A young, blonde white woman is ushered into a doctor’s office by a grim-faced black nurse, and then left alone in the doctor’s office, feet in stirrups, by a similarly unsmiling doctor. A maniacal Uncle Sam emerges between her legs, wielding forceps. (Or, as the official text puts it, “Creepy Uncle Sam.”) The tagline flashes: ”Don’t let government play doctor.”
No, it’s not ill-advised pro-choice agitprop – it’s a right-wing campaign to get young people to “opt out” of signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. (In the male version, a Ken-doll like young man curls up for a prostate exam as Uncle Sam wiggles plastic-gloved fingers.) As Yahoo News reported this morning, Generation Opportunity’s plan is to hit 20 college campuses and to spend up to $750,000 on the campaign, as “part of a coalition of right-leaning organizations with financial ties to billionaire businessmen and political activists Charles and David Koch.” It’s the grassroots counterpart to defunding Obamacare in Congress, the battle currently tearing Republicans apart, since part of the Affordable Care Act model is to get young, uninsured people to sign up to offset the new costs, or risk the penalty of a small fine.
Laws requiring ultrasounds before abortions have been pushed by Republicans in dozens of states, despite resistance from the medical community and activists comparing the insertion of a transvaginal wand to sexual assault. The irony of using the same imagery to oppose voluntary access to healthcare may have been lost on the creators of the video, but it wasn’t on women’s health organizations.
“This ad is brought to you by the same people who force Uncle Sam between our legs when it comes to reproductive health. It’s un-American to mandate forced ultrasounds, restrict abortion care, and deny contraception coverage while trying to trick students into forgoing Obamacare, which will help them get preventative care and end gender discrimination in insurance coverage,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. ”If this ad isn’t a parody from The Onion, then Generation Opportunity needs to look up the definition of ‘irony.’”
On Twitter, the National Journal’s Marin Cogan called the video “outrageously rapey.” Greg Greene, a former Democratic National Committee new media outreach director, mused, “Who could foresee an ad this weird from backers of the party of forced invasive ultrasounds?”
“It is hard to tell if this is real or if it’s a ‘Saturday Night Live’ parody about the hypocrisy of extremists who want to be in every exam room in America but don’t want to expand access to quality health care,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president for communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “These are the same extreme Koch-funded political groups who have tried to pass transvaginal ultrasound laws and other laws allowing politicians to interfere with people’s personal medical decisions. These videos are the height of hypocrisy, but more importantly they are irresponsible and dangerous, designed to spread misinformation and discourage people from getting access to high quality, affordable health care.”
Generation Opportunity–or “GenOpp” for short–describes itself as “a free-thinking, liberty-loving, national organization of young people promoting the best of Being American: opportunity, creativity and freedom.” An MSNBC request for an interview was not immediately returned, though GenOpp President Evan Feinberg did tweet, “I take great offense to those saying our creepy Uncle Sam videos are suggesting anything other than the govt playing doctor!” Feinberg graduated from college in 2006, and after working in the offices of Senators Tom Coburn and Rand Paul, mounted an unsuccessful Republican primary campaign for Congress against Pittsburgh’s Rep. Tim Murphy. He describes himself as pro-life on his campaign website.