Arizona’s Race-Baiting Abortion Law, and the Texas Fight Continues

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‘Gynaetician’ parody video

Sarah Slamen on Bill Maher

Texas facing lawsuits

HPV vaccine conference

George Will loses it


On this episode of Reality Cast, Miriam Yeung will be on to talk about fighting back against a stigmatizing and stereotyping law in Arizona. Texas women aren’t giving up the abortion battle, and there’s been major setbacks in the expansion of the HPV vaccine.

David Cross and Amber Tamblyn have a new comedy video out. Set-up: A woman goes to her doctor and finds that he won’t prescribe her birth control, completely objects to the very concept of an abortion, and prescribes getting married for cramps. She gets upset.

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Yep, that’s about right. Check out the whole thing!


The new Texas law designed to shut down most of the abortion clinics in the state and make getting an abortion prohibitively expensive has, sadly, passed into law, but that doesn’t mean that Texas pro-choicers have given up the fight. Sarah Slamen is the woman who rose to national prominence after a video went viral featuring her getting dragged out of the Texas legislature for daring to point out that politicians don’t know more than doctors about how to provide health care. She went on Bill Maher’s show to get interviewed, and even though she’s basically a private citizen who does activist work but isn’t a professional activist, she had the grace and charisma of someone who is well-practiced at this kind of advocacy.

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This is a part of all this that I think frustrates a lot of us, especially those of us from Texas, where I am from originally. There’s a tendency in much of the media to misunderstand how powerful a state Texas is and how it really can set a national agenda to move this country to the right. It’s really a numbers game. Smaller red states can pass all sorts of anti-choice laws, but they tend to get tied up in the courts. Texas, however, has a huge population and oil money, so it has a heftier tax base, and that in turn means they can throw more tax money at defending these kinds of laws. Also, because they are bigger, it’s easier for the legislature to represent their views as mainstream, even though they don’t actually represent the mainstream of Texas, much less like the mainstream of the entire country. As Slamen points out, they only really represent the views of primary voters in Republican districts, and that’s it. But they run a huge, diverse state and where they go, so goes the nation.

She went on to make it very clear to Bill Maher, who seems to struggle with accepting that this is a “war on women,” that it is very much about that first and foremost.

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With that out of the way, they had a really productive conversation that touched on some of the class and race dynamics that play into this, though I do wish they’d spoken more about how these kinds of laws really hurt low income women more than those who can afford to travel out of state.

Rage and rhetoric are all well and good, but what are the practical steps that can be taken in order to keep this horrible law from going into effect? Well, there’s always the courts. States have to prove that their restrictions don’t present an undue burden on access, and there’s a number of solid arguments to show that Texas’ new law doesn’t meet the standards.

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The admitting privileges thing didn’t get past the courts in Mississippi, ultimately, because it’s like requiring your dentist to have admitting privileges. Admitting privileges are for doctors who routinely see patients they think could benefit from hospitalization or who need surgery with overnight stays. Abortion providers never have any need for either kind of prescription. In the rare case that there’s a complication that requires a hospital visit, as with dentists, presenting at the emergency room is the best solution. But that’s super rare, for both dentists and abortion doctors. The ambulatory surgical center requirement is also ripe for a lawsuit.

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Most of the restrictions start in the fall, and the ambulatory surgical center one next year. I fully expect that they’ll get tangled up in the courts before they can go into effect. The only hope here is that the courts rule correctly and the Supreme Court decides to uphold prior rulings and refuse to even hear reversals of the holds that are probably coming under the current legal parameters.


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HPV vaccination rates are a fascinating area to watch if you’re interested in the fight to improve people’s use and understanding of science, because the resistance to these vaccines sits at the intersection of two kinds of anti-science movements: The anti-choice movement that engages in magical thinking about what sex is about and the anti-vaccine movement that is generally hostile to preventive health care. The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] had a telebriefing last Monday about the new data on the HPV vaccine, and while there is good news, there’s a lot to concern people who worry about the wide streak of science-hostility in our culture. The director of the CDC had some opening remarks outlining the good news, but also the areas of concern.

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The better than expected reduction in HPV rates despite the relatively low vaccination rates is exactly the sort of thing that makes vaccination such an awesome health care innovation … and why it’s so troubling that we’re not seeing more girls getting vaccinated. Vaccines work, not just because they offer protection to the vaccinated person, but also because they keep her from passing along the virus to others. Sadly, however, there’s a lot of others, too many for all them to be free riders who benefit from others being vaccinated.

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This is incredibly troubling, because it’s just so completely out of the norm for what you can expect when it comes to vaccination rates. It’s the sort of thing that demands an explanation, and they were quickly able to rule out the possibility that it was just that teenagers don’t go to the doctor as much as younger children, because teenagers go enough that if they were being treated properly, they would be at 93 percent for completing all three vaccinations, and not at the shockingly low 33 percent number that they are at. So they did some research and found two major reasons that I suspect are related that there [are] low rates.

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Part of this is that doctors can be not as good as they should be about working vaccination discussions into visits. If the vaccine is on a patient’s schedule and they’re there for a regular checkup, then I think it’s easier for doctors to prompt the discussion. But doctors also need to double check vaccination records when patients come in with twisted ankles or because they have a cold. You may not be able to vaccinate right at that moment, but you’ve prompted the patient’s parents and may even be able to schedule them to come back for a vaccination, especially now that under the HHS [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] guidelines, vaccinations are free for those who have insurance. But unfortunately there’s another reason, and you probably guessed it: Right wing anti-sex propaganda is scaring parents.

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Part of the problem is right wing propaganda about how this vaccine is “permission” to have sex, which the scientific evidence shows is simply false. But I think another part of is that our culture has this weird phenomenon where parents are expected to just generally oppose the idea of their daughters having sex well into adulthood, even though intellectually we know that’s ridiculous. I’m not talking about opposing 11- and 12-year-olds having sex, or even high school students, but there’s this sense that if you ever accept your daughter’s sexuality, then you’re a bad parent somehow. For instance, the most recent scare story about “hook-up culture” in the New York Times took it as a given that parents would be upset at the idea that legal adults at age 18 [or] 19—even 21 or 22—are having sex. There [are] still perennial jokes about dads meeting dates with shotguns, the idea being that older adolescents and even grown women are being preyed upon if they elect to have sex. I think that pressure to always be opposed to your daughter’s sexuality, at least until she’s old enough to marry, is what’s at the heart of this. We need to work on that, and start to expect parents to be realistic and supportive of the fact that all people—even their actual daughters!—will become sexually active and usually well before they’re 30 or even 22 years old. And that they need to be prepared for that eventuality.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, single mothers are to blame for everything edition. George Will got on what was clearly a barely concealed race-baiting rant blaming, uh, “culture” for Detroit’s bankruptcy, and not economic collapse.

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What is this “culture”, you speak of, George? Does Detroit have a different culture than the rest of the country? Are they watching different shows, eating different food, listening to different music? No, and clearly some of the problems he’s discussing, such as literacy rates, uh, go back to the fact that Detroit doesn’t have enough money to pay for stuff like schools. As for single mothers, I hardly think mass marriage [is] going to set Detroit back on its feet, but I do love how everyone who rails about single mothers often turns around and opposes access to the tools women can use to delay childbirth until they’re ready to marry.