South Dakota Abortion Ban

Trendspotting with the ACLU takes on the  South Dakota abortion ban. Also, defining a feminist, how anti-choicers want to turn comprehensive sex education into abortion, and why Magic Johnson is still alive.

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Links in this episode:

Terri Gross interview Ronnee Schreiber
Palin’s nomination sows discontent
The right to airbrushing
"Pro-life" feminism?
Voter abstinence
Education is not abortion
Education is not abortion, part two
Thoroughgoing ignorance

This week on Reality Cast, an interview with Sondra Goldschein from the ACLU about the attempts to ban abortion in South Dakota.  Also, what makes someone a feminist, can anti-choicers turn comprehensive sex education into abortion, and who is stupid enough to think that Magic Johnson doesn’t have HIV?

I’ve been involved in one series of videos for Rewire, but I’d like to recommend another series that’s started on the site, called "Our Reality", which are stories of the real life effects of sexual health policies.

  • insert our reality *

Check them out at the new Video button at Rewire dot org.  You can see the Our Reality series and the Reality Check series, videos to fill all your reproductive rights advocacy needs.  Email to your friends, especially those who are confused, and embed them on your websites!


Sarah Palin’s ascendancy of being plucked out of Alaska and catapulted to a spot as the Republican running mate has launched the least-surprising public debate ever, which is who gets to call herself a feminist?  People love this debate, because it puts feminists is a bad position.  No one likes the mean girls who exclude anyone, so there’s a lot of pressure on feminists to be super-inclusive.  But it’s also fair to point out that the word as a descriptor has no meaning if everyone gets to be called a feminist because she says so.  

Terri Gross interviewed a political scientist named Ronnee Schreiber who has written a book called Right Feminism, an examination of conservative women’s groups.  It was pretty interesting, and here’s a sample.

  • insert conservative women *

I’m always troubled by describing the conservative women’s movement as a movement in the same way feminism was a movement.  The conservative women’s movement as it stands is almost completely an invention by billionaire right wing funding gurus like Richard Scaife.  Even groups that started off as somewhat independent like Feminists For Life have been incorporated into the wingnut welfare system.  Not that the left doesn’t have think tanks and the like—hello!  I’m podcasting for one—but they tend to be more about harnessing and funding pre-existing liberal movements, not about inventing from whole cloth something that wouldn’t exist if not for funding.   They’re more interested in creating the appearance of large scale female rejection of what you might call real feminism than actually advancing a pro-woman agenda.  

None of which is to say that I think it’s impossible for a woman to have conservative political ideas and be a feminist.  I’ve been accused of as much, especially by libertarians, but really, I don’t think that.  It’s possible to be for the vague ideas of small government or lower taxes and be pro-feminist.  It’s not that I want to kick women who think like this out of feminism. Not at all.  I just think they have ideological beliefs that haven’t been well thought out and a weak grip on policy issues.  But I believe they believe that men and women are equal, which is the baseline for being a feminist.  

But the conservative women’s movement is exposing itself as an empty shell this election season.  They’ve been called on to support Sarah Palin, and the reason is apparently just because she’s a woman, because there’s not a coherent conservative women’s set of beliefs to get behind.  Some conservative women are social conservatives and some are more libertarian.  Conservatives are facing up to the dangers of putting all women under one umbrella, which is that they don’t all fit.  Witness the way the conservative female punditry fell to arguing on Larry King.    

  • insert republican bickering *

That’s not even the worst of it.  Listen to the Fox punditry stand up for every woman’s right to get her pictures airbrushed until she looks 18 years old.

  • insert airbrushing *

By the way, I looked at the cover, and they’re crazy.  It looks retouched to me.  They just left in details to give the impression that Palin is a human being and not a Barbie doll, so there’s a few laugh lines.  I’m sure Governor Palin would rather the public know she’s not a teenager anymore, because teenagers aren’t eligible to run for Vice President.

I do think it’s feasible to think of one’s self as a conservative feminist, but only to a point.  And that point is probably the right to choose.  Opposition to abortion rights is grounded in two beliefs about women that preclude believing women are equal to men—either that women’s sexuality needs to be tightly controlled or that women are too stupid to understand what they’re doing or both.  Feministe had a recent post up about whether or not one can be "pro-life" and a feminist, and their cautious conclusion was so long as you are pro-life and pro-choice at the same time.  Which is why I HATE the term "pro-life".  A lot of people who call themselves "pro-life" aren’t against abortion rights.  They just want a cookie for being morally superior to women they think are insufficiently chaste or maternal.  I don’t care if you personally would get an abortion.  The only thing that matters is where you stand on the right to have one.


  • insert interview *


Anti-choicers sure do want you to believe that the only battle in the reproductive rights arena is over abortion, which is a subject that makes people feel icky and like they want to shut down and not deal with it.  But there’s a lot more on the table, and it’s getting discussed during this election season.  Health care access and contraception access.  Sexual assault.  And abstinence-only education.  

Ah yes, abstinence-only education.  It was the shining star in the anti-choice pantheon.  It was going to prove way more popular even than getting people to say they don’t approve of abortion as birth control.  All they had to do was convince the voters that they were just telling your kids to wait to have sex until they were a little older, and hope that people’s belief that it’s best to wait would kick in.  A little smoothing over and the public would never need to know that they were telling kids to wait until you were married, which 95% of Americans don’t do.  Or that they weren’t going to explain the basics of contraception. Or that comprehensive sex education programs already told kids to wait until they’re ready, and abstinence-only was mostly about depriving kids of basic education.  

Well, the public has wised up to the facts and abstinence-only has lost its popularity.  So what to do?  Well, time to start the long process of redefining comprehensive sex education as abortion, I guess.  They’re trying to do it with the birth control pill, so why not just go crazy?  

Think I’m being silly?  Well, let’s play a clip of Barack Obama praising comprehensive sex education.

  • obama comprehensive *

Now, what was Obama talking about?  Education.  What was he saying?  Very simply, that we should educate kids instead of hoping that their ignorance will cause unplanned pregnancy and STDs as some sort of punishment for having sex.  Straightforward.  The growing support for comprehensive sex education shows that parents agree.  Unplanned pregnancy and STDs, some of which are deadly, are not appropriate ways to punish kids.  When I was a teenager, sneaking around with your boyfriend was cause for grounding, not for getting the clap.

It makes so much sense that anti-choicers have decided to pretend he was talking about abortion.  Media Matters has been keeping track.  Here’s Chris Jansing refusing to correct Sarah Palin, who is misquoting Obama in precisely this way, by suggesting he was talking about abortion when he was talking about comprehensive sex ed.

  • ed not abortion 1 *

Personally, I fail to see why there’s so much support for treating babies like punishment. I mean, don’t these people claim to love babies?  Isn’t that the focus of so much of the pieties about the unborn?  So why do they disagree with Obama?  Do they think babies are punishment?  Or should be?
Unfortunately, a lot of people are buying the anti-choice line that comprehensive sex education turned into abortion through the magic verbal workings of Barack Obama.  Savannah Guthrie on NBC made the same error.

  • ed not abortion 2 *

This is no small matter, because by pretending that education is abortion, anti-choicers are concealing the fact that education prevents abortion.  Which of course was Obama’s point.  If you know how not to get pregnant, you’re less likely to get pregnant.  The obstinate refusal of anti-choicers to get this fact inclines me to think they don’t want to get it.

But it’s too late to convince people that the abstinence only versus comprehensive sex education debate is abortion.  Abstinence-only and mocking it has become part of the cultural landscape.  The Colbert Report did an on-target satire of the condescending way abstinence-only non-educators talk to teens.

  • voter abstaining *

I suspect the folks at the Abstinence Clearinghouse who all vote would fry their brains if they saw that.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, the conspiracy theory edition.  Minneapolis conservatives Chris Baker and Langdon Perry seem weirdly annoyed at Magic Johnson for not being dead yet.

  • magic Johnson *

I feel kind of stupid taking this on, because it only takes about 2 seconds of research to find  that HIV affects different people in different ways and that you can live for decades with it before it turns into AIDS or kills you if you’re a combination of very healthy, very lucky, and very able to monitor it closely.  I suspect that Magic Johnson has the money, for instance, to make sure that he’s got the best health management plan possible.  And a lot of luck on top of that.