On Wednesday, the Arkansas legislature lurched forward with a radical measure to ban most abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected within six weeks of a pregnancy, a requirement experts say will force the state to insert a probe into a woman’s vagina to detect.
The bill also penalizes doctors who perform abortions after the arbitrary cut-off date with a Class D felony, carrying up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. The chief sponsor of the measure is Republican State Senator Jason Rapert, a fiddle-playing financial planner with his own evangelical outreach center that hosts mission trips to Uganda, Ghana and the Philippines. He has been among the loudest anti-abortion politicians in the state, and has sponsored a number of other radical bills, including a very strange effort to organize a constitutional convention to give state legislatures power over the national debt limit.
Here he is at a Tea Party rally from 2011, not only complaining about Obama’s Ramadan event but also warning the president that his people have had enough with “minorities” running the country (emphasis added):
RAPERT: I hear you loud and clear, Barack Obama. You don’t represent the country that I grew up with. And your values is not going to save us. 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!
In another part of the same speech, Rapert proudly declares himself a birther and attacks the state Supreme Court for knocking down a ban on gay adoptions as example of “minority interests running roughshod over you and me.”
While Rapert certainly enjoys wide support in many corners of the evangelical movement (here he is with the notorious Rev. John Hagee, what interests me is how many white-shoe corporations stepped in to support his candidacy last year. A look at his final campaign finance report reveals direct corporate dollars and corporate political action committees sponsored by companies supposedly friendly to women:
Here are some examples: Southwestern Energy Company PAC gave $2,000; ARCH PAC, of Arch Coal, gave $1,000; Eli Lilly and Company gave $500; Lisa Allen, an executive with Cox Communications, gave $1,000; Nucor Corp PAC of AR gave $500; AT&T Arkansas PAC gave $2,000; Verizon gave $1,000; and American Electric Power PAC gave $500.
In 2012, Arkansas was one of several states to become substantially more Republican, with both the state house and senate falling into GOP hands for the first time since Reconstruction. Rapert’s district, a traditionally Democratic stronghold near Conway, was one of the pivotal seats that decided the balance of power. Rapert made abortion a major issue in the campaign, attacking his opponent, State Representative Linda Tyler for not doing enough to curtail abortion rights while serving as chair to the Arkansas House Public Health Committee.
As the The Washington Post’s T.W. Farnam reported, the Koch brothers–financed Americans for Prosperity (AFP) group made Arkansas a target state last year, and pledged $1 million dollars to key races to both defeat moderate Republican during the primaries, and to wipe the state of its remaining Democrats. Jay Barth, a professor at Hendrix College, a school near Rapert’s district, noted that AFP’s Arkansas mailers “prime[d] racial sentiments by using an image of an African-American doctor.”
Rapert, a signatory to the Koch’s “No Climate Tax Pledge” and a regular participant in AFP’s political events, also received $2,000 directly from Koch Industries last year for his campaign.
Perhaps business interests were drawn to Rapert for his novel justifications for corporate-friendly legislation. According to the Blue Arkansas Blog, Rapert defended his support for bringing high-interest payday lending back to the state by comparing such loans to the microfinance loans used to support Third World farmers.
Libertarian billionaire Charles Koch, author of his own ideology he touts as the “Science of Liberty,” is famous for spreading his beliefs (and his business interests) through the aggressive use of political donations to candidates, think tanks, media outlets, universities, career-training institutes and dark-money attack-ad groups. But critics, including myself, point to the hundreds of state and federal Koch-backed politicians who seem to prioritize fairly authoritarian policies. Rapert’s transvaginal probes and government-forced pregnancies do not seem to cohere with any notion of individual liberty I’m familiar with.