Commentary

Friday Femorandum: Girls Just Wanna Have Choice

Late last night, the U.S. House voted to overturn Washington, D.C.’s anti-discrimination law, which says that employers can’t discriminate against employees because of their (or their families’) reproductive choices, the AP reports. Republicans in the House, in other words, think employers should be able to fire people who have children out of wedlock, or who use birth control, or whose sister had an abortion.

As Media Matters notes, the media have consistently portrayed the D.C. law as a “pro-abortion” law, but it’s really about protecting employees from discrimination by religious employees. Right-wing anti-choicers have claimed that barring discrimination would “force” anti-choice groups and crisis pregnancy centers to hire pro-choice people, which is a) patently untrue and b) pretty damn narcissistic: What pro-choice person would seek a job advocating against the right to choose?

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Pro-choice writer Valerie Tarico’s impassioned piece about why she is “pro-abortion, not just pro-choice” stirred up a lot of interest–and strong emotions–this week. In the piece, published at Salon, Tarico makes the case that abortion itself is a social good, which allows women to choose the direction of their lives rather than having a single mistake choose it for them.

“I am pro-abortion like I’m pro-knee-replacement and pro-chemotherapy and pro-cataract surgery,” Tarico writes. “As the last protection against ill-conceived childbearing when all else fails, abortion is part of a set of tools that help women and men to form the families of their choosing.”

lol animated GIF Naturally, the anti-choice forces pounced; Live Action News, for example, characterizes Tarico’s argument as “women are … weak, pathetic women who are not capable of accomplishing anything if they are also mothers,” which of course couldn’t be further from what Tarico is saying. The website gilds that lily, saying that if women really cared about having better lives, they would simply abstain from sex completely–which everyone knows is a totally realistic option for all women and a great long-term strategy for life.

In Time, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards points out quite reasonably that the ability to decide when or whether to have children is a major key to women’s opportunity. Conservative and anti-choice media outlets like Newsbusters apparently missed the whole “whether” portion of the whole choice argument, and characterized Richards’ piece in Time as, “Time Lets Planned Parenthood Boss Hail Abortion as ‘The Key to Women’s Opportunity.'” Access to abortion is key, of course. So is birth control, quality obstetric care, affordable health care, and economic opportunity–all factors Richards mentions but which Newsbusters and other outlets conveniently ignore.

Wondering what Rand “A New Kind of Republican” Paul thinks about access to abortion? Wonder no more! Salon reports that as recently as 2013, Paul had this to say about abortion, specifically the concept of “fetal personhood”: “human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward.”

So, no matter what Paul says now about “thousands of exceptions” to potential abortion bans, he believes in criminalizing women who have abortions to “save” fertilized eggs.

The New York Times has the best story we’ve seen about insurance companies’ widespread violations of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, which requires all insurers to cover every FDA-approved form of birth control. This week, a new study from the National Women’s Law Center concluded that insurance companies routinely violate the federal requirement, refusing to pay for certain forms of birth control, forcing women to get special authorization from their doctors for covered methods, or claiming that very different forms of birth control, like NuvaRing and birth control pills, are the same thing because they contain the same “chemical formulations.”

TheTimes also offered an international platform to Modern Family star Sofia Vergara’s creepy ex-fiance, who believes fertilized eggs are people, to argue that a court should force her to give him embryos the couple froze when they were still together. The two agreed to do nothing with the embryos without joint  consent, but Vergara’s ex argues that she should be forced to void that agreement and become a parent because he thinks life begins at conception.

This public bullying of Vergara, Tara Culp-Pepper of ThinkProgress notes, is the definition of reproductive coercion, and the opposite of choice. For its part, the Times  defended the decision by saying it was intended to stir discussion, and it did. To which Friday Fem says: So does TMZ, but we expect a little more from the nation’s paper of record, please and thank you.

In case you were wondering what Sam Brownback has been up to, the Kansas governor spent his week holding bizarre ceremonial reenactments of his signing of a bill that bans most second-trimester abortions; most of the fake signings were held in front of kids in Catholic high schools. In its comprehensive report on Brownback’s escapades, Salon  says Brownbeck has finally reached “Peak Caligula.”

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Finally, also at Salon, here’s just a great thought piece on Cyndi Lauper’s 1984 feminist anthem, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

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