Polygamy Decriminalized, Rape and College Football, and Insurance Abortion Bans

Related Links

Rob Ford wins for weirdest public statement from an official this year

Chris Hayes explains “rape insurance”

Sen. Gretchen Whitmer talks about her rape

Polygamy decriminalized in Utah

Facts on the Utah cohabitation case

Tony Perkins throws a fit over cohabitation case

Limbaugh thinks women are “intrigued” by leering


On this episode of Reality Cast, Jessica Luther will be on to talk about the Jameis Winston rape allegations and what it all means for college football. Michigan becomes the latest state to ban private insurance coverage of abortion, and what does it actually mean that Utah decriminalized polygamy?

Happy holidays to you and yours! I’ll be taking next week off for the holidays, but will be back after the start of the new year. So I’d like to take this moment to play a clip of the most bizarre ladypart-related political moment all year that I didn’t get a chance to cover on this show. Bizarre Toronto mayor Rob Ford, while giving a statement denying allegations that he had sexually harassed colleagues, thought it wise to say this.

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Well, if you’re going to make glib denials of serious accusations, might as well go all the way.


Because of all the other attacks on abortion rights and contraception access, the creep of states that have decided to ban you from using your own money to purchase health insurance that covers abortion has gone relatively uncovered. That is a shame, because as I argued two weeks ago at Rewire, the claim that because some people who pay for insurance with a company disapprove of abortion should mean no one gets coverage is an alarming precedent. I won’t go into it at length, but suffice it to say, if that’s true for insurance, it can be true for other businesses, such as anti-choicers arguing that banks should be banned from letting abortion providers hold accounts. Reminder, folks: Abortion is legal in America. Sometimes I think our legislators forget.

Michigan is the latest in a long list of states that has passed some kind of ban on insurance coverage for abortion. Most of them only ban it in plans that are sold over the health care exchanges, but Michigan, like 8 other states, bans it for all insurance plans.

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So why is Michigan getting so much coverage when other states were able to get away with this more quietly? A big part of the reason is the amount of effort that anti-choicers put into passing this law. In other states that passed it, they had Republican governors who were happy to sign the law. In Michigan, however, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed the law, and the only reason it is becoming law is they managed to get a citizen’s petition to override his veto. Part of his reason was that he understood the terrible implications of just straight up banning people from having private financial interactions regarding legal medical procedures, but he also mentioned the rape angle.

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Indeed, the “rape insurance” angle has been the popular one for opponents of this bill, because the phrase is shocking and it also drives home how ridiculous it is to expect people to get a separate insurance for a single medical procedure. It also helps drive home how we really can’t plan for every eventuality, and yes, bad things happen to good people. That’s why Sen. Gretchen Whitmer highlighted her own experiences as a rape survivor in her speech objecting to overriding Gov. Snyder’s veto to make this into a law.

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I’m really on the fence about this framing. On one hand, it’s very important to remind people that abortion is not something that women generally plan for, and rape-related abortions do drive that home. However, most abortions are not due to rape. We always run the danger with framings like “rape insurance” of suggesting that the only people who “deserve” their abortions are those who didn’t make the active choice to have sex, as if making a choice to have sex means you lose your basic human rights. It also allows our opponents to get away with their behavior by simply adding rape exceptions that are usually unenforceable anyway, as cover. It’s not a framing I use, for this reason. A woman who had consensual sex and realizes she’s pregnant and really just can’t be is no less deserving of her abortion than a woman who was raped. I don’t like pitting those two categories of women against each other. I know people who use the “rape insurance” framing aren’t trying to do that, but I fear it’s the effect. Maybe I’m wrong and talking about rape opens up people’s minds to all the various ways your life can turn south super quick and you might need help. But for now, I think the better way to frame it is how Chris Hayes did in the second clip I played, as an attempt by anti-choicers to basically outlaw abortion without directly outlawing it, by chipping away at the financial transactions, from Medicaid coverage that was banned in 1976 to this new attempt to ban private transactions that help pay for abortion. That is the real story here.


Most of the time, legal decisions striking down unjust and frankly sex-phobic laws are the result of lawsuits brought by pretty liberal people: Feminists, gay rights activists, that sort of thing. Which is why it’s kind of unusual to see people who are not only conservative but believe openly in a very gender restrictive patriarchy are just the latest plantiffs in yet another case tearing down a law that should have been struck from the books decades ago.

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This was the correct decision. Yes, Mormon fundamentalists have nauseatingly retrograde views of marriage and women and believe that women are a subservient sex and housework class put here to serve men. But so do a lot of other monogamous fundamentalist Christians, and we don’t arrest them for it. The case hinged on one question and one question only: Can consenting adults who aren’t legally married live together and have sex if they want? All other questions are noise, since the polygamists in this case aren’t applying for multiple marriage licenses. The families that sued are families where all the second and third and fourth wives are consenting adults and they aren’t legally married to the husband. So really, they are just cohabitating, and that’s the only issue at stake here. The polygamous families where men are having sex with underage girls or there are coerced marriages will still be prosecuted under various criminal statutes involving sexual and domestic violence.

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The critical thing to remember here is that Utah is one of the few states in the country that criminalizes it if a married couple has other sexual partners living with them. Since the polygamous families being targeted in Utah aren’t legally married, it was actually a ban on cohabitation that was being overturned here. Prior to this lawsuit, only four states in the country had a ban on cohabitation. Now it’s down to three. Unsurprisingly, Rick Santorum, who is a big fan of laws that regulate what consenting adults can do in their own bedrooms, threw a massive fit on Twitter.

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Well, yes. But that’s good. We should not be throwing people in jail for having adulterous sex, something that statistics say like a quarter to half of people do at some point in their lives. It’s worth noting, too, that Rick Santorum’s wife was cohabitating for years in her relationship prior to her marriage to him. Does he really want to go on the record saying his wife should be doing time for her supposed crime? It’s important to make a distinction between behavior you may disapprove of, including cheating, and behavior that should be illegal. I don’t love religious polygamy, but throwing people in jail for it is not only a violation of their rights as consenting adults, but it also seems like a piss-poor idea. Polygamous families are not made healthier or stronger by throwing the children’s caretakers in jail.

For some reason, CNN thought it advisable to invite notorious homobigot Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council on to share his opinion.

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Worth pointing out that the Bible that Perkins loves so dearly actually has plenty of plural marriage in it. Lots and lots of Biblical patriarchs had multiple wives. But he’s not wrong to say there’s a progression here, in that it’s true that once we decide that consenting adults who aren’t harming anyone else should be able to have sex when and how they like with other consenting adults. But he’s absolutely wrong to say that’s a bad thing. It’s a great thing. It’s a waste of resources to attack people because you don’t like the way they have sex, which is none of your business anyway. Indeed, it’s worth reiterating that the law he wants Utah to keep does not exist in 46, now 47 states. And yet somehow the world continues not to end just because consenting adults live together without being legally married.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Rush Limbaugh continues to extol the virtues of sexual harassment edition. After he claimed that liberals are trying to outlaw men looking at women, he then basically argued that babies can’t be made unless men grossly leer at women to make them uncomfortable. And then this:

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I don’t really believe that Rush thinks women love it when they see him leering at them like some yahoo who has never seen women before. Indeed, the claim that procreation could never happen without men harassing and leering at women is the exact opposite of my experience. Women are generally repulsed by men who leer and say nasty things, and we are much more into men who are charming and know how to do things like flirt with you. Going to dinner with a man who stars slack-jawed at your boobs all night is not a woman’s idea of a fun date. Conversation and subtle building of sexual tension is how, in the real world, men actually win women over.