Commentary Abortion

National Review Writer Calls for Hanging Women Who Have Abortions

Jodi Jacobson

Studies find that women of all religious faiths and traditions, all political affiliations, and all races, classes, and backgrounds have abortions. Columnist Kevin Williamson believes all such women should be hanged.

At least one in three women in the United States will have at least one abortion in her lifetime.

Six in ten American women who have an abortion already have a child, and more than three in ten already have two or more children.

Studies find that women of all religious faiths and traditions, all political affiliations, and all races, classes, and backgrounds have abortions. It is one of the most common and safest surgical procedures in the United States. And these women—women like me, and like countless daughters, mothers, sisters, friends, nieces, and cousins—have abortions for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from their own judgment about whether and when they can afford to have a child (or another child), to experiences of violence and violation, to matters of life and death, to “none of your business.”

A columnist for the National Review believes we should all be hanged.

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This weekend, Kevin Williamson, whose Twitter bio describes him as a “roving reporter for the National Review,” declared on Twitter that all abortions should be treated as premeditated homicide, and that women who have had abortions should face capital punishment, namely hanging. No exceptions.

He did not go so far as to describe in what venues these hangings should take place, but it might be fair to assume that Williamson has in mind public executions, so that other women are made very, very sure of their place in society—which is to say, subservient.

Reading several of Williamson’s columns, I see a man who desperately wants to be taken seriously. His pieces are full of pseudo-intellectual musings and plenty of Very Big Words, in a transparent attempt to prove how smart he is. In a recent piece on Lena Dunham and voting, he reveals deep condescension for women, voters, and anyone who is not (according to his judgment) as smart as himself. Voting, Williamson writes, “is the most shallow gesture of citizenship there is.”

That piece is titled “Five Reasons You Are Too Stupid To Vote.” Williamson offers only one reason. Did he forget the other four?

We should perhaps be thankful that, in another tweet, Williamson stated, “I don’t vote.”

In a piece on abortion and capital punishment, he notes that a “consistent life ethic” requires opposition to capital punishment, though he admits to finding reasons capital punishment should still be carried out. Tweeting this weekend, he said, “I’m torn on capital punishment generally; but treating abortion as homicide means what it means.” He further said, “I am against abortion per se in all circumstances.” In other words, he claims a “consistent life ethic,” which would mean he is against capital punishment per se but believes there are circumstances in which capital punishment should be employed anyway. Yet when women’s lives, health, or well-being are threatened, he sees no exceptions for abortion care. Rather, his answer when it comes to women and abortion is to promote capital punishment for them.

In an ongoing Twitter exchange, I asked Williamson if he knew women who had had abortions. He said yes. I asked him if he had told them he thought they should be hanged. No answer. I asked again. No answer. I asked if he would tell the women in his circle who’ve had abortions that he believes they committed homicide. No answer. I asked Williamson if, being consistent and applying the laws he supports to his own family, he would allow his wife to die in a circumstance in which her life were imminently threatened by a pregnancy rather than break his no exceptions rule. He would not answer. I asked if his wife opted for an abortion in a given circumstance, including to save her own life, would he report her to the authorities. Again, no answer. The only reply I got was him calling my line of questioning an “elementary-school trolley problem gambit.”

“Go look it up if you don’t understand,” he added.

In short, he gave no answer when asked to apply his legal proposal to his own family. He refused to take responsibility for the laws and policies he espouses.

Pregnancy, however, is not an elementary school “trolley problem.” It is real life. Pregnancy, labor, delivery, childbirth, child spacing, child-rearing, and feeding, clothing, raising, emotionally investing in, and in all ways caring for children from birth throughout their lives are all real-life issues. Sometimes pregnancy, childbirth, and delivery result in the death or illness of women. These are not theoretical “trolley problems.” They are real. They are practical. They involve tradeoffs. I know this, as I am a mother and a woman who has had an abortion. And I understand that every time a woman faces a pregnancy—intended or unintended, healthy or untenable—she faces a set of circumstances unique to that pregnancy and that moment in her life.

Williamson’s answers therefore reveal exactly the problem with his pseudo-academic approach, and that of the anti-choice movement writ large, to the issues women face in sex, pregnancy, childbirth, and the lifelong commitment to other human beings that is involved in being a parent. He and they are bereft of compassion and understanding for the real circumstances of real women. They lack respect for the intellectual and emotional maturity and responsibility real women take as they make rational decisions about either abortion or childbirth when facing unintended pregnancy. In other words, they do not trust women as moral agents to make choices that are best for them and their families. Anti-choicers like Williamson lack understanding of or just simply deny immutable facts of public health, such as the fact that access to safe abortion care is directly correlated to improved health outcomes for women, infants, and children. He is either unaware of or irresponsibly ignores the fact that in many states in this country women are today being arrested for miscarriage and pregnancy loss on the basis of “suspected abortion.” His answers and his body of work reveal a dangerous mixture of misogyny and disgust for women, a wholesale lack of compassion, an inability to face reality, and complete ignorance of public health, medical, biological, and human rights evidence.

And, tellingly, he is unwilling to apply his own rules to his own family.

Commentary Violence

When It Comes to Threats, Online or on the Campaign Trail, It’s Not Up to Women to ‘Suck It Up’

Lauren Rankin

Threats of violence toward women are commonplace on the internet for the same reason that they are increasingly common at Donald Trump rallies: They are effective at perpetuating violence against women as the norm.

Bizarre and inflammatory rhetoric is nothing new for this election. In fact, the Republican presidential candidate has made an entire campaign out of it. But during a rally last Tuesday, Donald Trump sunk to a new level. He lamented that if Hillary Clinton is elected president in November, there will be no way to stop her from making judicial nominations.

He said, “By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”

For a candidate marred by offensive comment after offensive comment, this language represents a new low, because, as many immediately explained, Trump appears to be making a veiled threat against Clinton, whether he had intended to or not.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called it a “death threat” and Dan Rather, former CBS Evening News host, called it a “direct threat of violence against a political rival.” Former President Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis said it was “horrifying,” and even the author of an NRA-linked blog initially tweeted, “That was a threat of violence. As a real supporter of the #2A it’s appalling to me,” before deleting the tweet as the NRA expressed support for Trump.

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This kind of language is violent in nature on its face, but it is also gendered, following in a long line of misogynistic rhetoric this election season. Chants of “kill the bitch” and “hang the bitch” have become common at Trump rallies. These aren’t solely examples of bitter political sniping; these are overt calls for violence.

When women speak out or assert ourselves, we are challenging long-held cultural norms about women’s place and role in society. Offensively gendered language represents an attempt to maintain the status quo. We’ve seen this violent rhetoric online as well. That isn’t an accident. When individuals throw pejorative terms at those of who refuse to be silenced, they are attempting to render public spaces, online or on the campaign trail, unsafe for us.

There is no shortage of examples demonstrating how individuals who feel threatened by subtle power shifts happening in our society have pushed back against those changes. The interactions happening online, on various social media platforms, offer the most vivid examples of the ways in which people are doing their best to try to make public spaces as uncomfortable as possible for marginalized populations.

Social media offers the opportunity for those whose voices are routinely ignored to hold power in a new way. It is a slow but real shift from old, more traditional structures of privileging certain voices to a more egalitarian megaphone, of sorts.

For marginalized populations, particularly women of color and transgender women, social media can provide an opportunity to be seen and heard in ways that didn’t exist before. But it also means coming up against a wall of opposition, often represented in a mundane but omnipresent flow of hatred, abuse, and violent threats from misogynist trolls.

The internet has proven to be a hostile place for women. According to a report from the United Nations, almost three quarters of women online have been exposed to some form of cyber violence. As someone who has received threats of violence myself, I know what it feels like to have sharing your voice met with rage. There are women who experience this kind of violent rhetoric to an even greater degree than I could ever dream.

The list of women who have been inundated with threats of violence could go on for days. Women like Zerlina Maxwell, who was showered with rape threats after saying that we should teach men not to rape; Lindy West received hundreds upon hundreds of violent and threatening messages after she said that she didn’t think rape jokes were funny; Leslie Jones, star of Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live, was driven off of Twitter after a coordinated attack of racist, sexist, and violent language against her.

And yet, rarely are such threats taken seriously by the broader community, including by those able to do something about it.

Many people remain woefully unaware of how cruel and outright scary it can be for women online, particularly women with prolific digital profiles. Some simply refuse to see it as a real issue, declaring that “It’s just the internet!” and therefore not indicative of potential physical violence. Law enforcement doesn’t even have a solution, often unwilling to take these threats seriously, as Amanda Hess found out.

This kind of response is reflected in those who are trying to defend Donald Trump after the seemingly indefensible. Despite the overwhelming criticism from many, including some renowned Republicans, we have also seen some Trump supporters try to diminish or outright erase the violent aspect of this clearly threatening rhetoric. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani have both said that they assumed Trump meant get rid of her “by voting.” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that it “sounds like just a joke gone bad.”

The violent nature of Donald Trump’s comments seem apparent to almost everyone who heard him. To try to dismiss it as a “joke” or insist that it is those who are offended that are wrong is itself harmful. This is textbook gaslighting, a form of psychological abuse in which a victim’s reality is eroded by telling them that what they experienced isn’t true.

But gaslighting has played a major role in Donald Trump’s campaign, with some of his supporters insisting that it is his critics who are overreacting—that it is a culture of political correctness, rather than his inflammatory and oppressive rhetoric, that is the real problem.

This is exactly what women experience online nearly every day, and we are essentially told to just suck it up, that it’s just the internet, that it’s not real. But tell that to Jessica Valenti, who received a death and rape threat against her 5-year-old daughter. Tell that to Anita Sarkeesian, who had to cancel a speech at Utah State after receiving a death threat against her and the entire school. Tell that to Brianna Wu, a game developer who had to flee her home after death threats. Tell that to Hillary Clinton, who is trying to make history as the first woman president, only to have her life threatened by citizens, campaign advisers, and now through a dog whistle spoken by the Republican presidential candidate himself.

Threats of violence toward women are commonplace on the internet for the same reason that they are increasingly common at Donald Trump’s rallies: They are effective at perpetuating violence against women as the norm.

Language matters. When that language is cruel, aggressive, or outright violent, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and it doesn’t come without consequences. There is a reason that it is culturally unacceptable to say certain words like “cunt” and other derogatory terms; they have a history of harm and oppression, and they are often directly tied to acts of violence. When someone tweets a woman “I hope your boyfriend beats you,” it isn’t just a trolling comment; it reflects the fact that in the United States, more women are killed by intimate partners than by any other perpetrator, that three or more women die every day from intimate partner violence. When Donald Trump not only refuses to decry calls of violence and hate speech at his rallies but in fact comes across as threatening his female opponent, it isn’t just an inflammatory gaffe; it reflects the fact that one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence.

Threats of violence have no place in presidential campaigns, but they also have no place online, either. Until we commit ourselves to rooting out violent language against women and to making public spaces safer and more accommodating for women and all marginalized people, Trump’s comments are just par for the course.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Kaine Calls for Congress to End Recess to Combat Zika

Ally Boguhn

Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump punted when asked about his own plan to combat Zika if he was in office today.

This week on the campaign trail, both Democrats and Republicans at the top of the ticket weighed in on combatting Zika, and the Donald Trump campaign released a list of economic advisors that failed to include a single woman.

Kaine Calls for Congress to End Recess to Combat Zika

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate, said that “Congress should not be in recess when Zika is advancing,” during a speech in Daytona Beach, Florida, on Tuesday.

The Virginia senator reportedly went on to urge Congress to “pass a $1.1 billion bill to combat Zika without what he called the ‘poison pill’ of anti-abortion language added by House Republicans,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.

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Kaine had previously voiced support for ensuring that Zika funding could go to Planned Parenthood—something that the version of the Zika bill blocked by Democrats would have prevented. He was one of more than 40 Senate Democrats to add his name to a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) this week urging “both the Senate and the House back into session to pass a real and serious response to the burgeoning Zika crisis.”

Republicans criticized Kaine for not voting through that bill, accusing him of playing politics with the vote. “With new cases of the Zika virus being reported in Florida every day it is becoming clear that with his party-line vote to block crucial Zika funding Tim Kaine put his loyalty to the Democrat Party over the health of Sunshine State residents,” said Republican National Committee spokesperson Natalie Strom in a statement to the Miami Herald. “He owes the hardworking people of Florida an explanation for his playing politics at their expense.”

Meanwhile, Republican presidential nominee Trump punted when asked by West Palm Beach’s CBS 12 about what his own plan to combat Zika would be if he was in office today.

“You have a great governor who’s doing a fantastic job, Rick Scott, on the Zika,” said Trump. “And it’s a problem. It’s a big problem. But I watch and I see. And I see what they’re doing with the spraying and everything else.” 

“And I think he’s doing a fantastic job, and he’s letting everyone know exactly what the problem is and how to get rid of it. He’s going to have it under control, he probably already does,” added Trump.

When the reporter pressed Trump to discuss whether a special session should be held by Congress to review a bill to help combat Zika, Trump again said he would leave it up to the Florida governor. “I would say that it’s up to Rick Scott. It depends on what he’s looking to do because he really seems to have it under control in Florida,” said Trump.

No Women Made Trump’s List of Economic Advisors

Trump’s campaign released a list of economic advisors Friday who had one noticeable trait in common: they were all men.

“I am pleased that we have such a formidable group of experienced and talented individuals that will work with me to implement real solutions for the economic issues facing our country,” said Trump in a press release announcing the list. “I am going to be the greatest jobs President our country has ever seen. We will do more for the hardworking people of our country and Make America Great Again.” 

According to the release, “Additional members of the Advisory Council will be added at later dates.” Many in the media have noted that in addition to the lack of women on the council, there are also very few actual economists.

The gender disparity in Trump’s current list of economic advisors mirrors a similar lack of representation of women discussing the topic in the media. According to a recent study conducted by media watchdog Media Matters for America, in the second quarter of 2016 women appeared as guests in less than 25 percent of analyzed evening and prime-time television discussions focused on the economy.

Though there is a gender gap in economics, 32.9 percent of those earning doctorates in the field are women, according to a 2014 report from the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession. 

As the Washington Post’s Jim Tankersley and Jose A. DelReal reported, in contrast, Clinton’s “economic advisers include several longtime Democratic policy hands … and several women, including Ann O’Leary, Maya Harris, Neera Tanden, Heather Boushey and Laura D’Andrea Tyson.”

The lack of women on Trump’s list, however, isn’t surprising given that the Republican nominee was also unable to name a single woman he would consider appointing to his cabinet if elected, other than his daughter, when asked about it this week.

“Well, we have so many different ones to choose,” said Trump when asked which women he would name to his cabinet. “I can tell you everybody would say, ‘Put Ivanka in, put Ivanka in,’ you know that, right? She’s very popular, she’s done very well.”

“But there really are so many that are really talented people,” he continued without offering any serious candidates.

What Else We’re Reading

Though both House Speaker Ryan and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) have both already offered Trump their endorsements, the Republican nominee said that he is “not quite there yet” on endorsing them.  

During a CNN town hall event on Tuesday, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson admitted that his head has “been in the sand” when it comes to law enforcement “discriminating” against people of color.

Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti reported that Kaine “is expected to play a major behind-the-scenes role on the money circuit, in addition to his public campaigning.”

Roll Call’s Simone Pathé asked whether Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ (R-TN) “abortion hypocrisy” will haunt his primary race.

The State of Texas has agreed to modify its voter identification law ahead of the November election.

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler fact-checkedDonald Trump’s revisionist history of mocking a disabled reporter.”

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