The XX Factor

Did Anti-Choice Militants Accidentally Save Health Care Reform?

Without anti-choice fanaticism, is it possible that Mitt Romney would have won?

Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

If there’s anything that anti-choice activists hate more than unchaperoned college mixers, it’s got to be the Affordable Care Act. It’s little wonder that the anti-choice press constantly attacks, even though abortion care is explicitly excluded: The new law’s extensive reproductive health care provisions will likely reduce the STD transmission and unintended pregnancy rates, leaving even larger groups of fornicating Americans going without their holy punishments. Interesting irony, then, that it may have just been the fanatical devotion to making life hell for abortion providers that led to Romney’s defeat and the closing off of the possibility of repealing the ACA.

David Corn of Mother Jones has a new e-book out about his uncovering of the infamous “47 percent” video and the chain of events that led James Carter and the still-anonymous man who filmed the video to giving it to Mother Jones. In an excerpt published Monday, Corn notes that it all goes back to his research into a conflict between anti-choice militants and Bain Capital: 

But the path to the scoop began months earlier, with a story about aborted fetuses.

Early on in the election season, Mother Jones had made a decision to look closely at Mitt Romney’s record as a businessman—a record the campaign was promoting as a key reason why voters should choose him. As I dug into the history of Bain Capital, the private equity firm Romney had founded and managed, I found out about an investment it had made in Stericycle, a medical-waste disposal firm that in more recent years had been attacked by anti-abortion groups for disposing of aborted fetuses from family planning clinics. I obtained an electronic pile of documents related to the deal, including filings Bain had made with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Romney was listed as an active participant in the Stericycle investment, which occurred in November 1999. This fact was significant; it undercut the claim that Romney had departed Bain in early 1999 to run the Winter Olympics, and had nothing to do with the firm’s actions after that point, including investments that relocated American jobs.

Exposing the discrepancies between Romney’s claims about his time at Bain and the actual documentation led James Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, to contact Corn. This relationship proved the critical one that allowed Mother Jones to get their hands on a video where Romney made the nonsensical claim that 47 percent of Americans are non-contributing parasites that live off government largess.

It’s possible this all could have happened in some other way. Still, what did happen was that anti-choicers drew attention to Stericycle with their devotion to threatening tactics and harassment aimed not just at abortion providers and patients, but anyone who does business with abortion providers. Not only did they inadvertently save health care reform, they helped save the Supreme Court from four years of anti-choice appointments. That’s the problem when you embrace the “guilt by association” mentality: Eventually, the rings of guilt for sexytimes health care expand out far enough to include you