Texas Planned Parenthood Struggles and Abortion Clinics Bear Up Under Restrictions

A very silly Lena Dunham ad causes a right wing meltdown. Texas Planned Parenthood is running out of options, and Michelle Chen reports on how abortion restrictions are affecting clinics on the ground.

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Tina Fey rips rape mansplainers

Lena Dunham ad

Lawrence O’Donnell mocks conservative freakout

Planned Parenthood sues Texas, get a temporary injunction

Texas almost stopped funding Planned Parenthood after 5th Circuit Court ruling

Fine, cover Viagra. No arguments here.

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to reporter Michelle Chen about how shameful abortion regulations affect daily operations in clinics. Lena Dunham makes a political ad and conservatives freak out, because SEX. Also, things aren’t looking good for Planned Parenthood in Texas.

Tina Fey spoke that the Center for Reproductive Rights 20th anniversary gala, and a short clip of her speech went viral online, and for good reason: It’s hilarious.

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She also went on to suggest that if they keep passing restrictions on reproductive health care, before you know it, Pap smears will be replaced with some redneck sniffing your saddle seat.

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So, Lena Dunham did an ad encouraging young women to vote by comparing your first time voting to your first time having sex. It’s a very light, silly ad that endorses Obama and works a joke that many politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle have used before to get people to vote. But this is the first time I know of that a young, single woman with a large audience has made the joke.

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I watched the ad and thought it was fine and not particularly surprising. If you want to sell something to college kids, using sex is a smart way to do it. But of course, according to conservatives these days, if a woman expresses any interest—nay, even knowledge—of this sex thing, she must be a completely out of control slut who has no time for studying, eating, or possibly breathing because she spends all her time having sex and sucking down contraception. So, naturally, that belief shaped the hysterical right wing reaction to this ad. And if you think I’m exaggerating how conservatives think of women who are young, single and not afraid to acknowledge the existence of sex, I’m pretty much directly quoting Rush Limbaugh.

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See what I mean? If you value your reproductive rights or want insurance you earn to pay for your actual health care needs, that means you’re a sex machine. I don’t get why Limbaugh is complaining about seeing women as “monolithic”. Since he himself has, here and elsewhere, routinely claimed that women who use contraception are sluts or “sex machines”, he is basically saying the 99% of women who have ever had sex even just once that use contraception are sluts and sex machines. That’s pretty monolithic! During this rant, he also took what I’d consider a really sad, dim view of marriage as a burden women should be forced to suffer, instead of something women should want to undertake out of love.

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I’m not entirely sure that Limbaugh’s belief that women should be frog-marched into marriage with—his words—lousy husbands is really convincing. For all the railing against socialism, Limbaugh seems to view women as a resource that should be distributed on socialist principles, with every man, no matter how much of a lousy husband, having a right to a wife of his own to pick up after him and tend to him sexually. His utter rage at a society that has decided that women shouldn’t have to be stuck in bad marriages does make sense, if you consider that he’s been divorced three times already.

Limbaugh was far from the only conservative who got bent out of shape over Lena Dunham making a sex joke. Indeed, it would be easier to count the conservatives who didn’t get bent out of shape at it, for exactly the reasons Limbaugh spells out: They’re furious that young, single women are in no hurry to get married to any old dude who will have them. Lawrence O’Donnell did a segment making fun of the reaction.

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But as Limbaugh made clear, they don’t mind dirty jokes coming from men. It’s women whose humor they object to, because it reminds them that women don’t have to be submissive, fake virgins who are married off young to lousy husbands they can’t escape anymore. And that, really, is why they’re objecting to all this.

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insert interview

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The fight over contraception and other non-abortion-related reproductive health services continues in Texas. As regular readers of Rewire and regular listeners of this podcast no doubt know, the state of Texas has basically rejected federal funds for women’s health care, setting up a state fund that is already under-funded. They claim it’s about abortion, but what it’s really about is taking away funding from places that actually provide health care, like Planned Parenthood, and redirecting it to places that either don’t have the resources to handle the reproductive health care needs of women or places that don’t even want to try, like crisis pregnancy centers. Planned Parenthood got some temporary relief in this battle.

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The Travis County judge offered a temporary injunction on the ban of funding to Planned Parenthood, but things are looking bad for the organization in the state. This lawsuit comes after a really ugly loss in the 5th Circuit Court, which upheld the ban, which was sadly unsurprising as that court has a lot of anti-abortion, anti-contraception nutters on it.

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It’s worth remembering that no matter how many euphemisms for abortion anti-choicers through up, the reality here is that the funding in question doesn’t have anything to do with abortion. This is yet another attack on contraception access, using abortion as a fig leaf, because anti-choicers know their hostility to contraception isn’t politically popular. Indeed, it’s worse than just an attack on Planned Parenthood, though since they take on about 40% of the patients in question, that would be bad enough. By flouting federal law, the governor and legislature have an excuse to reject federal funds, which means that most of the fund in question will be hurting for cash. So even if your health care provider doesn’t provide abortion at all, you may still have your contraception access cut off for lack of funds. Eventually, it seems they plan to take all women who need assistance to afford contraception and instead direct them to a crisis pregnancy center for a lecture on abstinence and a pat on the head.

Rick Perry responded to the lawsuit by releasing a statement that said, in part: “If there was ever any doubt that Planned Parenthood is more concerned about its own interests than those of Texas women, there is no longer.  Having lost on its constitutional claims, Planned Parenthood has now turned to Travis County judges in a desperate effort to find some way to keep making money off Texas taxpayers.” This comment is wrong on a number of levels, but the most obvious that Planned Parenthood, being a non-profit, doesn’t “make money”. Its government funds go directly into providing services. Which is why the first part of the statement makes no sense. Women’s interests are served by Planned Parenthood. If they went away, as Perry wants, that would do  serious damage to women. They are fighting for women. I hope people aren’t letting dishonest rhetoric confuse them on these issues.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, nice try but I’m not going to take your bait edition. Rudy Giuliani was whining about how it’s supposedly not fair for women to get contraception, because apparently men don’t benefit from being able to have sex without causing a pregnancy in his universe.

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As far as I know, condoms aren’t covered. Just prescription medication, like birth control pills and IUDs. And what’s funny is that Viagra is covered on most health insurance plans, not just with a mandate for no copay, like birth control pills. But I refuse to be baited. If no copay Viagra is what you need in order to support common sense preventive health care like contraception, then go for it. I agree. Cover Viagra without a copay. I won’t fight you. That’s because, unlike those who fight against contraception, I don’t fear sex or think half the human race doesn’t deserve to have their health care needs met if they have sex.