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Archive for the ‘Reproductive Rights’ Category

In The Political Brain•, Westen mentions that the Republicans are remarkably good at making their values appear to be the values of the majority of Americans when it comes to controversial issues, even though the polls consistently show that the Democratic positions are actually more similar. This is due to two things, Westen says. First, Democrats shy away from “controversial” issues, like abortion, guns, etc. because they are too worried about offending anybody, and by refusing to lay out a coherent, principled Democratic narrative on guns or reproductive rights or the environment or whatever, they allow Republicans to define the Democratic position in the public’s mind for them. Then, in the absence of any counter-narrative from the Dems, voters take Republicans at their word. They fail to realize the extremity of the Republican position on these issues (the official position on the Republican Party is that abortion should be outlawed in ALL circumstances, even those that are life-or-death for the mother, and that there should be absolutely no restrictions on gun purchases) while maintaining an exaggerated belief in the extremity of the Democratic position.

A good examples of this dichotomy, I think, is with birth control. Ninety-eight percent of women of reproductive age have used one or more methods of birth control, generally the pill or condoms. Things used by nearly all American women at some point in their lives cannot, by definition, be radical.

Although the RNC platform lists no specifics about birth control, Bush’s funding of abstinence only programs not just for teens but for low-income women and global health centers belies an administration that is obviously not to keen on condoms or birth control pills. Yet Bush has refused to ever specify his exact position on these. Why? Because it is at odds with all but 2 percent of American women.

And yet the Democrats rarely bring this up (when I say Democrats, I mean party leadership and politicians, as opposed to, say, left-wing bloggers, who bring this up all the time). Afraid of appearing soft on sex, Democrats fail to point out the extremity of the Republican position on contraception while simultaneously failing to put forth their own coherent narrative on the issue, which means Republicans can continue to get away with convincing voters that they represent the “middle class,” the “mainstream,” the “family values” position when it comes to family planning.

An excellent article in the Baltimore Sun today examines the way Mitt Romney and other Repub candidates have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths on birth control:

At National Right to Life’s conference this year, Mitt Romney set out to convince anti-abortion leaders he was their candidate. At the podium, he rattled off his qualifications. To a layman’s ears, it sounded pretty standard for abortion politics. He wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. He supports teaching only abstinence to teens.

But for those trained to hear the subtleties, Mr. Romney was acknowledging something more. He implied an opposition to the birth control pill and a willingness to join in their efforts to scale back access to contraception. There are code phrases to listen for – and for those keeping score, Mr. Romney nailed each one.

One code phrase is: “I fought to define life as beginning at conception rather than at the time of implantation.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as starting at implantation, the first moment a pregnancy can be known. Anti-abortion advocates want pregnancy to start at the unknown moment sperm and egg meet: fertilization. They’d also like you to believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that the birth control pill prevents that fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

Mr. Romney’s code, deciphered, meant, “I, like you, hope to reclassify the most commonly used forms of contraceptives as abortions.” In fact, he told the crowd, he already had some practice redefining contraception: “I vetoed a so-called emergency contraception bill that gave young girls abortive drugs without prescription or parental consent.”

No matter that emergency contraception has the same mode of action as the birth control pill and every other hormonal method of birth control. To the anti-abortion movement, contraception is the ultimate corruptor. And so this year, the unspoken rule for candidates seeking the support of anti-abortion groups is that they must offer proof they’re anti-contraception too.

Being anti-contraception obviously will not fly with the majority of American voters. But Republican candidates have found a way to make their messages heard and not heard, an anti-contraceptive whistle that only fundies tuned to precisely the right frequency can hear. Yet Democrats being as they are, we are more likely to see Democratic candidates respond to the surface messages here when what they should be doing, every time they are given the opportunity, is pointing out the extremity of the Republican position on contraception.

This is what progressive and feminist bloggers have been saying for years. Most women who take the pill don’t know exactly how it works (many don’t even know that the “periods” had while on the pill aren’t even real), and men have no idea. If you keep letting conservatives associate contraception with abortion in the public’s mind, it is bound to stick on some level. As Westen would say, even if it doesn’t make sense rationally, unless there’s a prevailing counter-narrative to prime the public’s minds, then the neural network associations for both contraception and abortion will become inextricably tied, until activating one network will always activate the other. People are still going to rationally realize that their monthly birth control packs don’t contain 28 little abortions each month, but they may be more likely to be weary of things like the morning after pill, teenagers getting the pill without parental consent, etc.

For now, the candidates vying for the Right to Life endorsement are doing their best to avoid directly answering mainstream voters’ simple questions on the subject, such as, “Do you support couples having access to safe and effective birth control options, including emergency contraception?” Considering that even 80 percent of self-described “pro-life” voters and a majority of Republican voters strongly support contraception, it’s no wonder why.

So what should Democrats do? I don’t know. I’d say make Republicans answer the question.

• I am pretty sure everything I write this week will somehow tie back to this book.

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The L.A. Times has an excellent article about the practice of inducing labor, which has been on the rise for the last twenty or so years.  Apparently, for a variety of reasons, some hospitals have been trying to control this trend. 

Some hospitals and healthcare organizations across the nation share her concerns. Several have barred elective labor induction under certain circumstances, such as before 39 weeks of gestation (one week before the due date) or when there isn’t clear evidence that the mother’s cervix is primed for childbirth.

“There is renewed interest in these seemingly benign medical interventions,” says Dr. William Grobman, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Northwestern University. “But the topic is somewhat hazy. We don’t have all the information we’d like to have about risks and benefits.”

The move appears to be a push back against the trend in recent decades to medically manage childbirth. Fewer than 10% of women underwent induction in 1990, but more than 21% did so in 2004, according to federal government statistics. No one knows how many of those inductions were prompted by legitimate medical concerns. But various studies have put the number of inductions for convenience at 15% to 55% of the total number.

At the same time, rates of caesarean sections increased to more than 29% in 2004, up from 23% in 1990, with many women requesting elective C-sections — surgical births without any medical justification. That trend too has generated debate about whether patients are undertaking unnecessary risks.

Labor induction is frequently, and legitimately, recommended when health problems complicate a pregnancy or when pregnancies are more than two weeks past the due date, obstetricians and gynecologists say. But sometimes the procedure is done solely for convenience. In a busy society, doctors and patients have grown increasingly comfortable with this practice.

“People want to schedule their birth like they schedule their nail appointments,” says Janie Wilson, director of nursing operations for women and newborns at Intermountain Healthcare, a Salt Lake City-based chain of hospitals that has tried to reduce the rate of labor inductions.

In my opinion, there are two underlying issues here.  One is money and the other is the notion that some people are treating childbirth as a medical procedure rather than a spiritual and philosophical process by which babies come into the world. 

There is little scientific evidence that labor induction causes any long-lasting harm to mother or baby. But even short-term medical problems are significant given the nation’s healthcare economics crisis, Wilson says. According to Intermountain’s data, healthy deliveries in the 39th week (and women whose cervixes were fully prepared) incur the lowest costs.

“It could be contributing to the double-digit premium increases you pay each year,” she says of elective labor induction’s effect on insurance rates. “Cost is the icing on the cake. But it’s not the main reason we should be doing this. We should do it because it’s safer.”

The argument that natural labor is safer, though, is in much dispute.  The article does a pretty good job surveying the two sides.  But here are a couple choice quotes about the lifestyle implications of inducing labor which seems to be offending some people. 

Hospital administrators no longer see sudden spikes in deliveries before major holidays, three-day weekends and Jazz basketball playoff games.

“This is another study saying to women, ‘You can’t survive without us making things better; nature is completely off-track,’ ” says [Dr. Michael C. Klein, emeritus professor of family practice and pediatrics at the University of British Columbia.] “And there is a huge reservoir of practitioners out there who want to hear this message.”

“I’m not sure consumers think about the risks. They think, ‘Gosh, I want elective induction at 38 weeks because I’m tired of being pregnant,’ ” she says. “Hopefully, educating them up front and setting expectations will make it easier.”

Doctors who want the convenience to schedule daytime deliveries may be the biggest force for elective labor induction, says Lisa Sherwood, a certified nurse midwife and women’s healthcare nurse-practitioner based in San Clemente. Women who “haven’t slept well in weeks, have swollen ankles and sore backs” are vulnerable to the suggestion of elective induction. “People look at the doctor as the expert and will do whatever he or she suggests.”

So it’s not just the women who want to schedule child-birth at convenient times.  Some doctors seem to be pushing for labor induction too. 

Still this is not a simple issue.  There are a confluence of factors that seem to be informing people’s views:  money, safety, and lifestyles.  The least important part of that, in my mind, is money.  Sure something rubs me the wrong way about a doctor who would prefer to schedule a labor induction procedure around his playoff basketball watching schedule but one would assume informed consent of the patient is still required, right? 

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Oh my god, they’re on to us. That’s right. The largest “pro-life” organization in the world, Human Life International, has stumbled upon us pro-choicers’ dirty little secret.

It was bad enough when people knew we were all just degenerate liberals, dreaded atheists, or — god forbid — baby-hating feminists. But now the president of Human Life International has gone and outed us all for what we really are: SATANIC CULT MEMBERS WORSHIPPING AT THE ALTER OF THE DEAD FETUS, obviously.

Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, the world’s largest pro-life organization, has stated that abortion is the same bloodthirsty and ritual sacrifice of babies to a demonic god that occurred throughout history and across cultures.

“And you thought abortion was just a surgical procedure, performed by doctors in a clinical setting, to end unwanted pregnancies,” scoffs Trailer Park Feminist.

Because Euteneuer has years of experience as an exorcist(and thus is obviously completely sane), he knows better:

Approaching abortion from a spiritual perspective, he explained, “The spiritual dimension of this grisly ‘business’ is its systematizing of ritual blood sacrifice to the god of child murder, Moloch.” He also noted that this “bloodthirsty” beast is well known not only through the Old Testament but in many different cultures throughout history as well. “This demon is not content with a single act of murder here and there,” he said. “His insatiable appetite for the death of innocents seeks public endorsement to justify his gruesome deeds, and he needs a systematic expression of it to increase his worship.”

“In short, the abortion industry is a perfect demonic system which offers a perverse form of worship to the devil.”

And then things in the article got scary for a moment:

Referring to July as the traditional month of the Precious Blood, he exhorted people to “cover every abortionist, abortion mill and client of the abortion industry with Christ’s Blood in order to conquer the blood sacrifice of the devil with the greatest force of good known to man.”

I mean, that kind of sounded like a call to violence, no? But then I remembered — duh! my 10 years of good Catholic schooling! — that Christ’s blood is really just wine. And, you know, I’m down with that. Bring on the wine dousing, please ….

Okay, but seriously, how very very creepy.

[Activist Mommy has more here.]

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The L.A. Times has an article today titled “Democrats shift approach on abortion.”  Here is how it opens. 

Sensing an opportunity to impress religious voters — and tip elections — Democrats in Congress and on the campaign trail have begun to adopt some of the language and policy goals of the antiabortion movement.

The rest of the article seems to be about different policy inititatives to help women who want to carry their pregnancy to term without affecting their ability to get an abortion if they want one. 

I don’t see how this has anything to do with the goals of anti-abortion movement.  Many Democrats and some Republicans are trying to address the issues that lead to more abortions without touching the right to have an abortion.  The anti-abortion movement has been doing the exact opposite. 

Here’s a part of the article which represents a more accurate summary of what the Democrats are up to and should have been the lead. 

“We are willing to talk about anything that helps women make good choices,” said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-chairwoman of the bipartisan Pro-Choice Caucus. Preventing unplanned pregnancies, she said, “is not the whole story.”

The problem with this article is the framing.  It makes it sound like the anti-abortion movement is “winning over” Democrats and, even worse, Democrats are motivated solely by political gain.  Not actually addressing the needs of those who have unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. 

But conservatives also accuse Democrats of using abortion rhetoric to sell the right on traditional liberal priorities, such as healthcare funding. Democrats have rejected other ideas that conservatives consider highly effective in reducing abortions, such as requiring women to view ultrasound images of the womb.

Right.  Because the issue is addressing the needs of these women.  Not shaming them.  The overriding goal of the anti-abortion movement is to make abortions illegal.  There may be some pro-lifers more willing to except the Clinton framing of making abortions “legal, safe, and rare” but the movement’s goal is getting rid of the choice altogether. 

So anything that does not affect or restrict a woman’s right to an abortion fits snugly within the pro-choice movement and is not a “shift.”  The pro-choice movement has never been just about terminating pregnancies.  It’s about making that choice a choice. 

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Having a rapist’s baby is so empowering. I mean, imagine you’re raped, right? And then you find out you’re pregnant. Sure, you might feel hurt, angry, depressed, scared, worried about how to take care of the child, etc. You might even consider having an abortion. Or giving the baby up for adoption. But think of the opportunity you’d then pass up! I mean, every time you look at your child, you can be reminded that you were attacked and violated! Isn’t that awesome? I mean, surely that’ll show your rapist who’s boss! Revenge is yours! Ha!

Oh wait, did that last paragraph really make absolutely no sense at all? I’m sorry. I was just echoing the sentiments of Cincinnati pro-lifers pushing an Ohio abortion ban with absolutely no exceptions. Via As Ohio Goes:

Paula Westwood, executive director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati, [argues] that men win and women lose when a child of rape is aborted.

“What has happened is, men know, ‘Well, if I happen to rape a woman, I can have her get an abortion,’ and then even if he goes to prison he’s free of all responsibility,” she says. “If (victims of rape) can carry the child to term, they’re free from any guilt from an abortion and they’re also freer because the man really has no hold on them, because even though the man fathered the child the woman has some victory over it.”

You hear that? Every time you hold your rapist’s child, Victory! Cause nothing says he-has-no-hold-on-you-now like raising his bastard child for 18 years.

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So, okay, we’ve shown Ohio’s proposed abortion ban legislation shouldn’t have a rape exception, because rape babies are so awesome, but what about an exception for the life of the mother? I mean, “pro-aborts” are always blathering on about how women are, like, actual human beings whose lives we should value and stuff, right? So what about cases where a woman will die if she gives birth?

Ha! Don’t let them fool you! That’s just a myth spread by the Feminist Ministry of Propaganda Planned Parenthood, the creator of the bill assures us.

“It’s a fallacy perpetrated by the Planned Parenthood people,” Brinkman says. “My doctors tell me they’re never in that type of dilemma.”

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Kos analyzed some of the actual language in the bill Tuesday. My favorite part is probably this:

All abortions are prohibited in this state. Whoever violates this section is liable to the pregnant woman, to the person who was the father of the fetus or embryo that was the subject of the abortion, and, if the pregnant woman was a minor at the time of the abortion, to her parents, guardian, or custodian for civil compensatory and exemplary damages.

Why would the pregnant woman who had the abortion be owed damages? Does Brinkman imagine that doctors are running around performing abortions on pregnant women against their will? Or that women are just too stupid to judge (and be held liable) for their own actions, so even if they requested an abortion it was only because they didn’t know any better and the doctor should still be punished for treating them as if they had free will?

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… because I’ve already written about 27 billion posts today but I like these posts too much not to say something …

OldManCoyote compares radical anti-abortion activists to Islamic terrorists

And before all you radical anti-choicers get your Jack Bauer underoos in a bunch and accuse me of comparing you to terrorists, let me clarify:  I am absolutely comparing you to Al Qaeda.  If the neo-fascist anti-democratic one-God-fits-all theocratic shoe fits…

Jezebel deconstructs the photo-shopping of Faith Hill.

And Jessica Valenti asks whether the “Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl” pillow fight video is funny, instulting, or just dumb?

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Oh goodness. Wingnut outrage over this in 3 … 2 … 1 ….

Nevermind that this is actually a very good thing. It means Plan B is making a difference. It means more women are probably preventing unwanted pregnancies, preventing abortions, etc. But you know it’s gonna be all, “See? See?!? Women are having more sex because of Plan B! More unprotected sex! Teens are having more sex! Lesbian gangs and teen birth-control cults!” OR “Dumb sluts think they actually have a right to choose whether they get pregnant! The horror!” OR the perennial

“This is very concerning,” said Charmaine Yoest of the Family Research Council, which is among several groups suing the FDA to reverse the decision. “We think this is putting women’s health at risk.”

{By the by, if anyone tries to argue that access to contraception increases teen sex rates, or that more access to contraception is not needed, point them to this}

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