Mandatory Ultrasound Bills Everywhere, and the Continued Fight Over Contraception

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Tara Culp-Ressler about the surge of transvaginal ultrasound bills in the states. Also, more on the reaction to the contraception mandate clarification and a segment on why it’s important not to victim-blame Rihanna.

Laci Green has a video out chronicling what life was before Roe v. Wade. 

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 She also recounts how class determined back then how safe an abortion you could get, with privileged women getting quiet abortions from doctors and poor women going to back alley providers.


So last week, I reported on the newly clarified HHS regulations regarding contraception, which laid out how the administration plans to make sure that nearly all women will have their contraception covered by their insurance while carving out exceptions so non-profit religious organizations don’t have to pay for directly if they don’t want to. The non-profits were hiding behind the moral taint of having to “pay” for non-procreative sex, even though the benefits are earned benefits held by the employees, meaning that the groups were not paying for them so much as the employees were. I argued that the Catholic authorities, especially the Conference of Catholic Bishops, would reject this clarification for one simple reason: This was never about religious liberty, moral taint, or money. It was about separating women from their contraception and any policy that addressed their stated concerns about money but allowed women to access contraception through insurance would be rejected.

I was right, according to the new report by NPR.  They explained how much religious entities are not being required to pay for contraception.

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So this must be very, very clear by now: They are not paying for contraception. They weren’t in the first place, but now they’ve got so much distance between their health care dollars and the eventual use of contraception that the claim that they’re going to get some slut taint by women spending their earned health care dollars the employer released to them is even more ridiculous. There is simply no way on God’s green earth that this is about religious liberty, except insofar as employers want to deprive employees of the religious liberty to choose their own contraception. So that leaves only one remaining objection, which is that they believe that if you work for them, they get to have a vote in your private reproductive and sexual decisions.

And now they’re basically admitting that. 

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In other words, they simply believe they get veto power over how employees spend their compensation. If they could find an easy legal way to prevent employees from spending their checks on contraception, they’d clearly try for that, too, but in the meantime, they’re going to force you to pay twice over for your contraception, once when you earned it by working and again because they want to force you not to use your earned benefits on contraception. And yes, I mean twice. Since the insurance you’re paying for with your cash and labor covers contraception, by forcing the insurance companies not to cover you, they are forcing you to pay for a benefit that you will be forced not to receive. Lots of force to force their religious beliefs on you!

The opt-out thing is clearly some political nonsense set up to imply people are required to use contraception if they don’t want. There’s already an opt-out clause. If you don’t want to use contraception, you opt out by simply not getting a prescription for it. Easy.

That this is about giving employers control over employees was also made clear by this.

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So they’re saying that secular employers should be able to withhold benefits earned by employees because they disapprove of their employees’ sex lives. This has nothing to do with religion, except the word is being tossed around a lot to confuse the issue. This is about a bunch of misogynist employers who think, because you work for them, your sexual and reproductive lives belong to them. If they get their way on this, they will absolutely look for new avenues to meddle with your private life, because this is about power and control, and not religion.


Insert interview


So Rihanna has gotten back together with Chris Brown.  I feel almost bad recapping the whole story, since even those of you who have never even heard a song by either of them probably know the story, but in case you haven’t, here goes: Four years ago at a pre-Grammy party, the two, who were dating, got into a fight in the car. During this fight, according to the Los Angeles police report, Brown tried to force Rihanna out of  a moving vehicle, but deterred by her seat belt, he shoved her head against a passenger window, punched her in the eye with his left hand, and then kept driving while punching with his right hand. She was sent to the hospital with a swollen, bruised and bleeding face. She broke up with him shortly thereafter, but for the past year or so has teasing out a reconciliation, first calling him a friend, then doing a song with him, then taking pictures of him in her bed and now this. 

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Showing up and canoodling at the Grammies is an overt act of symbolism of the absolutely creepiest kind, because both of them missed the 2009 Grammies because of the beating. Indeed, one can imagine what a power trip it must be for an abusive man like Brown to get his victim to snuggle with him at a party that he forced her to miss because her injuries at his hands were that bad. That kind of symbolic domination is exactly the kind of thing that abusers love, because it makes them feel like they have total control over their victim. Indeed, this is far from the only public display of Rihanna’s devotion to Brown, a devotion that is publicly being displayed in such a way to draw attention to the beating and how much she supposedly doesn’t seem to hold him accountable for it. 

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There are two ways to deal with seeing something as upsetting as a woman who has been the victim of such serious abuse completely forgive and try to exonerate the man who beat her. There’s the way I prefer, which is to use this opportunity to educate yourself and others about the realities of domestic violence, and how the abusers manipulate and guilt trip their victims until the victims are suffering from low self-esteem and feel that only the abuser can validate them. Often an abuser will tell his victim that he’s the only one who really understands her and that everyone else just doesn’t understand their love, and she should therefore trust him and treat everyone else like the enemy. The displays of affection that would seem over the top even for a non-abusive couple are part of this whole thing of creating the illusion that it’s an abuser and his victim against the world. For victims, getting away from the emotionally warped world the abuser has created for them is incredibly hard to do, which is why victims usually return a number of times before escaping, and why prosecutors usually have to create cases against abusers knowing the victims will resist attempts to put their abusers in jail.

Or you could just blame the victim and pretend that’s feminism, which is what Lena Dunham did on Alec Baldwin’s show.

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This was really disappointing to me, because Dunham’s show “Girls” has shown a remarkably nuanced understanding of how women are socialized to defer to men and how women who judge other women for it often are themselves deferring to some man who is power tripping on them. While none of her characters are being beaten, she often shows them putting up with men stepping all over boundaries and manipulating them, and doing so precisely because women are trained from the cradle to defer to male authority. Abuse victims stay with their abusers for the same reason that the characters on “Girls” stay with men who deliberately play mind games with them or stay with men who, as in one episode, lock them in an inescapable room full of horrible images for hours while calling it “art” or stay with men who are clear that they will treat you like a masturbation toy instead of a partner in bed: Because women are told over and over again in a multitude of ways that if we stand up for ourselves, we’ll be shrewish bitches and no one will ever love us ever again. In fact, abusers often tell victims no one else will ever love them ever again, and because our society is so hateful to women, it’s easy for victims to fall for this line.

Which is why blaming Rihanna is such a bad idea: You are telling her and every abuse victim overhearing it that you agree with the abuser that the victim is bad and unworthy of love. Which, in turn, makes it hard for the victim to leave, because she sees you shaking your head at her and thinks, “Gosh, he’s right that everyone else hates me and he’s the only shot at love I’ll ever have. 

It’s worth remembering the man interviewing Dunham was the same guy who left this message for his daughter on her voice mail. 

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Now, calling a 12-year-old girl a “pig” because she doesn’t want to talk to you—gosh, hard to see why!—isn’t the same thing as beating your girlfriend to a pulp. But it’s still abusive nonsense. I don’t judge Dunham for doing the interview instead of refusing because of some ambiguous duty to be a role model. We all make our compromises. But she should be more forgiving of the fact that the choice to leave an abusive boyfriend is a lot harder than the choice to boycott an interviewer that is known to call his daughter a “pig”, and consider that before she starts throwing stones.  


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, oh boy it’s prom time again. And prom planning means, inevitably, people who want to use the prom as a chance to exclude and bully gay kids. In this case, it’s an Indiana high school that has a group trying to plan a separate prom that excludes gay kids. Here’s one teacher, defending it by saying gays have no purpose in life. 

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How someone can be a teacher and so cruel to their students is beyond me. I will say it’s funny that people are claiming to do this out of Christian concerns about immorality. Because all the fornicating and drinking that straight students do at prom is apparently super moral, as long as it’s straight people.