Condoms As Evidence, Breast Controversy, and More Contraception Mandate

Audacia Ray explains why using condoms as evidence of prostitution is such a bad idea. Breast-feeding gets newly controversial in NYC and conservatives continue to complain about the contraception mandate.

Subscribe to RealityCast:

RealityCast iTunes subscription
RealityCast RSS feed

Links in this episode:

Illustrated war on women

Tom Harkin supports the contraception mandate

Dana Loesch is full of it, news at eleven

Limbaugh lies and lies about the contraception mandate

Latch on NYC 

Romney critics are just jealous. Sure.

On this episode of Reality Cast, Audacia Ray will be on to discuss the dangers of using condoms as evidence of prostitution. The contraception mandate continues to draw ridiculous reactions from the right, and a new breast-feeding program in New York draws criticism. But is it fair?

This program is an audio program, and overall I’m a big fan of podcasts, because you listen to them while driving, working out, walking, cooking, cleaning, etc. But once in awhile, a visual aid is a good idea. Which is why I want to recommend BagNewsNote’s recent Google Hangout where they hashed out the visual politics of the war on women.

  • bag news *

They then go on to talk in-depth about images like fetuses, small children, uteruses, and of course, visually eliminating the faces of women in images, and how these influence understanding of women’s issues.


So the HHS contraception mandate has kicked in and so far, contrary to conservative claims otherwise, jackboots are not kicking in your door and confiscating your Bible. That, of course, doesn’t mean that conservatives still aren’t whining about it, filing stupid lawsuits, and diagnosing your contraception and health care needs from afar. In fact, the levels of idiocy are rising rapidly. A conservative website asked Sen. Tom Harkin about his support for the mandate, and this was his response:

  • contraception 1 *

Dana Loesch at Big Government, who has been working hard to create this weird narrative that women can somehow be feminine and sexy and sexual while not having access to their preferred forms of contraception, responded to this instead by making it all about how she knows better than your doctor how to control your menstrual cramps. She said, in part, “It’s asinine to suggest that birth control is the only way women can control menstrual cramps,” and adding, “If it was about women’s health, the ‘birth control’ aspect wouldn’t be at the spear of the left’s push.” Of course, to get this conclusion, she had to cut out the part I quoted where Harkin said that women who use it for cramps shouldn’t have to consult with their employers about why they’re taking it to get the drug. By eliminating that aspect, Loesch could make it all about the slutty sluts.

But still, her intellectual emptiness was evident from her claim that birth control as birth control isn’t a relevant part of women’s health care. From the beginning, no one has actually really claimed that the main part of this mandate wasn’t preventing unintended pregnancy. Pregnancy is a medical condition that is known to be very expensive if you continue with it. Preventing unintended pregnancy is an effective method to cut costs while shoring up human rights. No one has claimed otherwise; they just bring up the menstrual cramps thing to demonstrate that prevention is a wide-reaching concept.

Limbaugh also flipped out over Harkin’s defense of the contraception mandate.

  • contraception 2 *

You should listen to the entire clip, as painful as it is, because Limbaugh tells three very big lies. The big one is that he’s joined other anti-choicers in claiming that female-controlled contraception is abortion, even though it prevents pregnancy, whereas abortion terminates pregnancy. He claims that women are demanding that “other people” pay for their contraception. In fact, this is an insurance benefit women pay for through premiums and earn with their labor. And, in this clip, he makes it sound like the choice to put contraception on the no-co-pay list was arbitrary, like as it were aspirin. Again, this is a lie. The mandate is pretty broad and covers dozens of preventive care services for both men and women, with an eye towards saving money and preventing problems before they begin. Aspirin is sold over the counter to treat pain, and has nothing to do with doctor-and-pharmacy controlled prevention.

Unsurprisingly, Fox News covered the contraception mandate rollout with propaganda disguised as news.

  • contraception 3 *

Once more, with feeling: If your employer withholds compensation from you because he disagrees with your religious beliefs, you’re the one whose religious freedom is being taken from you. Demanding the right to take away women’s benefits because you disagree with their religious belief that there’s nothing wrong with contraception isn’t really that different from docking someone’s pay because they don’t go to your church. Religious freedom is about keeping your employer from pushing you around like this, not about giving your employer the right to try to force you to comply with their religious beliefs.


insert interview


I very nearly did not do a piece on the Latch on NYC program that’s generating so much controversy, because I think some of the anger over it is blowback from the ban on sugar drinks over 16 ounces, and I support that policy without reservation. But with all the claims flying around about this new city initiative to get more mothers of newborns to breast feed, I thought it was important to separate fact from fiction. NPR did a report and I’ll be looking critically at the way people understand the value of breast-feeding, and draw some conclusions about how much the government should take it upon themselves to promote it.

NPR interviewed a lactation consultant from the Bronx who made a lot of claims about breast-feeding that I think need to be thought about carefully.

  • breast 1 *

There is little dispute that breast is best, especially for newborns, but I have some concerns here that pro-breast folks, in their eagerness to sell women on this, are overstating the benefits. For instance, this lactation consultant claims that a baby doesn’t have any way of fighting off infections. A parent might hear that and think that newborns literally come into the world with no immune system to speak of and that you only get one through breast milk. That’s not entirely true. Most research I saw said that newborns start making antibodies around 3 months, but that they have antibodies from their mother’s body in their system for the first 6 months. It’s not as much as it should be, of course, but fears that your baby is going to die if they aren’t breastfed are overblown. The claim that it’s always easier needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, it’s easier than a bottle if you’re always around and able to pull out your boob, but not all women have that advantage. Breast milk is very important in the first couple of months of a baby’s life, but that has to be weighed against other concerns.

One of the founders of Babble talked about the damage that comes from overselling breast-feeding to the point where mothers who don’t breast feed are treated like common criminals.

  • breast 2 *

A little common sense would be helpful here; many to most adults weren’t breast fed and we largely turned out fine. That knowledge should be a clue that relaxing about breastfeeding is okay, and that we can promote breast-feeding without making life hell for women who can’t make that option work for themselves and their families. I realize some of this is an overcorrection for that past when breast milk was discouraged and everyone used formula, but it’s about time we reached a happy medium on this. I think the way contraception is promoted is a good model; we know that a combination of access plus education leads to way more contraception use. We can probably get similar results for breast-feeding without taking punitive measures.

So what exactly is this program that has everyone up in arms?

  • breast 3 *

In addition, the participating hospitals will remove all formula advertising. I think removing formula from gift baskets and taking down advertising is great. The issue is keeping the formula under lock and key and forcing women to ask for it, and making a big fuss on their chart over it. In theory, making women ask isn’t that big a deal. But anyone who’s been in a hospital has to know that asking for stuff is often a huge nightmare. Making nurses go through the extra steps of signing formula out means nurses will have less time to respond to requests for formula promptly. Which means more guilt trips, more screaming and hungry babies, and probably less good will towards the promoters of breast feeding. It’s also punishing towards women who can’t, for whatever reason, breast feed. If this initiative was more carrot and less stick, I could support it more easily. But unlike 32 ounce buckets of sugar, some women actually do need formula, and so this entire situation can’t really be treated as straightforwardly as the soda ban.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, try again Fox News edition. In this bit of sexist essentialism, Liz Trotta pulled out the “just jealous” thing to try to shut down criticisms of the Romney campaign’s use of the candidate’s wife.

  • trotta *

My mother told me that having a job is a good way to ward off despair and depression, and suggested being dependant on a man is a bad life plan. But I do love the idea that someone like myself is sitting around wishing Mitt Romney had picked me and pumped me full of five kids instead. In all honesty, I’d rather work at Subway and share a bathroom with 10 people than live in a mansion with him, though your mileage may vary.