiration as the two main factors. This gives the “life begins at conception” crowd a little bit of trouble — fetuses are not breathing, because they get their oxygen from the umbilical cord. So that leaves heartbeat as the indicator of life.

    So tightly do people intertwine “has a heartbeat” and “alive” that one of the favorite lies of CPCs is to say that the heartbeat begins at conception. I also have a self-identified pro-life friend who has repeatedly cited heartbeat as how she knows an embryo is alive (as opposed to, eg, it’s composed of living cells). And once in a fandom context, I saw a self-identified pro-lifer (correctly) correct another writer for giving something a heartbeat at conception — and the pro-lifer said she felt horrible for saying that there is no heartbeat at conception.

  • DorothyD

    Something tells me that if I research when fetal brainwaves become detectable, the answer will be “several weeks later than fetal heartbeat.”

  • Baby_Raptor

    When I was pregnant with my son, my OB-GYN regularly told me all the changes and developments that the fetus went through between visits. 

    When he mentioned that the fetus had started using it’s lungs to “practice breathe,” I got highly confused. The fetus is in a sack filled with fluid, so (to my understanding) wouldn’t they be “breathing” amniotic fluid? Which, if not somehow gotten rid of, would cause issues when the cord was cut?

    Despite my several attempts to word this in ways I thought were very clear, my doctor had no idea what I was asking about. So I still am not entirely sure how that process works. 

    Also, your story gives me a headache. Was this person just completely unaware how conception works? Where would the heart even *be*? I…Words are failing me.

  • Sen. Jason Rapert: “We’re going to take this country back for the Lord.
    We’re going to try to take this country back for conservatism. And we’re
    not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people
    believe in!”

    This kind of race-baiting makes me wonder if his mother is ashamed of him for so cravenly catering to a segment of the electorate that wants white people to stay in charge permanently.

  • dj_pomegranate

    It really takes a lot of empathy-gymnastics to care so much about all the unborn babies! and so little about those unborn babies when they grow up to be people who aren’t white males.

  • P J Evans

     His head would explode if he ever realized that he’s in a minority right now, and he’s trying to ride roughshod over the majority.

  • banancat

     Women need only a hearbeat to bare children for men, such as in the case of Terry Schiavo, when some Catholic higher-up insisted that she should be kept indefinitely on life support because she could potentially birth children.  A heartbeat is the only thing they care about for women, and therefore female fetuses.  You would think they’d care about brain function for male fetuses/future men, but really they only need a heartbeat to vote for Republican candidates so that’s all that matters.

    (Insert obligatory joke about brainwaves and Republicans here)

  • Jim Roberts

    Unless he learned it from her. Racism, after all, is rarely innate.

  • other lori

    I might be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure that, yes, the fetus breathes in the amniotic fluid, like a little fish. And then, during the birth process, the fluid gets squeezed out of their lungs. 

  • SergeantHeretic

    The luicrouse hamstring placed on a legal right in the first article is perfectly consistent with the man depicted i nthe second article. the first article represent exactly the motivations and values of a bible fetishising bigot who hates women and anyone else who is not a straight white Judeo Christian man.

    There is no contradiction.

  • Carstonio

    Fred already addressed Paul Weyrich’s point about the religious right’s origins, which involved the fight over the tax-exempt status for whites-only religious schools. That leads to the question of why the abortion issue proved to be a better selling tactic. I know that writers like Ross Douthat fret about declining birth rates in terms that betray an obvious worry about whites becoming a minority. Are any of you familiar with similar demographic panic among writers who condemn abortion?

  • Carstonio

    when some Catholic higher-up insisted that she should be kept
    indefinitely on life support because she could potentially birth

    Can you provide a citation? I had understood that the Schiavo case was essentially a dispute between the parents and the husband, where the former used their ties to the religious right to escalate this into a political conflict.

  • other lori

    Certainly there’s some of that fear of a brown planet in some part of the anti-legal abortion movement.  I think that’s where a lot of this current attack on contraception comes from: most of these people have realized that, actually, the women they want reproducing–white women who aren’t poor–aren’t having all that many abortions, because they are successfully preventing pregnancies. If they want to have more affluent white babies, restricting abortion access by itself really won’t help, but making it harder to obtain birth control might. I guess Rapert didn’t get that memo, though.

  • Dan Hauge

    I’d need more specifics on exactly how the concern to reduce abortions is a logical extension of xenophobia. They may be connected on the theological/ideological level, they may not. Your piece intimates that they obviously are equally manifestations of a theology, that it is self-evident, because they come from the same person. I still need to hear more (and I am generally pro-choice myself)

    Actually the more I think of it, I’m frustrated with both options. Either the two positions represent contradictory theologies or they represent manifestations of a consistent theology. Maybe they are just different issues, with different reasoning going on behind each one? Or even if they are consistent for Rapert, they could be viewed differently by different people?

    I’m no fan of Rapert. At all. Of either position. But this kind of ideological reductionism frustrates me.

  • aunursa

    I would like to see a study that breaks down abortion statistics by political party or view.  What percentage of women who have an abortion are liberal or Democrat, conservative or Republican, moderate or independent?

  • other lori

    Due to the racial demographics around abortion, I’d imagine that you’d see a preponderance of Democrats. But, that’s not because Democrats are more likely to have an abortion but because the poor and minorities are more likely both to vote Democrat and to have an abortion.

  • aunursa

    I’m wondering because it seems as if both parties are operating contrary to their own self-interest.  If they were to act strictly in terms of their own self-interest, the Republican Party should support abortion — because the majority of fetuses otherwise would be born and grow up in a Democratic family, appreciate the values of the Democrats, and then tend to vote for them, all of which would reduce the power of Republicans.  And the Democrats should oppose abortion for the same reason.

    The fact that both parties act contrary, I find that fascinating.

  • Fusina

     There is amniotic fluid in the lungs. The cliche picture of a baby being held by its ankles and swatted by the doctor is from the technique used to remove the fluid and get the lungs working. I don’t think they do it that way now. I do know that is one of the reasons they prefer that the amniotic fluid be clear/pale yellow, as otherwise there have been bowel movements, and that has then gotten into the baby’s lungs too.

    Two kids, and fascinated by all the interesting and weird bits of pregnancy and delivery. Grossology is an awesome book, incidentally.

  • AnonymousSam

     Man describes himself as “a conservative, gun-owning, middle-aged, ordained fundamentalist” and thinks his actions are “sav[ing] America for our children’s future.” He simultaneously says that “We need people committed to individual liberty, freedom, prosperity and the U.S. Constitution” while writing laws which reduce individual liberty, freedom and prosperity. He performs baptisms with the same hand which writes bills to let people carry guns in schools. As for the Constitution, to quote,

    There was one time in this nation that it was legal to enslave African-Americans; it was constitutional. There was one time in this nation when women could not vote; it was constitutional. There’s a time when you have to stand up for what is right.

    Let’s decompress that.

    “There was a time in this nation that it was legal to enslave African-Americans”
    “I hear you loud and clear, Barack Obama. You don’t represent the country that I grew up with. … we’re not going to allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in!”

    All right, so African-American and minority rights only count when they make a poetic point about law and history, and otherwise, Those People need to be put in their place. Check.

    “There was one time in this nation when women could not vote”
    I don’t believe eminent domain (something else he also supports) over women’s bodies grants a woman much autonomy over herself, much less the state. Check two. For bonus points, his last anti-abortion law was written “to protect abortion patients” and would have shut down abortion clinics throughout the state, because nothing protects patients more than putting their lives and livelihoods at risk in the name of principle. He also wants to protect women by repealing the ACA, because affordable health care has nothing to do with health, apparently.

    “We need people committed to … the U.S. Constitution.”
    ” it was constitutional, [but t]here’s a time when you have to stand up for what is right.”

    So the Constitution is a sacred document right up until it runs contrary to something that needs changing, and then we certainly can’t allow ourselves to be dissuaded from making any necessary changes. But otherwise, that sacred document is inviolate! I have idiot bingo.

  •  Aunursa, that would depend on your definition of “self-interest.”  The Republicans have made clear that their self-interest is in getting power and money and more Republicans.  All the Democrats I know talk about things like stable societies, growing middle classes, and higher standards of living.  The ability to have only the babies you want is strongly connected to all those.  But then again, Maybe Democrats are the same kind of craven, avaricious jackhats as Republicans, and I’m just dim.

    Other places apparently don’t allow abortions until 6 weeks, just in case of a false positive…. So, this guy is working on a catch-22 as far as I’m concerned.  I will probably care any time he makes an end-run around constitutional law, especially when it hurts poor families.

  • Carstonio

    That might be of limited use to illustrate how reactionaries like Rapert and Todd Akin have come to control the GOP social agenda. The abortion issue is largely a proxy for a larger debate between two irreconcilable views about gender roles.  I tend to equate liberalism with opposition to social privilege, in this case the gender norms that perpetuate inequality, and I would like to know if that’s borne out by the data.

  • The_L1985

    Yes, but pro-life propaganda says that measurable brain waves start 8 weeks after conception.  I have never seen this figure anywhere that wasn’t obvious propaganda, so I highly doubt it.  (I don’t know what the actual fetal age for that is, though.)

  • The_L1985

     The best part is that they don’t tell you that when the embryonic heart starts beating, it’s a two-chambered heart, not a four-chambered heart like born humans have.

    You know what else has a two-chambered heart?  Fish.  That newly-beating heart looks more like a fish heart than like the human heart it may eventually grow into.

  • The_L1985

     Yes, the fetus does in fact “breathe” amniotic fluid into its lungs.  I’m pretty sure it all gets expelled from the lungs before birth, though.

    “Was this person just completely unaware how conception works?”

    Yes.  Welcome to the world of abstinence-only sex ed.  A lot of people don’t realize that “conception” and “fertilization” are the exact same thing.

  • The_L1985

     To bear children.  If a woman is stripping a child naked for a man, then something seriously wrong is happening.  ;)

    Excellent point, though.

  • The_L1985

    No, as a general rule the expressed sentiment is “racial minorities are more likely than white people to have an abortion, thus it is a form of genocide against these minorities.”

    Which has a different form of racist problem, namely: “You’re too stupid to know what the right thing to do is, so I’m going to protect you from yourself.”

  • The_L1985

     Because that’s not the only form of self-interest we’re talking about here.

    It is in the self-interest of the current high-ranking Republicans to exert as much control as possible over any issue that is related to their goal of having a theocracy.  Thus, since abortion is a threat to theocracy, Republicans are against abortions.

    Democrats have essentially become the party of the poor.  It is in the best interests of poor (and middle-class, to a somewhat lesser extent) people to have access to contraceptives, or at least abortions, so that they can avoid having children they can’t afford to keep.  Thus, since legal abortions help a good-sized chunk of the Democratic electorate, it is in the best interests of the Democratic party to keep abortions legal.

  • So, by their logic…Fish should have the right to vote? Hmm, and there’s a lot of RTCs to use a fish symbol already, so instant points there…and the fish demographic certainly outnumbers any current democratic demographic…
    Haddock/Palin 2016!

  • Mark Z.

    Do they not understand that the heart isn’t beating on it’s own, that the mother’s body is controlling it?

    The heart actually is beating on its own, because that’s what hearts do. Any portion of a heart (even a single muscle cell) will beat on its own as long as it has oxygen and fuel. Most people don’t know this, which makes it a very convenient way to pretend that a fetus at 8 weeks or so is way more developed than it is.

  • JustoneK

    So the human heart cells cloned and regrown on, say, a lab mouse are certifiably human enough to keep alive?

    Oh who am I kidding, that heart will never grow up to be a voter.

  • other lori

    Thanks for the clarification. I was wondering about that, because I know fetal heart rates are significantly faster than maternal heart rates.

    I think the reason the heartbeat is such a big deal is because, for a wanted pregnancy, it *is* a big deal. Most pregnant women I know look forward to hearing the heartbeat. In all of my pregnancies, hearing the heartbeat was confirmation that there was something in there, and it was kind of a special moment for me.

    The problem is when we try to make something scientific or legal out of those emotional moments. In a pregnancy you intend to continue, hearing the heartbeat is exciting, because it means that there is something growing inside of you that, if all goes well, will be your baby in 7 or 8 months. But it’s largely meaningful because of what it points to, not because of what it is at the moment, if that makes sense. 

  • Jeff Weskamp

    Rapert claims that Obama didn’t attend the National Prayer Breakfast.  That is a blatant lie, and Rachel Maddow noted it as such on her TV show.

    Some much for that commandment against bearing false witness….

  • fraser

     You are correct, Carstonio, though it’s quite possible some Catholic mucky-muck offered that as an added reason to keep her alive (but I’ve never heard of it despite following the case intensely at one time).

  • AnonymousSam

    There was a bit related to this in recentish news where some scientists had taken heart cells cloned from a rat, combined them with elastic silicone and put them in a solution. The result? It contracts and recoils like a swimming jellyfish.

  • other lori

    I have no love for the Catholic hierarchy’s views about women and sex, but I seriously doubt anybody would have suggested that the possibility she could reproduce was a reason to keep her alive. I have never heard of the RCC suggesting that husbands should have sex with wives who are in persistent vegetative states in order to impregnate them, and since they don’t believe in artificial insemination, it seems unlikely that her reproductive capacity was really of concern.

  • MaryKaye

    “Will this fetus grow up to vote R or D in 18 years?” is *way* too long-range for any US political party to spend much thought on it.  “Will this fundraising message produce funds this month?” is germane.  The next election cycle is germane; *maybe* the next two.  That’s the horizon:  about six years max.

    This is not necessarily a criticism; I don’t think the parties have much choice in the matter.  If they don’t compete now they won’t be around in 18 years and their policies won’t go through anyway.

    In other words, I think it’s self-interest all the way, it’s just short-term self-interest.  Currently R can make money by opposing abortion and D by supporting it.  If they reversed they would make less.

  • Wednesday

     @ Baby_Raptor,

    In the case of CPCs, there are enough documented cases of that BS being told that I’m going with “intentional lie”.

    In the fandom example I mentioned… the story premise was since wizards in the storyverse were very tuned in to life, they would be able to sense conception happening — and the author portrayed it by Magically Amplified Heartbeat. I refrained from pointing out that if the couple was trying to have kids, being able to detect every conception would be pretty depressing, given how many blastocysts don’t make it to term under normal circumstances.

    The ‘fic author was a teenager from the US, and this was during the heyday of Bush’s “Abstinence-only Sex Non-Education”, so there’s a good chance that no, they didn’t know anything, and it wasn’t entirely their fault. (At least they knew that conception happens well after sex.)

  • Wingedwyrm

    The relation is that both statements aren’t about caring about… anybody, really.  They’re both about a view of the world that says that it is obligated to be organized in just such a way and that deviations from just such a way are all bad, no matter what those deviations are.

    Public schools not using their authority to mandate or endorce prayer?  Abortion?  Same-sex marriage?  Interracial marriage?  Women doing the same jobs as men?  Paying women the same as a man for doing the same job?  Giving women the vote?  Desegregation?

    Essentially, every liberal victory is, in the short term memory of conservative ideology, an unconscionable deviation from the perfect way of things.  The good news, though, is that every liberal victory, in the long term memory of conservative ideology, is a victory won so hard that conservatives refuse to believe they fought it in the first place.

  • I’m imagining his mother saying “I raised you to be better than that”, but then again, who knows? I know my mother would probably have words with me if I were to say the things he has.

  • If a woman is stripping a child naked for a man, then something seriously wrong is happening.

    Or she’s helping him out with bath night.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Given his attitudes toward women, I’m assuming the “t” is silent.

  • Wingedwyrm

    What t?  I must be missing something.

  • The Catholic Church’s position was that Schiavo’s feeding tube should not be removed because it was not an extraordinary measure being taken to keep her alive, and that quality of life is irrelevant. 

    Additionally, according to the Wikipedia article, Shiavo was being treated for infertility before her coma, though that may have been due to bulimia, so it may have stopped being an issue. (I have no idea if being tube-fed is more conducive to fertility than being bulimic, especially if the patient was already infertile.)

    I did find some *ahem* vehement sites while researching the issue, but they all sounded like third-party extremists, not RCC policymakers, and none of them mentioned babies except to link the Schiavo case with Roe v. Wade.

  • The one in his last name, presumably.

  • Mark Z.

    If I were his campaign manager, I would not allow that image with the big “RAPERT” out in public. Every one of his billboards, yard signs, and bumper stickers is going to get ninja copyedited.

    Maybe he could run under the name “Canola”.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Maybe he could run under the name “Canola”.

    Too foreign sounding.