Browsing the archives for the abortion category.

War on Women Update

abortion, Republican Party

Gail Collins on House Republicans versus Planned Parenthood:

The House Judiciary Committee has been investigating the matter with lawyerly precision, starting with a hearing titled: “Planned Parenthood Exposed: Examining the Horrific Abortion Practices at the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider.” In a further effort to offer balance and perspective, the committee did not invite Planned Parenthood to testify.

(Coming soon: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce prepares to welcome Pope Francis with a hearing on “Papal Fallibility: Why He’s Totally, Completely and Utterly Off Base About Global Warming.”)

Yesterday the House voted, mostly on party lines, to defund Planned Parenthood. That was a move meant to mollify the Scorched Earth crowd, who are determined to force another government shutdown on the issue.

Republican leaders don’t want such a shutdown, possibly because a recent poll showed that 71 percent of Americans don’t want another shutdown over Planned Parenthood. Even a small majority of Republicans don’t want it. Government shutdowns are a well-trodden path to Loserville for Republicans. So the vote was supposed to let the fire-eaters vent by voting for a bill that won’t become law. Whether this will settle them down remains to be seen.

We should brace for an uptick in women’s health clinic violence, which will not be limited to abortion clinics:

A summer of increasingly hysterical rhetoric aimed at Planned Parenthood culminated over the weekend in what appears to be a terrorist attack on a clinic in a small town in Eastern Washington. At 3:30 a.m. on Friday, the Planned Parenthood of Pullman—subject to a huge protest recently—caught fire in what investigators are deeming an arson. The damage was extensive enough to close down the clinic for at least a month. A federal anti-terrorism task force has been called in to investigate.

Anti-abortion terrorism is nothing new, of course, but at this point, it’s worth asking if “anti-abortion” is too narrow a term. After all, the clinic in question did not offer abortion. Nor was the Aug. 22 protest at the clinic, which drew an estimated 500 people, really about abortion. The protesters, who were part of a nationally organized series of actions against Planned Parenthood, were demanding the end of funding for contraception and other nonabortion service

 They’re really against health care for women. Compare/contrast to the Taliban in Afghanistan awhile back, which infamously cut women off from health care by declaring women could not be examined by male doctors while banning female doctors from their practices. Pry this hysteria down to its root, and you’ll find fear and loathing of female sexuality.

One of the Right’s favorite fictions is that if funding were cut off from Planned Parenthood, all kinds of other health care providers would step up to replace them. Experience is not showing that to be true. Gail Collins again:

Jindal cut off $730,000 in Medicaid reimbursements to his state’s two Planned Parenthood clinics, even though neither offers abortion services. They do, however, provide thousands of women with health care, including screening for sexually transmitted infections — a terrible problem in some parts of the state.

No big deal. When the issue went to court, Jindal’s administration provided a list of more than 2,000 other places where Planned Parenthood’s patients could get care.

“It strikes me as extremely odd that you have a dermatologist, an audiologist, a dentist who are billing for family planning services,”responded the judge.

Whoops. It appeared that the list-makers had overestimated a tad, and the number of alternate providers was actually more like 29. None of which had the capacity to take on a flood of additional patients.

I liked this bit:

When Planned Parenthood leaves town, bad things follow. Ask the county in Indiana that drove out its clinic, which happened to be the only place in the area that offered H.I.V. testing. That was in 2013; in March the governor announced a “public health emergency” due to the spike in H.I.V. cases.

And the clincher:

Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, studied what happened when Texas blocked Planned Parenthood grants and tried to move the money to other providers. Even when there were other clinics in an area, she said, “they were overbooked with their own patients. What happened in Texas was the amount of family planning services dropped. And the next thing that happened, of course, was that unplanned pregnancies began to rise.”

At least, the American Taliban won’t put women in burqas. More likely they’ll mandate modest calico dresses and sunbonnets.


Those Sneaky Canadians

abortion, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Sting videos just ain’t what they used to be. James O’Keefe just released one, with great fanfare, that allegedly showed “illegal activity conducted by high-level employees within Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” What the video actually showed was a Project Veritas operator purchasing $75 of Hillary Clinton campaign swag and giving it to a Canadian.

In the five-minute video, a Project Veritas member approached the booth at the event on New York’s Roosevelt Island alongside an apparent Canadian citizen, who Project Veritas says it did not know but was in line with by “pure happenstance.”

The Canadian citizen asked if she could purchase some campaign gear. The campaign staff at the booth — which included Director of Marketing Molly Barker and Compliance Manager Erin Tibe — informed her that since she was not a U.S. citizen, she could not legally contribute to the campaign. The undercover Project Veritas member then offers to take the Canadian woman’s cash and make the contribution for her.

The video then jumps to a printout of Federal Election Commission laws, which prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to a campaign, directly or indirectly.

“Molly Barker broke the law by allowing our journalist to become the middleman,” the video says.

I watched the video. You can clearly hear the Clinton campaign staffers telling the Canadian woman she could not purchase Clinton hats and T-shirts unless she is a U.S. citizen. They asked if she had a U.S. passport or even a green card. She did not. Then the O’Keefe operative piped up and argued with them, saying the woman had come all the way from Canada to support Hillary. Then when the Canadian herself appeared to be ready to leave, the operative offered to buy stuff for the Canadian. When the operative asked if she would be allowed to do that, the Clinton staffer clarified that “you [which I take to mean the operative] would just be making a contribution to the Clinton campaign.” Then later, the Clinton staffer said that if it weren’t for federal law they would accept donations from foreigners. The video plays this up as if the staffer had said something shocking.

That’s it. That’s the “sting.” Reporters were, um, underwhelmed.

(Earlier this week, Scott Walker was reported to have said that building a fence along the Canadian border was an idea worth reviewing. I say that if politics here gets any crazier, Canada might build it.)

Oliver Willis wrote,

Project Veritas last month released a video showing their operative undercover with the Clinton campaign, discussing the registration process and whether they can register people who don’t support Clinton.

A Clinton campaign staffer is then shown telling the Project Veritas operative that they will register anyone who asks, regardless of their presidential preference. As Time reported, “Nothing in the video shows the Clinton campaign violating the law, or the campaign’s own policy. But Veritas claims, nonetheless, that the campaign is ‘skirting the law’ by first asking whether potential voters are supporters before making the registration offer. This approach to training volunteers is standard operating procedure across field campaigns, according to a Republican field staffer, who requested anonymity.”

Well, so much for that. The crew of anti-reproductive rights extremists releasing the scam Planned Parenthood videos has another one out, and this time it appears the scammers are confused about the mechanics of pregnancy.

This video actually targets Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc., which the Fetus People call “the small and secretive company that has harvested and sold fetal body parts at Planned Parenthood clinics longer than any other entity.” ABR is a non-profit foundation that provides human tissue for scientific research. According to the Fetus People, an ABR “procurer” told a prospective “buyer” that getting an intact fetus is easy; they find a woman in an advanced stage of cervical dilation, and the fetus just “falls out.” Later in their press release the Fetus People called this a “second trimester” operation, meaning that any cervical dilation would have been induced, a point overlooked in the press release. WebMD explains how dilation is used in second trimester abortions; the fetus doesn’t “fall out.”

FYI, independent analysis has shown that even the “unedited videos released by these clowns have been doctored.

Glenn Simpson, a partner at the firm and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, assembled three teams of neutral experts to comb through the tapes using special video software. He said the teams found that all of the videos analyzed — even the supposedly “full,” unedited footage the CMP released — were missing large sections of time and misleadingly altered so that separate conversations appeared to take place in an uninterrupted take. Moreover, the forensic team found that the transcripts CMS released with the videos were frequently erroneous.

“It appears they commit what I would call ‘wishful thinking’ about what was said,” Simpson told reporters Thursday.

The videos show Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the donation of fetal tissue after abortions — a legal practice. But the CMP edited the videos into episodes that make it look as though Planned Parenthood is selling fetal parts for profit and changing abortion methods to deliver intact specimens. The family planning provider strongly denies both charges, and five separate state investigations into Planned Parenthood have cleared the organization of any wrongdoing.

Simpson said his team of experts found that the subtitles in the videos do not correspond to the actual dialogue, and that the CMP may have simply invented parts of the conversation when the recordings were too low-quality to determine what was really being said.

But, y’know, it’s all about the propaganda. A pollster is claiming that 54 percent of Republican voters think President Obama is a Muslim, so we’re not talking about advanced critical thinkers here. They’ll believe whatever they are told to believe.


The GOP White Guy Club Vs. Gynecology


This past week House Republicans did something truly remarkable, which was to scuttle an anti-abortion bill they had planned to pass on Thursday. [*] This bill, which would have banned abortions at 20 weeks’ gestation and after, was intended to please all the Fetus People zealots in Washington for their annual anti-Roe v. Wade protest march, and since the bill was not passed the Fetus People were mightily pissed. To placate them, the House hustled and passed a bill that bans federal tax dollars from being spent on abortions, which of course has been the law for some time already.

What stalled the bill was a provision that permitted abortion in the case of rape, but only if the woman had filed a police report at the time of the rape. But most rape victims do not file police reports, mostly because they are too traumatized to do so. Some Republican women balked at this provision. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), who had voted for the same bill in earlier congresses, spoke for the group. No doubt remembering earlier GOP embarrassments regarding government policies and rape ( Todd Akin, anyone?), Ellmers said the bill as worded maybe should be re-thought.

“It’s a messaging issue,” said North Carolina GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers, whose objections to the restrictive rape language helped scuttle the bill and whose office later drew dozens of protesters who had wanted the stricter approach. “I believe our heart is in the right place, and we’re standing up for what is right. But I think in order to be able to have that conversation with the American people, we have always got to be speaking from the perspective of the individual and … having compassion for women in all situations.”

Right-wing men reacted to this rather mild statement as if Ellmers were raising money for the George Tillman Memorial Late-Term Abortion Drive-Through Clinic and All You Can Eat Buffet. Joan Walsh writes,

The boys over at Red State are leading the charge, with sexually insecure sad sack Erick Erickson calling her “the GOP’s Abortion Barbie” (his sick nickname for Wendy Davis) and now another Red Stater, Aaron Gardner, asking “Is Renee Ellmers worthy of life?”

That’s cold, especially considering Ellmers has had solid teabag credentials until this moment. For example, in 2013 she tried to shield men from paying into the same health insurance risk pool with women, essentially saying that women ought to pay more for health insurance because they have girl parts. And she has been solidly anti-abortion rights her entire career. She was a co-sponsor of the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which tried to confer full rights and protections of citizenship on fertilized eggs. But one small deviation, and now she’s persona non grata and perhaps not worthy of life herself? Walsh continues,

It’s fascinating to me: Right-wingers love their Mama Grizzlies, tough gals like Palin and Sen. Joni Ernst to name two, as long as they stay in line. But when they stray from wingnut orthodoxy, they can expect the same abuse female Democrats get. I’ve been looking around to see if any conservative women have stood up for Ellmers, in the face of RedState’s ugly assault, but I haven’t found any. I will surely update this post if I do.

The same thing is true of the Right’s black members. For example, back in 2011 one-time GOP frontrunner Herman Cain had to apologize after being hit with a firestorm from the Right for saying use of the N word is insensitive. I wrote at the time,

So let’s get this straight — a black candidate for the Republican nomination for president is acceptable only as long as he doesn’t play the “race card,” meaning that he must not acknowledge racism in America. But it’s OK for Herman Cain to say that African-Americans are brainwashed into voting for Democrats, a statement I find curiously racist.

In other words, women and racial minorities are welcome into the GOP as long as say what they’re told to say by the white guys.

But the 20-week ban was narrowly defeated, resulting in many newspaper editorials exulting that Republican “moderates” had won the day, which has little to do with what actually happened. Especially since Ellmers is to “moderate” what swine flu is to “well.”

But the best part, children, is that Lindsey Graham stepped in to lead the conversation on “this definitional problem with rape.” Joan Walsh again:

The funny thing is, clearly Graham thinks he’s smarter than Akin: he insists he doesn’t “want to get us into a spot where we’re debating what legitimate is.” But he doesn’t seem to understand that the whole effort to “define” rape, which he’s apparently now spearheading, is precisely about deciding whether a woman’s claim of rape is “legitimate” or not.

At its heart, this Republican project is predicated on the belief that women lie about rape, but Republicans can outsmart them. If some Republican women believe that requiring women to make a police report is draconian, then Graham is searching for another way to define a woman’s rape as legitimately deserving of an exception to their 20-week abortion ban.

The built-in dilemma for Graham at the heart of the issue is that the zealotry is fueled by fear and loathing of women and their sexuality. I’m sure some activists sincerely want to stop abortion, but if stopping abortion were the primary motivation of the anti-reproductive rights movement it wouldn’t increasingly be anti-contraception as well, since contraceptive use is the one proven way to reduce abortion. No, this is about sex and about preventing women from being free sexual agents the old-fashioned way — by keeping the threat of pregnancy hanging over their heads. Allowing women some benefit of the doubt about whether they were raped, or not, is not going to fly with these folks. But there’s no way any committee of men is going to come up with a litmus test to prove whether a woman “deserves” to make her own choices. Someone might want to womansplain that to Graham.

 Gail Collins writes,

Rape exemptions have come to dominate the abortion debate. Abortion rights groups use lack of concern for rape victims as an illustration of the heartlessness of their opponents. Their opponents propose exemptions to show that they’re reasonable. But, really, it makes no sense either way. The question of when a fetus inside a woman’s body becomes a human being is theological. If you truly believe that human life begins the moment a sperm fertilizes an egg, you can’t admit any exceptions. The only real debate is whether you get to impose your religious beliefs on the entire country.

Not that anybody’s trying to be that rational. “I’m going to need your help to find a way out of this definitional problem with rape,” Senator Lindsey Graham told the anti-abortion marchers. This was four days after Graham announced that he was considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination. It’s very possible that the phrase “this definitional problem with rape” will last longer than his candidacy.

Even having a “definitional problem with rape” pretty much sums up the problem, IMO, but I’m not holding my breath until Graham sees that.

[*The bill, called the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was based on several fictions; one, that medical science has determined a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks' gestation (not true; it's currently thought the earliest a fetus can feel pain is 29 weeks); that abortions after 20 weeks' gestation are "very late term" (a normal human pregnancy lasts 40 weeks; 20 weeks obviously is smack at the halfway point) and that a human fetus is viable at 20 weeks. In fact, although viability varies from pregnancy to pregnancy, no human fetus in recorded history has survived outside the womb after only 20 weeks gestation. The standard threshold of viability is considered to be 24 weeks' gestation, and that's still very iffy. It's true that a very tiny percentage of babies have survived after 22 or 23 weeks, albeit with severe disabilities, but the odds are so low and the infant's quality of life so compromised that doctors generally recommend palliative care only for a baby that premature. The Fetus People have been marching into courts and demanding that 20 weeks be considered the legal point of viability, arguing that the date at which a fetus becomes viable is a matter of scientific dispute. True, but there's no dispute that 20 weeks' ain't it.]

Update: What actually happened when one woman reported a rape.


War on Women Update

abortion, Women's Issues

Dave Weigel has moved from Slate to Bloomberg News, at at Bloomberg he tells us that the GOP has a bigger and bigger problem with women voters.

The most interesting part, to me, is that in many races around the country Republicans are having to backstep and fudge and are genuinely on the defensive about their stands on “women’s issues,” including abortion. I can remember not many years ago it was conventional wisdom that socially liberal candidates should probably not discuss abortion unless directly asked about it, and then frame all responses in “safe, legal and rare” language.

But now the tables are turned, at least in some parts of the country, and now it’s Republican candidates who have to be careful to not come across as too extremely anti-choice. It seems the overreach of many Republican state legislators, as well as Republicans in Washington, to deny women not just abortion but even reasonable access to birth control has finally triggered the realization that Republicans are dangerous to women.

Again, looking back, I remember the “wink” campaign of George W. Bush in 2000. Dubya was explicitly anti-choice, but he had plenty of women surrogates winking at voters and saying, in effect, he doesn’t mean it. He has to say that to get elected. His mother is pro-choice; his wife is pro-choice. Don’t worry about it. But this truth is that Dubya never saw a women’s rights-restricting bill he wasn’t eager to sign. Fool me once, etc.

In Michigan, for example, Republican Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land ran what was supposed to be a “killer” ad pooh-poohing (with silence) the very idea that she was part of the war on women. Voters weren’t fooled; she’s now trailing her Democratic opponent among women voters by 17 points. “Land’s defense of her agenda that cuts access to mammograms, restricts access to contraception, and opposes equal pay for women is summed up in that now infamous 14 seconds of silence,” a Democratic spokesperson said.

I don’t think that Republicans entirely grasp that female genitalia do not a pro-women candidate make. It’s the issues, stupid.

Amanda Marcotte wrote recently that Republicans around the country are running away from “culture war” issues, notably same-sex marriage and access to birth control, and this is causing a rift between the GOP and the religious Right. Marcotte adds,

It’s almost possible to feel a small twinge of pity for the true believers on the religious right. For decades now, the Republican party has depended on them to endorse right wing ideology as a religious belief and to organize voters to get Republicans elected. But now the religious right is finding they only love you if they need you. Of course, religious conservatives shouldn’t fret too much. Just because Republican politicians may not want to engage in the culture war now doesn’t mean they won’t return to pushing the religious right’s agenda against gays and women once safely ensconced in office.

That’s probably true, although if (please) women’s votes cost the GOP the Senate in November, the next wink campaign may be aimed at religious conservatives.


Compassion vs. Reince Priebus

abortion, Republican Party

There was a brief flurry of mild amusement on some leftie blogs yesterday, as Chuck Todd appeared briefly to make a point. On Meet the Press he asked GOP frontman Reince Priebus about why Republicans oppose regulations on business except when the business is an abortion clinic.

And Priebus actually said, “The fact of the matter is we believe that any woman that’s faced with unplanned pregnancy deserves compassion, respect, counseling.” Seriously, he said that. It’s on the video.

Todd pressed (!) the point, asking how it could be compassionate to expect women “drive for 2 or 300 miles,” and Priebus changed the subject to taxpayer funding of abortion, which is one of the current phony issues/shiny sparkly things being dangled in front of the base to keep it focused. At this point, Todd reverted to form and failed to point out that taxpayer dollars are not, in fact, being used to fund abortions. As I said, it was a brief flurry.

The larger point is that Republicans have a weird view of “compassion” that matches their weird view of women. And their weird view of human reproduction, for that matter.

Republican Family Life

There’s a bunch of new data showing that a dramatic reduction in unwanted pregnancy — and, thereby, abortion — can be achieved by providing teenage girls and women with free counseling  and the contraception of their choice, also free. This cuts teen abortion rates by 75 percent.

As near as I can tell claims that taxes are funding abortions are based on two things: One, the exchange subsidies will pay for policies that include abortion coverage. To which I say, Oh, please. … The other is that tax money goes to Planned Parenthood, an organization that no doubt prevents more abortions than all the so-called “right to life” culties put together. Seriously, as the Fetus People make family planning services more out of reach for low income women, they should pick up their “baby killer” signs and start picketing each other.


What We Don’t See

abortion, big picture stuff, Social Issues, Women's Issues

Of all the conceits common to humankind possibly the most insidious is that any of us are entirely rational. And often the most irrational people are those who brag about how rational they are.

Even if a person’s basic reasoning skills are sound, the outcome of his reasoning nearly always will be imperfect. That’s because nearly all of us “live” within limited conceptual frameworks that filter and sort information in artificial ways. The way we conceptually interface with reality is based partly on our own experience and partly on how we are culturally conditioned to understand things.  And most of us are blind to this, because if we and everyone we know is artificially filtering and sorting information in pretty much the same way, we assume our understanding of reality is the only possible one.

(I wrote quite a lot about this in my book, by the way, explaining the way our limited conceptual frameworks have impacted religion and have largely rendered it ridiculous, but it doesn’t have to be that way.)

Breaking out of the conceptual box we live in usually takes some extraordinary experience — and often a shocking one — to see that we’re living in an artificial world and that the “real” one outside the limits of our awareness is largely alien to us. And most of us amble through life without ever having that experience.

Even though few of us ever perceive that we’re living inside a conceptual box, if we run into people whose conceptual boxes are very different from ours we think those people just don’t understand the real world (meaning our “real world”). I could define maturity, even wisdom, as the ability to appreciate  and respect that other people’s “worlds” are just as valid as ours even if they are wildly different. I wrote a few years ago,

My view is that everything we think comes from a complex of psychological discriminations and impulses, little of which have anything to do with “logic.” The way we understand ourselves and the world begins to be shaped from the moment we’re born and continues to be shaped by the culture we grow up and live in. In other words, all of our understandings are biased. This is pervasive and inescapable. Often the difference between “logical” and “empathic” people is that an “empathic” person has at least a dim appreciation of his own biases, whereas a “logical” person is utterly oblivious to them. …

… Our conscious, cognitive understandings of things are based on internalized models of what we’ve been conditioned to believe is “normal.” We may be able to articulate our ideas and perceptions in a coolly logical way, but the process by which we arrive at our ideas and perception is “complex, unconscious and emotional.” This is always true, whether we want to admit it or not. …

… Generally being “fair” is not losing one’s biases, but perceiving one’s biases as biases. If you recognize your biases as biases, you are in a position to overrule them as the facts dictate. But if you are so unconscious of yourself that you don’t recognize your biases as biases, then your “thinking” generally amounts to casting around for support for your biases. Then you put the biases and the cobbled-together “support” together and call it “reason.”

And this takes me to what we don’t see. I’ve written before about the “default norm” syndrome, also called the invisible baseline fallacy, which in our culture means white maledom is the default norm, and perspectives and experiences that deviate from those common to white men are not respected as legitimate. If you are a woman or racial minority in this country you have bumped into this iron wall of assumption many times, but the iron wall is invisible to a lot of white men. Not all, thank goodness.

This is basically the same thing that people are calling “male privilege” or “white privilege,” although I don’t like those terms. The degree to which one’s assumptions, biases and experiences are “privileged” depends on a complex of factors that include health or physical condition, class, and wealth. A white male lower-income paraplegic is considerably less “privileged” than the Koch brothers, for example. As wealth inequality becomes more extreme a whole lot of white people are being left behind to a degree I believe is unprecedented in American history, and I assure you most of these people don’t feel all that “privileged.”

Money is privilege. People who have always been financially comfortable have no idea how much lack of money can be an obstacle to basic functionality in our society. The poor are taxed in myriad ways, from paying higher bank account fees on their meager balances — causing the very poor to not use banks at all, but then one must use check cashing services that also take a bite. Without a car you take public transportation, which eats a lot more time out of your day. And if you don’t have money for a bus you simply don’t go anywhere out of walking distance, which puts a huge limit on your job opportunities. Those left out of Medicaid expansion still have limited access to health care, and chronic, debilitating conditions often go untreated. Poor parents often are caught in the day care trap — they aren’t paid enough to afford reliable day care, but without that it’s hard to hold a job at all. So one is perpetually making seat-of-the-pants arrangements with people to watch the children, and then worrying if the kids are safe. Etc. etc. Many conveniences people with money take for granted are not available to the poor, and the inconveniences pile up and make day-to-day life an exhausting exercise in barely coping.

And then it is assumed the poor can’t get ahead because they are lazy. And it is just about impossible to explain the problem to someone who has been cocooned from it. It’s not part of his, or her, experience; therefore, it isn’t “real.”

As a woman I am sometimes surprised at how much even liberal men are oblivious to the extreme misogyny that still lingers in our culture. I wrote earlier this year,

Even those of us who have never experienced physical assault have experienced sexual intimidation, belittling and humiliation, aimed at us only because of our gender. And most of the time we put up with it, because what else can we do? Confronting some sexist bozo could turn an unpleasant situation into something genuinely dangerous. So how has the political Right responded to #YesAllWomen? Mostly with more belittling. Charles Cooke at NRO, for example, dismisses the social media phenomenon as “groupthink.” We women can’t possibly know our own experiences, apparently, and simply imagine misogyny because we’ve read about it.

Especially to conservatives, problems that middle- and upper-income white men rarely if ever encounter are not “real” issues worthy of being addressed by society or government, but are exceptions that the individuals affected must take care of on their own. The fact that these issues may impact all of us, directly or indirectly, and that the cause may be widespread cultural and institutional bias that upper-income whites feed on a daily basis, is invisible to them.  And you can’t explain it to them. No amount of real-world data or well-constructed logic makes dent in the iron wall. If it doesn’t conform to the conceptual box they live in, it can’t be true.

This is why it is good to have diversity of experience represented in decision-making bodies such as governments, for example. White men like to tell themselves they can make decisions that affect everybody else just fine because they will apply reason. But their reason is based on biased perspectives that fail to take many things into account. Publius provides a good example here — many rape laws used to require a woman to show she had resisted an assault to prove she had not consented. But this is a male-centric view. A woman understands that if she is being assaulted by a violent man much stronger than she is, her only hope of surviving may be in not resisting. (I remember a bitter joke from many years ago that the only woman almost certain to win a rape case is a dead nun.)

And don’t get me started on reproductive issues. Just a few days ago I was told I was too emotional because I passionately disagreed that abortion must be criminalized. Naturally it was a man, who will never be pregnant, who said this. Yes it’s easier to be emotionally detached from a issue when it’s not personal, and when the real-world experiences and consequences of that issue are merely hypothetical. It’s easier to be emotionally detached when you’re behind the iron wall.

Michael Brown is being buried today. If his killing, and what we’ve learned about Ferguson, hasn’t given us a clear picture of the evils and pervasiveness of institutional racism I don’t know what else will. Yet just last week I encountered a forum populated largely by white men who couldn’t understand why people are always going on about race. Why is race such a big deal? Isn’t it  all about making white men feel guilty?

But I certainly don’t give a rodent’s posterior whether anybody feels guilty. Guilt doesn’t so much as butter toast. Our country is becoming increasingly dysfunctional, in part because our institutions, especially government, increasingly reflect the views of only the most sheltered and privileged among us. And it is increasingly unresponsive to everyone else. And, weirdly, a big chunk of the population being left behind still clings to the cognitive biases that support policies that are hurting them.  Their collective conceptual frameworks are not adjusting; they still can’t see past the iron wall.

See also: Andrew O’Hehir, “White Privilege: An Insidious Virus That’s Eating America from Within.”


We Don’t Call ‘Em American Taliban for Nothing

abortion, Supreme Court, Terrorism

It strikes me that the right-wing Christianists celebrating the Hobby Lobby decision are an unimaginative crew. This might be expected of people who combine dogmatic literalism with a myopic inability to perceive the difference between their own culturally induced bigotries and God. The degree to which they are shooting themselves in the foot is revealed in a New Yorker commentary by Steve Coll, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University in New York.

Tehrik-e-Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, is a closely held, profit-making enterprise organized on religious principles. One of its principles, announced as public policy in July, 2012, is that children should not be inoculated against polio, because the vaccines violate God’s law. So sincere are the Taliban’s religious beliefs that its followers have assassinated scores of public-health workers who have attempted to administer polio vaccines in areas under Taliban control or influence. …

… If the Pakistani Taliban, aided by clever lawyers, organized a closely held American corporation, and professed to run it on religious principles, might its employees be deprived of insurance coverage to inoculate their children against polio? And would the Supreme Court, by the five-to-four decision issued on Monday in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and in Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Burwell, endorse such a move?

Coll acknowledges that before this could happen the Taliban would have to jump through some challenging hoops, such as their status in the U.S. as a terrorist organization. And the part about assassinating people would touch on other areas of law, unrelated to the Affordable Care Act, that might get them into trouble even in “murder at will” states like Florida. However, maybe if they came out for open carry … well, that’s another argument.

Here’s the meat of Coll’s argument:

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the Court’s conservative majority, sought to evade such thought exercises by predicting, without evidence, that there will not be “a flood of religious objections regarding a wide variety of medical procedures and drugs, such as vaccinations and blood transfusions.”

Why not? Is it because the justices do not intend to extend their reasoning to companies that hold religious views less proximate to their own Christian beliefs? Or because the judges believe that they can enforce what they imagine to be a rational or permissible resistance to reproductive rights for women, while blocking what they might see as irrational resistance to transfusions and vaccines?

In other words, as Dahlia Lithwick argued the other day, either the justices intend to show favoritism to “mainstream” (in their minds) Christianity, denying other religions the same privileges, or they think women’s reproductive health is a less serious medical issue than, for example, blood transfusions. There really is no other way to interpret Alito’s argument.

The Right argues that these medical procedures would not be blocked, because the employees could still obtain them and pay for them out of their own pockets. But here in Real World Land, the cost of such things could be out of reach, especially for employees making minimum wage. Add several children, and you might as well tell the employees they can buy a gold-plated yacht while they’re at it. Also, it’s not just the Taliban with issues about vaccines, is it?

And here’s the central issue:

Perhaps the Supreme Court’s majority cannot fully imagine that religiously motivated litigants—Muslim, Christian Scientist, Hindu, or other—as qualified and as American as the Hobby Lobby owners might ultimately use Monday’s ruling to enforce beliefs far outside of the decades-long campaign of Christian evangelicals and Catholics to limit the reproductive rights of women. If so, that is another failure of their reasoning, one that exposes what really seems to have gone on in this decision: four longtime adherents to the deeply rooted conservative movement to limit or ban abortion in the United States, joined by a fifth willing to defer to them, saw in the Hobby case an opportunity to advance their cause incrementally, and they reasoned to achieve that end—not, as their opinion claims, to construct a sustainable framework of religious resistance to public-health laws.

The Right is perpetually screaming that we are about to be placed under sharia law. Sharia law, as I understand it, is interpreted many different ways, and I don’t want to join into demonizing it here. But the Right doesn’t seem to appreciate that the Hobby Lobby decision potentially opens the door to exactly this — a company with Muslim owners could potentially enforce its Islamic views on the employees.

The pre-Hobby Lobby understanding of separation of church and state would have prevented sharia law from being involuntarily applied to non-Muslims in the U.S. That’s not quite so clear now. It seems to me that the only way the HL decision wouldn’t open the door to all kinds of religious impositions on employees is if the courts set themselves up as arbiters of what religious beliefs are legitimate and which not, First Amendment be damned.

I like this bit:

Because campaigners against reproductive rights have successfully mainstreamed their views within institutions like the Supreme Court, those views no longer seem radical even to many of their opponents. The Taliban have not similarly legitimized their philosophy because they are so indiscriminately violent and repressive, among other reasons. (Some religiously motivated radicals have assassinated abortion providers in the United States, but the gunmen are not commonly referred to here as terrorists.)

I argue from time to time that the only difference between our domestic right-wing extremists — and not just the religious ones — and Islamic terrorists is in degree, not in kind. Of course people who bomb abortion clinics or assassinate doctors — or even threaten to assassinate doctors — are terrorists. Here’s the dictionary definition of “terrorism”:

the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal
the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

So, yes, many abortion clinic “protesters” are terrorists. But we can’t call them terrorists because their opinions have been “mainstreamed.” A group doing exactly the same thing to banks that the Fetus People do to abortion clinics would be called terrorists. No question. So clinic protesters are allowed to get away with terrorism because some courts, and much of the public, sympathize with their cause, not because they aren’t actually terrorists.

Bottom line, extremist right-wing dogmatic Christians get a pass, because they are “mainstream.” I suspect Islamic extremism got its first footholds in the Middle East the same way.


Buffer Zones Are Gone

abortion, Supreme Court

SCOTUS has found Massachusetts “buffer zones” around abortion clinics to be unconstitutional. This doesn’t surprise me. I am, however, stunned to learn this was a unanimous decision. Some guy actually is arguing that liberals won.

True, Roberts’s opinion, joined by the court’s four doubtless relieved liberals, struck down the buffer as a violation of the free-speech rights of pro-life activists who seek to converse with women who might be seeking abortions. But the crucial element in the opinion — the one that got the liberals on board and enraged the conservatives — is that Roberts said the law was neutral with respect to the content of speech as well as the viewpoint of the speakers. That conclusion protected the possibility of other laws protecting women seeking abortions that pay more attention to what Roberts said was missing here, namely proof that the law was narrowly tailored. For the liberals, that was enough to get on board.

I’m reading that Don Scalia is furious with the majority opinion, which apparently stopped short of declaring open season on abortion providers.

I haven’t had time to wrap my head around this. However, I do think that if the anti-abortion “protesters” were handled like the public nuisances, dangerous bullies and sometimes terrorists they actually are, we wouldn’t need “buffer zones.” As I wrote in my book,

Let’s try a thought experiment: Let’s say a number of people decide that banks are evil. This group then targets banks to picket. But they don’t stop with picketing. They chain themselves to doors. They try to stop bank customers from entering. They yell at people to keep their money at home and not let it mingle with the infernal financial system. They set up websites displaying photos and names of bank employees and where they live, hinting that maybe somebody could just eliminate these people. Banks are vandalized and even bombed. Some bank managers are assassinated.

Now, how many nanoseconds would pass before law enforcement and the FBI call this movement domestic terrorism and shut it down? No one outside the anti-bank cult would stand for this. But when the context involves women, sex, and religion instead of money and business, somehow, it’s different.

It’s only because the well-being and concerns of women are not taken seriously that the buffer zones were necessary.

See also “Do what we tell you to do, or we will kill you” and an extended excerpt from my book here.


When Anti-Choicers Choose


It appears today is the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. Here’s an eye-opening page of accounts of what happens when an abortion clinic picketer encounters an unwanted pregnancy. They want an abortion, of course, but they think their case is “different.”

Many anti-choice women are convinced that their need for abortion is unique — not like those “other” women — even though they have abortions for the same sorts of reasons. Anti-choice women often expect special treatment from clinic staff. Some demand an abortion immediately, wanting to skip important preliminaries such as taking a history or waiting for blood test results. Frequently, anti-abortion women will refuse counseling (such women are generally turned away or referred to an outside counselor because counseling at clinics is mandatory). Some women insist on sneaking in the back door and hiding in a room away from other patients. Others refuse to sit in the waiting room with women they call “sluts” and “trash.” Or if they do, they get angry when other patients in the waiting room talk or laugh, because it proves to them that women get abortions casually, for “convenience”.

I remember reading about an abortion provider who said that whenever a woman came to her for abortion and said, “I’m not one of those women who gets abortions,” the doctor said “Oh, OK, I don’t guess you need me then.” And the woman would be refused treatment. That sounds harsh, but on the page linked it says that anti-choice women who get abortions will sometimes turn around and sue the clinic for some trumped up reason.


New Adventures of the Fetus People


If this doesn’t make you want to bite the wall and howl at the moon, nothing will.

An abortion clinic sitting in a residential area of Wichita, Kansas poses a safety hazard to the surrounding community, pro-life activists argued to the Wichita City Council this week.

This is the abortion clinic that once was operated by the late George Tiller, who was murdered by a “right to life” activist. Keep that in mind.

Representatives from local pro-life groups, including Kansans for Life, Operation Rescue, Word of Life Church and the Kansas Coalition for Life, appeared in front of the Wichita City Council Tuesday to convince government officials to rezone the neighborhood surrounding South Wind Women’s Center to prohibit abortions. The clinic is located on the city’s eastside at Kellogg and Bleckley.

The pro-life representatives told city council that South Wind Women’s Center poses a safety threat to the surrounding residential community, and employees at the clinics are often aggressive towards pro-life advocates seeking to provide pregnancy alternatives to women entering the clinic.

“Some of the clinic workers are aggressive and harassing toward the pro-life people who are attempting to offer help to abortion-bound women. An escalation of their hostile behavior has every possibility of spilling out into the neighborhood, causing a safety concern to residents along Bleckley,” Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy advisor for Operation Rescue, one of the pro-life groups present at the meeting, told the council. “An abortion business does not belong in a residential neighborhood,” Sullenger added, according to LifeSite news.

What they are saying here is that because they are are aggressive and obnoxious jerks who harass women entering the clinic, and sometimes the clinic staff express a hostile attitude about this, the clinic must be moved.

The pro-life groups also argued in a joint press release that it is inappropriate for schoolchildren commuting past the clinic to see protest signs depicting graphic images relating to abortion.

Yes, you read that right. They want the neighborhood to be shielded from the inappropriate signs they are carrying. The clinic must be moved somewhere where they can be obnoxious and carry inappropriate signs with impunity, or something.

It gets better. Today one of the Fetus People accused the clinic of trying to provoke a shooting incident. Like the one that killed George Tiller, maybe?

Mark Gietzen, chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, said he believes the South Wind Women’s Center is allowing volunteers to escort women into the clinic in hopes that they will harass the anti-abortion protesters outside and provoke a shooting. He said Julie Burkhart, the founder and owner of the clinic, would blame the incident on the protesters in order to raise money.

Gietzen also said it’s possible that the father or boyfriend of the woman seeking an abortion might show up to the clinic angry and armed because they disapprove of the abortion, and a security guard or nearby protester could end up getting shot.

Are we biting the wall yet?


Haha, we think that is supposed to be a joke, but godDAMN, it’s a bad one, isn’t it? Everyone knows that most “pro-lifers” are really super nice people who do not do violent things or terrorize anyone, and that the most prominent “pro-life” organizations do not condone violence. Except those like, say, the most famous “pro-life” organization, Operation Rescue, which hired Cheryl Sullenger as its senior policy advisor after she served her time in federal prison for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic, but hey, she has SO renounced violence since then, and it’s a TOTES coincidence that she helped Scott Roeder stalk Dr. Tiller and then murder him. That was an isolated incident anyway. Just like the thousands and thousands and THOUSANDS of other isolated incidents of violence and terrorism by “pro-lifers” against doctors and their patients.

Besides, as Gietzen points out, it’s really the clinic’s fault for provoking and antagonizing the protesters in the first place, what with the clinic being there and all, and if the clinic does not want to get blowed up, or its employees and volunteers and patients do not want to get shot, well, then, the clinic just shouldn’t be there, should it?

I say the FPs are terrorists, and they should be treated as such.

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