The testy national debate on contraception and abortion -- from Rush Limbaugh's dismissal of a female activist as a "slut" to Bob Casey's break with Democratic leaders on a vote last week -- is coming home to roost, with a vengeance, in Western Pennsylvania.
US Rep Tim Murphy has been making the rounds on conservative talk shows to discuss his confrontation with US Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Capitol Hill last week, which went from a talk about health care budgeting to abortifacients and Jesus and the Apostles. Closer to home, state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, is getting noticed around Grant Street for sending a curious, handwritten response to a female constituent who criticized a bill he co-sponsored requiring ultrasounds before abortions.
First to Murphy, an Upper St. Clair Republican who faces a challenge on his right this spring. Sebelius spoke before the House Energy and Commerce committee to explain the Obama administration's requirement that employers (with religious exceptions) must provide birth control coverage to employees. Murphy, a doctor, then pressed her on the science versus religion of whether morning after pills end pregnancies.
From Think Progress:
SEBELIUS: It is a contraceptive drug, not an abortifacient... It does not interfere with a pregnancy. If the morning pill were taken, and a female were pregnant, the pregnancy is not interrupted. That's the definition of abortifation.
MURPHY: Ma'm that is your interpretation, and I appreciate that's your interpretation.
SEBELIUS: That's what the scientists and doctors...
MURPHY: We're not talking about scientists. Ma'm we're not talking about scientists here, we're talking about religious belief. Ma'm, I'm asking you about a religious belief. In a religious belief, that is a violation of a religious belief.
Murphy goes on later to say "You're setting up a rule that not even Jesus and his apostles could adhere to. Jesus was Jewish. He collected other Jewish people, tax collectors, sinners, Mary Magdelene and others. Therefore [you're] saying, you know what, because you're not bringing all Christians into this fold you cannot do this."
On Fox (and his Facebook page) Murphy's main charge is the Obama administration pays for health care coverage via contraception. From his appearance on America's Newsroom:
MURPHY: When Secretary Sebelius said that basically pregnancy is an expense, that means that by not having to pay for prenatal care and not having to pay for labor and delivery or the pediatric costs of raising a child, they figured they could save a lot of money. And it really baffled me how we were going to expect to pay for health care by not having babies. I thought that was one of the points of providing health care for women. And quite frankly it doesn't make sense financially.
On to Readshaw. He's a sponsor of HB 1077, aka the Women's Right To Know Act, aka Pennsylvania's version of the Virginia ultrasound bill. It is common for PA Democrats to be anti-abortion (see: Casey, or Readshaw's neighbor Dan Deasy) but not to defend himself the way he did to a liberal South Hills blogger named Amadi. He sent her a package containing a letter responding to her complaints about the bill, along with other data on her voting history, home address and ethnicity.
In her email to Readshaw she had said women "have independent intellect" and didn't need the government requiring them to get ultrasounds or other tests. To that he replied:
("I know this message will fall on deaf ears but….. I do not choose to debate “intellect” vs. morals. As I believe morals should overwhelmingly be the favorite.")
And so on and so on. The full letter and the blogger's impressions to it are here.