Friday Femorandum: Fixing Hobby Lobby, calling out misogyny, & even more tacos/beer

Welcome to the Friday Femorandum, our weekly roundup of reproductive rights news.

Here’s what happened in reproductive politics this week:

The Obama Administration has issued a fix to ensure that women employed at terrible companies like Hobby Lobby maintain access to birth control in the wake of the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell ruling. The “accommodation to the accommodation” allows employers to write a letter to the Department of Health & Human Services instead of filling out an exemption form, an action that some of the objecting companies seem to sincerely believe causes an abortion.

“Abortion is illegal in Nigeria but Nigerian women are faced with the problem of unwanted pregnancy, unsafe abortion and the complications of unsafe abortion.” So the Women’s Health and Action Research Centre (WHARC) is training Nigerian pharmacists on abortion management.

The California State Legislature just passed a landmark law overhauling requirements for investigation into sexual assault cases on college campuses.

Confidential to misogynist internet trolls viciously targeting Anita Sarkeesian, the creator ofFeminist Frequency and caller-out of sexist tropes in video games: hurling misogynist vitriol at someone for calling out sexism as a way to show that sexism isn’t real has never worked.

Speaking of calling out sexism, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has gone public about sexism in Congress. In case you aren’t interested in reading the Washington Post‘s coverage of it, here’s the picture that ran with it:

That’s right. It’s Kirsten Gillibrand and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz supporting Gabby Giffords as she throws out the first pitch at the Congressional Softball Game. THERE’S SOMETHING IN MY EYE

On trans-inclusive language and reproductive rights advocacy.

How one Arizona candidate responded to a request from National Right to Life: “He pointed out that he does support some policies proven to lower the number of unintended pregnancies, and mailed back condoms emblazoned with the phrase ‘prevent abortion.'”

You do you, Mr. Woods of Arizona.

“To ingest the mifepristone and misoprostol they are told to place the drugs in their cheek or under their tongue, where the medicine cannot be detected in the body. Treatment, if needed, is the same as it would be for a spontaneous miscarriage. “Women shouldn’t be afraid to look for care when they need it, and at the same time they shouldn’t do anything to incriminate themselves,” Gomperts said.” This is from the NY Times‘s must-read feature on Women on Waves founder Rebecca Gomperts, a game-changing physician who has provided legal abortions on a boat in international waters for women in countries where abortion is illegal or inaccessible and now provides medication abortion over the Internet. Go read all of it.

A friendly reminder that the taco and/or beer challenge to fund abortion is still going strong. Eat a delicious taco or drink a delicious beer – or both! – and donate to an abortion fund of your choice.

Thank you for being pro-choice. You restore our faith in humanity every day.

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Care About Economic Justice? End Coverage Bans on Abortion

By Jaimie Just, Reproductive Freedom Fellow

Let’s not kid ourselves about the true intention of anti-choice politicians: to ban all abortions. The fact that abortion is legal in the United States does not mean that it is affordable. Often, there is disconnect between a woman’s choice and what is economically feasible.

Racial equality and economic justice are intimately linked with reproductive health equity. Significant economic barriers deny women, especially those who are struggling to make ends meet, their constitutional right to choose abortion. Public funding, such as Medicaid, is used as a proxy for overturning Roe v. Wade. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote in his dissenting opinion in Harris v. McRae that “the Hyde Amendment is designed to deprive poor and minority women of the constitutional right to choose abortion.”

The Hyde Amendment goes against the core American values of liberty and fair and equal treatment under the law by banning federal insurance or health plans, including Medicaid, from covering abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the woman. Politicians must not be allowed to interfere with personal health care decisions. All women need access to broad range of reproductive health services, including contraceptives, maternity care, and – yes – abortions. This is common sense.

While there are differing opinions regarding abortion, it is not my place, or the government’s, to decide for someone else whether or not she should get an abortion. It is better that she makes that personal decision with her family and her faith.

Studies have shown that abortion coverage restrictions disproportionately affect certain segments of our society. Often, those who are already underrepresented – such as women of color and women living in poverty – see their right to comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortions, curtailed. This is not fair and equal treatment under the law!

Considering the fact that 69% of women who get abortions are economically disadvantaged and nearly 1 in 7 women of reproductive age (15-44) is insured through the Medicaid program, many women are left to pay for abortions out-of-pocket. The high costs of the procedure put some women in the difficult position of choosing between having an abortion or paying the rent and putting food on the table for their families. When Medicaid restrictions on abortion force one in four poor women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, how can we say that they have a choice?

In Washington State, the cost of an abortion can range from $500 up to $10,000 depending how advanced the pregnancy is. Luckily, Washington is one of 15 states that provide funding to bridge the gap left by Hyde restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion. What about the women who live in the other 35 states?

The Hyde Amendment can and should be repealed in order to guarantee reproductive justice for all women. Repealing the Hyde Amendment would reinforce women’s moral agency in making healthcare decisions. When people can plan if and when to have children, it is good for them and for society as a whole.

To reiterate, we mustn’t be fooled into believing that those who would outlaw abortion are simply trying to protect women’s health and lower abortion rates. Anti-choice positions regarding sex education, contraceptives, as well as the recent Hobby Lobby decision from the Supreme Court show a remarkable lack of coherence and do a poor job concealing efforts to control the lives of women through legislation.

Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL) said it himself in 1977, “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody from having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.” So, unable to control the sexuality of all women in our society, women’s health opponents settle for controlling the most vulnerable because, you know, their rights are somehow less important than those of their wealthier counterparts.

A movement is brewing around the country, sights set firmly on Hyde Amendment restrictions on abortion coverage. The group All Above All is traveling cross-country to various cities gathering signatures for a petition that would extend federal funding to include abortion. Local city councils are taking part as well, proposing resolutions supporting insurance coverage of abortion. Reproductive health equity is a necessary step in the fight for racial equality and economic justice, so let’s #EndCoverageBans now!

Jaimie Just is a Reproductive Freedom Fellow at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.

Inner Happiness Is Not a Luxury: On Feminism & Mental Health

By Crysteaux Sun, Social Media Intern

Everyone can use this reminder: one major function of feminism is to keep us sane in a world where gender equality isn’t yet where it should be. Although it might seem ultra-progressive, feminism ultimately seeks to guarantee something pretty basic: healthy, happy lives for people of all genders.

You’ve probably seen Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk about body language, where she stresses that the way you carry yourself affects your mind, and she finds that lots of women curtail their potential when they assume closed off stances. It’s a physical act of self-censorship we’ve been conditioned to perform. Searching “shy” on Google brings up images of mostly women; searching “feminism” on Tumblr conjures up loads of motivational messages along the lines of putting oneself first.

Selfish: how anti-feminists and cynics might describe those messages. 

Empowering, spunky, assertive: words we might use ourselves.

Right, but first and foremost, such motivation is preventativepreventative against the tendency to hold ourselves back women have been conditioned to have.

All women suffer from unreasonable societal pressures, which can control  us, whether we know it or not. Eating disorders are a visible and all too common example. As women we receive a huge number of conflicting societal messages about how we should live our lives. One antidote is to get to be our own best advocates, but it’s hard work. We have to put ourselves first. We have to know who we are.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime. But mental health issues don’t exist in a vacuum. It seems extremely likely that a society which constantly lets women down and limits our autonomy holds some responsibility for our mental health struggles.

“Women have low self esteem.” This has become a dominant paradigm in our culture, as evidenced by the success of ad campaigns from Dove and Pantene that operate on the idea that women don’t think much of themselves. We accept this paradigm as a given. Our society is comfortable with it. But we shouldn’t be. Luckily, the intersection of feminism and mental health may hold an answer – after all, gender equality is about more than counting women in the boardrooms. It’s also about making sure all of us have a fair shot at happiness and self-respect.

Crysteaux Sun is a Social Media Intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Washington.

All The More Reason To Respect Women’s Choices: On the Complexity of Birth & “Personhood”

Though we don’t always acknowledge it, the experience of giving birth is complicated and potentially dangerous. Miss Celania of Mental Floss delineates this, and suggests that as childbirth technologies and safety have improved, the birth experience has become less communal. In the past, childbirth was treated with less outside intervention. Now, it’s kind of the opposite, as evidenced by the current increase in C-sections. However, both past and present, whether it’s clergy or doctors, there have often been circumstances of outside interference with women’s choices in giving birth.

Take C-sections, for example. Though sometimes medically necessary, there have been cases where women have undergone C-sections despite stating that the procedure was performed against their wishes. We’ve also heard of cases where C-sections have been performed on women who were carrying nonviable fetuses or otherwise could not consent to the procedure.


The medical establishment gained a role in childbirth around the Renaissance. This marked a change of power between female midwives and male doctors. I don’t mean to imply that the world would be a better place if this shift hadn’t happened. Modern medicine has been indispensable to making childbirth safer for women. But this doesn’t mean that regression – when it comes to childbirth – isn’t possible. To the contrary, the worst kind of this has emerged in recent years in the separation of woman and fetus into two levels of concern.

The Personhood Movement, which (absurdly) pursues legal protections for fetuses, has taken this mentality to an extreme, prioritizing potential future people over pregnant women and their own bodily autonomy. This is the type of warped thinking that leads to interpreting childbirth or pregnancy complications as a murder. This fixation on protecting fetuses did not emerge only recently, and it often targets women who experience medical complications – and even blames women for them – especially women who have the slightest involvement with drugs.

For example, this spring, Tennessee enacted a new anti-choice law that permits the criminal investigation and conviction of women with a history of drug use who experience abnormal births. The law doesn’t improve drug programs, and critics–pro and anti-choice alike–project that it will result in tremendous stress for pregnant women and will actually motivate more abortions.

This law is presented – falsely – as focused on keeping babies healthy while actively trying to control women’s reproductive decisions. Much of anti-choice sentiment puts a disproportionate weight on women’s culpability for poor birth outcomes. The Tennessee law and 16-year-old Rennie Gibbs’s unjust indictment are prime examples of this unfair targeting of women and children.

And it doesn’t end with drugs. It doesn’t end anywhere. In 1987, both cancer patient Angela Carder and her newborn perished after her doctor made the unilateral decision to deliver the baby via C-section before she died. Yet even after this debacle, some doctors and politicians continue to claim medical, legal and moral high ground over pregnant women, such as Samantha Burton and Lisa Epsteen in 2013.

Ultimately, the innate complexity of childbirth has been used as an excuse to subjugate women and punish their choices. Childbirth is complicated, and it can be dangerous. But that’s all the more reason to respect women’s choices when it comes to pregnancy and birth.

Featured image via TipsTimesAdmin on Flickr.

The 4 Most Clueless Pro-Hobby Lobby Statements, Refuted

By Tim Marshall, Millennial Advisory Councilmember

In the past month, we’ve all felt the impact of the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision.

After all, as advocates for the right to reproductive choice, subsidizing family planning was a hard-won victory in 2011. Before I begin sounding like a Michael Moore voice over, I won’t focus on what we lost and what we stand to regain – we all know what happened. Instead, my purpose in writing this is to recap some of the worst conservative responses and laugh at their ineptitude. I hope you enjoy, readers:

1. One of the most misinformed statements comes from Conestoga Wood itself, the parent company of Hobby Lobby. They justify not covering contraceptives under the principle that “birth control is akin to abortion.”  Now, just about anyone reading this knows that isn’t true; however, this gem loses its luster even more when we take into consideration the considerable drop in abortion rates since the introduction of the contraceptive mandate. With that knowledge in my back pocket, I can assume Conestoga either plays Fox News on a loop in their boardroom (I imagine something cigar-smoke-filled, probably wood paneled) or that they simply want to cut costs.

2. Speaking of Fox News, we can all predict a certain amount of virulent support of the case’s passage from that particular “news” network.  Immediately following the law’s passage, Megyn Kelly joined Bill O’Reilly to review Sandra’s Fluke’s post-trial statement. Following the expected groans of exasperation and the typical connection from contraceptive coverage to abortion, Kelly spins the case in a new direction. She’s quoted as saying, “This is about the attempted war on the religious right, not the ‘war on women,’ “ in response to Fluke’s statement that the law’s passage infringes upon reproductive rights. My response to Kelly: YOU ALREADY WON. It’s clear, too, that contraceptive access is unlikely to be a problem for Kelly – she’s got privilege that, say, a woman working retail for a certain craft company does not. It’s sad to see her fighting this hard to limit access for other women. Kelly is also quoted as saying “I listen to FoxNews, that’s it!” when O’Reilly weighs in with outside information.  Clearly, she’s a great resource on reproductive care access. A veritable fount of knowledge.

3. Another shared point made by various conservative pundits? Claims that subsidizing contraception is an “overreach of government.” Oh, brother. Because a corporation dictating your personal reproductive decisions is really more of a helping hand, apparently.

4. The last major point I keep seeing is this idea that had the case gone the other way, our nation would be impinging on the free exercise of religion, as protected in the constitution. On the other side, however, limiting contraceptive choices is just as egregious, considering the founding fathers worked to promote the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which, you know, is pretty in line with BODILY AUTONOMY.

Now, before I end up hollering on a table a la Norma Rae, I’ll finish by saying that this court decision, regardless of the nonsensical evidence backing it, leads to a slippery slope.  Who knows what hard-won fight towards social equality and universal health we may lose next? I for one look forward to fighting to take it back in November. In the meantime, laughter is the best medicine, and in that regard, the GOP back-pedaling machine is the gift that keeps on giving.

Tim Marshall is a founding member of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington’s Millennial Advisory Council.