Last Friday, Judge Edward Korman ruled that the federal government must abide by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendations and make emergency contraception available over the counter without age restrictions. Cue the freak-out about girls having unprotected orgies followed by Plan B snorting parties. Emergency contraception, often referred to as “the morning-after pill,” or by its brand name, Plan B, is designed to be taken in, well, emergencies—the condom breaks, you got carried away in the moment and didn’t ever quite get to the birth control, or in cases of sexual assault or coercion in which the victim doesn’t have much choice about contraception.
Last week, I noted the extent to which opposition to same-sex marriage and opposition to abortion are still linked tightly together. With its new anti-abortion law—and long-standing ban on gay marriage—Alabama is the latest state to prove the point:
Alabama lawmakers late Tuesday gave final passage to a measure placing stricter regulations on clinics that provide abortions. […]
The bill requires abortion clinics to use doctors who have approval to admit patients to hospitals in the same city. Some clinics now use doctors from other cities that don’t have local hospital privileges. A similar law in Mississippi is threatening to close that state’s only abortion clinic, which is challenging the law in court.
This summer, Michigan state representative Lisa Brown was banned from the House floor when she dared to say the word “vagina” in a debate about proposed restrictions on abortion. Just three weeks ago, Todd Akin revealed what many Republicans believe: If you get pregnant, it can’t have been rape. It’s been a year of politicians trying to force women to have medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds, and “personhood amendments” granting one-celled organisms more rights than women, as long as the cell resides in the woman’s uterus. If there ever were a cultural moment crying out for an impassioned defense of the vagina, it would be now. It’s beyond unfortunate, then, that Naomi Wolf’s new book Vagina: A Biography is such a failure.
Is marriage, at its heart, an institution that confines heterosexual sex and ensures that every child is born firmly tied to its biological parents, legally, economically, emotionally, and socially? Or is it an ever-changing institution, constantly battled over, whose rules change dramatically over the centuries? Do same-sex couples belong in the Western vision, because of the revolution in marriage law and philosophy over the past 150 years? Or would adding same-sex couples violate its core purpose? What is the purpose of sex? What's the purpose of civil marriage, as opposed to religious marriage?
Since the Todd Akin affair entered the national conversation, many commentators—myself included—have noted the extent to which Akin’s views are in line with the mainstream of the Republican Party, and nearly identical to ones held by Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee. This video, unearthed by Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, illustrates the point. In it, a younger Ryan denounces a women’s health provision that was included in a bill to ban “partial-birth” abortion. Exceptions to the ban, he argues, would make it “meaningless”:
On April 12, Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill making Arizona the eighth state in the union to ban abortions beyond 20 weeks. Like most other laws of its kind, House Bill 2036 had been camouflaged as a measure against suffering, predicated on the notion that a fetus at 20 weeks can feel pain. Every woman who’s ever been pregnant, however, knows what the law really means: Twenty weeks marks a crucial point in a pregnancy, when fetal abnormalities can be detected, often for the first time. Many women confronted with a grim prenatal diagnosis choose to have an abortion. Now, in Arizona, they can’t.
I know you're shocked, shocked to learn that there are more allegations of sexual assault against our good pal Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a.k.a. DSK. The experts on sex crimes tell us that most men behave well—but very small number are serial offenders, assaulting regularly. The latest allegations, according to TheNew York Times, come from his involvement in that pimping ring in Lille. According to one of the women prostituted there, DSK wasn't content to just pay for sex; he also had to force her into "certain sexual acts without her consent.”
On Wednesday, I posted briefly about Jennie Linn McCormack, in a piece I called "What Does An Abortionist Look Like?" It was an intentionally provocative title, which aimed to draw attention to a story that's been ignored: a woman who took RU-486, ordered over the Internet, and was arrested for inducing her own abortion. I was trying to make two points. First, what happens when governments restrict access to abortion? Women start doing it for themselves. Second, do we really want to put desperate women in jail for trying to control their own bodies?
She’s a single, unemployed mother with three children who finds out that she’s pregnant—just after the father has been sent to prison. She says she is distraught at the idea of hurting her kids by adding another child to the family, giving each of them less money, time, and attention, dragging them further into poverty. But she lives in rural southeastern Idaho, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the nearest clinic in Salt Lake City—and getting an abortion would require two round trips there, because of the mandatory waiting period.
So she takes RU-486, ordered online, self-supervised. She freaks out at the fetus’s size, stashes it on her back porch, tells a friend, and gets reported to the police.
And, is promptly arrested for inducing her own abortion.
Maybe we can start bringing these books into the classroom too. (Flickr/romana klee)
Here's a way to save time debating women's health. Rather than allow people to fight and debate the issues around birth control and access to healthcare, simply don't tell them key facts about contraception and sexual health. That way, rather than fighting, kids will be blissfully ignorant. Or, you know, rely on the wisdom of my sister's best friend's cousin who says you definitely can't get pregnant if it's a full moon.
Legislatures in both Wisconsin and Utah have passed abstinence-only education bills. It's now up to governors in both states to determine whether or not to make the measures law.
I definitely agree with the central point of Sarah Kliff's post—namely, that the ultrasound law that ultimately passed in Virginia is almost as bad as the bill mandating transvaginal ultrasounds that was initially proposed.
Each Friday—well at least most Fridays—I'm going to sum up the big news happening in states around the country. To make it more interesting, I'm naming a State of the Week where the biggest news came from. See something that's missing? Tell me: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RaRapoport.
The anti-choice strategy of using piecemeal abortion regulations that, taken together, substantially restrict access has been all too successful in many states. One reason for this is that, whatever their lack of policy merits, regulations like waiting periods and parental involvement requirements tend to be popular. Focusing on whether abortion should be legal is favorable terrain for supporters of reproductive rights, but focusing on specific regulations regrettably tends to favor opponents of reproductive freedom.