Who Has Abortions?

Rachel Jones from the Guttmacher on new research about who gets abortions. Also, the SCOTUS confirmation circus is now underway, and the mainstream media covers the 50th anniversary of the pill.

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Stephen Colbert on George Rekers

Obama nominates Elena Kagan

Senator Barasso makes it all about health care reform

Limbaugh is sexist

Really, really sexist

Representative King trots out a hoary line

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Rachel Jones from the Guttmacher Institute about new research into the demographics of women getting abortions.  Also, a preliminary segment on Barack Obama’s new nominee to the Supreme Court, and a round-up of coverage of the pill’s 50th anniversary.

Anti-gay, anti-choice fundie Christian group Family Research Council got into the news recently when one of their founders, George Rekers, was caught toting a male prostitute he hired from Rent boy dot com all over Europe for a 10 day vacation.  And this was after firing off a letter to every school district in the country about how gay kids could be “cured” of homosexuality.  Naturally, Stephen Colbert had the funniest coverage.

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Stories like this just help convince me that these conservative religious leaders are basically charlatans who picked up culture war activism because it was lucrative, and they see their base as nothing but easy marks.


Since the frantic opposition to Barack Obama was raising hay about a Supreme Court nomination before a nominee was even named, we all had to know that it was going to be a 3 ring circus when the President finally coughed up a nominee.  Well, now he has, Elena Kagan, a former Harvard law school dean and the current solicitor general.  If confirmed, she’ll be the fourth woman to sit on the bench, and this will be the first time that three women serve at the same time.

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Expect the confirmation process to be even more swamped with grand-standing than usual, and not just because this is an election year.  The opposition to Kagan is coming from both sides of the aisle.  The left has a principled objection based on her views on civil liberties and government power.  The right is invested in using the opportunity of a Supreme Court nomination to troll on abortion rights, gay rights, and their baseless accusations of socialism.  And indeed, the first shot across the bow at her was basically a bunch of hooey about health care reform.  Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming has stated his intention to use this confirmation process to float what amounts to a conspiracy theory about the constitutionality of health care reform.

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Any realistic examination of these supposed state challenges would reveal that it’s mostly right wing pandering.  These arguments hold as much water as long-standing right wing conspiracy theories about how there’s no “real” right for the federal government to tax its citizens, or maybe even that there’s mind control elements in the drinking water.  Anyone who actually tries to make an issue over this is putting childish political point scoring ahead of all other concerns.

MSNBC had a general run down of Kagan’s career, and her resume’s pluses and minuses.

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That she has a very thin record to point to of actual opinions is sadly just what the President probably wanted.  It’s become common wisdom that you want to nominate someone with very little in the way of political stances you can hang on them, especially when we’re talking about things like abortion rights.  A judge who hasn’t weighed in on an abortion case is ideal, but someone like Kagan who hasn’t written judicial opinions is a close runner-up.  The idea is this makes her harder to attack.  Of course, the rules only are in play when the President is pro-choice, like Obama.  Anti-choice Presidents get to nominate whoever they like, and they often get to prove their bona fides by putting forwards judges who’ve written disturbingly misogynist decisions, as Justice Alito has in the past when he argued that women should get their husbands’ permission for abortions.

Of course, this lack of specific decisions to point to isn’t going to stop the diehard conservatives who will attack any and everything that Obama does, no matter how much he tries to pander to the right.  And right out of the box, the attacks are gender based.  

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On that last bit, there’s a bunch of right wing hinting and rumor mongering about Kagan’s sexual orientation.

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The blogger was Ben Domenech, and whatever he said after the fact in his faux apologies should be considered irrelevant.  He was floating a rumor to rile up the homophobic, misogynist base, and I have no doubt it’ll work.  Already a bunch of fundie Christian organizations are firing off mass emails to rouse their base to oppose Kagan, not because of her views or experience, but because they believe she’s a lesbian.

Personally, I’d think it’s really sad if Kagan were gay and felt she couldn’t be out.  But what we do know is that she’s shown some support for gay rights in the past, when she pushed to keep military recruiters off Harvard’s campus, due to the military’s official anti-gay stance.  One thing I know for sure is that this is going to be a bumpy ride.


insert interview


Last Sunday, May 9th, was the 50th anniversary of the FDA approving the use of the birth control pill as contraception.  And of course, this means that this was an easy-peasy time-filling story over that weekend for news anchors and pundits.  Contraception is largely uncontroversial in the mainstream of American society, so a lot of the coverage was blessedly free of the hand-wringing that you get when it comes to abortion, even though the anti-choice movement by and large disapproves of the pill right alongside abortion.  But that doesn’t mean all media outlets ignored any controversy over the pill.  NPR, for instance, reminded the audience that it wasn’t until after the pill got approved by the FDA that legal obstacles to obtaining contraception started to be rolled back by the courts.

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Still, part of me was really glad to see breezy, cheerful, non-controversial reporting on this anniversary, like this quickie on CNN.

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This is really how it should be—contraception treated like a normal, everyday part of women’s lives.  But it really does have a fascinating history, and I was happy to see some networks like NBC dive in a little deeper, talking to historians and reproductive rights activists about the long road from when the pill was first approved or even conceived and what it’s like for women nowadays. Nancy Gibbs spoke about how the pill really wasn’t something many single women had access to in the 1960s, even though many of them were sexually active.

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What she doesn’t address is the big reason why things changed so quickly in the 70s.  It wasn’t just Roe v. Wade, though I’m sure that was part of it.  It was also a 1972 decision called Eisenstadt v. Baird, where the Supreme Court decided that if married couples had a right to access contraception, then single people should, as well.  In a lot of ways, it was a decision with as much impact as Roe or Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized contraception for married couples.  It made it acceptable and legal for single women to use contraception to control not just giving birth, but also who they married and when.  And now the pill is widespread.

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But of course, when it comes to women having sex without getting punished, there’s going to be a bunch of naysayers.  Headline News took comments from people on Facebook, and naysaying and prudery was all over the place. Some people had relevant points about the problem of STDs, but you always get at least some people who just think sexual pleasure is a bad thing.

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I love the idea that the only reason someone might want to be faithful is so they don’t have extramarital pregnancies.  I never stop being impressed by the way that conservatives never stop to consider that people might treat their partners with respect because they love them, not because they’re living in fear of getting caught.  Anyway, I thought I’d let Loretta Lynn wave us out of this segment with a clip from her famous song “The Pill”. 

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, get rid of that wedding ring edition.  Rep. Steve King suggested that discrimination against gay people is the fault of gay people not being in the closet. 

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You hear this a lot, that gay people “flaunt” their sexuality by not hiding it.  To everyone who says this, I ask them if they’re planning on not marrying or boycotting all weddings. Roughly 100% of people who say this have no problem with straight people flaunting their sexuality with wedding rings, weddings, putting up family pictures in the office, mentioning a spouse, etc.  The excuse that sexuality flaunting is somehow intrinsically wrong is farcical on its face.