'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, November 2nd, 2013
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
November 2, 2013
Guest: Rafi Ron, Victoria Defrancesco Soto, Laura Flanders, Katon Dawson,
Tara Dowdell, Carl Hart, Yolanda Pierce, Fatimah Gifford, Craig Steve
Wilder, Dave Spandorfer, Sarah Hartmann
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question -- what are
the women of Texas going to do now? And we`ll take to the airwaves to
answer those calls about Obamacare. Plus the connection between slavery
and the Ivy League. But first, why we all stop whatever else we are doing
when the shooting happens in an airport.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Today, new details are emerging
about yesterday`s shooting at Los Angeles International Airport that left
one Transportation Security Administration agent dead and seven others
wounded, including the shooter.
This video from TMZ shows the chaotic scene inside the airport as the
shooting was happening. The alleged gunman, identified by officials as 23-
year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia, opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle in
the screening area of LAX`s terminal 3, before being shot and taken into
custody by police. 39-year-old Gerardo Hernandez was killed. He`s the
first TSA agent to die in the line of duty.
By now, these kinds of details, the victim, the shooter, the police,
they`ve become a familiar litany in the wake of shootings that have
captured national attention for their occurrence in public settings. And
as is the call that inevitably follows to make those spaces safer. Only
this time, the site of the shooting, an airport, was supposed to be our
safest space. The dramatic retooling of aviation security over the last
decade gave U.S. travelers their most palpable experience of a life in a
post 9/11 world, performance of the new airport rituals, the ticket counter
interrogation, the tiny bottles of liquid, the invasive hand searches, the
removing of shoes. They`re all supposed to be our assurances of safe
Yesterday, a man with a gun walks into an airport and pulls the trigger.
And reminds us just how vulnerable we really are.
I`m going to turn to Los Angeles, where NBC News correspondent Miguel
Almaguer is at the L.A.X. Airport with the latest on this story. Miguel?
MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning. The suspect is
Paul Ciancia, he is 23 years old. Police say he entered the terminal just
over my left shoulder at around 9:30 a.m. Friday morning, and he pulled out
a rifle, they say, from a bag, then began to open fire. He may have been
targeting TSA agents, according to many witnesses. He then was able to
breach security, made it about 100 yards into the terminal where he was
engaged with police in another gun battle. He was wounded and taken into
custody but not before he killed a TSA agent, as well as injuring several
Many folks were pouring out of the airport during all of this. Passengers
were running onto the tarmac. Some were cowering inside restrooms, doing
what they could to escape the shooter. Here`s what one witness told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shooter came down the corridor, past the security
area, and he confronted me and he looked at me and he said, "TSA"? With a
question mark in his eyes. And I just shook my head, and he kept going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALMAGUER: With one dead and several others wounded, the suspect is in
custody now. Investigators are still looking into the motive. Terminal
three, where this shooting happened, remains shut down, although other
terminals are still active. You can hear this plane landing behind me.
Still a very active runway here in Los Angeles. But some 167,000
passengers did experience some type of delay. We`ve been told at airports
across the country there may be a stepped-up law enforcement presence, but
that will be up to individual airports. Here in Los Angeles, last night
and today, we have seen more police officers on the ground. Back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Miguel Almaguer, thank you.
Here with me in the studio is Victoria Defrancesco Soto, who is NBC Latino
contributor and a fellow at the LBJ School in the University of Texas.
Also, Laura Flanders, who is founder and host of Grit TV, and Katon Dawson,
our favorite Republican. He`s the national Republican consultant and
former senior adviser to Governor Rick Perry. Also with us now from
Washington, D.C., is Rafi Ron, the former director of security at the
Israel Airport Authority and current president of New Age Security
Solutions, a consultant to Boston`s Logan Airport. Nice to have you with
us this morning.
RAFI RON, PRESIDENT, NEW AGE SECURITY SOLUTIONS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So let me ask you really the question that has been on my
mind since the shooting yesterday. Does this latest experience expose any
new vulnerabilities in American air travel?
RON: Well, actually, it`s not new. The fact that we have focused during
the last 12 years on security of the aircraft rather than the airport as
well doesn`t make it new, because if you only go back to the peak of
terrorism against aviation in Europe and other parts of the world during
the `70s and the `80s, many of those attacks were carried against the
airport, not against the aircraft. And you can name all the major
airplanes in Europe from Paris to Munich to Zurich, Rome, Vienna, and
others that you would see that there`s a long list of attacks of gunmen at
airports, the spot of a terrorism spree.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think your point is well taken here, this idea that when
we`re taking off our shoes or submitting to body scans or packing our
shampoo in these impossibly small container, it`s consistently about a
response to the most recent sort of anxiety, the most recent attempted
attack. And not necessarily the thing that is most likely to keep us safe.
Is that right?
RON: Well, you have to look at the challenge of say securing our aviation
system, more comprehensively. I think we`ve narrowed the angle too much
during the last 12 years, and when we focus on the issues of liquid and the
shoes and other issues, these were extremely limited, very specific issues,
and we somehow failed to look at the wider picture and see that the risk to
passengers at airports can be severe if we don`t take care of that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me just one moment. I want to come out to the
panel for just a second. Laura, I wanted to talk to you about this in part
because we were trying to make a decision yesterday afternoon, do we pause
and cover this. Right? This is not that kind of news show. And I
thought, you know, I feel like we must in part because whenever anything
happens at an airport, it has these multiplying effects -- economically, in
terms of our sense of safety and security, anxiety. What do you think our
response is to an airport shooting?
LAURA FLANDERS, HOST AND FOUNDER, GRITTV.ORG: Well, an airport shooting
that claimed the life of a public employee.
FLANDERS: I think that`s an important part of the story. It`s absolutely
right in this case that you take a moment to talk about what happened.
Sure, there`s a fear we will spend yet more on useless security
technologies, and you can just hear all the private firms right now
thinking what product can we wheel out this week that will take advantage
of this moment? But the story that I`m hearing that I think is so
important for our country to hear, a country that has been hearing attack
upon attack upon attack on public workers, is a public employee died
yesterday in the course of doing his job. Let`s take a moment to pause
about what our public workers do in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an interesting point. We of course saw that during the
shutdown, Katon, that there were Capitol Police who were working there
under furloughed circumstances, they ultimately got paid, but in that
moment we saw this need for security, the willingness of public workers to
put themselves on the line. Is there an opportunity, not to politicize
this but simply to say, look, for all that we hear about how bad government
is, this is part of the necessary aspect of government.
KATON DAWSON, GOP CONSULTANT: It`s bad until you need it or your neighbor
needs it. It`s unfortunate politics seem to be mixed up in everything we
do nowadays, that`s why we are here this morning, but the sad tragedy is
that people are dying. That cuts through both sides of the aisle. Safety
and security is evolving and changing, and you`re right, it has become an
industry, much like the lobbying industry in Washington and the States.
What`s the answer? Is it gun control? Don`t know. Is it mental health
problems? Absolutely. But I`m not certainly one to advocate for more
government spendings and government programs, but there are some priorities
I think we`ve missed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Ron, let me go back to you for the one question I think
will undoubtedly emerge, which is should TSA agents be armed?
RON: Well, that question has been around for a while. My professional
view is they should not be armed. I think that arming them would create a
lot of requirements that right now the manpower that is doing the screening
is probably unable to meet. But there is no question that there is a need
for presence of trained law enforcement, armed officers at the checkpoint,
because this is a critical point both in terms of where the trouble can
start as well as a segue to the more sensitive parts of the airport.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Ron, thank you so much for being here this morning. I
fly every single week between New Orleans and New York, and so I`m always
highly sensitive to these moments, so thank you.
And I am going to ask everyone in Nerdland to just stay right there. Up
next, we are going to shift gears pretty dramatically here, because we`re
going to turn to the dueling story lines about the rollout of the
president`s health care exchanges. It is time to separate fact from
fiction on WMHP.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. It`s time for another edition of WMHP. Yes,
this is where we take calls on the Affordable Care Act and do our best to
tell you just what`s going on now without all the confusion.
Eric, who`s our first caller?
Melissa, on the line is Cory from Colorado. Go ahead.
REP. CORY GARDNER, D-COLORADO: My insurance policy has been canceled. The
White House website says if you like your health plan you have, you can
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, Cory, lots of people have been talking about the
president`s repeated claims that under Obamacare, you can keep the health
plan you already have. But that`s not entirely accurate. The biggest
changes in the Affordable Care Act are to the individual market, where
people who don`t have coverage through work can buy their own insurance.
Now, it is a daunting landscape to navigate. Insurance companies could
refuse to cover you if you were sick. They could charge you more if they
calculated that you cost them more, because, for example, you were older or
a woman who might have children. They could finagle their fine print so
that the policies didn`t actually do the job of insurance, which is to
protect you from financial disaster if you fall ill.
So take a look at the bankruptcies there that are declared due to medical
costs, which in the U.S. is most bankruptcies. More than three-quarters of
the people who went bankrupt due to medical bills in 2007 had health
insurance when they got sick, and still they were overwhelmed by the cost.
So a few years ago as a country, we decided that that wasn`t right and that
most people, even Republicans, believe insurers should be obligated to
cover people who are sick.
Now, because of the ACA they have to, and their policies have to be much
better. They must offer basic benefits like preventative care, maternity
care and prescription drugs. If you have a policy that doesn`t meet those
rules, well, you won`t anymore after January 1st, because those policies
will be noncompliant. So people are getting letters that are telling them
Eric, who is our next caller?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Melissa, we have Kathy from Washington state. Go
REP. CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS, R-WASH.: In reality, this law is becoming
quickly less about helping Americans purchase affordable coverage and more
about compelling millions of Americans into a struggling Medicaid program.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that`s an interesting theory. So in some of the
states that are reporting early enrollment numbers, it`s true that way more
people are enrolling in Medicaid than they are in private plans. 96
percent of new enrollees in Maryland are enrolling in Medicaid, for
example; 80 percent in Kentucky. This has given rise to, well, conspiracy
theories that the Obama administration has been planning all along to push
people into Medicaid and move us another step closer to single-payer health
Spooky. But here`s the deal. You can`t really push people from private
exchange plans into Medicaid because most of the people eligible for
exchange subsidies just aren`t eligible for Medicaid, and that`s only going
to change if Congress expands eligibility again, and I wouldn`t hold my
breath. There`s also this persistent idea that Medicaid is a disaster of a
government program that hurts people more than it helps, but most people
who have Medicaid appear to like it. In fact, one study found that 45
percent of Michigan residents with individual plans rated them poorly
compared with just 16 percent of those with Medicaid, and that`s because
those individual plans could be really bad for the consumer. And now by
law they can`t. That`s supposed to be an improvement. Eric, do you have
another caller for me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Melissa, we have Mitch from Kentucky. Mitch, you`re on
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: Many Americans are finding they`ll be seeing
premium increases or that they`ll be getting hit with higher co-pays and
deductibles or that they`ll no longer see the doctors or use the hospitals
of their choice.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, Mitch. Let`s talk about this. About 5 percent of
people are already in the individual market, and some of them are going to
get a better deal because the ACA caps out-of-pocket costs and offers
subsidies on all the rest. And yes, some people are also going to pay
more. They`re going to have to change doctors, or they just won`t like
their new plans. We don`t know yet exactly how that`s going to break down,
but there are also millions who will get insurance who had none before.
They`re going to be able to take their medications every day and get a flu
shot. And then there`s 5 million more who would be covered if all the
states, including those Republican-led states, had agreed to expand
So the real thing we have to decide, my friend Mitch, depending on how you
look at it, we may have already decided it back in March of 2010 when the
law was signed, is what are we willing to trade away for the greater good?
And whether making that argument is an effective political argument.
Joining us now on WMHP, is Democratic strategist Tara Dowdell, nice to have
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: We always do our WMHP when we`re trying to get rid of some
of the rumors and get to the facts. It`s part of why I like to have you at
the table. Of all the things you`ve heard this week, what are the
legitimate complaints about ACA and its rollout?
DOWDELL: That`s a great question. I think obviously the rollout has been
troubled because of the website difficulties. And remember, this website -
- people are making it seem as if -- I build websites, my company does it.
We don`t build websites of this magnitude. This is a website that has to
communicate across multiple government agencies with aging technology.
This is not any small feat. My Google Chrome crashed the other day, and
they`ve been doing this for quite a while, not just for two or three years
in terms of building a website of their scale and magnitude, and that
crashed. So I think we do have to be more measured in how we look at this
relative to other rollouts, and understand that, yes, there are problems,
but at the same time are these problems fatal? No.
HARRIS-PERRY: So a glitchy website is a real problem. Katon, I want to
listen for a moment to what the president said in Boston earlier this week
when he made the point this Obamacare is very much like Romneycare, and he
made a claim about potentially where some of these problems may have
originated. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Health care is complicated
and it`s very personal. And it`s easy to scare folks. And it`s no
surprise that some of the same folks trying to scare people now are the
same folks who have been trying to sink the Affordable Care Act from the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ve got to say, Katon, two, three weeks ago, y`all were
shutting down the government so that people couldn`t sign up, and now
you`re holding hearings because you`re mad because people can`t sign up.
DAWSON: Always surprised that this is another government program that
spent $600 million and it didn`t work. No, doesn`t matter which one it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is a website.
DAWSON: They`re going to make it work. I got that. 18 months from now is
when the whole story is going to be told electorally, and that`s what`s
happening here. The president is articulating it. I think the president
has had some bad advice from his people. I told you earlier in the work
rooms that his staff has probably disserved him on some of these talking
points. He`s made the case that this is his law, made the case that it was
going to work, and that everybody could do it. The misnomers out there are
really what is it, and then the fear that I see in some states I do work
in, the fear is I`m not going to be able to get insurance. He`s going to
fix it and he`s going to answer it, because when the president of the
United States says I`m not happy, there are a lot of people ducking for
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll give you what felt like a kind of ACA red line where he
says if you want to keep your plan, you can, period, could potentially have
been a sort of messaging problem. And I`ll give you there are real
glitches in the website. But it does feel to me, Vicky, like that`s
different than the claims that are being made this week, which is that ACA
itself, health care reform is a failure.
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCO SOTO, NBC: It`s just so hard to get past that red
line, though, Melissa. There was a weakness in the ACA of going on the
offense since the beginning, going out and having public knowledge
campaigns about what this program was. So I think this is where people
will get stuck, and it is going to take a little bit of time to get the
information out there and for folks to see that in the long term, this is
going to work, but right now they`re angry that they felt the president
lied to them.
HARRIS-PERRY: The president could have said you can keep your hair, too,
FLANDERS: You`re right, the messaging wasn`t perfect. Wow, breaking news
on the Obama administration. But let`s be serious. What people I think
are getting this week is, you know what, the health plan that`s being
canceled is like that lemon car in my garage. I like it, I really like it,
I want to keep it, I pay my payments on it. Everybody tells me I shouldn`t
take it on the road. I hope I never have to take it on the road. And
eventually someone`s going to say, you know what, that has to come off the
road, and you have to give up the car you like so much because it`s a
lemon. That`s really what`s going on.
HARRIS-PERRY: That point, that kind of lemon point, I feel like part of
what happened when the president said if you like your plan you can keep
it, is there was an assuming in the administration that people wouldn`t
like that plan, like the plan that still forces them to pay thousands of
dollars in out of pocket costs, that was so sort of bare bones that people
in fact wouldn`t like it and would be wanting new plans. And now suddenly,
at least you see on this concern trolling, the idea that people did like
those plan, wanted to keep them.
DOWDELL: I don`t know that they liked those plans, but it`s the devil you
know versus the devil you don`t know. The bigger issue is the fear of what
my new plan will be, what that new cost will be. And that fear is
conflated by the fact there has been this active, aggressive -- and
Politico laid it out perfectly -- this campaign of sabotaging it at every
single level. I want to make -- if I can narrow it down for one second.
DOWDELL: Part of the big messaging problem for the Obama administration is
that what they really want to do with health care reform to say it is very
complicated. What they want to do is change the entire system, not to a
government takeover but from a system that pays doctors and hospitals for
services versus keeping people healthy.
HARRIS-PERRY: There you go.
DOWDELL: That is what this is ultimately about. A healthier population
means less money, cheaper coverage, and that`s what that means. Lower
costs at every level.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay right there because I want to go to exactly these
questions and this question about sort of what is health insurance supposed
to do, because we have a member of Congress this week who wants to know if
men give birth to babies. I am not making this up. That was her question
when she had an opportunity within the U.S. Congress to ask a question
HARRIS-PERRY: The talk around Obamacare has always tended toward the
extreme. This week we`ve reached the completely absurd when Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared on the Hill to
apologize for the botched rollout of healthcare.gov and answer all sorts of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: Men often do need maternity coverage for
their spouses and for their families, yes.
REP. RENEE ELLMERS, R-NORTH CAROLINA: A single male, age 32, does not need
maternity coverage. To the best of your knowledge --
ELLMERS: -- has a man ever delivered a baby?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies, time has expired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, she was, like, yes, got you, has a man ever had a baby?
I mean, I felt like -- are we having a serious conversation about one of
the most important changes to how we deliver health care in this country,
and like it`s a gotcha question about whether or not men are pregnant. By
the way, you transphobic human, yes, sometimes they are.
But Katon, seriously, are these can the kinds of questions Republicans are
going to want to be on the record as having asked these sorts of questions?
DAWSON: I`ll fast forward past all this. We`re going to get past all
this. They`re going to try to fix it. The question is you have got the
2014 midterms coming up. That`s where the commercials are going to come.
That`s where the people that did not get insurance -- that`s where the fear
that this has happened. This is a big government program, very expensive,
and there`s a lot of confusion. I`m just going to put the electoral
politics to it of the president doesn`t have to get another vote. He`s
done. He`s got a party that`s got to try to retain the Senate. We`re
going to retain the House, Ok? So a lot of this posturing is, right now of
what the political message is. The website`s going to come and go.
FLANDERS: Posturing is that this is a big government program.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It is not.
FLANDERS: It is a conservative, very, very not good enough, expensive,
complicated program when we could have had Medicare for all. When they
rolled that out in 1965, papers, pencils, telephones, they didn`t even have
the Internet. People like it, as you said, not just the 43 percent of
people, only 43 dislike it, something like 65 percent really like it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in fact when --
FLANDERS: And it would have been a single payer Medicaid for all program
would have been simple as heck. You just pay your taxes, government pays
the bills, no website, no confusion. That`s what we didn`t get, and it`s
the spin machine that`s made us think that this is some kind of --
HARRIS-PERRY: And despite all the spin and despite the complication and
despite the healthcare.gov glitches, when we look at the questions about an
opinion of the Affordable Care Act, we still see that in October of 2013,
in September of 2013, in July of 2013, it`s pretty consistently above a
third of Americans thinking it`s a good idea, fewer than half of Americans
thinking it`s a bad idea, and this is despite, as you point out, Tara, the
massive misinformation, obfuscation campaign by Republicans on this. I
mean, they`ve been running against Obamacare for three election cycles.
SOTO: I have to jump on the electoral calculus, which is what about the
government shutdown? We have totally forgotten about the government
shutdown and how the Republican Party blundered that. Where people were
out of work for weeks, billions of dollars were lost. So we`re coming --
but the ACA has obfuscated this, and this is going to be a real danger for
the Democratic Party if it is not resolved. If we get to November and it`s
not worked out, if we come to December.
HARRIS-PERRY: So far, Americans haven`t forgotten. If we just look at
opinions about the Republican Party, they have declined as a result of that
shutdown. They have not come back. In September, it was 44 percent
negative. Early October, during the shutdown, 53 percent negative. Now in
late October, early November here, we`re still at 53 percent negative.
People don`t seem to have forgotten about the shutdown.
DAWSON; Anybody in Washington, but let`s be fair, if you live or reside in
Washington and have an elected official --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: But maybe that is the win. I will put that on the table as
a possibility that maybe how the GOP wins this is if everybody just walks
away saying, oh, government sucks, it can`t solve any problems. This
brings us back to our TSA point from early on. Actually, no, government
doesn`t just suck. It does all kinds of important things that can help
make the world more fair.
SOTO: It will help the Tea Party, too, in the primary season, so the
bungling of this, the rollout is going to help the Tea Party, not just the
Republican Party in general. It will hurt the moderate wing, but the Tea
Party folks will get a boost from that.
DAWSON: Budget deficit will be next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with me for a second because I think there`s somebody
else who`s done a lot of wrong here and I`m part of it, and that`s the
media. I actually think a lot of the horror stories you`ve seen has to do
with the concern trolling in terms of how we have done it. It pays to do a
little bit of your research, as you saw this week.
HARRIS-PERRY: The fault for the confusion around Obamacare, around even
the most basic provisions of the law, rests not only with those trying to
dismantle the law, but with those of us in the news media. One example was
detailed brilliantly this week by Michael Hizik (ph) of the L.A. Times who
tracked down a woman that multiple media news outlets have featured as a
regular person who was upset about losing her individual plan. The woman
said she would have to pay more for worse coverage. But the Times, with
more information from her, did the math, and found she could get insurance
for a comparable price on the exchanges. Once they were working, that is.
And once you factor in the subsidies she would qualify for, and her new
insurance would cover a lot more than the two doctor visits a year she paid
for under her old plan. Yes, a little fact checking can go a long way. I
was embarrassed to be part of the news media, because this is what we do,
we put the regular person on who tells us their testimony, but we don`t
bother to ask whether or not this testimony is accurate.
FLANDERS: I have to say Consumer Reports did a fantastic report on that
story. And they`re right. It was just a classic, actually, no, really not
a gotcha, folks, because the opposite is true.
I`ll tell you one thing, though, you were talking about in the winners and
losers in this. I think the big winners will be the public if the media
did a better job of talking about some of the alternatives that have
emerged during this period. One thing, there was that whole health care
cooperative possibility that was kind of just destroyed at the December
2012, you know, fiscal cliff discussion, but that would have been an
interesting initiative. We saw people really interested in the cooperative
systems of health care that were being investigated.
The other one is we would all benefit from hearing and reporting more what
is happening in Vermont, because that state is going to pioneer single
payer and everyone is going to wonder. Everyone will be on their way
(inaudible). Let`s cover some of what else is happening in the country.
We get it, this is a mess.
DOWDELL: The actual policy, what`s in it. So the bottom line is this is
the law of the land. Whether you like it or not. So why not give people
information about what is actually in it so that they can make a decision,
an informed decision? I thought that was the role of the media, to educate
the public. It is not partisan to tell someone, because they`re trying to
basically -- what Republicans have done is to say to the media, if you talk
about what is actually in this bill, you`re being partisan. Now, you`re
reporting factually what`s in a bill. So telling people there are tax
credits or subsidies available to them is reporting what is available to
them. That should not be considered partisan.
SOTO: Part of the blame isn`t just on the media. It`s on the consumers of
media themselves. Think about young folks. Young folks are the ones who
are going to be most affected by the expanded health care. We prefer to
get our news by the Daily Show, by Comedy Central, so, there`s also a
larger culture of not wanting to consume that hard media, that PBS "News
Hour." How do we solve that? That`s even a trickier question.
FLANDERS: Although I don`t know if there`s any media coverage in the world
that can make filling out yet more forms actually sexy. It`s going to be a
story of people being unhappy about filling out forms no matter what. As
somebody said, it`s the joy of taxes with the, you know, pleasure of
filling out insurance forms. This is not going to be fun. Period.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not going to be fun, and yet, for me, certainly, you
know, there`s the reality in media if it bleeds, it bleeds, so, if you get
a good story of somebody who seems to be having trouble. That`s the story
that emerges. But we`re talking about 3 percent to 5 percent of the entire
market being the market that may, not even will, but may have the problem
of canceled insurance under the context of plans that aren`t sufficient
anymore, and therefore 95 to 97 percent of Americans either unaffected by
it or benefiting from it. We`ve got to be able to report on it that way.
And again, that`s not partisan. That is just simply looking at the
DAWSON: When you come back to the whole thing, it is what the president
said and what he promised and he campaigned on. We`ll move past that. Not
my most favorite president, which was Bill Clinton, told the House
Democratic caucus in Virginia after this bill passed, and this was his
advice on an obscure television network that I watched, said you better fix
this bill. This is Bill Clinton. You can find the clip. Said you better
fix it, and don`t give them a chance to try to fix it. And he said because
it was rushed through, the public doesn`t understand it, this is a big, big
deal, and this was Bill Clinton as a former governor of Arkansas saying
some states can`t afford it. You better fix it. I`ll fast forward it,
tell you how right he was. He said you better not give them the chance to
fix it. The only thing I criticize my party for on this is we haven`t
given the answer. Everybody can define all the failures.
DAWSON: I can tell you nobody`s giving answers. This thing can work but
there will have to be an opportunity.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as soon as we come back, Katon, that`s exactly what I
want to ask is, OK, if this is a mess, I`m going to do this sort of, all
right, I`m going to just give in. President Obama is terrible. This is a
mess. Let`s get rid of ACA. What is your plan, GOP?
HARRIS-PERRY: I keep wondering what would happen if we all just agreed and
said, okay, fine, you know, President Obama is terrible, this whole health
care reform is awful, let`s just defund ACA, we`re with you. What then
would be the Republican strategy for addressing both the individual
question of insurance coverage and the larger issue of the national debt,
which is occurring as a result of skyrocketing health care costs? What is
DAWSON: That`s going to be 2014`s message.
DAWSON: Last I checked I`m not running for the United States Senate. But
I have friends who are. The question is to fix it is you have a bill that
was rushed through that was pretty quick. It`s going to --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s a critique.
DAWSON: It is. And one of the fixes, well, we`ll figure out which
politicians get that right and which is really the actual way they`re going
to do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Every plan that went forward initially, even though they
didn`t become law, were plans that had actually left more Americans
uncovered, particularly slashing Medicaid or, as we have seen the
Republican plan in states who simply refused the Medicaid expansion, like
Louisiana, we now have millions of people who could be covered who simply
SOTO: But that`s okay for a number of all Republicans. Not all
Republicans. But I was just recounting that in Texas, the senior official
in HHS in Texas was telling me that in conversations about whether or not
to expand Medicaid, Republicans, a number of them, said, well, if there are
casualties, that`s regrettable, but that`s just part of having this free-
market system. So human life would be lost, and that`s just something we
have to factor in.
So that`s why there aren`t alternatives, because they don`t necessarily see
the need for an alternative.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because the human lives that would be lost are expendable.
They`re poor people, right, they are folks who are most likely not going to
vote Republican in the first place.
DAWSON: That`s not exactly true.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t want to be the person who`s like, oh, Bobby Jindal
doesn`t care if his constituents die. But Medicaid is real. It provides
an opportunity for people to have medicine. My governor, who could take
100 percent federal payout of that Medicaid, refuses to, as far as I can
tell for partisan reasons. That will have real health consequences and
potentially life and death ones for poor people in my state. And when I
ask Bobby Jindal what is your alternative, it`s hemming and hawing.
FLANDERS: They don`t want an alternative.
DOWDELL: Also, think about this. In ten years it`s projected that 50
percent of our population will be diabetic or prediabetic. That is a huge
number, a huge cost, and the implications on families and all of the things
that reverberate, and these people, if some of these people aren`t covered,
first of all, and the other piece of that is we pay anyway. Every time
someone goes to the emergency room, we are all paying. And the fact that
people aren`t considering that, and this is not -- and we`re not getting
that information out there, we`re going to pay one way or another.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
DOWDELL: So do we want to pay in a context where we can actually bring the
costs down or do we want to absorb the costs secretively? Because that`s
FLANDERS: The aspect of this discussion that has been poorly reported and
poorly understood for what is this now, 25 years, particularly in the last
four, the fact that we in the media have not managed to convey to people
that this isn`t actually a marketplace where people are choosing yes or no.
This is a safety net that we are all keeping up with fewer and fewer
strings and prods and props and help. This is a society that we`re talking
about, with a societal problem. I personally don`t think the solution is
private insurance plans. You --
HARRIS-PERRY: So Katon, you`re coming back tomorrow because we`re going to
talk about elections. I am going to give you all night to talk about the
answer to the question of if it`s 2014, the alternative is--
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks for being here today. We`ll see you again tomorrow.
But up next, the growing push to legalize pot and why it`s about much more
than your right to light it up.
HARRIS-PERRY: According to a recent Gallup poll, for the first time ever,
a majority of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana. 58 percent of
Americans say pot should be legal. That`s up 10 percentage points since
Now, this public surge in popularity comes after both Washington state and
Colorado legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use almost a year
ago. Yet this newfound interest in decriminalizing weed has failed to
address the continuing racial disparities in marijuana arrests. In a
special issue, "Dope and Change, why it`s always been time to legalize
pot," the Nation magazine dives deep into the continuing war on drugs and
the fight to end the prohibition on pot, and it also points out the
continuing race problem in the decriminalization movement.
African-Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for pot
possession than white people, even though data show that black and white
Americans use the drug at similar rates. In 2010, marijuana possession led
to 192 arrests per 100,000 white persons versus a staggering 716 per
100,000 African-Americans. So while it may be a sign of progress that
attitudes are changing, there are those calling for allies in the
decriminalization movement to grow more vocal about the racial disparity in
Among them is Dr. Carl Hart, one of the contributors to the special issue
of the Nation and author of "High Price: A Neuroscientist`s Journey of
Self-discovery that Challenges Everything you Know About Drugs in Society."
Also still with us is Laura Flanders of Grit TV. Dr. Hart, let me ask, why
do you think it`s important to put race at the center of this conversation
DR. CARL HART, AUTHOR: Well, one of the reasons I think is important is
because when we think about drug policy in general, it just becomes another
tool by which we further marginalize marginalized groups, so we don`t think
about this in terms of drug policy. We don`t think about it in other
domains in our society.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the things that you make an argument towards in your
piece for the Nation is that there are health consequences to these racial
disparities, that the arrest rates themselves generate health outcomes.
Here we are worried about the health questions of marijuana. What are
those health consequences of that racial disparity?
HART: Well, when we think about stress, the cardiovascular diseases, one
of the sort of top killers in the United States, and we know that racism is
associated with high levels of stress, strokes, and those sorts of things,
and if we don`t think about the impact of arresting black people
disproportionately, we don`t think about these health outcomes and we do
not research these health outcomes. And traditionally the National
Institutes of Health or the National Institute on Drug Abuse hadn`t thought
about the health consequences of marijuana arrests, but they are thinking
about what are the impacts of marijuana on brain cells? I`d like them to
think about the impact of marijuana on brain cells as well as jail cells.
So you go brain cells to jail cells, and then we`ll be more comprehensive
in our understanding.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Laura, as we were looking at just sort of this support
for legalization by age, when it comes to what this decriminalization
movement is, it clearly is in part a youth movement, although not entirely.
When we look at Americans` views on it, you see the 18- to 29-year-old
groups, 67 percent say of course it should be legal. But even when it goes
all the way down to 65-plus year olds, those folks at still at 45 percent.
Yet as I look at those numbers, I think they look an awful like that sea
change that`s happened around marriage equality, for example, but if we
sort of sit back and say don`t worry, this is generational replacement, it
will all work out, then we`ll miss the need to actually do work.
FLANDERS: We have two things going on when we`re talking about it. We
need to say, at least as I look at it, and Carl`s piece was incredibly
helpful I think this week in the Nation, we`re talking about two its. One
is a popular opinion shift on the criminalization of marijuana. And I
think you`re right, that`s not unlike the shift that we`re seeing around
the criminalization of homosexuality and the marginalization of LGBT
relationships. There`s been a coming-out process, if you will. You know,
as we`ve seen medical marijuana be legalized in what is it now, 18
districts -- I mean 18 --
HART: 20 now.
FLANDERS: Twenty with D.C., you have a familiarity, et cetera, and more
and more people like Katrina Vanden Heuvel said this week are talking about
how ridiculously complicated it is to explain to their kids why they can
buy cigarettes that will kill them, but not marijuana which won`t. So
there`s on the one hand. On the other hand, while you have this sort of
popular opinion shift on the criminalization of marijuana, what Carl`s work
is pointing to is we have not shifted our attitudes around the
criminalization specifically of black particularly men in this country, so
you have a criminalization program that`s actually been going up and up and
up, more arrests, more arrests for possession, more racial disparity, even
as the popular opinion on marijuana has been going down. What Carl`s work
and what the Nation says so strongly this week is unless we deal with both
of these --
HARRIS-PERRY: At the same time.
FLANDERS: -- at the same time, in fact, deal with the racial and maybe
that`s a brain issue, too, underpinnings of the criminalization drive,
we`re talking at cross-purposes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Very briefly, Dr. Hart, part of the reason that the
criminalization of black bodies exists is because it is profitable. Part
of the argument about the legalization of marijuana is to generate profit
for the state through taxation that right now are just in the so-called
black market. It seems to me that those might be cross-purposes about sort
of who benefits economically. If we stop criminalizing so many black
bodies, there are people who are going to lose money, how powerful is that
HART: That`s an extremely powerful powerful lobby. As we know the prison
guard lobby are extremely powerful. As you point out, we`re talking about
impacting their income, their money. And that certainly has to be on the
table and people have to recognize that. There are people who care more
about their pockets than social justice. And so one of the things I`m
trying to get the marijuana movement to think about is have social justice
be the primary reason that we`re doing this. When we talk about economics
primarily, we forget about social justice, and when we forget about social
justice, we forget about poor people, black people.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that sentence. There are people who think more about
profits than social justice. Who are these people? Right? We would love
to believe we lived in a word where people cared more about the social
justice than about profits. Thanks for being here and for joining us.
Coming up next, the new battle lines over the right to choose. From a
setback in Texas to an all-out assault in Oklahoma. And one woman`s
extraordinary quest for reproductive freedom. More Nerdland at the top of
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
A new report by MSNBC national reporter Irin Carmon tells the story of 23-
year-old Jessica Davis. Jessica and her husband, Eric, have three children
and Jessica was in the 20th week of pregnancy with their fourth child when
she discovered that the fetus she was carrying, a son, had severe brain
malformation. Jessica`s doctors told her it was unlikely her son would
survive birth and nearly impossible he would reach his first birthday.
Now, it`s the kind of tragic news no parent wants to hear but the tragedy
was compounded for Jessica and Eric because they live in Oklahoma, and
because they are poor.
Jessica, already a mother of three, knew she did not want to let her son
suffer so she sought an abortion. But because she lives in Oklahoma, she
had to endure a three-day ordeal that required her to cross state lines,
because in 2010 former Congresswoman Mary Fallin was elected governor of
Oklahoma, and Fallin`s victory gave Republicans complete control over
Oklahoma`s legislature. Since then, at least 16 bills imposing
restrictions on reproductive rights have been passed in Oklahoma, including
a bill that makes it a felony for doctors to perform abortions after 20
weeks of pregnancy.
For Jessica and Eric, such law meant that to access an abortion they had to
pack up their three young kids into a rental car, drive to Dallas, live on
ramen noodles and microwaved popcorn in a motel room. Of course, that was
until the money ran out. And then the five of them slept hungry in the car
while Jessica recovered from the procedure.
At least one Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma sees this reality as a
problem. Representative Doug Cox, who is also a medical doctor, personally
chooses not to perform abortions but he did say, quote, "As a physician I
don`t want to go back to seeing women coming in with a perforated uterus or
coat hanger or somebody doing an abortion who doesn`t know how to do it."
The story of Jessica and Eric is the looming reality for more and more poor
American women who live in one of these states with a ban on abortions
after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Said Jessica, "It was never something that I
had to worry about the politics. I just let women make their own
decisions. But I would hate for another woman to have to be in my
Unfortunately, more and more women are in exactly that position. Joining
me now is the author of that new feature, Irin Carmon, national reporter
for MSNBC.com. Alongside her, Laura Flanders, host and creator of
grittv.com. Also, Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, who is the NBC Latino
contributor and fellow at LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of
Texas. And my friend and colleague Yolanda Pierce, associate professor at
the Princeton Theological Seminary.
Thank you guys for being here. I wanted a table of women to talk about
this in part because I`m irritated by men`s voices on this conversation.
But, Irin, what -- you`ve been reporting on reproductive rights a long
time. But what was surprising in this story, in this report for you?
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC.COM: Well, to me it was surprising how ambivalent some
of the Republicans were about it. I mean, I spent many hours with
Republican legislators in Oklahoma where they have basically been -- you
know, the scenario that you see with Jessica is a state in which
Republicans have had their way on everything.
CARMON: All political resistance has been crushed. There are some great
activists working on the ground, but when it comes to the legislature,
single digits voting against these laws that sent the Davises across state
lines and sleeping in their car. And each way, each step along the way was
made more difficult by these legislators.
And yet there I was -- you know, I went jet skiing with these guys, I spent
hours talking to them, elected officials about their feelings about
abortion and they would say to me, I hate talking about this, it`s so
divisive, you know, I wish we didn`t have to be this way. One of them told
me about taking his girlfriend to a back alley abortion in 1970 before Roe
So, in a weird way, when you actually speak to people who are enacting
these laws, they feel conflicted. But because of various political
realities, they end up voting in such a way that punishes women.
HARRIS-PERRY: That notion that it is hard for people to reconcile all of
their feelings and emotions around this, is part, Laura, to me the reality
that there are always -- as long as people are in desperate circumstances,
they`re going to seek ways to terminate pregnancies. How much is this just
about keeping poor women from having access?
LAURA FLANDERS, GRITTV.COM: Well, large part it`s been that for many year,
but there`s a bigger discussion going on here. What`s so fantastic about
Irin`s reporting was it showed what happens when the partisan fighting is
kind of taken out of the picture. Then, you`re suddenly allowed to have a
little less politics and a little more personal ambiguity.
I just interviewed the makers of the film "After Tiller," whether you`ve
seen it, but it`s a gorgeous documentary about what`s been happening as
people continue to seek abortions and provide abortions even in this
climate and the doctor that we interviewed at grittv.org talked about the
clients she that she has who wanted that other child like the client that -
- the woman you talked about but for whatever reason decided that they
couldn`t have that child or the child was not going to -- that fetus was
not going to be able to brought to term and have a healthy life.
The pain involved in these discussions -- we have no space for it in our
conversation as it`s currently politicized.
FLANDERS: And I think ironically it`s going to be states like Oklahoma
where the political picture is sort of shifted that people get to say, OK,
now we`re not just talking about them but our children, our lives, our
communities, and let`s talk, as you pointed out, about the social cost, not
just the cost of this group or that group and those poor women, what`s
social cost of what this is doing to us as a society?
HARRIS-PERRY: I kept thinking in Irin`s reporting that the three people we
never hear about in these stories are those three children in that car
going across state line, spending three days, sleeping in a motel, sleeping
in a car, and I keep thinking when people are talking act protecting
children, hello, what about those three living, breathing children?
YOLANDA PIERCE, PRINCETON: Living, breathing children who need access to
health care themselves, who need access to education. How are we concerned
about the living, breathing children of states like Oklahoma? And then
also, where does compassion come in here?
PIERCE: Where does empathy for people suffering, for what people are going
through? A lot of this gets co-opted with religious language and what
makes me angry is that we have a lot of people with their religious beliefs
moralizing but at the same time there`s no discourse about compassion,
about sympathy, about trying to understand, about the fact that someone
might be in pain or someone might be struggling or someone might be
suffering. The family, the women, the children, so where is that in the
VICTORIA DEFRANCESCA SOTO, NBC LATINO: There`s an interesting takeaway
(ph) at that. If you go back to the original Roe v. Wade decision,
Blackmun`s decision, it talks about the burden on women and their family,
their mental and physical burdens that could be placed on them. But that
has begun to be erased. We saw a glimmer of that in Texas on Monday when
the district court said, well, by forcing doctors to have these admitting
privileges we`re putting an under burden on women because it`s harder for
them to get abortion access, but that was rolled back.
So, we are going farther and farther away, Roe v. Wade, which was the
intention of the woman. The woman has gotten lost. We focus on the fetus,
the unborn child, but the woman is absent from the conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: And her whole family. I mean, Irin, we`ll come back and
talk more about this Texas, but I guess that`s part of what I`m thinking is
when you hear about so many of these laws, it`s as though they think women
don`t know what`s happening -- I mean in the 20th week of pregnancy. You
know what`s going on.
But it`s also in the 20th week when you first get that anatomy scan, when
you first get the opportunity to see through these most difficult
challenges. We`re going to come back and we`re going to stay just on this.
Oklahoma is not the only place where are these problems. News broke on
Thursday out of Texas that the court ruling that makes sure that women are
going to continue to struggle.
HARRIS-PERRY: When the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade 40 years ago, it
affirmed that a pregnant woman had the right to decide whether or not to
carry a pregnancy to term. But that right may not feel very real for the
women of Texas. This year, lots of people other than pregnant women seem
to be making choices about pregnancy.
First, there was the Texas state legislature who tried to pass reproductive
rights restrictions in June, but were stopped by an epic Wendy Davis
Then, there was Governor Rick Perry who made sure that legislation passed
when he forced taxpayers to foot the bill for a second special session to
get the restrictions through. This week, there was a federal judge that
found that those medically unnecessary restrictions constituted an undue
burden on women seeking an abortion. But then, days later, a higher
federal court ruled late Thursday that the restrictions could immediately
go into effect
So, 114 lawmakers and the Texas legislature, one governor, one federal
judge, and now, one three-judge panel all making choices for Texas women.
You know, I have an idea. How about letting women, their families and
their doctors decide what is best?
Joining us now from Austin, Texas, is Fatimah Gifford, who is the director
of marketing and public relations at Whole Women`s Health.
Thank you for being with us, Fatimah.
FATIMAH GIFFORD, WHOLE WOMEN`S HEALTH: Thank you so much for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So how are you feeling this week given the extremes of the
judicial rulings that you`ve had to encounter?
GIFFORD: You know, we are completely devastated. You know, we knew that
the Fifth Circuit was conservative, but we didn`t realize that they were
this conservative. You know, on Monday, when it came out that we received
our injunction, we were excited, we were thrilled, we knew that we were
going to be able to continue to provide services for women within our
So, Thursday, when we received this Senate ruling late Thursday night, it
finally hit us that we were no longer going to be able to serve our women
within our communities so we immediately went into action to start
contacting our patients.
And we realize that they don`t understand what the law truly meant. They -
- our patients came to us sobbing, devastated, frustrated, upset. They had
no clue what they were going to do because they already made the decision
to go ahead and have this procedure done and now we were telling them that
we weren`t going to be able to provide services for them. And they,
indeed, in effect, were going to have to continue with an unwanted
pregnancy. It`s devastating. It`s upsetting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Fatimah, wasn`t there supposed to be about another 70 days
for clinics to get into compliance? In other words, this three-judge panel
not only sort of came in and overturned the earlier ruling in the week but
actually also sped up the clock on you.
GIFFORD: We indeed thought that we would have more time and we were
encouraged and thrilled that we would have at least another month to comply
with the admitting privileges provisions. So when three days later, after
the injunction, we realize ld that, OK, it`s actually reversed, it was --
we had no clue what we were going to do next because that immediately meant
that we were no longer going to be able to provide abortion services in our
Ft. Worth, in our McAllen, and also in our San Antonio facilities.
GIFFORD: And if you think about it, McAllen, there`s no other provider
down there. So the women of the Rio Grande Valley, they don`t have
anywhere to turn. So, our fear is that they will turn to those unsafe
methods in order to get the service that they want, that they desire. Or,
you know, they`ll have to go all the way to San Antonio, which is also
another barrier on the list of barriers that they already have. Some of
those women don`t even have the -- yes?
HARRIS-PERRY: Pause for just one second. You live in Texas and so, you
know, you see this whole sort of up and down, back and forth, Victoria.
What do you see as sort of the political fallout from this? I mean, you`re
talking about women who are on a day`s notice finding out they can`t have a
procedure that they believed themselves able to have.
SOTO: Regrettably, this isn`t something new in Texas. We had seen this
coming. I think what has been most disturbing was the yo-yo effect where
we had a ray of light, thought we might get the stay on the injunction, and
then this happened.
This politically is going to give a little bit of breath to the life of the
Wendy Davis campaign. Wendy Davis probably won`t be elected. It`s going
to be a really hard fight.
But I think it pushes us forward, toward making Texas not that deep red
state that we traditionally think of it as, but pulling in more moderate
women, more moderate Republican women, independents into seeing this is
HARRIS-PERRY: But on the backs of real people, Irin, for me, you`re
reporting around the Mississippi personhood bill. You know, I lived in
Louisiana. When a person was defeated in Mississippi, I thought there`s a
possibility of sort of normalcy in the world, right, when it gets defeated
But that wasn`t because of some great pro-choice movement. It was in part
because of a big coalition, the group of people who want IVF services, who
want other reproductive services that require the ability to manipulate
embryos, to have abortion services after a heartbeat is audible.
Is there a way for Texas to build the bigger coalition?
CARMON: Well, I think there are people who are at work trying to do that.
What`s interesting is for some people who are legitimately uncomfortable
with abortion, I think it helps to have conversations in which you see the
outer limits of restricting reproductive freedom.
So, for example, the woman I wrote about had a, quote/unquote, "sympathetic
story," many people might have compassion for her but not others.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. She`s married, she wanted that child.
CARMON: Anomaly. So I think when you tell stories about what happens when
women`s reproductive freedom is restricted, people start to see it more
holistically. They may be uncomfortable with abortion, but when you bring
a wanted pregnancy through IVF that requires reproductive technology, maybe
that allows them to see there`s a fundamental principle here of restricting
women`s bodies and that includes all kinds of people all along the way that
they might have empathy for.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, hold on minute, Fatimah, I want to come back to you
quickly and say -- what is the next move for your clinic and others in
GIFFORD: So, the next move for us, we are moving full speed ahead. We`re
continuing with the compliance efforts. We absolutely do not want to stop
providing services for women. That`s what we`re here for. We`re here for
women. We believe that women are supposed to be in the center of their
health care decisions. And we`re going to keep trying to be that voice for
So our next step would be to obtain admitting privileges in all our
facilities as well as take this to the next step. We are not done
legislatively. So we`re going to take it all the way to the Supreme Court.
HARRIS-PERRY: Fatimah Gifford, thanks so much. I`m really sorry. I know
it`s been a tough week in Texas.
GIFFORD: Thank you. I appreciate that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, the pregnant woman who ended up in jail. She
couldn`t get a lawyer but her fetus did. The unbelievable true story when
we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: As we discuss how women`s bodies are being legislated,
consider the case of Alicia Beltran and her fetus. Beltran, a 28-year-old,
living north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was 14 weeks pregnant when she had to
face her fetus in court. I`m not kidding. At least his fetus` court-
Beltran said that she was at a prenatal clinic and disclosed a prior drug
addiction to Percocet. She told the physician`s assistant she had weaned
herself off the drug and did not need a prescription for another drug to
help with withdrawal. The medical staff was clearly suspect so Beltran
found herself in chains and in family court all because of Wisconsin`s 15-
year-old cocaine mom law, allowing pregnant women to be taken into pregnant
custody, jailed or forced into treatment due to the use of drugs or
This "New York Times" reported based in part on a letter from a doctor
Beltran says she never even met. On threat of jail, Ms. Beltran remained
at a treatment center for months. When the center sent her home, she`d
lost her job and now hopes to find temporary work over the holidays.
Meanwhile, multiple urine tests showed that Beltran was, in fact, clean of
Percocet and it would appear that the greatest threat to both her and her
fetus was imposed by the state, the level of mad that this made me. And,
you know, we`re going to talk about slavery a bit and I know your research
is around women in slavery and that`s what it made me think about. This
idea that the fetus, that the state has an interest in the fetus separate
and apart from the mother because it somehow had some sort of economic or
something the state is interested in that somehow could just disconnect it
from the woman who`s carrying it.
PIERCE: Your body doesn`t belong to you. There was a recent incident in
Pennsylvania where a woman called a police officer because a man touched
her pregnant belly. She didn`t want to be touched. And so, many of the
comments on that story had to do with -- oh, but it`s a baby, but, oh -- we
want to touch you.
You would not walk up to you or me in the middle of the street, hopefully,
and feel that you could touch us. But people kept arguing that the baby
somehow is already a citizen --
PIERCE: Already public, already -- so does her body belong to her? Does
she get to make medical decisions in consultation with her doctors that are
fundamentally private or are we willing to go the road that this is taking
us to the fact that literally parts of our bodies as women don`t belong to
us. Do prostates belong to men?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right, right. We literally cannot imagine another
internal organ, your lung, your kidney, something else that we would allow
others to legislate and control in this way.
FLANDERS: Why are we talking about bodies? I think what we`re talking
about is rights. I know, Lynn Paltrow, I know you`ve spoken to and is
quoted in that "New York Times" story about Wisconsin`s been involved in
this case, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, she talks about it --
it`s interesting you mentioned slavery, because she talks about a kind of
Jane Crow, that this is not just about controlling women`s bodies, this is
about controlling women`s basic human rights. In fact, denying human
rights to women the minute they become pregnant.
I think the more we talk about this as a rights issue, your right to decide
where you have a kid, your right to decide what kind of prenatal and
postnatal care you want, your rights to be a decision-making adult suddenly
get taken away from you when you get pregnant? I don`t think what that`s
what Americans think the Constitution is about.
HARRIS-PERRY: But then somehow the privacy returned as soon as the baby is
born. So, right? There`s all of this state interest in the fetus but very
little state interest in feeding and educating the children that show up on
the other side.
CARMON: You were just talking about the drug war -- I mean, the ways in
which this intersects with the criminalization of drugs and, you know, not
only does her body not belong to her but even -- and from a rights
perspective it`s an outrage. Even from a public health perspective, if she
were legitimately addicted the criminalization of this woman is actively
discouraging people from seeking prenatal care.
CARMON: Why would you go to a doctor if you`re afraid of getting shackled
and sent to prison?
PIERCE: But it`s more than that. We have to put it on the table this is
essentially about poor women.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Yes.
PIERCE: And the ways in which we want to continue to strip poor people of
their dignity. So, we want to legislate their bodies because there will
always be people who have access to health care, their money can buy them
access to privacy. But we`re really talking act working class and poor
women again and again.
HARRIS-PERRY: And my bet is that if she were married, if she were
someone`s wife --
PIERCE: She were someone`s wife, she would have the protection.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, there would be a kind of curvature --
CARMON: I talked to the legislators and one of the reasons they`re
conflicted but not that angry is because they always know that their
daughters and their wives can afford to go across state lines or subvert
FLANDERS: And I think what you find with the criminalization is there`s a
racial dynamic. There`s no question. Yes, it has to do with class but
there is in the same way we discussed it around drugs a disproportionate
number of women of color who are targeted.
HARRIS-PERRY: The very fact this cocaine mom law exists on the books is
because of that weird thing that happened in the late `80s and `90s that
happened around crack babies, which all ends -- if Dr. Hart were still here
he`d tell us turned out to be mostly false.
SOTO: You know, but it is absolutely about pro women but we have to step
out and broaden the coalition. It`s about rights. It`s about women.
There`s so much focus on the fetus. But I`ve talked about this before.
The Republican platform, when it talks about the abortion plank, no mention
of women. It`s about the fetus. It`s about the unborn child. And we are
left in the dust.
HARRIS-PERRY: But you know the group that I keep hoping will champion this
actually isn`t a group of women, it`s group of men. That is as marriage
equality rights expand and more same-sex male couples need reproductive
capacity through IVF and surrogacy and other reproductive technologies,
that the same -- that the same coalition this which has done this
extraordinary work of changing the American landscape over the course of
the past decade will show up and say, you know, I want my gay men who now
have the rights to marry who be will begin to have the rights to want to
have families so show up on this fight because it will impact men and their
ability to have families here.
Come on. Come with us. Be allies.
FLANDERS: We`re having this conversation about personhood. I mean, I
think again, back in the 1860s. We have 3/4 personhood. We have fetal
personhood. Can we please have female personhood?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, in fact.
Thanks much to Irin Carmon and to Laura Flanders.
Coming up, the legacy of slavery in places where you may least expect it.
But before that I`ve still got a letter to send.
My letter of the week is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right now, today in 2013, employers can decide to fire
employees solely because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender and
there`s no federal law that can stop them. This is an oversight that would
come as a surprise to 8 in 10 Americans who accordingly to a resume poll
assume that sexual orientation and gender identity are already protected by
employee nondiscrimination policy.
But Congress has been trying and failing for nearly two decades pass a bill
to provide workplace protections for LGBT Americans. It`s called the
Employment Nondiscrimination Act, more commonly known as ENDA, and it would
make it illegal to terminate employment based on sexual discrimination or
But as of Monday, after dying in the U.S. Senate in `96 and 2001 and again
in 2007, it`s looking like Enda may finally have the 60 votes it needs to
pass. Of course, it faces a much tougher road in the Republican-controlled
House. But the Senate support would still be a significant step for
national leadership on the issue of LGBT equality -- which is why, in my
terror alert week, I want to ask one of the senate`s most visible leaders
and one of ENDA`s most vocal critics to reconsider.
Dear Senator John McCain: it`s me, Melissa. I have to say I`m a little
disappointed. You`ve been one of the loudest voices of reasonable
Republicanism amid the insanity swirling around your side of the aisle
lately, distinguishing yourself from the wacko birds as you once called
your Senate colleague Ted Cruz.
So, it was a bit of a letdown when I saw that you`ve taken a decidedly
unreasonable stance on workplace equality. When asked about the concerns
that you could stop you from voting yes on ENDA, you said, quote, "Whether
it imposes quotas, whether it has reverse discrimination, whether it has
the kinds of provisions that really preserve equal rights for all citizens
or like, for example, busing. Busing was done in the name of equality,
busing was a failure. Ask people in Boston if busing turned out to be a
Well, Senator, if that was all that was bothering you, let me ease your
mind. First, does ENDA impose a quota? No. It doesn`t. Nothing in the
bill would require an employer to hire a person based on his or her sexual
orientation or gender identity.
In fact, have you read Section 4 of the legislation? A specific provision
that says no preferential treatment or quotas. Is it reverse
discrimination? Absolutely not, the bill even makes an exemption for
religious organizations who would rather continue to discriminate against
And does it really preserve equal rights for all citizens? Well, yes,
senator, it really does. ENDA would expand to the LGBT community, the very
same employment rights already enjoyed by women and people of color,
veteran seniors and people with disabilities.
Now, as for your non sequitur about bussing, how about you ask the people
of North Carolina`s Charlotte-Mecklenburg County? Because thanks to a
busing plan, that county became a national model for integration and
education for three decades.
As for the failure of busing in Boston, it wasn`t busing that was the
problem. It was the racist, violent opposition from those unwilling to
integrate schools that was the fail.
But, fortunately, you encounter no such resistance to ENDA. When asked if
they support federal workplace protects for LGBT Americans, a solid
majority answered a resounding yes, and that includes 56 of voters from
your own party, one of whom happens to be the closest person to you. I
believe you know this lady, Senator. That`s your wife, Cindy, right after
she signed onto the human rights campaigns petition asking you to support
So, before you vote and cement your historical legacy on the question of
equality, I want you to listen to me, to your wife, the people you
represent and then do what many of your Republican colleagues won`t --
listen to reason. Then do what`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Liberal East Coast academic, a slur hurled with such
regularity you may have never paused to ask if it is accurate that American
colleges and universities are great defenders of progressive liberal ideas.
What if I told you that American colleges are built on land stolen from
indigenous peoples, operate in buildings crafted by enslaved persons, and
have long perpetuated the pseudo-intellectual disciplines that justify
Whether it is Mr. Jefferson`s University of Virginia or Mr. Witherspoon`s
Princeton, the American academy is deeply implicated in slavery. These are
the explosive new conclusions in a new book by historian Craig Steven
Wilder. "Ebony & Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America`s
It argues that the academy never stood apart from American slavery. In
fact, it stood beside the church and state as the third pillar of a
civilization built on bondage."
I`m pleased to welcome Craig Steven Wilder to the table.
So, nice to have you.
CRAIG STEVEN WILDER, AUTHOR, "EBONY & IVY": Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I say that the conclusions are exclusive but it`s not a
treatise. It`s not a sort of polemic, it`s a careful history. Why write
this history of enslavement and universities?
WILDER: I think for the same reason that we write about slavery in the
Constitution, we write about slavery in the Founding Fathers. We write
about slavery in the presidency. We write about slavery in the churches.
We have as much of an obligation to be honest with our own institutions and
to be as aggressive in pursuing truth within those institutions as we have
to unfolding truths outside our walls.
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe even more so if we think of the university`s primary
mission as being that work.
WILDER: Right. I think, you know, President Ruth Simmons of Brown put it
perfectly during the 2006 Brown report on Brown and slavery. There is an
obligation to pursue truth. That obligation is both professional and it`s
moral. And when it`s cleaning your own house, it`s even more immediate.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I love when Nerdland becomes just a table of
professors as this one is.
And, Yolanda, I wanted to read to you one of my favorite lines from the
text. So, this is in sort of talking about the substantiation of American
higher education initially.
And you write, governors and faculties use slave labor to raise and
maintain their schools and they made their campuses the intellectual and
cultural playgrounds of the plantation and merchant elite.
You and I taught together at Princeton when I was on the main campus and
you at the seminary, and this notion of the cultural and intellectual
playgrounds of the elite, I read that and was, like -- well, yes, that`s
true right now. So what are the implications for this history, for what we
live with now?
PIERCE: So one of the implications I think is about us figuring out is
there a legacy, a legacy of inequality, discrimination, systemic injustice
that is in 2013 a result of certain actions that took place in 1813. Does
it matter that enslaved people helped to build the buildings? Does it
matter that slavery itself may have funded some endowed professorships?
Does it matter that legacy admissions continue at these institutions?
And so, legacy admissions determines who gets in and who was the legacy.
And so, if those implications are still with us today, then we have to
think about the situation of students of color and also faculty of color.
Living with the legacy of some of this, that these are real things that are
still with us as part of enslavement and the slave trade.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was thinking about this also in connection -- this
question about legacy. So I`m thinking about it. You`re at the University
of Texas, right, a different kind of place. It`s not the East Coast ivies.
It`s a big state university.
But the fight remains a question of who should rightfully have access. The
big affirmative action fight right now is a fight where Texas is at the
center of it and this question of who should have access. And we look back
at this history -- the history is about a limited access to education at
SOTO: Absolutely. And I think Yolanda really hit the nail on the head by
saying it`s a legacy issue. Just as a result of 1965 didn`t mean the slate
was wiped clean and everybody had equal access, both faculty and students.
These are these legacies that are going to take a long time to undo because
they were a long time in the making.
And trying to reverse back, especial in Texas with the affirmative action
case, we have to tread slowly and surely on this because of the legacy.
And another point, and looking at Texas, this isn`t just about Southern
schools. What was so interesting to me about your book was we went to
Duke, and we know Duke has a bad racial --
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a plantation. There we go. Sure.
SOTO: Duke, Vanderbilt, Southern school, even Texas to some extent --
SOTO: -- but you don`t think Princeton.
SOTO: If you don`t think --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
PIERCE: And so that is my alma mater, and I will say that students of
color were made to be very aware of the legacy that Princeton and other
institutions had. That slavery existed and thrived in the north sometimes
seems be so shocking to some people, but it actually should not because the
economic centers that were in the north were, of course, the profits come
from the slave trade so in a certain sense you`re absolutely right.
People say things about Duke. Duke`s modeled after Princeton.
WILDER: When you think about the early Southern universities, they were
disproportionately established by faculties and students, graduates of the
Northern college who is marched South in order to spread the faith, spread
the church, but also spread the institutions of the academy itself from the
scientists to theology.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask you about the ideas, because it`s both about
how slavery and land theft from indigenous people builds the physical thing
that is the university, but it`s also about the intellectual project of
crafting arguments for the sustenance of inequality, that for me was the
part that is perhaps most devastating about this text.
WILDER: I think it actually goes back to this question of the relationship
between the North and the South, the idea that the South is somehow
different. It is eventually.
But, in fact, actually, when you look at the academy, the relationship
between the North and the South is extraordinarily intimate. And Northern
intellectuals from the colonial period through the 19th century were deeply
invested in the project of defending human slavery from which they actually
got real sustenance for these academies -- students, faculty chairs,
endowments. You know, the wealth that was generated through these
relationships continues to actually influence these schools today.
And so I think you`re absolutely right. One of the great, in fact,
difficult parts of the book for me was tracing the breadth and the depth of
that intellectual legacy and that intellectual investment in defending
HARRIS-PERRY: And the thing that all of us, particularly faculty of cloud
cover on these campuses live in and have to navigate. Awareness of it is
the first ability to be able to navigate.
So, I thank you for the book, Dr. Craig Steve Wilder.
Also, thank you to Victoria DeFrancesco Soto and to Yolanda Pierce.
Up next, tomorrow in New York City is marathon day. We`ve got some foot
soldiers or maybe I should say feet soldiers, because they`re lacing up
their running shoes in a whole different kind of way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tomorrow morning is the New York City marathon. And you`ll
remember that last year, Mayor Bloomberg canceled the event because of the
damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy. That along with the Boston marathon
bombings in April made for a difficult year for the marathon community.
And that`s why tomorrow`s run will be especially significant -- a show of
resiliency by those runners and by those who support them. For some, the
decision to run 26.2 miles is about achieving a personal goal. But many
also see it as a way to help others.
According to the non-profit organization Running USA, runners raised $1.2
billion for charity in 2011 alone. Our two foot soldiers this week have
found ways to continue doing good all the way to the finish line and
Joining me on set one of the co-founders of Janji, Dave Spandorfer. Janji
is a running apparel company that puts put 10 percent of revenue toward
bringing food and clean water to impoverished nations.
And also with me is Sarah Hartmann. Sarah is the founder and president of
Race to Rebuild, a charity team created in the aftermath of Hurricane
So nice to have you both at the table. So, I love your product. I have
been enjoying the Janji feel of the shirt. Tell me, why was running and a
running community the space where you thought we`ll do charitable work from
DAVE SPANDORFER, CO-FOUNDER, JANJI: So I was a runner in college. I ran
cross-country and track. And when I was on the way to the division III
track championship meet, my going to my senior year, we felt that running`s
been so good to us. Me and my co-founder, we wanted to find a way to give
back to running.
And I think there`s no group of people out there that know the importance
of being well fed and well-hydrated quite like runners. Marathoners are
having the right amount of water is obviously very important for them.
So, we wanted to connect a global problem, which is the food and water
crisis affects over 1 billion people worldwide with runners here in
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you`ve got this kind of global look.
Sarah, you`ve got a local one. I mean, it turns out being not just here in
New York but beyond. Tell me how race to rebuild emerges out of last
year`s canceled New York marathon.
SARAH HARTMANN, FOUNDER PRES., RACETOBUILD: Sure. I was supposed to run
the New York City marathon last year. In its cancellation co-started a
group of volunteers who literally traded in their running shoes for work
boots, masks and gloves. And we mobilized thousands of runner and
volunteers to coordinated work sites around the area -- the Rockaways,
Staten Island, Red Hook, Coney Island, Long beach, and we worked hard for
the four Sundays of November. At the end of the month realized what these
communities really need was serious funding and an organization that could
help rebuild homes in a safe and healthy way.
So, we came up with the idea of creating an endurance charity racing team
called Race to Rebuild.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love it. Yes.
HARTMANN: And we fund the national non-profit Rebuilding Together. They
have 200 affiliates around the country. They`re a remarkable organization,
have rebuilt 1,000 homes in New Orleans since Katrina. Here in the New
York/New Jersey area have already served almost 400 individuals with over
HARRIS-PERRY: What I love about the work that both of you all are doing is
that there is a level of commitment that`s beyond just a sort of run, make
some money and then send a check. I read this one thing that you said to
one of my producers where you said, for many people, run for a cause and
that`s in part because running is an individual sport, but you get to
feeling like you`re part of something bigger, that when you run, it`s an
escape from the world and from the cell phones and the glowing rectangles
but it`s a way to connect with people.
So the work that you all do is in part to connect with local organizations
in these nations on the ground doing best practices, right?
SPANDORFER: Absolutely. Yes, and one thing that as a runner you know is
that you`re kind of by yourself out there. You know? It`s just you out on
the marathon. When you have you know, something bigger behind you, it`s
really what helps you go farther. You know, it helps you reach that
whether it`s a 5K or 26.2 mile race, it helps you do things you never
thought you could before.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you hit the wall, you push through. And the same is
true for you all, you don`t just write the check. You actually go and
stand there in work boots and help to rebuild.
HARTMANN: Exactly. So, after our first race earlier this year, the New
York City triathlon, our team of athletes went to Gerritsen Beach,
Brooklyn, and we rebuilt a home for a family and a local community center.
So it`s an amazing way to directly help the community recover meeting that
family, helping them get home.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So I love it.
So you can buy the apparel, the Janji apparel, and you can train with Race
to Rebuild and in both cases, the individual moment of the run, of escaping
the glowing rectangles becomes something bigger. I like to fancy myself a
runner as I say though on marathon day, I think of myself more as a jogger
as people run past me. But I appreciate turning it into the work of being
And that`s our show for today. Thank you to Dave and to Sarah. Also,
thanks to you at home for watching.
I`m going to see you again tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern for an extra
special look at the big elections coming up in Virginia and New Jersey that
are turning conventional political wisdom topsy-turvy.
Plus, the massive cuts in food stamps that started this weekend. And what
it means to be the one in six of us Americans who depend on that support.
And Black Girls Rock founder Beverly Bond is going to be here. I cannot
Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
ALEW WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Still trying to have that runner`s high. Have
you ever had one?
HARRIS-PERRY: Once. You know, I`ve done a couple half marathons, and you
get it around the 10. You know, mine gives up around 13. I don`t know how
they keep going to 26.
WITT: I had it once about three miles. It`s been elusive ever since.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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