Exit Interview: Babette Josephs Says Goodbye to Gridlock

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Dec. 26, 2012

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And after that?

We’ve talked about the gridlock; I would like to find an area in which we can break through that a little bit. I’m reminded that there’s historical precedent for that. In the era of coal, there was a working relationship between people outside Philadelphia and, I’m assuming, rural Republicans who bought the coal from the areas that produced it, and there was a working relationship to make sure that kept ongoing.

I think food is analogous in many ways. It’s energy for people, instead of machines. It’s produced billions of dollars. It’s our largest industry. And most of the people who produce it are represented by Republicans. Not all, but most. And the people who want to not have processed food and not food from California and Oregon but right from Pennsylvania are in the cities. Why can’t we step around some of these highly partisan issues and try and figure out how to address the dreadful health problems we have all over the state that are costing us a fortune in money and human misery and suffering and has to do with the stuff we’re eating?

You’ve fought for reproductive rights your entire life. You won’t be working on abortion issues?

I would ever give up any of the other [progressive issues] that are really important to people, and I’m still a committee person, and would let people know who have a reasonable stand on a wide range of issues that I’m interested in, but I don’t think I want to make that my main focal point. It’s a burnout. It’s a bad burnout. The opposition is very small, which people have to remember—they’re just very loud, they’re fearful and obsessed and have nothing else to do.

The women, they’re women fearful about making decisions. I think many women who are in the abortion [war] have a lot of children, have a lot of pregnancies and are fearful of making decisions. They want the law to tell them what to do.

For men, I think it has to do with control. I once read a transcript of former U.S. senator Dick Schweiker making an anti-abortion speech, and what he said, it was such a revelation. That was when there was not one woman in the Senate. He said, ‘You men might not be here, my colleagues might not be here, if there hadn’t been a law to stop abortions.’ I thought, Oh my god—he thinks his mother would have killed him! He thinks his mother was restrained from killing him only because there was a law! And I thought, Boy, these guys have big control issues, very big.

But we had a triumph in that we had [Rep.] Kathy Rapp … [who sponsored] one of those ultrasound bills, and Your Eminence Corbett said [in response to women who objected to the idea of mandatory ultrasounds], ‘Just close your eyes.’ And then that went away for this session. … I hope they learned from it because it’s dangerous. People don’t like to have their personal lives messed with.

You took a lot of heat from both sides over calling women who’d took Rapp’s position ‘men with breasts.’

Here’s why I think anti-abortion women are men with breasts. If you ask them, “Would you ever have an abortion?” of course they say no. Well, [then why] do you need a law? Don’t you know of yourself that you wouldn’t do that?

One answer you get from these people is, ‘Well, I don’t need one, but young women get confused. Even older women don’t know the facts.’ … So other women are somehow not as intelligent, as moral, as mature? Well, that’s what men think of women, too. These people are men with breasts.

So you’re not backing down on that.

I kept insisting on it … When you say, ‘Yes, I would need a law,’ [I say], what are you doing in the legislature if you’re so immature, immoral and frivolous, that you can’t control your own body [so] you need a law? Then what are you doing here?

What are you most proud of?

I was able to [stop the advancement of] a constitutional amendment that would have enshrined forever the policy that marriage is between one man and one woman.

We managed to beat back some of the worst stuff—which we haven’t managed yet with abortion rights. I guess we did with the ultrasound bill but not the TRAP bill [Note: Josephs is referring to Act 122, a Targeted Regulation Abortion Provider bill that mandated unnecessary and burdensome upgrades to abortion clinics in Pennsylvania].

I just don’t see anything happening at all until and unless the House goes to the Democrats. I don’t see the Republicans advancing civil rights for gays, civic partnerships of various types short of marriage, family issues for gay people, inheritances, legal status, children, all of that stuff. I don’t see any of that going forward under these Republicans. I don’t think it matters who the Democrats are or what their sexuality is, I don’t think it’s going to happen. Even then, you still have the Senate to deal with, and Corbett would be impossible.

Are you still interested in helping Democrats beat Corbett?

I am very, very interested in beating him. I’ve talked to Rob McCord informally; he hasn’t announced [a run.] I see John Hanger—he’s a very, very good guy. He’s done a lot of organizing for the environment. I like him ... I know he can organize, but I want to see who else is in the race. We can get rid of Corbett; it just depends on who is the Democratic candidate. I would just hope that people who are interested in that, that they’re trying to grab on to the remnants of the Obama campaign, and keep that going, because that’s how you win. You have some of those offices function as Democrats against Corbett on the ground. I don’t know whether Hanger is doing that, or McCord.

I think we have a golden opportunity to break that [pattern of] two terms [for every] governor for the last 40 years or so. It’s time to change that.

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1. Rachel Kate said... on Dec 26, 2012 at 11:11AM

“*sigh* While it's a shame to lose such a fierce progressive voice and one of the few women on the floor, her tone-deafness on the transphobia of her "men with breasts" remark clearly illustrates her as being a bit behind the times - an ugly place for a progressive to be. She'll be missed nonetheless, and I'm holding my opinion on her replacement until I see him in action... but perhaps it was just time for her to go.”

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2. Robin said... on Dec 26, 2012 at 02:48PM

“There is still one Jewish woman in the General Assembly: State Senator Judith Schwank from Berks County.”


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