Ireland’s Tragedy, Continuing Election Fallout, and OTC Emergency Contraception

An unnecessary death raises more questions about Ireland’s abortion ban. Republicans continue not to understand pro-choice voters, and pushing for OTC emergency contraception a year after the terrible HHS ruling against it.

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Kristen Schall explains the marriage gap

An unnecessary death in Ireland because of abortion bans

Thousands rally

Bobby Jindal suggests head pats will win over single female voters

O’Reilly misunderstands Latino voters

Jesse Watters accuses liberals of being “zombies”

Mary Matalin doesn’t think unwanted pregnancy can hurt women economically

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be looking at the unnecessary death of a pregnant woman in Ireland and the continuing fallout after the election. Also, it’s been a year since the unprecedented HHS overrule of an FDA decision on emergency contraception. But that doesn’t mean pro-choicers are giving up.

Jon Stewart and Kristen Schall of the Daily Show decided to tackle the right wing media’s total inability to understand why there’s a gap between married and single women in voting. Schall got married this summer, and claimed that she’s got entirely new voting priorities.

  • daily show *

It’s worth noting that married women still outvoted married men for Obama by quite a few points. The difference between married and single female voters is likely just a result of demographic differences between the groups, with married women being whiter and older on average.


For a long time now, Ireland has been the focus of a great deal of pro-choice organizing and pressure campaigns, in no small part because they perfectly embody the hypocritical posturing that goes under the moniker “pro-life”. The country has a pretty much absolutist abortion ban, and they get away with having to deal with much of the fallout because Irish women can travel to Britain to get abortions, if they have the money. It’s a classic example of how anti-choicers seek legal regimes that ban abortion for the poor and the young, but allow for the privileged to get safe abortions if they need them.  But now there’s been a tragedy that is drawing even more attention to the situation in Ireland: the unnecessary and frankly sadistic death of Savita Halappanavar because doctors refused to intervene in her incomplete miscarriage.

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As horrible as it is, the ugly fact of the matter is the Catholic Church basically teaches that given a choice between letting a fetus live for a few more hours or letting a woman live for the rest of her life, you should give the fetus a few more hours, even though it doesn’t even have a fully developed brain that feels pain or fear. Unlike, you know, a woman. They simply couldn’t be more explicit in this regard in their belief that women are nothing but incubators. Actually, less than, because at least incubators are required to be fixed if the thing they’re incubating can’t pull through. But Catholicism romanticizes the woman who dies of pregnancy-related complications. They’ve sainted women for choosing death over abortion. And the result is the death of this woman who most definitely didn’t want to die, and who begged for her life. But this is about more than the church. This is also about the law.

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In theory, it’s legal in Ireland to save a woman’s life with abortion, but the law is hazy and hard to understand. But even in the cases where the exceptions to an abortion ban are laid out in clear, simple language, that doesn’t mean that the exceptions work. One big problem that comes up is that doctors can’t ever really be sure they’ll be free from prosecution. For instance, if doctors had done the medically correct thing and removed the fetus as soon as Savita came in, she would have likely recovered quickly, having not suffered from blood poisoning in the first place. Then there’s a chance that a prosecutor looks at her and her healthiness and decides that you were exaggerating her chance of death, and decides to prosecute you. Now a jury that doesn’t understand medical science has to sit and weigh the likelihood that you broke the law. A lot of doctors aren’t going to take that risk, even if not doing so means letting women die unnecessarily. The only real solution is to legalize abortion and leave these decisions up to women and their doctors.

This case is becoming a rallying point for pro-choicers in Ireland.  

  • savita 3 *

Making a larger exception for the health of the mother presents many of the same problems that only having an exception for the life of the mother presents, particularly in trying to prove that your intervention was absolutely necessary. But at least doctors have more wiggle room. It’s a lot easier to argue that someone was going to be sick if she already was sick than it was to say she was going to be dead if your intervention is what saved her. Still, I come back around: The best solution to this problem is to legalize abortion. Not just because that puts these health decisions back where they belong, with patients and doctors, because at the end of the day women are not incubators. They are people. They should have a right to decide if they want to continue a pregnancy or not. Ireland has a lot to answer for right now, and I hope that this case compels some changes in their draconian abortion ban.


insert interview


The fallout from the election has not slowed down much, though it has started to take a certain shape. That shape is for Republicans to acknowledge that the hyper-conservatism of their party is making them unpopular, and then to say they don’t actually have to change that about themselves to get votes. Nope, all they apparently have to do is smile a little harder and perhaps condescend a bit to potential voters in hopes that the don’t notice that their policies haven’t changed. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana was working this angle hard on Fox News last week. Chris Wallace asked him how you can convince pro-choice single women to vote for you when the opposition is pointing out that you want to defund Planned Parenthood, ban abortion, and try to roll back insurance coverage of contraception.

  • election 1 *

In other words, give women a condescending head pat, tell them you totally get how they could be so foolish to think they deserve rights, but reassure them that Big Daddy is here to force them to give birth against their will anyway. Basically, say offensive things, but feign respect and hope they don’t notice. It’s obvious that this is offensive to single women, since the entire strategy rides on the belief that women are too stupid to hear what you’re really saying. But it’s also incoherent, because the strategy is suggesting is one that was tried in this election. Richard Mourdock actually tried this, even directly saying he respects people who differ from him, though obviously not enough to let them make their own personal choices. But despite his draping his belief that rapist sperm has more rights than you in flowery language, voters still grasped the misogyny behind it. I just don’t think they’re easily fooled on this.

The inability to understand just basic stuff about the voters also was in play when discussing Latino voters on Bill O’Reilly.

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While he said it in a roundabout way, it’s clear that O’Reilly thinks that the majority of Latino voters support a religiously controlled government that imposes Catholic teachings, especially around abortion, by fiat. You know, like in Ireland. But the data tells a much different story. Exit polls showed that Latino voters are actually more pro-choice than the public at large, with 66% of them supporting the pro-choice position compared to 59% of the overall voting public.

Of course, some pundits continued the strategy of simply insulting voters to their faces, hoping that’s how to convince them to switch sides. Fox’s Jesse Watters, for instance. This is how he described Obama voters.

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I do love how Fox endlessly trots out these hypotheticals about economy vs. abortion rights, when in fact the reality is that one can easily be good on both issues. Obama is good on both, in fact, and the boring reality is that he stopped a complete bleedout of jobs and turned the ship around. This isn’t an opinion, but an easily verifiable fact. I’m curious to get Watters in the same room with Jindal, so they can debate whether or not the best approach to breaking up the liberal coalition is to call them oversexed zombies, or pretend to respect them before acting like you think they’re a bunch of oversexed zombies. Should be interesting, since actually supporting policies people want is clearly off the table.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Mary Matalin cannot be as stupid as she seems edition. After last week’s near-meltdown, you’d think Mary Matalin would stop ranting about the evils of copay free contraception, but no.

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I love how she claims everyone should have equal opportunity and then immediately pretends that women’s opportunities aren’t affected by pregnancy and childbirth. Because what? Men can also get pregnant on accident and lose months and even years of work opportunities trying to catch up? Uh, if that’s so, they can get the free contraception, too. But the reality here is that few things are as important to women’s economic fortunes as controlling when they have babies, and contraception access is the most important piece of that.