On the Women’s Health Protection Act

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Michele Bachmann tells story of rape as cudgel against immigrants


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be covering this new bill being offered in the Senate called the Women’s Health Protection Act that could, if it passed, reverse the tide of anti-choice legislation. Kristine Kippins from the Center for Reproductive Rights will be on to help flesh out what this bill could do.

This whole episode is going to be about abortion, but I do want to highlight that discussion about the impact of the war on contraception access is continuing in places like Melissa Harris Perry’s show.

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This is why it’s so glib for conservatives just to tell women to pay full price. It’s really expensive for low-income people.


The recent surge of state level attacks on abortion access are frustrating on many levels. Mostly it’s alarming because it’s working and abortion clinics continue to have to shut their doors, putting many women, particularly rural women, in a situation where the nearest abortion clinic is hours upon hours away. It’s also aggravating the way that politicians are going around Roe v. Wade and going around public opinion to cut off access. It’s aggravating the way that women who have abortions are marginalized and demonized, even though it’s one in three of us. On top of all that, it’s frustrating that anti-choicers are so flagrant with their lying. States have the right to regulate medicine to protect people’s health, but anti-choice politicians are using that power to do the opposite, and regulate clinics unduly so as to shut off access to safe health care. All while claiming to do so to protect women’s “health.”

Well, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Tammy Baldwin have introduced a bill called the Women’s Health Protection Act that calls anti-choicers’ bluff.

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That was Steve Kornacki, sitting in for Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. What he’s talking about with the “intended electoral effect” is this: Since Democrats don’t control the House right now, there’s no way this bill would pass both houses of Congress to be signed by the president, though if it could, it’s certain President Obama would sign it. So a lot of people who aren’t as clever as they think were crowing about how stupid the Democrats are to bring this bill up, since it won’t pass. But, in fact, this is a really smart move. Republicans got creamed in the 2012 election because of the women’s vote, and while it’s as much because of economic issues as anything else, the perception that Republicans are obsessed about reducing women’s access to health care is also hurting them politically. That’s why so much of the attacks on abortion rights are on a state level, because it gets much less press coverage than on a national level. Forcing a national debate about this is good for Democrats.

So while there’s definitely political grandstanding going on, that doesn’t mean there’s cause to be cynical about any of this. For one thing, just because the bill doesn’t pass now doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. But even in the present, forcing a debate about this could have an impact on the Supreme Court, who will probably be hearing a case about the targeted regulations of abortion providers soon. Seeing the dishonesty and misogyny of anti-choicers come pouring out could help make the case of overturning these laws.

Sen. Baldwin [D-WI] came on MSNBC to explain what the Women’s Health Protection Act would do.

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This matters because right now, the Fifth Circuit Court has decided, straight up, that a new regulation on abortion providers does not need to be demonstrably safer than the previous regulations, freeing up conservative politicians to choose regulations not on whether or not they make women safer but whether or not they are impossible to meet. Indeed, the new regulations, such as requiring hospital admitting privileges, are known to make women less healthy and safe because they drive the abortion market underground. This would ban the favoring of unsafe regulations over safe ones. But Baldwin was a little unclear about how right there, so she got into more detail.

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I wish she had been even clearer, but since I have the advantage of not having to speak off the cuff, I will elaborate.

The Women’s Health Protection Act would work by doing one simple thing, which is require the abortion clinics be regulated the same as other clinics doing comparable medical procedures. Since an abortion is no more intrusive than a colonoscopy, then, they wouldn’t be able to pass a bunch of laws on abortion clinics requiring that patients hear scripts or endure waiting periods or that doctors have to have admitting privileges, unless those same regulations were put on people wanting things like biopsies, colonoscopies, and even tooth-drilling. It’s actually a genius bill, in that it will force everyone to confront how unfair it is to make women jump through a bunch of hoops for reproductive health care while men don’t ever have to worry about that sort of thing. And that’s a debate that I am ready to have.




If the purpose of the Women’s Health Protection Act was to goad anti-choicers into giving up the entire disingenuous claim to care about women and instead revert to their hollering about how you’re a murderer if you ever say no to a pregnancy, well it already seems to be working like a charm. While no one is under the impression that anti-choicers have given up trying to convince themselves and others than an embryo is the same thing as a 5-year-old, the entire reason this entire “protect women” gambit came up in the first place is that after 40 years of screaming about how the one in three women who gets an abortion is a murderer, they haven’t moved the needle on public opinion or really found a way around Roe v. Wade. But with the Women’s Health Protection Act making it impossible to feign concern for women, conservative pundits have gone straight back to the old, tired, and unconvincing rhetoric.

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O’Reilly would like you to believe that a bunch of laws passed in just the past few years are a reaction to “new” scientific information showing that fertilized eggs have DNA in them. Let’s be clear: No one has ever thought otherwise, not in the whole history of DNA. The notion that having DNA in a cell makes it a separate human being is beyond ridiculous. All cells have DNA in them. That’s what a cell does. Even if you say, “Oh I meant human DNA,” that doesn’t change anything. Skin cells, heart cells, blood cells, hair cells, all of that has human DNA in it and we don’t consider that a separate person. But what is really bananas here is his claim that we just discovered that a fertilized cell has DNA or separate DNA or something. Uh, no. DNA was first discovered in the 1870s, about 100 years before Roe v. Wade. Its structure was first mapped out in 1953, about 20 years before Roe, but let’s be clear that it was decades and decades before that that scientists understood the basic parameters of genetic inheritance. That a fertilized egg is made of the same stuff as the rest of the body is not news and definitely wasn’t news when abortion was legalized. The real question here is what is always has been, which is whether or not we believe women are people, and if they deserve full human rights.

Megyn Kelly, knowing full well that the tired claim that a fertilized egg has more rights than a woman doesn’t move the needle, tried to make this about “late-term abortion.”

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While there are some laws that ban abortion at 20 weeks that could be affected, this bill is crafted to and will primarily affect laws that make it hard to impossible to get abortions in the first 12 weeks, including laws requiring you to have an ambulatory surgical center in order to give women a pill that she uses to quietly abort in her own home. Roe actually allows for there to be restrictions on third-trimester abortions, so even if doctors were willing to do those for non-medical reasons, which they are not, that would not be affected. This is just the same old tired tactic that’s been tried and has failed, to convince people that a fetus at 40 weeks is the same thing as an embryo at six weeks, or even a fertilized egg. But again, what’s really telling here is that the entire faux concern for women is being dropped and they’re back to the old tactic of trying to paint women who seek abortion as being terrible, irresponsible “baby killers,” and implying that women wait until eight months to have an abortion because they’re too lazy and slutty to get them earlier. In reality, nine out of ten abortions are in the first 12 weeks, many of those in the second trimester are due to anti-choice laws making it hard to arrange travel in the first trimester. Only 1.2 percent of abortions are after 20 weeks, and a significant chunk of those are for medical reasons. That’s only halfway through a pregnancy, FYI, so the term “late term abortion” is seriously misleading, and I say that as someone who has been caught up in that language myself and must apologize for it.

But back to O’Reilly again to see how quickly anti-choicers revert back to form once the lie about protecting women is stripped away.

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For a little context: 63 percent of abortions occur in the first eight weeks, when the embryo is the size of a pencil eraser, or, at most, about half an inch long, and it has no brain and physically looks like a lump of stuff squished together with no discernible form. Another 26 percent of overall abortions happen between nine and 12 weeks, making the fetus about the size of your thumb at the very most, and still doesn’t have a brain, much less any sensory perception. No one actually believes that it’s “murder” or “execution.” We all know that women seek abortion for perfectly understandable reasons, which is why anti-choicers were so eager to feign “concern” for women. But this bill has ripped the mask off. Hopefully it will continue to pay dividends.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, who is “pro-life” again edition? It’s been really depressing seeing the very same people who swear to be “pro-life” having a meltdown over the very existence of migrant children in this country who have arrived without parents, many of them to escape violence and oppression in their home countries. The argument seems to be that these kids should be deported without due process or perhaps even bothering to figure out where they came from before demanding they get sent away. To excuse this cruelty, many conservatives like Rep. Michele Bachmann [R-MN] are accusing immigrants en masse of being rapists.

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Bachmann is just one of many politicians to use the threat of rape to scare people about migrant children. The reality is different, of course, with 58 percent of the kids interviewed by the United Nations saying they were actually fleeing violence. Of course, Bachmann voted against the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization. Rape only matters to her if it can be used to scare people about immigrants, it appears.