Pro-choice advocates around the country cheered Wednesday, as Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell withdrew support for a pre-abortion sonogram bill. The bill had risen to national attention, even earning a spot on The Daily Show. Critics focused on a particularly disturbing detail of the measure—most women having abortions have them early in the pregnancy, too early for the usual "jelly on the belly" ultrasound.
When male legislators draft and vote on punitive bills that aim to limit and punish women's sex lives—er, I mean, reproductive rights—if they contemplated choosing not to carry every accidental conception to term, what's an outvoted gal legislator to do? Well, some of them have been brilliantly illustrating the unfairness therein by having fun with proposed amendments.
I wrote earlier this week that Virginia's mandatory ultrasound law was proving to be highly unpopular. But though many its Republican supporters were clearly spooked by the level of opposition, I didn't think it very likely that Governor Bob McDonnell would withdraw his support. Happily, I was wrong. McDonnell came out against the provision, and it will presumably be deleted from the final legislation.
Between the Susan G. Komen controversy, the birth control panel, and Virginia's efforts at pre-abortion sonograms and personhood bills, you may have had enough of the culture wars and the fight against women. Well, tough—this week brings yet a new and bizarre episode. Indiana state Representative Bob Morris sent a letter to his colleagues urging them to oppose the resolution celebrating the Girl Scouts' 100th anniversary.
Has it really been only 17 months since advice columnist and provocateur Dan Savage and his spouse Terry Miller brilliantly launched the It Gets Better Project? As you may know, Savage was disturbed by a rash of gay teen suicides—and about the fact that despite how much progress the LGBT movement has made for gay adults, teenagers just coming out were still as isolated in their own despair, tormented by their peers, and not necessarily supported by friends, family, or school or religious authorities.
You know those odd moments in animated cartoons when a character's head seems to be boiling and popping, one eye getting bigger, then smaller, and so on? As a journalist who focuses on gender and sexuality, that's how I feel lately: happy, sad, shocked, celebratory—all at the same time.
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.
Last week, state legislatures in New Jersey and Maryland both passed measures to legalize gay marriage. In Maryland, Governor Martin O'Malley pushed hard for the measure and was largely credited with its success. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie killed the effort with a stroke of his veto pen. Democrat O'Malley and Republican Christie are both seen as future leaders of their respective parties—which means depending on political winds, gay marriage can either be a feather in their cap or a millstone around their neck.
So far, it’s been a little odd to read defenses of the bill—passed by the Virginia House of Delegates last week—to require “trans-vaginal ultrasounds” for women seeking abortions. Supporters conscious of public opinion argue that it is strictly a means to provide information and guarantee the safety of the mother. “The only way that they can determine the age of the fetus at an early age is by performing a trans-vaginal ultrasound,” said Delegate Kathy J. Byron, the Republican lawmaker who sponsored the House version of the legislation.
At the height of the 1990s supermodel boom, Linda Evangelista famously said of herself and her catwalk colleagues, “We don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000.” While Evangelista and her cohort, which now includes household names like Gisele Bundchen and Heidi Klum, commanded six-figures for their photo shoots, the reality for most working models then and now is that they earn close to the minimum wage and face long hours in unregulated working conditions. Models, many of whom are teenage girls, are also vulnerable to sexual harassment and pressure to pose nude.
Honestly, the last couple of weeks, I've started to wonder: Is the Republican Party committed to a full-employment program for pundits focused on gender and sexuality? Every day, my jaw and the floor have had yet another encounter. Yesterday there was Foster Friess, the Santorum backer, saying that "aspirin between the knees" prevented pregnancy. I don't know about you, but I had to check to find out what the heck he was talking about. Was he saying you can use aspirin as a spermicide? As a post-coital douche?
We've had a fun-filled few weeks in the repro-rights battles, haven't we? For one thing, Susan G. Komen revealed itself to be anything but politically neutral by trying to sidle out of funding Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screenings—and in the process, publicized the fact that PP is the women's health services provider of last resort for hundreds of thousands of women who need contraception, pap smears, STD and HIV tests, prenatal care, and, oh yes, abortions.
What is the purpose of sex? Who should be able to have it, and at what cost?
Apparently, that was on many minds on Valentine's Day. That's when the Prospect's indefatigable Abby Rapoport told us that the Virginia House just voted to go full-steam ahead on a personhood bill, which will define life as beginning from the very second that a sperm bashes its head into an ovum.