On this episode of Reality Cast, Heather Boonstra from Guttmacher will explain how public schools could do more to help students get contraception. Texas bans insurance coverage of abortion, and a West Texas school has an alarmingly high chlamydia rate.
How much do modern conservatives absolutely hate birth control? So much so that House Republicans are willing to overturn a law in Washington, D.C. that bans discrimination against women for fear that more women will get birth control.
- D.C. *
The vote was largely symbolic and not expected to go anywhere. On one hand, that’s a good thing. On the other hand, it appears that House Republicans are so eager to show voters how much they hate women that they will take time out of their day to schedule a vote just to show you they wish your boss could fire you for having sex.
In case there was any doubt that attacks on reproductive rights are, in no small part, about increasing income inequality by making contraception and abortion a privilege for the rich instead of a right for all, Texas Republicans have set out to remove all doubt. The state senate passed a bill that bans all insurance companies, private and public, from covering abortion.
- insurance 1 *
And no insurance companies bother offering that, anyway. And who would buy it? It’s obvious anti-choicers just want you to think of it as slut insurance. So much for that much-ballyhooed nonsense about conservatives supporting free enterprise. Not if it allows women to think their vaginas belong to them, no sir. And man, do legislators in Texas think about anything but how much they hate the idea of women having sex without their explicit permission? You get the impression that the first thing these folks think about when they wake up and the last thing on their minds when they go to bed is how women are out there, right now, having sex, and nothing they do seems to stop it. Well, low-income women and young women, anyway. A lot of the legislators involved in this are themselves women, but they are older and better-off, so should they need abortions, they can just go out of state and pay cash. Maybe even make a little vacation out of it: Go to New York and see the Statue of Liberty while reflecting on how glad they are that they are making liberty a privilege of the well-off.
As expected, Democrats tried to amend this bill by at least tacking on some rape and incest exemptions, and as these things go, some anti-choice legislator had to insinuate that rape victims are mostly filthy liars and so they cannot be trusted and need an outside authority—preferably male—to sign off on their claims.
- insurance 2 *
That was Texas State Sen. Donna Campbell. The whole debate, which I won’t subject you to, was grotesque. Sen. Kirk Watson kept pointing out that many victims don’t report out of fear of retaliation or, you know, because the assailant is a family member. Campbell disingenuously pulls faces and claims she’s just trying to help by forcing them to go to law enforcement. Which is nonsense, because even a modified amendment allowing for those who do go to law enforcement to get abortions was rejected. It’s gross seeing people fake compassion when they really figure it’s better to force someone to bear a rapist’s child, for instance, than to run the risk that someone, somewhere has consensual sex without being punished for it.
Senator Watson was certainly trying hard here, but I find this line of argument depressing.
- insurance 3 *
I know that they’re amending a bill that’s already lost and so they have to play on the opposing team’s turf, but it’s really depressing that this is where it’s come from: In order to even be considered even remotely eligible for some modicum of compassion, you have to be a virgin who was waiting for marriage—something almost no women do in this country. I don’t like conceding that ground. Women don’t lose their humanity because they choose to have sex. On the contrary, our desire to have sex is one of the many things, like the desire for naps, having ambition, and loving cats, that makes us human. But at least it goes to show that the territory this is being debated on has nothing to do with “life.” It’s all about the ridiculous expectations put on us by social conservatives—expectations they themselves do not follow—to squelch this part of ourselves lest we lose all claim to basic human rights.
So this is a story that’s hitting close to home for me, because I went to high school about an hour or two from this school, which is close by West Texas standards, and we competed with them in debate and sports and such things. So it’s kind of amazing to see this become not just a national, but international story.
- Crane 1 *
Well, other news outlets did some digging and found that there were 20 reported cases of chlamydia at this high school. For context, Crane High School only has about 300 students, which means that literally 1 in 15 students at the high school has contracted this disease. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was more, since these are just the reported cases. This should be a lesson in how it’s important to teach kids to use condoms and a reminder that we all are vulnerable to these kinds of diseases. But instead, as you can imagine, people are drawing exactly the opposite conclusion: treating this like it’s anomaly and that there must be something wrong with Crane, instead of an entirely predictable happenstance.
- Crane 2 *
What nasty stuff is that? Sex? People having sex with multiple partners? Diseases spreading around a community? Hate to break it to you, sir, but if you want to raise your kids away from all that, you will have to move to a desert island far away from society and when they eventually grow up and start having urges, explain that while you clearly think sex was good enough for yourself, which is how you got them, you’re not going to allow them the same privilege. Good luck with that!
I wish I could say this guy is the exception, but this attitude is really predictable in the face of this. No, Crane is not dirty or especially slutty. They just got especially unlucky, and even then, it’s not that especially unlucky. The entire West Texas area is a veritable ground zero for STIs, because these exact attitudes discourage people from communicating with partners, getting tested regularly, and using condoms, which are the best ways to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Repression, in other words, is the problem, not the solution. I’m not the only one who sees this clearly.
- Crane 3 *
Unfortunately, that video goes on to blame hip-hop and advertising for kids having sex, even though the whole of human history suggests that people were having sex all the time in every generation long before anyone scratched a record or took a photograph. Kids have sex because, and I can’t believe this needs saying, sex is a biological imperative that is dialed into us on a genetic level. Not to mention that these classes don’t just tell kids to wait, they tell them to wait until marriage, which, on average, would mean a full eight years after you graduate high school. Let’s just let go of the fantasy that post-pubescent people having interest in sexual intercourse is some new-fangled idea and start dealing with reality, which is that a certain percentage of people are going to do it before they graduate high school and pretty much all of us will do it before we get married. And that’s okay! As long as it’s with age-appropriate partners, it’s consensual, and you really do feel ready and not pressured, sex is a good thing. A lot of us had sex in high school or shortly thereafter and feel just fine about it. If we continue to lie to kids and tell them that’s not true, they will continue to see through our lies and decide we are not to be trusted. That’s just a straight-up bad idea.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, “Whose Uterus Is It Again?” edition. Keith Ablow of Fox News has a very strong opinion: Your uterus belongs to the last man who put some semen in it.
- Ablow *
Not that any of this is a surprise. Ablow has always been a strong proponent of the idea that women should be forced by law to do what men want them to do. Never mind that forced pregnancy is one of the favorite tactics of domestic abusers. In fact, that’s almost tautological, because trying to force someone to get pregnant or have a baby against her will is clearly a sexual violation intended to hurt and control and therefore is inherently abusive. He just would make this form of domestic violence legal. And that’s what it is, make no mistake: Forcing your partner, against her will, to go through nine months of pregnancy, with all the bodily changes and risk to her life and pain that entails, cannot be considered anything else.