Paul Ryan Sullies Black History, Has Woman Problems

The VP candidate is good with online aesthetics but falls short when it comes to women's reproductive health. Oh, and he's not below trotting out Dred Scott to get his way.

By Akiba Solomon Aug 17, 2012

Republican vice presidential candidate and Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan has a really nice web site. Seriously! Nestled under a static photo of his smizing face are rotating images of serenity: A farmhouse. A lighthouse. A wavy orange bridge over untroubled waters.

Now, that bridge picture is my favorite because it also features hot pink flowers. Thanks to the wonders of online cropping and pasting, the flowers appear to be perched on Ryan’s left shoulder, affixed to the House of Representatives seal and floating on a Wisconsin-shaped American flag. In this context, raven-haired Ryan is giving us, "Hey, girl. I love America, I love nature and I’m not afraid of the scent of florals."

To be fair, the House budget committee chair may very well love the United States, nature, and even the progressive ideas that hot pink has come to symbolize. But as Imara Jones has outlined, Ryan’s economic plan to do a reverse Robin Hood on taxes, privatize granny’s Medicare, gut food stamps and Medicaid, dismantle Social Security and create a national monument to Ayn Rand* trump his aesthetics.

Ryan’s reproductive health views are equally disturbing, from a race and reproductive justice point of view.

In a 2010 essay posted on his pretty web site, Ryan straight ignores the agency of women and adults and pimps black history. An infuriating excerpt:

Twice in the past the U.S. Supreme Court–charged with being the guardian of rights–has failed so drastically in making this crucial determination that it "disqualified" a whole category of human beings, with profoundly tragic results.

The first time was in the 1857 case, Dred Scott v. Sandford. The Court held, absurdly, that Africans and their American descendants, whether slave or free, could not be citizens with a right to go to court to enforce contracts or rights or for any other reason. Why? Because "among the whole human race," the Court declared, "the enslaved African race were not intended to be included…[T]hey had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." In other words, persons of African origin did not "qualify" as human beings for purposes of protecting their natural rights. It was held that, since the white man did not recognize them as having such rights, they didn’t have them. The implication was that Africans were property–things that white persons could choose to buy and sell. In contrast, whites did "qualify," so government protected their natural rights.

Predictably, Roe vs. Wade is the money shot:

The second time the Court failed in a case regarding the definition of "human" was in Roe v. Wade in 1973, when the Supreme Court made virtually the identical mistake. At what point in time does a human being exist, the state of Texas asked. The Court refused to answer: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." In other words, the Court would not "qualify" unborn children as living persons whose human rights must be guaranteed.

Ryan’s views have earned him high marks in the anti-choice movement. The Susan B. Anthony Project loves him. The National Right to Life Coalition gives his congressional voting record 100 percent. I don’t know if the chicken came before the egg, but his equating of the legal rights of Dred Scott and, by extension, black people, to zygotes mirrors that of Personhood Mississippi’s failed Amendment 26.

The anti-choice vice presidential candidate has also stimulated the salivary glands of tea party members by opposing the Affordable Care Act, a plan that makes hormonal birth control more affordable for women and provides annual screening for domestic violence, breastfeeding support and HPV testing.

I think you know where I’m going with this, but I’ll spell it out: By picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney has beefed up his radical anti-choice bonafides. As the descendent of enslaved people of African descent and a woman, I am concerned about his plans. If we were high school classmates and he was up for best website, he would certainly have my vote.

We’re not high school classmates.

*That Ayn Rand thing is an absurd, cheap shot. But so is equating the legal and eventually constitutional rights of adult enslaved people of African descent with those of zygotes.