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They Are Coming for Your Birth Control: Radio Host Claims Your Womb is Full of Tiny Dead Baby Corpses

They Are Coming for Your Birth Control: Radio Host Claims Your Womb is Full of Tiny Dead Baby Corpses

Think that anti-choice politicians and activists aren’t trying to outlaw contraception? Think again. Follow along in an ongoing series that proves beyond a doubt that they really are coming for your birth control.

Sometimes, I like to add a little commentary to these “hey, they really want to take away your birth control” posts. But it is possible that we’ve finally found one to which, literally, no additional comment can be made.

Via RightwingWatch, it seems that talk show host Kevin Swanson has talked to “some doctors” who believe that if you take birth control, tiny little dead babies are simply hanging around, embedded into the lining of your womb.

Swanson: I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.

Now, I’m not usually one to feel the need to go all Biology 101 and point out that even if somehow there were tiny mini babies stuck in your uterus, they would come out when you menstruate since THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT OF MENSTRUATION. Because obviously, whatever school Swanson attended must have not only skipped over the entirety of sex ed, but likely a full spectrum of basic science classes as well.

Oh, wait. He was homeschooled. And now he is a leader in the homeschool movement. And his radio show is “the world’s largest homeschooling and Biblical worldview program that reaches families across the US and in over 80 countries.”

So, hold onto your pills, folks, because Swanson and his ilk are coming for your birthcontrol, as well as your right to an education that allows you to comprehend basic bodily functions.

So What’s the Deal with the New Contraception Mandate Rules?

Rending of garments has already begun in certain sectors of the blogosphere over the Obama administration’s proposed new rules regarding the contraception mandate (or, as I like to call it, the “birth control benefit.” “Mandate,” I think, feeds into wingnut teeth-gnashing about the Big Bad Government forcing them to do Shit They Don’t Like.)

Conservatives are alternatively gloating about how Obama is throwing women under the bus, and whinging that the new rules are still an affront to Jesus. Michelle Malkin and the other numbskulls at Twitchy published a post entitled: “Contraception mandate: Obama administration turns its back on the Sandra Fluke crowd.” The clowns at WorldNet Daily are claiming that Obama “blinked.”

Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is unsatisfied because of course he is: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.” (The regulations, of course, do no such thing, as I have written again and again and again and again.)

So, for all you fact-lovers out there, here’s the deal, in short. The new proposed rules don’t change anything for women. At all. They don’t restrict contraception access, nor do they take away contraception access previously available.

The new rules simply expand the compromise the Obama Administration made with the Catholic Bishops and other religious muckity mucks in February of last year. (Think Progress has a nice little chart explaining the differences in the language.)

The new rules simply cover more “religious employers” than were covered before (employers like Catholic hospitals, charities, and schools), and exempt these religious employers from dirtying their hands in the contraception hand-off between insurance companies and women. Women who want to gobble up slut pills can still get them without co-pay — it’s just that they will get them directly from the insurer:

Under the proposed accommodations, the eligible organizations would not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.

In addition, under the proposed accommodations, plan participants would receive contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies, without cost sharing or additional premiums. The issuer would work to ensure a seamless process for plan participants to receive contraceptive coverage.

The new rules also address self-insured organizations (like Tyndale Publishers):

With respect to self-insured group health plans, the eligible organization would notify the third party administrator, which in turn would automatically work with a health insurance issuer to provide separate, individual health insurance policies at no cost for participants. The costs of both the health insurance issuer and third party administrator would be offset by adjustments in Federally-facilitated Exchange user fees that insurers pay.

But what about students who attend religious schools like Notre Dame and Wheaton College? They’re covered, too:

The NPRM also proposes that an eligible religious non profit organization that is an institution of higher education that arranges for student health insurance coverage may avail itself of an accommodation comparable to that for an eligible organization that is an employer with an insured group health plan.

The bottom line is this: The new proposed rules do not restrict access to contraception, nor do they permit for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby and Newland Industries to avoid providing contraception coverage.

What the new rules do is render moot some of the nearly fifty birth control benefit lawsuits pending in courts around the country — Notre DameWheaton College, and Tyndale Publishers, to name a few.

Some have criticized the new rules. In a press release, Catholics for Choice president Jon O’Brien points out that the Obama Administration “did the right thing the wrong way”:

“Today the Obama Administration did the right thing the wrong way. According to the proposed rule, some women whose employers have a religious objection to providing contraception will still be able to get access through a third party provider.

“That’s the good news, but the proposed rule’s expansion of which employers can be exempted from providing comprehensive preventive healthcare, including contraception, is appalling. Women who work at Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies are wondering whether they’ll be able to get the same coverage as millions of other women, or if their healthcare just isn’t as important to the president as their bosses’ beliefs about sex and reproduction.

“It’s obvious that once again, the administration listened to the lobbyists for the Catholic bishops and their big business interests like Catholic healthcare, instead of Americans of every faith and of none who support the separation of religion and state and believe that public policy should not impose or privilege any religious viewpoint. Allowing such a wide exemption gives religious extremists carte blanche to trump the rights of others, based merely on the assertion of a belief about contraception even if that belief runs contrary to science or the widely-held convictions of co-religionists.

“While protecting contraceptive access under the ACA is a win for women, the administration’s caving in to lobbying from conservative religious pressure groups is a loss for everyone. American Catholics who support contraceptive coverage, who believe in the separation of church and state and who were hoping for change in Washington are disappointed today.”

I agree with that statement, and I don’t. From a practical standpoint, the Administration’s new rules allow the Obama Administration to fight the contraception battle on one front — against for-profit secular companies — while giving a pass to religious hospitals and schools. From a litigation standpoint, that’s not a small achievement. The new rules stem the litigation tide somewhat.

On the other hand, the Catholic lobby is never going to be satisfied (as evidenced by the fact that the Catholic Health Association was satisfied with the Obama Administration compromise in February 2012, and by June 2012, decided the compromise was an outrage), so perhaps President Obama should have just thrown up middle fingers at the Bishops and let the DOJ hash it out in court.

On the other other hand, the problem with the “middle finger” approach is this: Given the trajectory of the cases involving non-profit religious organizations (Notre Dame, Wheaton College, etc.), the government very well could have lost, resulting in bad legal outcomes in those “harder” cases that would effect the legal outcomes in the “easier” cases (Hobby LobbyO’BrienDomino’s Farms). Should Hobby Lobby be allowed to cry religious freedom? Absolutely not. Should religious schools like Notre Dame and Georgetown be so allowed? Eh. Maybe. I don’t think so, but I recognize that Notre Dame has a stronger argument than Hobby Lobby does.

From a litigation standpoint, therefore, it might be better to see how the RFRA and  Establishment Clause arguments will play out for secular companies; get a sense of how the courts are going to rule on such cases; then send a clean group of consolidated cases to SCOTUS, and see what happens.

All of this is to say that I’m on the fence, I guess: I understand why the Administration expanded the rules from a practical standpoint, but I also understand why activists like Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches and Kaili Joy Gray of Daily Kos find the expansion problematic from a policy standpoint.

The one thing I’m not on the fence about, however, is this: Contraception has fuck-all to do with religious liberty. 


**The NPRM on women’s preventive services coverage is available here: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx.

**For more information on women’s preventive services coverage, visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.htm.

Why the Latino Community Should Care About Reproductive Health

Cross-posted with permission from NBC Latino.

As colleagues and legislators, we have been discussing the current status and future of reproductive health care in Texas. Recent political discourse has prompted us to reignite a community conversation in hopes of raising some awareness about the intersections of race, class, and gender when it comes to health care.

There are plenty of setbacks already facing Latinos when it comes to health care. Latinos make up more than one out of every two uninsured people in Texas and about 30 percent of the uninsured nationwide.

Overwhelming evidence continues to prove that Latinas are bearing the brunt of the damage when our leaders fail to address women’s health issues. Funding and awareness for programs that would improve the health of our mothers, sisters, and daughters has continued to be put off. However, we cannot stress enough the importance of addressing it now more than ever. Here in Texas, Latinas continue to suffer from the 67 percent cut in the state’s family planning budget in 2011. Other programs– like the Women’s Health Program– remain at a standstill while the state searches for enough providers for the over 130,000 low-income, uninsured individuals enrolled in the program.

Republicans have worked hard to make abortion and family planning synonymous with each other — something that isn’t true and which we need to work to undo. This is about the health of our families and children. Latino legislators should be working their hardest to change the conversation.

Latinas have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. When it comes to diseases like cervical cancer, Latinas also have the highest incidence among all racial and ethnic groups, as well as the second highest mortality rate in the nation. Many strains of HPV cause cervical cancer, which can easily be treated if caught early. However, with rapid closures of Texas family planning clinics during the past several years, we’ve seen a rise in sexually transmitted diseases as well — another negative impact on our community.

Despite all of these facts that demonstrate the impact on our community, there are still some who question whether reproductive health should be incorporated as part of a larger Latino political agenda. Our community will continue to be at the forefront of this damage if we avoid addressing these issues. We must converse with our Latino legislators and leaders about the negative impact the lack of preventative care for reproductive health has had on individuals and our community.

The facts are that Latinos will suffer significantly from inaction. We must engage our friends, family, and community because we cannot ignore these issues any longer. The time for Latinos to care about reproductive health is now.

We invite you to look at the following statistics and share with those around you to further engage and bring awareness to our community:

Nation-wide:

  • Nearly one in three people uninsured in the U.S. is Hispanic (30.1 percent of Hispanics)
  • Uninsured rates are substantially higher among non-citizen Latinos

In Texas:

  • 37 percent of Texans are uninsured
  • Texas women have the third-highest rate of cervical cancer in the country
  • The incidence of cervical cancer is approximately 19 percent higher in Texas than the national average
  • For Latinas the rate of cervical cancer incidence in Texas is 11 percent higher than the national average for Latinas
  • In Texas, Latinas are nearly 36 percent more likely to die of cervical cancer than their white counterparts
  • Latinas in Texas are nearly 26 percent more likely to die of cervical cancer compared to Latinas nationally

All In: North Dakota Anti-Choicers Seek Heartbeat Bans, Human Life Amendments, TRAP Laws, and More

The North Dakota legislature only meets every other year, so in its “on” year it has a lot of business to accomplish. Sadly, it looks like the major focus this year will be banning abortion any way they can.

With just one clinic left—the Red River Women’s Clinic has recently become the face of abortion limits in this post-Casey world of abortion restrictions—any new law meant to interfere with a woman’s right to access an abortion can be devastating. Now, with four different laws being proposed, limited access may quickly turn into no access at all.

State Concurrent Resolution 4009 would add a “Human Life Amendment” to the state constitution, an action that anti-choice advocates have been trying to do nationally since Roe v. Wade was decided 40 years ago. Ballot initiatives to eliminate access to safe abortion care in the state have been a series of failures in the Dakotas, but with a cheap media market pursue a campaign through, anti-choice activists can’t seem to take no for an answer.

But at least an amendment would be up for a vote. SB 2302 would enact a so-called “personhood” bill banning abortions, stem-cell research, and possibly birth control and IVF, depending on what the state decides is or is not birth control that “kills a person.”

Nothing in this section may be construed to prohibit the sale, use, prescription, or
administration of a contraceptive measure, drug, or chemical. Only birth control
that can be clinically proven to kill a person shall be affected by this section. In
the interest of protecting the health and safety of the people of North Dakota, the
state department of health shall provide a list of birth control products along with
their clinically proven effects upon women and preborn human beings at every
stage of development.

Also clearly stated in the ban? No abortions allowed for victims of sexual assault. “The state of North Dakota does not punish the crime of sexual assault with the
death penalty, and neither shall persons conceived through a sexual assault be
punished with the loss of life.”

SB 2303 reiterates much of the “fertilized eggs are people” legalese presented in SB 2302, but clarifies more how IVF would be affected. Once an embryo is created, the family and doctor have 36 hours to discard of it, or it must either be implanted or kept frozen, unless a doctor is willing to certify that after testing the embryo would not progress to a live birth if it were implanted. Criminal penalties for destroying a fertilized egg do not apply to:

The screening, collecting, preparing, transferring, or cryopreserving of a human
being created through in vitro fertilization for the purpose of being transferred to a
human uterus.
c. The disposal or destruction of a fertilized human ovum, zygote, or embryo,
created through in vitro fertilization, which has been subject to medical testing
and analysis, and in the reasonable judgment of a medical professional, if
transferred to a human uterus, would not produce a live birth.
d. The disposal or destruction of a fertilized human ovum, zygote, or embryo,
created through in vitro fertilization which has not progressed in development for
thirty – six hours in culture .

After that 36 hours, however, it looks like your options are implant it somewhere, or keep it frozen indefinitely.

As if the multiple attempts to ban abortion all together weren’t enough, the state will also take a swing at closing down the sole clinic by introducing the same TRAP law that has now put Jackson Women’s Health Organization in jeopardy. A combination of admitting privileges to a local hospital and a requirement that the doctor performing the abortion be a board certified OB-Gyn is likely expected to have the same effect for Red River as it is currently having down south. Even more daunting for the North Dakota clinic, however, is the fact that for many women in the state, if that clinic closes their next nearest option is the Planned Parenthood Clinic in South Dakota, which may have a 72-hour waiting period and potentially a mandatory crisis pregnancy center counseling session in effect as well.

Even without actually closing down the clinic or giving fertilized eggs legal rights, the legislature still has a backup plan to eliminate almost all abortions—a heartbeat ban. If all other bills fail, the state may still just eliminate abortions as soon as a heartbeat can be detected, sometimes less than 28 days post conception. Not a coincidence is this language, which makes it a crime to perform an abortion without first checking for a heartbeat.

Except when a medical emergency exists that prevents compliance with this subsection, an individual may not perform an abortion on a pregnant woman before determining, in accordance with standard medical practice, if the unborn child the pregnant woman is carrying has a detectable heartbeat. Any individual who performs an abortion on a pregnant woman based on the exception in this subsection shall note in the pregnant woman’s medical records that a medical emergency necessitating the abortion existed.

Red River Clinic states that they have no equipment to listen for a heartbeat at this time.

“Anti-choice politicians in North Dakota have undertaken an all-out assault on women’s constitutionally protected rights, introducing not one, but five bills that would end safe and legal abortion in the state,” Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights said via email statement. The CRR is representing Red River Clinic in a lawsuit over a 2011 medication abortion restriction bill.

“Whether through tactics that outright ban abortion or backdoor efforts to block women’s access to reproductive health care providers, the end result is the same: women will be gravely harmed,” continued Northup. “We strongly urge the members of these legislative committees to support women’s access to basic health care and reject these extreme measures that are both unconstitutional and dangerous for North Dakota women.”

All of the bills were heatedly debated in testemony at the state capital, where opponents of abortion called it murder, and said that TRAP laws that could close the only clinic were “safety” issues that no one could oppose “except those with a vested financial interest,” according to the Bismark Tribune.

Also testifying, a woman who noted that with the new limits of “personhood” that would be put in place on invitro fertilization, her own existence never would have occurred. “I strongly believe my parents and the doctors are not abortionists, but rather miracle workers who brought life when there was none,” said Alexis Grabinger, High School senior and daughter of state Senator James Grabiner.

Michigan Lawmakers Continue Onslaught of Anti-Choice Legislation in the New Session

Clearly not content with the recent passage of one of the most extreme pieces of anti-abortion legislation in the country, Michigan lawmakers are already hard at work pushing for still more barriers to safe abortion care.

On January 22nd, the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Republican Representative Mike Shirkey introduced two bills—HB 4065 and 4066—which would prohibit all insurance coverage of abortion in health insurance plans purchased via the state exchange, except with the purchase of an additional “abortion rider.” Identical legislation had already passed in the Senate near the end of the year, but was not taken up by the House before the legislative session ended. The bills make an exception only for cases where a woman’s life is in danger, with no mention whatsoever of cases of rape or incest.

Earlier today, Republican Representative Tom Hooker re-introduced two pieces of legislation he had also sponsored in the previous legislative session. The first, HB 4161, would prohibit the state from allocating any funds to providers that offer abortions, either via contracts or grants, forcing all clinics to choose between continuing to perform abortion or losing all eligibility for state funds. Though facilities such as Planned Parenthood already do not receive state funding aimed at funding abortion, they currently remain eligible for state grants for their family planning services. HB 4161 would cut off all of Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for state funding in Michigan, so long as they continue to provide abortions. As many clinics in the state likely face closure due to the costly regulations recently signed into law, this piece of legislation would have an even further devastating impact.

The second bill re-introduced by Hooker, HB 4162, would require that all abortions after 19 weeks take place in a facility with a neonatal unit, in case of the event that an abortion results in a live birth. The potential impact of this legislation is particularly severe when combined with HB 4162; it is unlikely that any medical facility large enough to contain a neonatal institute could afford to lose all state contracts and grants by continuing to perform abortions. This pair of bills, then, if both enacted, would in essence have the consequence of prohibiting all abortions at or beyond 19 weeks gestation in Michigan.

Neither of Hooker’s bills made substantial progress in the state legislature last season, but given Michigan lawmakers recent landslide approval of HB 5711, the passage of any and all anti-abortion legislation seems feasible.

Is Anti-Choice Colorado Group Encouraging Politicians to Lie About their Positions?

New polling shows that 80 percent of likely voters are pro-choice, in the sense that they are pro-letting-women-decide-if-they-want-to-have-an-abortion. But they don’t necessarily want to be labeled “pro-choice.”

And half of the people who call themselves “pro-life,” the term traditionally used by folks seeking to ban abortion, are actually pro-choice, if you start digging into what they really think.

The poll, from Planned Parenthood, raises the question, what to do if you’re anti-abortion and you want to get elected?

Anti-choice activists in Colorado have designed ways for anti-choice candidates to run for office and mobilize support from anti-abortion voters, without disclosing to the wider public what they really think about abortion.

Here’s how they’re doing this.

Colorado Right to Life runs a blog stating whether federal and state candidates are “100 percent pro-life.” Last year’s determination was based on a nine-question candidate survey, which asked for yes-no responses to queries on personhood (which defines life as beginning at conception), state funding for abortion, and abortion regulations.

The survey isn’t made public by Colorado Right to Life, but this year, Weld Country freshman State Rep. Stephen Humphrey, a Republican who’s sponsoring a bill banning most abortion in Colorado, including abortions for rape and incest, published the survey on his website.

In a cover letter to Humphrey accompanying the 2012 candidate survey, Colorado Right to Life wrote:

We realize there are a few districts, even Democrat primaries, where a ‘pro-life’ label might keep a good candidate from being elected. If you feel this is one of those rare cases, please answer our survey but clearly indicate that you would prefer back-channel conversations only. We would then want to talk with you over the phone or in person, and we can work out together how you could best be helped.

If you are concerned you don’t know how to properly ‘message’ your pro-life views to voters, we have a veteran political communicator who will volunteer to help candidates in this area–just let us know.

Does the “back-channel” caveat mean Colorado Right to Life would lie on its blog about a candidate’s position on abortion, calling them, for example, supporters of Roe v. Wade when they are not?

If Colorado Right to Life doesn’t lie about candidate positions, what does the phrase “work out together how you could best be helped” mean?

I tried to get a response from Colorado Right to Life, but I was only able to reach former Vice President Leslie Hanks, who told me she was “utterly confident that no he/we wouldn’t lie.”

But how does the “back channel” work? Hanks didn’t say, but Colorado Right to Life should explain it. And let us know whether the same tactics are being used by anti-choice groups in other states.

Otherwise, you can’t help but wonder: does Colorado have stealth personhood supporters at the State Capitol? Secret Planned Parenthood haters? Legislators who would stop a woman raped by her father from having the right to choose abortion?

In Alabama, Government Interference is Anathema, Except When it Comes to Women’s Rights

Conservative politicians like Rand Paul and Michele Bachmann were up at arms over Big Government intrusion when it came to issues like mandating light bulbs and toilets. Think they would have a problem with designating a necessary number of sprinklers in a building?

Not a chance. At least, not when it’s in a clinic that provides reproductive services.

The Alabama state legislature is considering a series of abortion regulations, including targeted regulations of abortion providers (TRAP), which would require new certification and privileges for those who perform abortions, but also new building standards for the clinics themselves. One of those new requirements? Sprinklers.

Via Mike Cason at AL.com:

[U]nder McClurkin’s bill, House Bill 57, abortion centers would be required to meet higher fire safety codes, the same as those required of ambulatory surgical centers. Clinics would have to submit to the Department of Public Health architectural drawings and sprinkler system plans to meet those standards within 180 days of the law taking effect. Within one year of the law taking effect, abortion centers would have to be certified as meeting those standards or would have their licenses revoked.

“Abortions are, sadly, legal in this country,” McClurkin said in a news release. “Given this unfortunate truth, common sense should tell us that an abortion clinic should be held to the same high standards as any medical office that practices invasive procedures.”

Ironically, the TRAP bill, as well as the other restrictions on abortion and birth control coverage and access including unnecessary admitting privileges, are all a part of the Republican 2013 legislative agenda they have dubbed “We Dare to Defend Our Rights.” The Alabama GOP platform suggests many ways through which to stop interference from “big government,” including rejecting public schools and gun regulation. Government has no place in making personal life decisions for the residents of the state.

Unless it comes to deciding when you should get pregnant or give birth.

Alabama, like many of the states in the south, has struggled with high maternal and infant mortality rates as well as high unintended pregnancy rates. Women’s and minority health indicators in the state are especially troubling.  According to Guttmacher Institute, 55 percent of all pregnancies are unintended in the state, and 66 percent of the resulting birth from unintended pregnancies are paid for with public funds. The National Women’s Law Center gave the state an F in 2010, ranking it the 46th worst state in the nation for women’s health care access.

“Alabama is suffering when it comes to health outcomes, especially when it comes to minorities and women of color,” Nikema Williams, Vice President of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, told Rewire. “For the legislature to be focused on this when Planned Parenthood is one of the organizations focused on preventative services, for them to be trying to close our doors? What they really should be doing is trying to help us with the preventative services that we provide rather than try to close the doors of one of the few organizations trying to help women of the state.”

Williams said that the clinic regulations and privileges bill is expected to be heard early next week.  Not only is the GOP ready to push abortion restrictions as “defending our rights,” they intend to fast track it as well.

Birds, Bees… Abortion? Talking to Kids About Complicated Issues

What happens when you and your babysitter completely disagree about a political hot button issue? Theoretically, nothing, nor do politics come between you. That’s what I thought until politics spilled across the kitchen counter right in front of the young kids like so much apple juice. The issue was abortion rights. I support them; my babysitter did not.

This didn’t come completely out of the blue. Our family’s discovery that she was a Republican fascinated my kindergartner (he hadn’t ever met one and it was a Presidential campaign year). Once he discovered her political bent, my very young lefty goaded her about then-candidate Bush. One morning he challenged, “Name one good thing George W. Bush has ever done.” She blurted out, “He signed the partial birth abortion bill.”

My stomach dropped. Frantic not to have him ask—and ask he would—what a partial birth abortion was, I changed the subject as quickly as humanly possible. Then, rattled, I wrestled for a day about whether I could fire her because of politics. My conclusion was that I could not; she was, after all, a really lovely person and a reliable, energetic babysitter. She was willing to come to our house very early in the morning to boot.

I’ve returned to that incident many times since. Once I’d calmed down, I realized that what bothered me most was that I did want to figure out how the word abortion could surface comfortably in front of my children. It wasn’t that I wanted to bring up abortion the next day or week or month at breakfast (I did not).

When we would discuss abortion, though—my kids and myself—I wanted us to be well prepared. But I was scared. Scared to open the door about how complicated issues pertaining to reproduction—including abortion—could be. Up until then I’d even shied away from anatomically correct words for body parts. We’d resorted to cutesy, euphemistic ones instead.

So well ahead of any conversations about abortion, I started to use the correct words for body parts. Right away, a tone of realism was set, one that signaled my comfort with our bodies. I hoped my comfort about our bodies encouraged my children to feel comfortable with theirs.

As I adopted this new tact, I remembered how freeing it felt in seventh grade health class when our teacher—the small, white-haired and somewhat wizened, wiry and wonderful Eric Johnson, author of Love and Sex in Plain Language, asked us to list every curse word we knew, which he then wrote on the blackboard. We were thrilled and scandalized to say the words in front of him—and then to define them. We were even more thrilled than scandalized to learn he had sex with his wife—and they liked it. He did not bring any of this up to thrill us. He was comfortable discussing these often forbidden subjects and he expected we could become comfortable with these often forbidden subjects, too.

Rather than dodge the query, when the kids asked about the tampons by the toilet, I explained how menstruation worked. When asked why there was hair on me that wasn’t on them, I told them about puberty. When asked why that lady had a baby in her tummy, I explained what a uterus was and how a sperm and an egg had to connect and how an embryo became a fetus became a baby. Rather than wait for “the talk,” I simply started to talk. And I put a copy of Robie Harris’ book for elementary school aged kids about “eggs, sperm, birth, babies and families” on the bookshelf. The book is called It’s So Amazing

We didn’t speed from menstruation or even how babies are made directly to discussions about abortion. Nor did I solicit a list of curse words or make any declarations about my—or anyone else’s—sexual activity. I wasn’t teaching a middle school health class. These were my very young children. I talked about what came up, like menstruation and babies’ origins—and eventually other things we experienced around us like miscarriage. The concept, though, direct and plain talk, began to feel truly comfortable. By the time they reached the fifth or sixth grades’ Human Growth and Change unit and middle school health class, we’d already discussed that material, and there were no surprises.

During that spring after the breakfast incident, I did bring up the topic of abortion with the babysitter one afternoon while the baby napped and other kids were busy in the playroom. She and I were in the kitchen together cleaning up. I told her about mine—and how grateful I was to have been able to make that choice so I had the chance to become a parent on my terms, once I was an adult ready for the responsibility of childrearing and once I’d partnered with my wonderful husband whom I loved. I didn’t ask her to change her mind; in fact, I didn’t ask a thing, but I’d wanted a chance to share just that much ever since that early morning surprise. I have no idea whether she’d remember that conversation.

By the time abortion came up again, it wasn’t hard to tell my kids what abortion is. Unfortunately, the first time the topic got real attention in our household was just after Dr. George Tiller’s death. Dr. Tiller was a staunch supporter of abortion rights and a medical provider of late-term abortions. That our conversations got political was unavoidable, given the circumstances. By then, my kids had progressed far enough beyond kindergarten that they comprehended both what abortion was and what assassination was. I think the direct way they’ve learned about bodies and reproduction also gave them a solid and reasonable platform to discover their own beliefs.

With Dr. Tiller’s assassination, later-term abortions—the ones the babysitter brought up that morning long ago—were in the news again. I was devastated about the shooting, as were my kids. I found myself grateful to the babysitter, though; her early morning comment all those years before was like that first domino to tumble, the one that got us to talk about our bodies differently. As our dominos clicked to the ground one conversation after another, I began to see that my parental task wasn’t to answer the big questions, it was to feed the larger conversation by answering the small questions and asking more and listening to the click-click sound of our words across time. This was, it turned out, a very big lesson.

Out of the virtual twenty-first century blue, I got a Linked-In message from the former babysitter a couple of years back, and this led to a Facebook friendship and some real world visits with her fiancé. She’d gone to social work school and worked with the homeless. She’d become a volunteer—raising monies to help women unable to pay for abortions to fund them. Turned out she’d followed her own domino path.

Mississippi Argues Forced Closure of Last Clinic Will be the Fault of Providers and Patients

Right now in the legal battle over Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic there’s not much left to do but wait.

The state of Mississippi served the Jackson Women’s Health Organization its notice of intent to revoke the clinic’s license since it cannot comply with the state’s new requirement that all doctors performing abortions at the facility also have hospital admitting privileges. Under the state administrative procedures law, the clinic can remain open while it waits for a hearing by the state’s health department. That hearing could be more than a month away. In the meantime lawyers have gone back to the court, with evidence that compliance cannot happen, and renewed their request that the court block the law.

Attorneys defending the law do not contest that closing the clinic would obstruct women’s access to abortion care and instead argue that if women suffer as a result of a lack of access it is the fault of the providers. The clinic wouldn’t face closure if it simply “dis-associated” itself from the out-of-state doctors that the hospitals refuse to credential. It’s a familiar argument that boils down to little more than victim-blaming by a harasser or abuser: abortion providers and women who need care, you brought this harassment on yourself.

Mississippi’s TRAP law was designed to do one thing only, harass the state’s only abortion clinic out of existence. So in that sense it’s appropriate that the state invokes a abuse dynamic to defend its actions. The state may try and gloss this over in its legal arguments, but those efforts amount to just that, glossing.

In a briefing filed with the court, the state of Mississippi speculates that women could still access abortion care in-state because, they posit, there may be doctors who, unbeknown to anyone in the state including department of health officials, are performing a handful of abortions a year. These mythical providers are, according to the state, going to fill the gap should the clinic close. JWHO estimates that approximately 400 women will need abortion care from the clinic during the first two months of 2013, and the response from the state amounts to a promise, based on pure speculation, that some other person will deal with the public health crisis that will ensure from denying women access to needed reproductive health care.

That, right there, may be the most illuminating argument anti-choice advocates are making in Mississippi, Texas, and elsewhere as they target clinics for closure and work to drive legal abortion underground: the state has a duty to protect women from “bad” abortion care, but no obligation to make sure they can access “good” care because no “good” woman would need abortion care to start nor would any “good” doctor provide it.

But there’s a difference between invoking this kind of misogynist rhetoric for campaigning and wrapping it in legal precedent to try and make that rhetoric law. To argue that closing the only abortion clinic in the state as a matter of law would not create an undue burden on a woman’s right to chose abortion, and even if it did, it’s not the fault of the state but of the clinic itself not only ignores precedent that says states cannot harass providers out of existence purportedly in the name of health and safety concerns, it also advances a rhetorical framing that women lack agency to make informed health care choices because, by virtue of needing an abortion to begin with, they’ve shown an inability to “properly” conduct themselves.

If earlier legal proceedings challenging the Mississippi bill are any indication, it’s an argument that is not likely to get very far with the court. In July when the court first considered the clinic’s request the block the law the court found the clinic’s argument as to the law’s unconstitutionality was likely to succeed but declined to specifically block the law while the credentialing process moved forward. So Mississippi courts may not be willing to adopt the anti-woman framing put forward by the state in defense of their TRAP laws, but as more states consider similar measures, and ground them in similar rhetoric there’s a real risk another court will.