On this episode of Reality Cast, Jessica Arons of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project will be on to discuss generic emergency contraception access. CPAC is, yet again, a wonder of misogyny and sex-phobia. Also, the pressure intensifies on the state level to end legal access to abortion.
I’ll be covering this more later in the show, but our own Andrea Grimes has been doing a series of videos covering the end of rural access to legal abortion in Texas, and this one covered a candlelight vigil to mark the loss of the last two rural clinics in the state.
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Never forget that it is the poorest and most isolated women in the country that are being targeted the hardest by laws like this. The wealthy and well-connected people who pass these laws know how to keep safe abortion available to themselves while grand-standing using the rights of others.
Ah, the Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC. I get nearly as excited for it as the conservatives it panders to, because I know that in all that pandering, how the right really thinks about a whole bunch of issues will come spilling out. The feigned concern for embryonic life, the hypocritical poses about how contraception is supposedly an assault on religious freedom? All set aside for some red meat for the crowd, some blatant misogyny and sex-phobia of the sort they tend to refrain from uttering in more mainstream circles for fear of the backlash. And this year’s, as most year’s, did not disappoint. Sarah Palin was a big hit with her bashing liberals for being meanies and criticizing awful things that bigots say, because Palin is rock certain that criticizing bigots is the same thing as depriving them of their freedom of speech. She heavily employed misogyny in riling the crowd up, using imagery of women’s clothes to make it clear that liberals are feminine and therefore objects of mockery, with all their girly ways.
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Panties, check. Is there another female-identified piece of clothing she could invoke to show that liberals are like ladies, which is insulting because being a woman is the worst thing you could be? Of course there was!
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Setting aside her blatant dishonesty, since Palin is the queen and master of taking offensive at the most minor things. She has never sucked it up in her life, seriously. But she basically pretends liberals were mad at the Duck Dynasty guy since he mentioned Jesus. In reality, what he did was basically deny that segregation caused any real harm. Palin claims he was just expressing his faith with his anti-gay comments, to which I will quote what he said directly: “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus.” She claims his comments were perfectly defensible, but for some reason, she refrained from repeating them. It’s cowardly, for sure, but her audience is too busy yukking it up at her repeated claims that liberals are just a bunch of stupid girly girls with their stupid girl clothes like panties and skirts and aren’t girls just awful and forget that she never quoted the comments she’s defending. She then went on, no big surprise, to deny that there’s any reason to believe that there’s a war on women. Apparently only stupid girls in their stupid girl skirts would think a stupid girl thing like that.
Of course, most conservative leaders are smart about hinting at certain narratives while maintaining plausible deniability, such as making snotty jokes about how sex is naughty without coming right out and directly stating a belief that people who have sex are bad people who need to be punished. But Ann Coulter is always on hand for the dumber members of the crowd, who may not understand all this hinting around and need someone to spell it out for them.
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Of course, the funny thing is that rich conservatives like Ann Coulter actually spend tons and tons and tons of time lecturing people not to have sex and shaming people, especially poor people, for having it. Indeed, they probably spend more time on the task of trying to spread sexual shame, especially the message that sex is okay for rich people but not for poor people, than any other message. But it doesn’t work. That’s because, despite what Coulter implies here, poor people are not just stupid ciphers who sit around waiting for instructions from rich people. They are individual human beings who can see quite clearly that the Ann Coulters of the world who are telling us that sex for fun is a luxury that belongs only to the rich are terrible people and you should not listen to them and their elitist, terrible, sex-negative, misogynist ways.
There was a minority outreach panel at CPAC, which was unsurprisingly sparsely attended. Which is too bad, since the panelists were smart about pandering to the racists who want to minimize the evils of things like slavery and Jim Crow and instead pretend that basic human rights are the real problem.
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That was a man named Elroy Sailor, and he definitely knows how to pander to a mostly white, extremely misogynist audience. But, as usual with these attempts to make racial hay out of abortion rights, the implication here is utterly and completely insulting to Black women, as what Sailor and people like him are saying is that Black women making personal reproductive health-care choices are a problem. That excludes Black women who have abortions from the category “Black people,” to be blunt, and is deeply offensive. The reason, incidentally, why the abortion rate is higher amongst Black women [compared to white women in the United States] is that the unintended pregnancy rate is higher amongst Black women. The solution for that is to make health care more accessible to all people, but clearly not a solution that the people at CPAC want to hear.
Sadly, things continue to look grim on the anti-abortion front. Alabama passed a series of laws last year that, like the ones in Texas, were a bunch of medically unnecessary regulations on abortion clinics that had no other purpose but to shut clinics down. However, unlike in Texas, the courts in Alabama correctly recognized that passing medically unnecessary regulations that only serve to shut down safe, legal clinics constitutes an “undue burden” on abortion. Undeterred, Alabama lawmakers decided to give up, for now, on regulations aimed at clinics and start passing more bills that are aimed more at women seeking abortions, and finding ways to shame them and deny them their rights directly.
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It’s worth remembering that what anti-choicers call a “heartbeat” really shouldn’t be understood by reality-based people as a heartbeat. There’s a primitive circulatory system that creates a beating sound at 6 weeks, but the muscle development we think of as a “heart” is not there until 20 weeks. Just another example of how anti-choicers like to pretend there’s more there than there is in order to agitate people. Indeed, the woman behind this bill, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, is a big fan of insinuating that a tiny embryo that’s removed in a first-trimester abortion is the same size and development of a full-term baby.
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Basically, anti-choicers want you to imagine women having fully-formed babies removed right before birth, which just doesn’t happen. At 6 weeks, which is when this bill would ban abortion, it’s not even really considered a fetus so much as an embryo, and it’s about the size of an uncooked lentil. If the biggest, uh, organ in a woman’s body is no bigger than a lentil, then how would a woman eat a lentil? Mysteries abound.
This Alabama law would also require that teenagers who want abortions procure their birth certificates and permission from parents that is notarized, all of which is basically a way to ban abortions for nearly all teenagers. And to humiliate those who are lucky enough to have these resources by involving a third party. The notion that abortion is somehow worse for teenagers doesn’t make sense if you believe that it’s about “life,” but it makes perfect sense if your main objective is to control female sexuality and you find it doubly infuriating that teenage girls choose sex.
Indeed, the most remarkable thing about the ongoing state-level assaults on abortion clinics is how, at every turn, the justification for the new laws is always, without fail, a lie. Like this new bill in Nebraska.
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Basically, the lie that is underpinning this law is the widespread anti-choice claim that women don’t ever really want abortions, and that they get them because they’re being forced or because they’re too stupid to know their own minds. Are there women who end up in abortion clinics when they don’t want to be there because they have people pressuring them? Absolutely, though it’s far less common than anti-choicers claim. But clinics have counselors who are there to talk it out with women and discover any coercion. The signs, then, serve no other purpose but to imply, falsely, that clinics themselves are coercing women and to make women in the waiting rooms feel more anxiety and dread. It’s punishing women just to punish them.
But most of these challenges to abortion rights are getting tied up in court or will eventually be tied up in court. Because of the conservative-controlled Fifth Circuit Court, a draconian abortion law in Texas was permitted to be enforced while the lawsuits go through. The result is now the end of all rural access to abortion in Texas.
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If you want an abortion now in Texas, you have to drive to a major city of 400,000 residents or more to get one. Or you can turn to the proliferation of ulcer drugs that are sold over-the-counter in Mexico, an option that more and more women appear to be turning to.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, the logical next step in the conservative “war on health care” edition. After stoking lies about abortion, contraception, and health-care reform, is it any surprise that right-wing media is trying to drum up paranoia about vaccination? Rush Limbaugh spoke at length with an anti-vaccination nut.
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Rush Limbaugh screens very heavily, and so his show did not need to let a woman who was spreading lies about vaccinations that would discourage vaccination onto his show. That he let her speak at length and spread the lie that the vaccination schedule is some kind of government oppression for the purposes of I don’t know, evil? The point is to make people paranoid, and sacrificing the public health for that is apparently no big deal.