Five Years After Tiller’s Murder, and Sex Education Freak-Out Season Begins

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On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Jill Filipovic about the potential end of most abortion access in the South. It’s been five years since Dr. George Tiller was murdered, and things have grown worse in many ways since then. Also, it’s summertime, which means freaking out about sex education season is here!

Some good news, however, for the top of the show. One beach in South Virginia has decided to take the problem of sexual harassment of women seriously.

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So often people throw their hands up and say nothing can be done about sexual harassment, so it’s nice to see that not everyone gives up that easily.


Last week, I devoted an entire episode to the misogyny-inspired shootings around the University of California in Santa Barbara campus. There was a lot of debate over whether or not that kind of act should be understood as an act of terrorism. I fall generally on the side of yes, since, as our interviewee pointed out last week, being radicalized through unofficial communities can be just as serious as being radicalized through more organized forms. Indeed, I would argue that this may be the wave of the future for a lot of terrorist organizations: instead of recruiting people directly, just blanket people with hostile rhetoric that dehumanizes your target and let lone actors figure it out for themselves. Not only is it cost effective, but it shields you from any legal responsibility since you never directly prompted the terrorist to act. This is how the Boston marathon bombing happened. And it is also how a lot of anti-choice terrorism happens. Last week was the fifth anniversary of the most violent anti-choice terrorism the community had experienced in a decade.

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His murderer, a man named Scott Roeder, was apprehended and eventually sentenced to fifty years in prison. Roeder definitely had been in communication with other anti-choice activists, but no one else was ever put on trial for conspiracy. That may very well be because no one actually conspired with Roeder, as hard as it may be to believe. Like the Boston bombers or Elliot Rodger, it might just be a situation where someone radicalized himself simply by exposing himself to hateful and dehumanizing rhetoric and was able to put the pieces together himself.

The frustrating thing about all this is that terrorism, it seems, is surprisingly effective in many cases. Sometimes it creates a backlash, but what has happened in the years after Dr. Tiller’s murder is the conservative movement has decided to double down on the very ugliness and misogyny that led Roeder to act in the first place. The result? All out war on abortion clinics in a blatant attempt to wipe out access in red states in this country. Red states like Kansas, where Dr. Tiller worked.

Melissa Harris-Perry reports:

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She goes on to add that some doctors have tried to get admitting privileges, only to have hospitals turn them down because, and this is one of those things that will make you bananas, hospitals can’t or won’t extend admitting privileges to doctors who don’t use them. Since abortion is incredibly safe, abortion doctors have no cause to admit patients. In addition, some places where hospitals do extend those privileges are getting threatened by anti-choicers. That’s right. Anti-choicers are trying to keep doctors from meeting requirements that they themselves set. No, it’s not a surprise. But that’s because we’re dealing with a radicalized, misogynistic movement that employs legal abuse, harassment, lies, and yes, terrorism to get its way. I’ll have Jill Filipovic on during the interview segment to talk about it more.

But while the Tiller family understandably had to close the clinic in Kansas after Dr. Tiller’s death, another woman has come in and rebuilt another clinic in the same building.

NPR reports:

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Unfortunately for Julie Burkhart, antis are furious that the act of terrorism they claim to have had nothing to do with didn’t work to wipe abortion out of Wichita.

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There’s a lot of reasons that abortion access is disappearing. Lawmakers attack it. People in the press demonize it. But we must remember that these lawmakers and other conservatives who routinely demonize abortion, women who have it, and doctors who provide it, are quietly depending on the harassment campaigns, threats, and outright terrorism of the radicalized people on the ground to help get them to their goal of driving abortion underground, where women have to feel ashamed and even unsafe in getting it.




School’s out, which means it’s the time of year that schools start floating their policies, especially sex education policies, for next year. Which means it’s our annual season for the struggle between those of us who accept that human beings will grow up and develop an interest in sex and those who reject thousands of years of evidence to say that as long as there’s no sex ed in schools, kids will never develop an interest in sex.

This struggle is kicking up in Oregon, where one school district decided to make condoms available to students in high school and middle school. The headlines, of course, focused on the sixth graders at the middle school, to maximize panic, but the administrators at the school defended the decision with wisdom.

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It’s important to understand that they aren’t putting them in gift baskets for kids, but are responding to student demand. There’s zero evidence out there that condoms encourage kids to have sex, but plenty of evidence to suggest that condom access does encourage kids who are having sex already to protect themselves. But what struck me was how the explanations for why the sex ed and condoms should be there are always so articulate and thoughtful and reasonable, whereas the arguments against it range from knee-jerk thoughtlessness to out and out idiocy. Like this woman they dug up to oppose the policy.

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She can’t explain why she’s against it. She just is. Great. Some argument there. I don’t really understand this way of thinking. If you can’t muster a defense of your position, then shouldn’t that tell you that perhaps you should rethink your position? That you could, in fact, be wrong? There’s a lot of subjects where you get this reactionary “nuh-uh!” defense, but I find with sex ed and contraception distribution, it’s often worse than usual with people doing things like waving off the immense amount of research in favor to claim that being the parent of one or more children makes them more of an expert than all those researchers, who themselves are also usually parents.

Of course, not that opponents of sex ed or contraception distribution really come off any better if they do try to make arguments. That much became clear when Marjorie Holsten, a homeschooling Christian right activist, caught the public attention again this week when Right Wing Watch nabbed an interview with Holsten where she tried to argue that sex ed is tied to right wing paranoia about Common Core and just general conspiracy theories regarding the Democrats.

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You hear the word “desensitized” a lot in right-wing circles when trying to argue against sex ed, but it’s really unclear what they mean by it. It seems the fear is that if you think about sex too often, you’re going to want it more, which would actually be the opposite of desensitizing, but whatever. Clearly the fear here is that if you like sex too much, you’re going to be too busy humping a lot of people to be married. The social science shows the opposite, of course, demonstrating that people who date around and marry later in life tend to have more stable marriages. Also, blue states that vote Democratic tend to have lower divorce rates than red states that shun sex education and lean Republican. So if there’s some kind of master plan here to get votes by destroying marriage, they are doing it all wrong, since the policies Holsten hates actually are correlated with stronger, healthier marriages. But also higher rates of voting Democratic, so I have no idea what she’s on about.

But she’s such a strange character that even the Daily Show had to get in on the action.

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Conservative sex ed in a nutshell: Sex ed without any real information, no talk about safety or human relationships at all, and leaving kids far more confused than they were before they started. Sorry if I think there must be a better way.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Bill O’Reilly knows nothing about human beings and how they operate edition. O’Reilly, using incredibly offensive language to describe transgender people, floated what might be the dumbest speculation I’ve ever been privy to outside of a blog comments section.

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In the real world, around real human beings, you’ll find that one fairly widespread universal is a strong desire not to go to prison. If O’Reilly thinks of prison as some kind of wondrous health-care spa, perhaps he should live there and see how long he lasts. I’m guessing a day, tops. This kind of discourse is about dehumanizing transgender people, making it sound like they don’t have basic human impulses like being free and not living in a cell. Rest assured, transgender people prefer to sleep in their own beds and not be imprisoned, just like everyone else.