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.


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.”


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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Ugh. So Kerry Howley pointed out, in a post about the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ not-wrong-but-somewhat-off warnings about the dangers of abortion, that childbirth actually has a higher mortality rate for women than abortion. And then the crazies come out of the woodwork. John Kindley (who appears to be an abortion-post troll) suggests that bringing up the childbirth mortality rate business is somehow wrong or misleading “in light of the fact that deaths from abortion and from childbirth are both extremely rare.” He’s right, sure, but the fact is that it’s generally anti-choicers who trot out the “abortion is dangerous” line as a scare tactic. Reminding people that childbirth is actually far more dangerous seems like a pretty reasonable way to debunk this myth. It’s not as if pro-choicers are running around all “childbirth is dangerous; why don’t you abort all your babies instead!” Somehow, this fact seems to have escaped his grasp, as his preferred term for the pro-choice camp seems to be “pro-aborts.”

I really hope that isn’t a term that catches on. Mainly because it’s, you know, wrong. I know some people will probably argue that it’s akin to framing the “pro-life” side as “anti-choicers.” But, in the most literal terms, that’s true: they do not think people should be allowed the choice to have an abortion. Pro-choicers, however, are not “pro” abortion, as in, like, “Yes, abortion is great! Abortions for everybody!” At the least, some pro-choicers think of it as a morally neutral thing, and others actively want to decrease the number of abortions taking place – which is why they actually advocate education and contraception policies that might help in this.

Anyway, what’s really depressing about the comment thread is that somehow Kindley and some others never got the memo that abortion doesn’t cause breast cancer. Kindley actually believes studies that have disproved this link are a conspiracy, because “if it ever became common knowledge, thousands of women who have been deceived about the “safety” of abortion would have potential causes of action, and the ensuing litigation could dwarf the asbestos and tobacco litigation.” His proof? An astro-turf breast cancer prevention organization run by a “pro-life born-again Christian” with a known hardcore ideological agenda in spreading this link.

Kinsley says, “All I can suggest is that the sources I’ve cited be compared with the sources purporting to “debunk” the abortion-breast cancer link for logical consistency and integrity.

Indeed. Do you trust an ideologue with a anti-abortion front group about breast cancer, or The National Cancer Institute?

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Oh dear god (meant in an extended eyeroll kind of way, not an exclamatory kind of way).

An Ohio legislator just introduced a bill that would ban ALL abortions in the state with absolutely no exceptions:

Less than three months after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ban on a controversial late-term abortion procedure, a Cincinnati Republican has reintroduced legislation to outlaw all abortions in Ohio. Rep. Tom Brinkman Jr. hopes his bill will become the vehicle for overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which legalized abortion.

It’s a ridculous, introduced-for-attention-getting-purposes-only piece of legislation, because there’s no way anything like this could become law in Ohio right now — even if it managed to pass the legislature, Gov. Ted Strickland (who rocks, p.s.) would veto. And “pro-life” legislators admit that they don’t have a veto-proof majority.

But still ….. don’t these people have anything better to do then introduce pointless radical legislation? Aren’t there, like, actual problems in Ohio? Would it be too much to ask that our elected officials paid attention to things that might actually be beneficial to state citizens, instead of measures designed solely to demonstrate their superior morality?

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I’m always utterly flabbergasted when I learn that people really believe (or at least purport to believe) that Planned Parenthood is an evil cabal that actually wants to increase the number of abortions. To hear anti-choicers talk about Planned Parenthood sometime, you’d think all PP did was provide abortions. Maybe even in a drive through, like a car-wash. Drive in, get your uterus scraped out, be on you way. Voila. Except that that’s not how Planned Parenthood works at all. In fact, the majority of its services have nothing to do with abortion. Rather, Planned Parenthood provides gynecological services – including regular annual testing (to make sure women don’t have things like, you know, cervical cancer), STD testing, and contraception services – for low-income women who couldn’t otherwise afford to make sure they don’t have cancer, AIDS, or unwanted pregnancies. Seems like a pretty good mission, to me. And it just so happens that, on top of this, they also perform abortions.

And yet the nut job propaganda somehow persists that Planned Parenthood actually has some sort of inherent interest in upping the abortion rate. Via Pandagon, a lovely quote from a Minnesota article:

“Planned Parenthood has learned how to take advantage of teenagers and young women by marketing its brand and building relationships to create future abortion customers,” said MCCL executive director Scott Fischbach in a statement.

So PP is now branding abortions? Jesus christ. Amanda makes three very good points about why this line of thought is ridiculous:

1) Planned Parenthood is a non-profit organization, meaning it doesn’t need to make a profit or increase shareholder value or antyhing like that, and therefore it does not need to seek out more “customers”
2) It’s likely that Planned Parenthood actually loses money on abortions, since it’s a surgical procedure and more complicated than the other services PP provides, but prices are still kept extremely low so low-income women can afford it
3) Disregarding one and two, and assuming that PP is in the market to attract more “abortion customers,” isn’t providing birth control, condoms and other contraceptive services very cheaply (and sometimes freely) kind of defeating that mission, since they’re actually helping decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies?

Amanda writes:

Even if you can be convinced that Planned Parenthood wants to perform more abortions (which seems like they’d lose them money, since it’s minor surgery with prices kept low for pro-choice ideological reasons), it’s going to be hard to be convinced that they are upping the abortion rate with contraception. It’s like arguing that your doctor is setting you up for expensive open-heart surgery by giving you cholesterol-lowering drugs. But reality is no competition to the fever dreams of a misogynist sure that Planned Parenthood is luring the female property of patriarchs into its den of inequity.

So sum this up, some quick facts about PP:

72 percent of those receiving care at PP are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level

81 percent come in to find ways to prevent unintended pregnancy

9 percent receive abortions services

Overall, only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood health services that are abortion services

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In the comments of a previous post, there’s been some discussion of framing and abortion-debate-terminology. Nothing earth-shattering or new here — Girl From the South says framing is just “a strategic form of name-calling,” I disagree. We all discuss the terms “pro-life” versus “anti-choice.” I dislike when people accuse me of engaging in unfair framing by using the term “anti-choice,” as if “pro-life” is just some sort of neutral term devoid of any connotations.

And then .. someone wiser than us both in the ways of framing pointed out:

There is no such thing as an issue not being framed: if it’s an issue, it’s being framed. It’s a common mistake for advocates: their terminology is neutral, while anything else is clearly wrong/misguided/mean.

Wise. Go read her post, because it’s a lot more eloquent than this.

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This is perhaps the best single line I read yesterday:

That’s one thing I really don’t get- WHY would we liberals WANT people to have abortions? Do they think we get credit for each fetus, like when you sell back glass bottles at the grocery store?

on the strange persevering rumor that reproductive health organizations and liberals actively desire women having abortions for no other reason than their own unrivaled joy at the prospect

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Yesterday, the Stacy Zallie foundation took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post. In honor of father’s day, the organization decided to trot out some anti-choice doublethink about how giving women reproductive options actually harms women. To be fair, the group doesn’t say whether or not it supports anti-choice legal policies. It is, ostensibly, just an organization to counsel women who have had abortions and are feeling depressive/suicidal afterwards. Maybe it is well-intentioned. Still, this line (part of the letter from Stacy Zallie’s dad) rang some bells:

“I am not taking a stand one way or another on the issue of abortion itself. However, it is ignorant to expect that a woman involved in terminating the life of her own child will be happy to go about her life without consequences.”

Not taking a stand. Really? Because the language you used in that following seems to imply, uh, otherwise.

You hear that, 1.3 million American women who have abortions each year? If you haven’t killed yourself yet, you probably should. Either that or seek counseling immediately, because it is ignorant – ignorant! – to kid yourself into thinking that maybe you just made the best choice possible for your own individual circumstances and you’re just fine with it. Stacy Zallie’s dad knows better.

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    ABC News:As 21st century women dominate the universities and continue to climb the executive ladder, and metro-sexual men explore their feminine side, it’s harder to define what it means to be a woman

In the mildly frustrating category of the week … why is everyone so up in arms about this “new” birth control that allows women to not have periods at all? Doctors have been telling women to just take their regular birth control continuously (skipping the placebo sugar pill week) in order to avoid periods all together for years now. Seasonale, the pill that allows women to only have 4 periods a year when taking it regularly, has been out since 2003. The fact that this new pill, Lybrel, is touting itself as the birth control pill that allows women to skip periods entirely is more of a marketing ploy than some sort of grand scientific or cultural development; the regular old pill has been doing the same thing for years.

What’s funny is that “The Pill” — in it’s earliest form, in it’s iconic 1960s incarnation — could have been just like Lybrel, more or less. The earliest versions of the pill did, in fact, halt menstruation. But somewhere along the line pharmaceutical companies decided that giving women a pill that would stop their periods all together would be too radical, too unsettling, for most of their consumer market, so they created the whole one-week-dummy-pill system to make it seem more “normal” and “natural.” Notes the Washington Post:

The birth control pill was originally developed to mimic a normal cycle in the belief that women would find it more acceptable, not because it would be safer or more effective at preventing pregnancy.

More about the particulars of all this here.

So people back in the day, worried by the kind of moral outrage the Pill would provoke over lost fertility and womanhood, etc. etc., decided to keep periods as part of the pill, assuming America wasn’t ready for the other version. What’s amazing is that, more than 40 years later, a period-free pill is STILL provoking this kind of moral outrage about “lost” fertility and womanhood, what with Leslee Unruh out there screaming about this pill being a “pesticide” that’s somehow part of an evil NARAL and “big Pharma” conspiracy plot to make women hate babies; ABC news worried that, without the little ladies bleeding every 28 days, our society will suddenly lose the ability to differentiate between men & women (hint: it has something to do with penises and vaginas, yo. And maybe differential amounts of body hair); and Eugene Volokh imagining ridiculous scenarios where every month, we gals call all our friends a la the telephone scene in Bye Bye Birdie to share the news that we’re once again shedding the lining of our uteruses (What the story? Morning Glory? Called to tell you that I’m on the rag.).

I suppose this sort of crazy is not entirely surprising, though, considering that it still seems hard to get it through certain conservatives’ heads that birth control does not cause abortion (quite the opposite, really), nor does it represent a complete rejection of having children, as Unruh seems to think (in the Think Progress article, a NARAL spokeswoman notes that 98 percent of American women will use some form of contraception in their lives, and we’ve yet to see the USA become a land of childless harpies, so…).

Ann at Feministing wonders how the tampon companies will react to Lybrel. I kind of hope the tampon companies are the ones behind all this lost-womanhood-we-love-babies-gender-bending nonsense. A stealth, Bernays-like advertising campaign by the feminine-hygeine-products cabal would make a lot more sense than people actually believing this crap …

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Sometimes when my favorite feminist bloggers point out that a lot of anti-abortion concern for the sanctity of the fetus is really just hatred of women and sex, other people get a little touchy. They like to accuse people making this point of being hysterical and overreacting, or dismiss them as angry man-haters looking for any excuse to blame any possible thing on misogyny, or wanton whores who just want “abortions on demand.” Which is why I think it’s good to point out, at every possible instance, the cases when the anti-choicers slip up and make it their real feelings so blatantly obvious.

Neil the Ethical Werewolf does just this, in a post referring to something that is kind of old, I know, but I had missed up to this point. Apparently, in March, Missouri “pro-lifers” had a chance to possibly reduce the number of abortions potentially taking place in the state. The legislature was voting on whether to resume state spending on birth control for low-income women. Now, one can obviously make a valid case that this isn’t the state’s prerogative, that there’s no reason for tax-payer money to be going to contraceptive spending. I tend to think that that’s a fine position as long as the state isn’t spending any money on any elective healthcare for low-income residents, but if there are state-sponsored programs covering a whole slew of other less-than-life-threatening conditions and procedures and medications, you might as well throw birth-control into the mix.

But regardless, the legislature’s stated reasons for not reinstating state spending on contraception have nothing to do with taxpayer money and such. No, the Missouri legislature is, of course, primarily concerned with low-income floozies getting away with fucking without the proper god-intended consequences.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – An attempt to resume state spending on birth control got shot down Wednesday by House members who argued it would have amounted to an endorsement of promiscuous lifestyles. “If you hand out contraception to single women, we’re saying promiscuity is OK as a state, and I am not in support of that,” Phillips, R-Kansas City, said in an interview.

Neil notes,

The fact that birth control pills would actually avert abortions is insignificant to them.  What do a few fetal lives matter when you’re trying to stop women from having sex before marriage?  There are some other bad reasons why one might oppose funding for birth control — doctrinaire libertarianism, or an extremely short-sighted focus on budget-cutting — but these motivations aren’t especially strong among anti-abortion activists.  I’m left with no choice but to take Susan Phillips at her word. 

Where I’m confused, too, is … since when are all low-income people, people on public health assistance, single? What about the married low-income people who are trying to, you know, be responsible about their family planning so as not to have a whole slew of kids they can’t pay for who will all end up needing even more state-sponsored health assistance? From an economic standpoint, isn’t the relatively low cost of providing birth control to women on public assistance a whole lot cheaper than having to pay to care for all the children these women can’t afford and might be giving birth to without contraception?

Anyways, as per usual, right-wing commenters entirely fail to grasp the point.

No one owes anyone an abortion. If they want one, it’s lawful…knock yourselves out. No one owes anyone birth control drugs. If they want them, they are lawful…there ya’ go. This is truly a ridiculous argument that women are suppressed because someone doesn’t foot the bill for their needs. Needs that are not life threatening unless you are the fetus. Needs that can be avoided through behavior or a $1 condom. It’s the same ol’ liberal “You owe me” meme.

No one owes anyone an abortion? Sure. But who’s even talking about abortions here? Why are right-wingers so obsessed with abortions??? All Neil said was that birth control, you know, can possibly reduce abortions. No one’s really saying anyone owes anyone birth control, per se, either. All they’re saying is that, in a debate about whether birth control should be provided, morality should not be brought into it.

This isn’t a matter of whether legislators think single women (or poor women in general) shouldn’t be having sex, because that is not a matter of law. A judge trying a criminal case might think that the defendant is evil or bad or morally deficient, but he/she can’t just say that when making a ruling, he/she has to decide as a matter of law. You don’t read court opinions that say “In the matter of the People v. So-and-So, we find so-and-so guilty of the crime of murder because we think he is a bad person.” Similarly, it’d be nice if legislators did what they were supposed to and made decisions based on law, instead of their personal moral opinions on other people’s sex lives.

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He’s all about “personal liberty,” but on his Web site, just a few paragraphs under “Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) is the leading advocate for freedom in our nation’s capital,” it makes a point to note that he is anti-choice on abortion. Leading advocate for freedom and personal liberty, except where women are concerned?

And for some reason, in all the Ron Paul frenzy lately, I haven’t really seen anyone bringing this up ….

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Check out this article about a huge hike in the cost of birth control at colleges. I direct you to it as I almost missed it entirely. It’s in the ‘Student News’ section of the Education section of today’s CNN website. Even though, per the article, 39% of undergraduate women are on oral contraception, so this affects several million people about as directly as something can affect a person. I think it’s news, but maybe that’s because it affects women of a similar age and sensibility to me. Whatever the reason, if I can muster a fair degree of outrage on topics that I’ll likely never have first-hand experience with, this is worth discussing. If you read the article, the price increase is attributed to a change in Medicaid policies, causing big drug companies to abandon the deals they used to give colleges. Since the universities themselves aren’t going to be helping out, it’s going to cost undergraduate women at least double what it used to cost to get the same prescriptions.
Which leads me to… when I was your age. Honestly, when I was an undergraduate on the pill, I didn’t know where the price break was coming from. I just knew that it didn’t cost much to maintain my lifestyle. It was a noticeable dent in one week’s drinking money and that was about it for the quarter. Money worries were confined to tuition, rent, food, books, incidentals…maybe confined isn’t the right word. But no one was panicking over the cost of the pill.
Of course, when I graduated, I bounced around to no less than 6 jobs (it’s been not quite 3 years since I was in college), and at various times I had lousy insurance, no insurance, or was just plain unemployed. I ended up paying a lot for birth control. Probably five times what I was paying on campus. But here’s the one constant, and why I’m not worried about today’s college-bound or college-enrolled women: it still beats the alternative. No one who’s committed to being childless (for however long) is going to let prescriptions lapse because it costs a little more.

A personal tip from me: where I went to school anyway, if you let a balance from the clinic (or their pharmacy) remain unpaid, they would tack it on to your tuition bill as a benign ‘medical center expense’. Maybe your parents pay that bill, or maybe you have loans. Either way, doing this about one quarter a year will ease your current out-of-pocket costs.

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In a poll released late last week, Rudy Giuliani (40 percent) dominated John McCain (18 percent) among Republican primary voters.

Interesting four-part series at The New Republic about whether or not Giuliani is a viable Republican presidential candidate. Michael Tomasky, editor at large of The American Prospect, starts off saying there’s no chance:

We must never be caught fighting the last war and must always allow for the possibility of change. So I’ve allowed for it. But, really, what are the odds of this? Put aside everything else–the marriages, the announcement to the world that he was separating from Donna Hanover before he’d bothered to tell her, the La Cage turn on “Saturday Night Live,” his nearly nonexistent record of attendance at mass, and even Rudy’s gay roommates. Put it all aside, and you’re still left with abortion. It alone seems to me the deal-breaker.

He mentions that the only reason Guiliani has done so well in polls thus far is because people don’t know he’s pro-choice: Fox News showed 21 percent thought he was “pro-life,” and 36 percent didn’t know. Siegel goes on:

And none of this is even the main point. The main point–the reason that I don’t think we’re at a moment of sweeping historical change–is that pro-lifers, as far as they’re concerned, have labored for 30 years in vain. Since Ford’s time, the president and vice-president of every Republican ticket has declared himself pro-life, and with the passing years, the tickets have grown more stridently so. Also during that time, the party’s platform has been transformed the issue from a relatively brief and wobbly two paragraphs in the 1980s to a meaty and lengthy five in 2004. Finally, in the same period, three Republican presidents have seated five conservative jurists (yes, I’m counting Anthony Kennedy) on the high court.

And what has it gotten pro-lifers? A lot less than they’d expected. But, finally, they’re getting close. At the precise moment in history when they think they might have a chance of getting Roe v. Wade overturned, do we really think they’re going to trust the precarious future to a man who obstreperously supported partial-birth abortion?

It’s a good point. I mean, I think it seems, like, conventional wisdom, completely obvious to everyone that most conservatives aren’t going to let Giuliani slide on this whole abortion thing. But Siegel does a good job of pinpointing why exactly they won’t let him slide.

Fred Siegel, who has written a book about Giuliani, responds that in fact, we are at a moment of sweeping historical change. This sweeping historical change he speaks of seems to have something to do with people being afraid of terrorism. This doesn’t really seem like a sweeping historical development but one that has been going on since, oh, you know, “9/11 changed everything!” Siegel, I guess, really does seem to think so, because he thinks that voters, 7 years later, will still vote for Guiliani because they view him as strong on terrorism. Siegel says:

… a major attack not only in the United States, but in Canada, Europe, or Australia would have profound political repercussions here. But it’s not only attacks that keep us focused on the issue of Islamism. Developments like the Danish cartoon affair and the recurring Ramadan riots in France keep the issue of Islamism at center stage.

This would bring up an interesting moral choice for social conservatives, wouldn’t it? you’re country is depending on you! do you love fetuses more than you hate terrorists, or vice versa? Or, you know, they could just decide, um, both, and vote for McCain ….

Parts three and four deal with what kind of president Giuliani would be if he actually did get that chance.

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After years of Gov. Taft and Ken Blackwell and all the other jackasses who were running the fine state of Ohio, it’s so nice to finally hear good news coming out of the state on a semi-regular basis. From NARAL Ohio:

On Tuesday the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Governor Strickland is dropping his predecessor’s fight to uphold a dangerous state law that restricts the use of RU-486 for abortions in Ohio.

The law required doctors to use mifepristone — also known as RU-486, or the “abortion pill” — only during the first seven weeks of pregnancy, and only at the dosage of 600 milligrams. But 600 milligrams, it turns out, is much too much — three times the necessary dose, according to NARAL.

This requirement of increased dosages of RU-486 would have made this abortion option out of the reach of thousands of low-income women who could no longer afford the costs of the medication.

The law was written by Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Cincinnati, whom Ohio’s Chronicle-Telegram described as “an avowed abortion opponent” who, in 2004, said he feared that “women’s clinics are just passing these things out like candy.”

Strickland’s support, however, doesn’t mean the legal battle is over, as the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has vowed to continue to support the bill.

After the bill’s initial passage in 2004, various Ohio Planned Parenthood chapters and doctors filed a complaint challenging the constitutionality of the bill on the grounds it lacks a constitutionally- mandated exception for cases where off-label use is necessary to save a woman’s health or life, it is unconstitutionally vague, it violates a patient’s right to bodily integrity and it imposes an undue burden on a patient’s right to choose an abortion. After moving back and forth through Ohio’s lower and appellate courts, a federal appeals court voided the law last September. But, according to the Columbus Dispatch,

Although he voted against it as a state senator, Attorney General Marc Dann found himself in the position yesterday of defending a state law that restricts the use of a pill that causes women to abort their fetuses. … Dann said he voted against restrictions on the drug but concluded that the law adopted by the General Assembly and signed by former Gov. Bob Taft was clear.

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yay, CVS

    Plan B Flyer in the 15th & K St. CVS {Via Metroblogging DC}

Doesn’t it strike you as odd, though, that emergency contraception is now available over-the-counter, but regular contraception is not? I guess that’s as much a pharmaceutical-company-profit thing than it is a political thing, though.

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