The floundering Romney campaign was thrown a life ring of sorts last week, from aboard the USS Wisconsin, a decommissioned U.S. Navy vessel based in Norfolk, Virginia. There, Mitt Romney introduced the man he said would be "the next president of the United States," until he corrected himself. "Every now and then I'm known to make a mistake," Romney confessed. "I did not make a mistake with this guy. But I can tell you this, he's going to be the next vice president of the United States." And with that, Paul Ryan became Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate, the man who, in the event of a Romney win in November, becomes a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Ryan is considered by many a champion of small government. For women, though, the federal government that Paul Ryan envisions is big, intrusive and controlling. Paul Ryan would ban all abortions, with no exceptions, even in cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother. In other words, the mother could die as a result of complications from the pregnancy.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund highlighted several other issues, among them, "his budget plan to dismantle Medicaid, jeopardizing the basic health care millions of women rely on, [and] his vote last year to end funding to Planned Parenthood, putting at risk the cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and other preventive care that nearly three million Americans rely on each year."
The anti-choice National Right to Life Committee stated, "Ryan has maintained a 100 per cent pro-life voting record." He is a co-sponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, what critics call the personhood bill, now in Congress, that would define in federal law that "the life of each human being begins with fertilization ... irrespective of sex, health, function or disability, defect, stage of biological development, or condition of dependency, at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood."
The law goes on, "a one-celled human embryo ... is a new unique human being." As reported in Mother Jones, this law would make normal in vitro fertilization (IVF) practices illegal, as the process creates multiple fertilized eggs, one or two of which might be used to help a woman have a child. The others are frozen, used for research or destroyed, which, under this bill pushed by Ryan, would become murder. Mother Jones points out that at least three of Mitt Romney's sons have relied on IVF to give birth to several of his 18 grandchildren. Likewise, the IUD, intrauterine device, which prevents the fertilized egg from implanting, would be illegal.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell introduced Mitt Romney at the Norfolk event. McDonnell was recently in the national spotlight for promoting a state law that would force women seeking an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. Republicans, who accuse President Barack Obama of putting government bureaucrats between doctors and their patients, were trying to mandate a medically unnecessary procedure that required the insertion of a wand into a woman's vagina. The provision was widely ridiculed, and may have been one of the reasons Gov. McDonnell himself was not standing next to Romney as his running mate. Yet Ryan, who was, co-sponsored a similar bill, the Ultrasound Informed Consent Act. It contains a bizarre provision that states nothing in the law will "prevent a pregnant woman from turning her eyes away from the ultrasound images."
What we cannot do is turn our eyes away from just how radical Paul Ryan's plans are for more than half of the U.S. population: women and girls. Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist famously called for a government small enough to "drown in the bathtub." Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., told online news website Buzzfeed, "House Republicans -- of which Paul Ryan is a leader -- would shrink government so small it can only fit under the door of a woman's doctor's office."
As the Romney-Ryan team stood beside the USS Wisconsin, it was clear that we are not all in the same boat. Corporations are people to be protected. One-celled human zygotes are people to be protected. But when it comes to the already born, flesh-and-blood people of this country, reeling from a massive recession, they would shred the social safety net. Sink or swim is not a plan.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America. She is the author of Breaking the Sound Barrier, recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr