North Carolina’s Shady Anti-Choice Law, and Selective Panic Over Childfree Women

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Changing gender norms

Pat McCrory and cookies

Lauren Sandler on CBS

Bill O’Reilly is really mad about some women having children

Fox News freaks out about TIME magazine’s ‘childfree’ cover article

Sandy Rios links homosexuality and rape


On this episode of Reality Cast, an experienced domestic violence prosecutor will explain her ideas for improving the justice system. North Carolina’s governor uses shady tactics to restrict abortion access, and the discourse over who and who doesn’t get to be a mother is very telling in this country.

Congrats to Margot Adler for a remarkably honest exploration of her knee-jerk reaction to efforts to be more flexible about gender identity, and how she changed her mind on NPR.

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He caused her to pause and really think about how, even though she’s getting a little older, progress keeps marching. It was a great story on how to learn to be flexible and compassionate instead of knee-jerk reactionary.


Pat McCrory was very clear during his campaign to be the governor of North Carolina on the subject of abortion: He was not going to sign any new abortion restrictions.

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Of course, on Monday, the now Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bunch of new abortion restrictions. He patted himself on the back for convincing Republicans in the state legislature to tone down the first bill and remove the requirement that abortion clinics meet surgical ambulatory center standards first, depriving North Carolina of the opportunity to spend millions in taxpayer dollars trying to get to the Supreme Court in order to get Roe v. Wade overturned. No, they’ll leave that to Texas. But that doesn’t mean these new abortion restrictions aren’t a straightforward example of McCrory breaking a major campaign promise. For one thing, they were attached to a motorcycle safety bill in order to minimize debate, no doubt because that always ends up giving the media more conservative politicians making jaw-droppingly misogynistic comments, usually about rape, to play on an endless loop on cable news. For another thing, even though the ambulatory surgical center thing was taken directly out of the bill, the new law allows the state health department to write up a bunch of unnecessary abortion regulations. It’s basically a way of getting the same thing done without McCrory being the face of it—the same thing happened in Virginia to avoid having the governor there, Bob McDonnell, be the face of the anti-choice movement.

Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL, explained on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show why McCrory went back on his campaign promise.

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Exactly. He never meant to keep it. But he knows how this looks, so he’s going to engage in all sorts of shenanigans and pretend that this is about women’s health. In a way, it’s even worse than directly breaking a campaign promise and just admitting that’s what you did. McCrory is breaking a campaign promise and then trying to come up with dishonest, sleazy reasons to pretend that’s not what he’s doing. Ilyse Hogue said as much:

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Once you understand that this entire bill is getting passed with a heavy dose of dishonesty and sleaze, you can understand McCrory’s odd behavior. Not just in him sending back the first bill and basically outlining what he needs in order to sign it, as if this were normal legislating and not tying anti-choice nonsense into other bills to minimize debate. Not just his public back-patting where he even went so far as to scold Republican legislators for not focusing on jobs while openly encouraging them to spend even more time rewriting an abortion bill so it could be something that accomplishes the same goals of shutting down clinics without him having to be directly responsible. It was the cookies that made me realize that this whole thing has instigated a string of bizarre McCrory behavior.

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Did he feel guilty? Probably not. The women he gave the cookies to seemed to think it was a kind of condescending gesture, mansplaining in the form of baked goods. I’m inclined to agree. It was quite nearly a head pat. As with Rick Perry’s attacks on Wendy Davis, there’s a tendency amongst anti-choice politicians to start treating pro-choice women like they’re mentally children in order to avoid having to deal with the fact that we are not stupid, not incapable of making our own decisions, and oh yeah, not going away.


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Eighteen percent of American women make it through their reproductive years without having children, a number that most commentators believe will probably rise, too. Lauren Sandler, a writer for TIME magazine, recently published a cover story about this phenomenon, specifically focusing on the subset that is likely to identify as “childfree,” that is people who don’t have children because they very much don’t want to, as opposed to people who have infertility issues or people who it just never happened for but might have done it if things had lined up properly for them. She was on CBS talking about her article, and it was some interesting stuff.

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Sandler has a book coming out about this very topic, which should be really interesting. Panic about declining birth rates, especially amongst white women, is a mainstay of the right wing media, because it provokes both their fears of women’s autonomy and a diversifying society, but the larger media mostly doesn’t talk about it that much, except when some right winger gets a toned down version of the race-and-gender panic type stuff into a mainstream media outlet, usually by playing it off as some vague concern about Social Security or whatever. Sandler is asked about these issues, but it seems her research gives her no reason to worry about declining birth rates, and a more sober-minded, less racist and less sexist view of the issue suggests that the benefits are immense and the drawbacks can actually be well managed. She’s more interested in what this means for women’s shifting identities, and again, she’s very optimistic for good reason.

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I will humbly suggest that right wingers who are mad about women having fewer or no children are not actually interested in Social Security or future labor markets so much as they are upset about exactly what Sandler is talking about here, which is how women’s ability to define themselves for themselves is growing with mandatory motherhood being taken out of the picture. Not just for childfree women, either—for women who do elect to be mothers, the fact that they got to make a choice means that they own that choice more than it owns them. The fact of the matter is the same conservatives who whine that women aren’t having enough children often turn around and shame a specific subset of American women, Black women, for having children. Like Bill O’Reilly here.

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So, if the topic is mothers who aren’t legally married, especially if they’re Black, the message is don’t have children and you’re a terrible person for having children. If you’re a white woman in the middle class, the message is that you need to be having more children. Indeed, that’s exactly what happened on Fox News, where Tucker Carlson absolutely freaked out at the possibility that privileged women who have disposable income might not want to have children.

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Mike Huckabee actually said that he doesn’t think everyone should be having children, though he snottily implied that who and who shouldn’t have children is dependent on political and religious beliefs, which we can understand means he thinks white conservatives should have more and everyone else should have way fewer. Alisyn Camerota specifically singled out Kim Kardashian, who recently had a baby with Kanye West, as someone who shouldn’t have had a child, which should definitely make your eyebrows go up considering the underlying racial anxieties that feed this conservative obsession with controlling who and who doesn’t have children. Needless to say, there was no discussion on Fox about empowering women to make these choices for themselves through contraception and abortion access.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, biggest stretch possibly of all time edition. No, really. In a discussion about how gay claims to be in love don’t count, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association and a frequent Fox News commentator tried to link the crimes of Ariel Castro with homosexuality.

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On top of the just obvious awfulness here, it’s also a straight up lie. I watched that entire Ariel Castro excuse-making speech and he never said he loved his victims, just implied that they weren’t as victimized as they claimed. But at the end of the day, this shows once again that conservatives don’t understand the concept of consent, that they would conflate two people choosing each other freely with a man who kidnaps and repeatedly rapes women.