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10 Ludicrous Things Republicans Have Actually Said About Health

This week’s Republican National Convention has resembled nothing so much as a circus sideshow. There was the norovirus outbreak among California staffers, a plagiarized speech delivered by the potential first lady of the United States, and even a moment when former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson linked Hillary Clinton to Lucifer.

As wacky as the RNC seems, it’s only the latest example of Republican leaders’ willingness to venture into the realm of the imagination. When it comes to nearly every aspect of health, for instance, from health care to women’s issues to vaccines to mental health, Republican leaders not only disregard basic medical science, but also engage in a kind of magical thinking that’s rarely seen outside of children’s literature.

In homage to all of the nonsense, we’ve rounded up a few of the most egregious views Republicans hold on health in America:

1. There’s a correlation between mental illness and violence

Gary Cameron / Reuters

This isn’t a gun problem, this is a mental problem,” Donald Trump said in response to the killing of two Virginia journalists last summer. “It’s not a question of laws, it’s really the people.”

No, Donald. Statistically, individuals suffering from mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than to commit violent crimes themselves. Furthermore, off-the-cuff statements about a connection between mental illness and violent crime in the wake of senseless acts of violence only perpetuate the negative stereotypes and stigma that make it hard for people with mental health issues to seek professional help in the first place.

2. Sexual assault is a natural byproduct of allowing women in the military 

Rape culture, or the notion that normalizing sexual assault perpetuates the problem, is alive and well in Trump’s world. By flippantly commenting that men and women working in the same field naturally yields rape, Trump undermines the situation, as well as the very real mental health problems that frequently crop up for victims of rape. One in 3 women who are raped will develop post-traumatic stress disorder during their lifetime, according to the National Violence Against Women Research Center. 

3. Pumping breastmilk at work is ‘disgusting’

Gerald Herbert/AP

Despite the health benefits of breastfeeding, which include a reduced risk of ear and respiratory infections, asthma, diabetes and obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Trump lashed out at a female lawyer when she requested a breast milk pump break during a 2011 deposition.

You’re disgusting, you’re disgusting,” he screamed, according to the lawyer, which is a shame considering that 1 in 6 breastfeeding mothers stop breastfeeding before she intends to. Want to know what’s not helping matters? Shaming working mothers for pumping breastmilk on the job. 

4. Big Government forces unnecessary vaccines on us 

Mark Wilson via Getty Images

Despite the fact that Andrew Wakefield, the disgraced former doctor who spawned the anti-vaccine movement, had his infamous study formally retracted in 2004 and was stripped of his medical license, Ben Carson refused to stand on the side of science during the Republican debates last year.

When asked about Trump’s view of vaccines, Carson, a medical doctor, acknowledged that no study has demonstrated a correlation between vaccines and autism. 

Then Carson did an about-face. “Vaccines are very important,” he said. “Certain ones. The ones that would prevent death or crippling. There are others, there are a multitude of vaccines which probably don’t fit in that category, and there should be some discretion in those cases. But, you know, a lot of this is—is—is pushed by big government. And I think that’s one of the things that people so vehemently want to get rid of, big government.”

Thanks for nothing, Ben.

5. We should incinerate Roe v. Wade

Bloomberg via Getty Images

When Republican VP nominee Mike Pence took to the House floor in 2011, he had some harsh words to say about women’s health.

“I long for the day that Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history, when we move past the broken hearts and the broken lives of the past 38 years,” Pence said. 

Of course, that’s not exactly how reduced abortion access works. Instead of leading to fewer abortions, reduced access leads to unsafe abortions, either because women attempt self-abortions or because abortions are being performed by untrained individuals or under unhygienic conditions. In fact, unsafe abortions are the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide, and a particularly pressing issue for women in countries with limited access to the service. 

6. Gun ownership increases public safety

Alex Wong via Getty Images

Kudos to Republicans for understanding that there’s a connection between public safety and gun ownership. Unfortunately, more guns isn’t the solution to the problem. 

“I truly believe that firearms in the hands of law abiding citizen’s makes our families and our communities more safe, not less safe,” Pence said in a 2014 Real Clear Politics interview. 

Not so. Not only is there a positive correlation between gun ownership and homicide, but a 2015 year study found that increased gun ownership is the biggest factor in police officer homicides.

7. It’s possible to give up a mental health problem for Lent

When Republican superstar Paul Ryan announced that he was giving up anxiety for Lent last spring, mental health advocates everywhere rolled their eyes.

While, yes, managing worry is a real and healthy step individuals can take to address stress, the 40 million Americans who suffer from anxiety disorder can’t simply shelve their anxiety for 40 days.

To suggest that giving up anxiety is possible sends a message to those who suffer: You’re not trying hard enough.

8. TrumpCare would ‘take care of everybody’

Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Trump talks a big game, until it’s time to connect numbers to his ideas. During a 2015 60 Minutes interview, Trump claimed that the poor and uninsured would be covered under his health care plan.

I’m going to take care of everybody,” he said. 

The experts, of course, say that’s just not possible. By repealing Obamacare and replacing it with TrumpCare, The Committee for a Responsible Federal budget, a nonpartisan group, estimates that 21 million more Americans would be uninsured under Trump’s plan over the next decade. Sounds like, uh, not everybody.

9. Depression is shameful 

After a photo of Melania Trump’s sexy GQ spread surfaced on Twitter during the throes of the Republican primary, Trump seemingly attacked Ted Cruz’s wife Heidi for struggling with depression.

“I will spill the beans on your wife,” Trump tweeted, likely referring to a 2005 incident during which Heidi was questioned by police after they found her sitting on the ground near the expressway.

By treating Heidi’s depression as characteristic worthy of blackmail, Trump only strengthened the stigma that already surrounds mental illness, making it harder than ever for those who struggle with the condition to feel safe seeking help.

10. BONUS: Remember ‘legitimate rape?’

Sure, it was a few years ago circa 2012 to be exact but we haven’t forgotten Todd Akin’s bizarre rant on how rare it is for a women to become pregnant after being raped.

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he told a local TV station. Akin was roundly derided after the incident and later walked back his statement, but not before health experts sprang to science’s defense.

“That’s nonsense. Everything is working. The tube is very small anyway and sperm are very tiny — they’re excellent swimmers,” Dr. David Grimes, a clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina, told the New York Times in 2012. 

“To suggest that there’s some biological reason why women couldn’t get pregnant during a rape is absurd.”

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