Choice News

Friday Femorandum: A Grim Example

While all right-thinking people in the United States were horrified by President Donald Trump’s equivocal statements about the violent white supremacists who killed Heather Heyer and injured at least 19 other counterprotesters in Charlottesville last weekend, Trump was quietly working to sign away one of the most fundamental components of the Affordable Care Act: The contraceptive mandate, which requires insurance companies to provide all forms of birth control to women without a copay. (Pro-choice groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America condemned Trump’s “both sides are to blame” remarks; anti-choice/”pro-life” groups? Not so much.)

 30 rock tina fey liz lemon shut it down GIFMother Jones reports on the administration’s plans to eliminate the benefit, by changing rules associated with the ACA so that virtually any company could deny coverage for birth control. The rule change would expand the ACA’s “moral objection” clause, which has been interpreted as applying only to explicitly religious organizations, so that most companies that do not want to pay for birth control could opt out of doing so. Essentially, the new rule would be Hobby Lobby on steroids, and its effect would be that more women who need access to contraception would be forced to pay out of pocket, choose cheaper, less effective methods, or face an unplanned pregnancy.

Two states passed laws this week that illustrate the power state governments have to counteract or worsen Trump-era abortion policy. The first is a familiar battleground for abortion rights advocates: Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott just signed a bill this week requiring women who anticipate that they may have an unplanned pregnancy (which is basically the definition of an oxymoron) to pay extra for special “abortion insurance.” From now on, private insurance companies will be barred from covering abortion as part of their regular insurance plans, and allowed (but not required) to offer extra abortion insurance to women.

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Opponents, the Texas Tribune notes, have dubbed the legislation the “rape insurance bill,” because it doesn’t include any exceptions for rape and incest—that is, in effect, it requires women to anticipate that they will be raped. (Or, even more perversely, that their teenage daughters will be raped or become pregnant through incest.) That’s an  effective (and accurate) description, but the fact is, the definition of insurance is that it ensures coverage for unanticipated events. If pregnancy is put in a different category than, say, a broken leg due to a car accident, or a rare and expensive form of cancer, then there’s a strong case to be made that this law discriminates against all Texas women, not just those who may be the victims of rape or incest.

Oregon, very much in contrast to Texas,  just passed a law this week that will require all insurance companies to cover abortion and birth control for all women in the state, including undocumented immigrants; it also includes state funding for abortions and brith control for women who are uninsured. According to Broadly, the bill also requires coverage for “STI and pregnancy testing, voluntary sterilization, postpartum care, and a long list of other reproductive health care–related drugs, devices, and services,” including vasectomies.

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Pro-choice groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, consider the bill a bulwark against future Trump administration crackdowns on access to birth control and abortion, including the possibility that Roe v. Wade is overturned, sending abortion rights back to the states. Washington State has its own law ensuring that abortion will remain legal even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, but efforts to pass legislation requiring abortion and male contraception coverage have failed, thanks to a state legislature narrowly split between pro-choice and anti-choice factions.

Finally, here’s a grim example of what happens when a federal government places draconian restrictions on abortion access—from India, where the laws regulating abortion are not much different than what many Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence, want to institute in the United States. The New York Times reports that a ten-year-old girl who was denied an abortion after being raped by her uncle—because India’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks has no exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the pregnant person—just gave birth. She was never told she was pregnant; instead, her family told her she was having a kidney stone removed. The pregnancy was especially dangerous because 10-year-old children are not physically equipped for pregnancy and childbirth, and the procedure required the girl to spend a week in the hospital monitored by three gynecologists, two pediatricians, two psychologists, a dietitian and a cardiologist. In service to a law designed to punish women, India’s government forced a 10-year-old who had already endured the trauma of rape to undergo a dangerous pregnancy and an invasive medical procedure. It’s inexcusable. But the US shouldn’t labor under the delusion that it couldn’t happen here.

Choice News, Uncategorized

Friday Femorandom: There Is No Pivot

For all the talk of a Trump “pivot”—he learned about the history of China and North Korea! He understands that NATO isn’t a pay-to-play protection racket!—one policy area where the president hasn’t budged is the area of women’s rights.

Indeed, the last week or so saw Trump not only repealing fair pay rules that protected women working for companies that contract with the federal government, but signing a law that allows states to deny Medicaid funds to health care providers that also provide abortion care—legislation aimed squarely at Planned Parenthood, and at low-income women in Republican-led states.  beyonce no finger wag wags finger GIF

The New York Times reports that the new law “nullifies a rule completed in the last days of the Obama administration that effectively barred state and local governments from withholding federal funding for family planning services related to contraception, sexually transmitted infections, fertility, pregnancy care, and breast and cervical cancer screening from qualified health providers — regardless of whether they also performed abortions.”

While Trump seems to sign most bills in an Oval Office packed with pasty white men, he made an exception for this one, inviting several female representatives of extremist anti-choice groups to join him for the signing. As Right Wing Watch reports, they included Penny Nance from Concerned Women for America posted a photo on Instagram from the Oval Office, Susan B. Anthony List director Marjorie Dannenfelser and Rep. Diane Black, “a vocally anti-choice Republican from Tennessee.”

Earlier this week, they note, Nance and Dannenfelser met with newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who refused to state his position on abortion rights during his confirmation hearings but is widely viewed to be to the right of the justice he is replacing, the late Antonin Scalia.

 angry mad buffy the vampire slayer annoyed hate GIFHow did these anti-choice extremists get such ready access to the President and the newest Supreme Court Justice? Easy, Rewire reports: Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway has longstanding connections with the most virulent wing of the anti-choice community. In fact, before she joined Team Trump, Conway did work for multiple anti-choice groups, including Students for Life of America, the National Right to Life Committee, and the notorious Center for Medical Progress, whose fraudulently edited videos implying that Planned Parenthood “sold baby body parts” contributed to a rash of violence against abortion clinics. Conway, Rewire reports, “has spent two decades helping anti-choice organizations and politicians hone their messaging through her polling company.” No wonder those same groups are suddenly enjoying unprecedented access to the White House

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Susan B. Anthony List’s Dannelfelser, Wonkette writes, has gone so far as to claim that slashing funding for Planned Parenthood will increase women’s access to healthcare—because poor women will just go to abundant “community health clinics” instead of clinics that specialize in women’s health care—”when nothing could be farther from the case. Every year, Planned Parenthood takes care of 38% of patients receiving Title X funding. How many stories of women being referred to dentists, nursing homes, and school nurses do we need before we stop pretending there are tons of providers who can pick up the slack without PP? I read online that the Tooth Fairy has a side hustle providing pap smears!”

But allowing states to eliminate Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, Wonkette continues, “is just the warm-up act for the big show, which is Congressional Republicans’ wet dream of withholding Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood [altogether]. In 2015, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy asked the CBO to calculate how much the gubmint would save if they actually pulled out of PP like they promised. Spoiler alert: It will cost millions.


Choice News

Friday Femorandum: Blowing Up the Senate

If you’re confused about what the “nuclear option” is, why Senate Republicans used it to ensure appointment for Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, and why the Democrats may actually have won by losing, here are a few links that explain what the heck happened this week, why it matters to the future of the Senate and to the Democratic Party, and what advocates for equality and reproductive freedom stand to lose now that a far-right jurist and spiritual heir to Antonin Scalia is on the Court.

 upset the office frustrated worst michael scott GIFThe Hill has a blow-by-blow of what happened in the Senate yesterday, as Democrats struggled to convince Republicans not to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court appointments and Republicans insisted they had no choice. (Roll Call has the story on Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley’s 15-plus-hour floor speech on Gorsuch, in which he outlined many of the Democrats’ objections to both Gorsuch and ending the Senate filibuster for Supreme Court nominees).

Basically, the Senate voted to change its own rules so that Supreme Court appointments only require a 51-vote majority, rather than the 60-vote majority required to break a filibuster—the so-called “nuclear option.” That change is permanent, and will apply to all future Supreme Court nominations—meaning that if the Democrats take control of the Senate at some future date, and a future Democratic President nominates his or her own Justice, the Republicans will not be able to block the nomination.

Republican Senators, the Hill explains, claim that Democrats oppose Gorsuch not because of his views or qualifications but because they oppose Trump. However, it’s obvious that the primary reasons Democrats oppose Gorsuch have little to do with the current President: Gorsuch won the nomination only because Republicans mounted an unconstitutional blockade against former President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, for 11 months, and his views are in fact far outside the mainstream of judicial thought, and may be even more extreme than Scalia’s.

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The Washington Post and Politico both analyze the many ways in which the Gorsuch appointment could come back to bite Senate Republicans, electorally and in the long term, since the current political dynamic—in which the GOP controls the presidency as well as both houses of Congress—is historically rare and unlikely to last forever, or even long. “You could argue,” the Post says, “that Democrats will be even more motivated to block anything else Republicans want to do” now that the Republicans have ended the Supreme Court filibuster to approve Gorsuch. And they’ll be able to do it, too—because the Senate still has a filibuster for legislation, and not even the Republicans have indicated they want to eliminate that rule, the minority party can hold up legislation with as few as 41 votes.

And Politico notes that the Gorsuch appointment has also energized the Democratic base, which is already “warning Republicans of the potential midterm-election ramifications of jamming Gorsuch onto the court.”

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As for what Gorsuch will do now that he’s on the court… Think Progress has a speculative but totally plausible roundup of “9 Terrible Things Neil Gorsuch Could Do in his First Full Term on the Supreme Court.” They include: Taking up the Stormans v. Wiesman case, in which an Olympia pharmacy argued that it should be allowed to refuse emergency contraception because of its owners’ religious views (remember, Gorsuch was also the judge in the notorious Hobby Lobby case—more on that at Feminist Law Professors), and ruling that pharmacists can refuse to do their jobs based on their personal beliefs; overturning laws that bar discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation; and making it harder for women to sue their employers for sexual harassment or discrimination.

And, of course, there’s Roe. Rewire explains what will happen if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which is a distinct possibility that will become even more likely if Trump gets to nominate another virulently anti-choice Justice to the Court. In short, Rewire’s Carole Joffe writes, it’s likely that women will end up in jail for seeking abortions in states that will ban the procedure as soon as the Court gives them the opportunity. “When Donald Trump, shortly after his election, was asked by a journalist about what the possible overturning of Roe would mean for American women who sought abortions, he casually answered, ‘Well … they’ll have to go to another state,'” Joffe writes. “Yes, Mr. President, some will go to other states, but many others might go to jail.”


Choice News

Friday Femorandum: The Home Stretch

T minus 11 days and counting! We keep hearing about how relieved everyone will be when this election is over, and while that’s true, we’re also feeling pretty out of sorts about what this election will mean for American democracy going forward–and for women. Trump is already saying he plans to sue all 13-and-counting women who have accused him of sexual harassment or assault, and it’s clear that the gendered attacks on Hillary Clinton as “untrustworthy,” “unlikeable,” and “un-Presidential” will continue long after the election results are counted and certified.

But screw that. Can we just celebrate, for one minute, the fact that we are on the cusp of electing THE FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT IN US HISTORY??

It’s been surprising to see how little attention the media have given to the historic import of a Hillary Clinton victory–surprising, that is, until you consider that the media have been dedicated from Day 1 to the narrative that Hillary is too “establishment,” too “overprepared,” too “ambitious” to deserve to break that highest, hardest glass ceiling.

Here’s what Digby has to say about that.

At the Atlantic, Peter Beinert reiterates the case–because it does, in fact, need to be reiterated–that the sexism that has been leveled at Clinton this election season comes from a place of masculine fragility, which is to say: Some men feel threatened by the prospect of a woman President because their sense of manhood relies on the idea that women are subordinate. And while it’s comforting to believe that a female president would automatically reduce sexism in American society, history (hello, “post-racial America”) suggests that won’t be the case.

Even without Clinton, resentment against female empowerment would be a potent force. In 2015, more Republicans told the Public Religion Research Institute that “there is a lot of discrimination” against white men than said “there is a lot of discrimination” against women.


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This spring, 42 percent of Americans said they believed the United States has become “too soft and feminine.” Imagine how these already unnerved Americans will react once there’s a female president. Forty-two percent isn’t enough to win the presidency. But it’s enough to create a lot of political and cultural turmoil.

Polls, by the way, back up the idea that many Americans still aren’t “ready” for a female president, and don’t particularly “hope” to see one in their lifetimes. (In one poll taken in mid-June, just 66 percent of men said they hoped to someday have a female president). We haven’t come as long a way as we thought, baby.

Distressingly, as Melissa McEwan at ShareBlue observes, data about US voters’ “readiness” for a female president dried up after that poll in June, as pollsters pretty much stopped asking the question. Why? Well, one plausible theory is that the media is invested in a narrative that erases sexism against Clinton, and portrays her not as a woman targeted by gendered criticism and held to personal, ethical, and political standards that would torpedo any male candidate for President, but as a corrupt, entrenched member of the ruling class whose rise was basically inevitable.

Another Atlantic  writer, Clare Foran, observes that Clinton was widely criticized for being “overprepared” at the debate–a characterization that fits with the narrative that she’s little more than a hyperambitious robot. This is an impossible trap: If Clinton hadn’t spent three decades preparing for this role, and many hours prepping for the debates, she’d be considered “underqualified” by the absurdly high double standard to which she is held. When she behaves as if she is qualified, which she is, she gets labeled inauthentic and  craven.

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“There is no feasible way that the first woman to win a major-party nomination could be a ‘natural’ at trying to win an office that only men have won; there’s nothing effortless about trying to break a long-established mold in American politics. So it’s not hard to see why Clinton might feel pressure to demonstrate that she’s more prepared than her male counterpart—to prove that she’s ready for a position that American voters never before deemed a woman adequately qualified to hold,” Foran writes.

Here’s one lady who isn’t taking the first woman president for granted: Patricia Bass of Chicago, who wrote this in a letter to the Chicago Tribune:

I inserted the voter card, pressed “English,” then up popped the ballot. And there it was. I knew it would be there, of course. But, somehow I wasn’t prepared for the impact of seeing it. Her name. A woman’s name. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Listed at the top of the ticket. President of the United States.

Wait. What? Am I starting to cry? Yes, I am, and here’s why:

Because my grandmother was not allowed to vote until she was 24 in 1920.

Because my smart, business-savvy mother was always hired as a secretary where she could have been the boss.

Because of all the limitations placed on girls throughout my childhood when our only school-sanctioned sports were cheerleading, tumbling and modern dance. Being student council president was out of the question.

Because Sears wouldn’t give me a credit card in my own name in 1975.

Because I was always paid less than my male colleagues for doing the same work.

Because a neighborhood teenager’s dad wouldn’t let her baby-sit for my kids because I was a single mother.

Because I was told it was risky to hire me since I’d probably “just get married and leave.”

It goes on, and you should read the entire thing.

Finally, in case you haven’t heard: Hillary has chosen the venue for her election-night victory party: A convention center in Manhattan featuring one  very large glass ceiling.

Choice News

Friday Femorandum: Nasty Women Vote

First things first: Have you gotten your free #NastyWomen sticker yet? If not, get on that and let Donald Trump and his fans know that while good girls may go to heaven, Nasty Women go to the White House!

The big news event of the week, obviously, was the final presidential debate. Let’s just savor those words for a moment, shall we?

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Now, about that debate…

Well, they finally did it. After thousands of women across the country took to social media and demanded that debate moderators #AskAboutAbortion, Fox News person Chris Wallace broached the subject–in a way that was utterly predictable, scientifically bogus, and politically slanted to make the anti-choice position look reasonable and measured.

But before we get to Wallace’s SUPER FRINGE-Y question about “partial birth abortion,” how have Presidential debates historically addressed abortion rights? Perhaps surprisingly, for such a perennial, litmus-test issue, the answer is: They mostly haven’t. And when abortion has come up, the question typically hasn’t been about women’s rights or reproductive freedom, but about the candidates’ religious beliefs or priorities for  judicial appointments.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, or even a post-Reagan one. According to Media Matters‘ analysis of debates going back to 1962, questions about abortion in Presidential debates have been about religion or judicial appointments fully 56% of the time. That means that fundamental issues that are central to the pro-choice position–issues like autonomy, privacy, women’s individual and economic equality, and whether men and women are equal under the law–are being ignored.

Breaking with that tradition, longtime FOX commentator Wallace didn’t ask the candidates directly about judicial appointments or religion. Instead, he framed the issue in a way that was arguably worse: By putting Clinton on the defensive about “partial-birth abortion” (a right-wing talking point used since the 1990s in efforts to ban abortion) and suggesting that Clinton supported abortion with no limitations.

inappropriate no interview mila kunis head shakeDespite this framing, and Trump’s gleeful attempts to take Wallace’s lead and run with it (“They take the baby, and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day,” he droned), Clinton delivered a stirring and sincere defense of the right to choose. As Think Progress put it, “Instead of equivocating about whether the government should restrict the later abortion procedures that may sound upsetting to an outside observer, or apologizing for her support for a procedure that some Americans may feel uncomfortable with, she focused on the difficult real-world circumstances that may lead a couple to end a pregnancy in the second or third trimester.”

While Trump was busy making it clear that he has no idea how abortion, women’s bodies, or pregnancy work, Clinton affirmed wholeheartedly that she supports the right to choose even when that choice is difficult, saying, “I have met with women who, toward the end of their pregnancy, get the worst news one could get that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.”

The Voice excited yes yay christina aguileraIf you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware that abortions at nine months aren’t a thing, and that late-term abortions are extremely rare: Most abortions (90 percent) occur in the first trimester, and doctors perform only about 100 third-trimester abortions per year nationwide. You probably also know that second- and third-trimester abortions are usually due to serious fetal abnormalities, or to protect the health or life of the pregnant woman. But perhaps you have friends or relatives who don’t know all those things, or who (shudder) take Trump at his word. Here are a few resources to share with them: First, this Jezebel interview with a woman who recently had an abortion at 32 weeks’ gestation, after finding out that the fetus she was carrying wouldn’t survive outside the womb.

Second, this New York Times piece in which doctors explain, with absolute clarity, that the scenario Trump described in the debate does not exist: In cases where a baby has to be delivered prematurely (because a woman experiences sudden complications, for example), that’s called birth, and in cases where a fetus dies in utero and is delivered at nine months, it’s called stillbirth. “Doctors say the scenario Mr. Trump described does not occur.”

And third, this editorial in Rolling Stone, which lays out the prognosis for women in a Trump Administration. The title: “Donald Trump’s Abortion Policies Would Kill Women.”