What Is Ahead for Reproductive Rights in 2015?

On this episode of Reality Cast, host Amanda Marcotte looks at the year ahead in reproductive rights and wonders whether NPR is back to drawing false equivalence between pro-choice and anti-choice activism in its abortion coverage. In addition, a representative from Guttmacher explains how the anti-choice movement is selective about when it claims abortion is contraception.

Related Links

George Will is “Misinformer of the Year”

Rick Brattin defends his dumb bill

Appeals court strikes down North Carolina abortion law

Both sides claim advantage to storytelling

Abortion study shows storytelling improves empathy

Larry Pratt’s casual misogyny


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be speaking with a representative from Guttmacher about how the anti-choice movement is super selective about when they claim abortion is contraception. I’ll also look forward to the next year in reproductive rights and wonder, sadly, if NPR is back to false equivalence nonsense regarding abortion.

Media Matters named George Will the Misinformer of the Year for 2014, in part because of his B.S. regarding rape. Eric Boehlert spoke about it on MSNBC.

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This is especially frustrating when you realize that one reason women are afraid to speak out about rape is that they fear being socially ostracized. Really, he couldn’t be more wrong if he tried.


Happy New Year!

If you read my end-of-year column for Rewire, you’ll know I declared 2014 a terrible year for reproductive rights. In a sense, it’s a little surprising, as overall, I’d rate it a good year for feminism in the culture. More discussion of feminist issues, more positive portrayal of feminism, more celebrities declaring their feminism, that sort of thing. But when it comes to the courts and legislatures, things are not looking good at all. On the contrary, it’s where angry men and not a few anti-feminist women are trying to take away all the gains women have made, mostly by trying to force us to have babies when it’s a bad time for us. Unfortunately, their efforts have been successful in many cases, particularly with Hobby Lobby winning the ability to deny women their right to contraception coverage through their health care plans and Texas successfully defending its draconian anti-abortion law in the Fifth Circuit court.

But that was 2014. What is ahead for 2015? I fear the answer is likely more of the same attacks on reproductive rights, with some anti-choice politicians getting so excited that they overloaded the bill pre-filing window with a bunch of anti-choice legislation. The most notorious was a bill filed in, where else, Missouri, by Rep. Rick Brattin, who was interviewed by a local TV station about it.

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You heard that right: The law would allow a man to legally have ownership over your body, in order to force you to bear a child for him, just because he had sex with you. This is an idea that floats around in anti-feminist circles all the time, though I do think it was best expressed by an obnoxiously offensive Miller Lite ad from a few years back.

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Considering that no one has actually ever carried a glass bottle by sticking their thumb in the top of it, the whole thing was clearly a strained attempt at forcing the “you poke it, you own it” double entendre. But this bill, and people who generally argue that men should have veto power over women’s abortions, are evidence that this idea persists despite the clear misogyny. And I mean, clear, as was evidenced by Brattin’s response to being asked how on earth he justifies handing a woman’s body over to a man as if it were property.

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It’s not a woman’s body. He says it so easily it becomes clear that he has never even considered that women are people, much less people who deserve autonomy. They are simply baby ovens, full stop. He’s baffled at the idea that a woman’s opinion about how to use her body should even register, much less become the deciding factor in all this. The irony is that Brattin defended his bill by claiming, falsely, that the law requires women to sign off on their husbands’ vasectomies. It doesn’t, but goes to show that when it’s his body, the idea of someone else having veto power repulses him. But women? Eh, it’s not their body. It belongs to, uh, the child. By which he means the man who declared ownership over you by having sex with you.

The good news is that his bill is probably not going to go anywhere, because anti-choice forces are trying to hide their misogyny, which is literally impossible with poke-it-own-it bills. But other bills that treat women like we’re stupid children who can’t be trusted with basic health care decisions are still getting passed. And it’s those laws that have already passed that I’m worried about, even though some of them are getting shot down in court.

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And that’s just it. Most courts are striking down these kinds of laws, correctly seeing them both as violations of the constitution and as violations of previous rulings that held that abortion access is a human right. But not the Fifth Circuit Court, which would probably allow it if a state required you to kill your own mother before you were allowed to get an abortion. And these conflicts mean the Supreme Court pretty much has to weigh in at some point. Not just on ultrasound laws, but on even more draconian regulations that require clinics to be shut down for not meeting medically unnecessary pseudo-health standards. And I don’t know that I trust the Supreme Court to do the right thing here.




Man, NPR had a story on recently that really managed to embody some of the worst media failures when it comes to dealing with the abortion issue. They’ve been doing better about this lately, actually using logic and evidence instead of simply presenting “both sides” of the equation and pretending they’re equivalent. But for some reason that baffles me beyond belief, they did a segment on abortion storytelling where they allowed both sides to claim that abortion stories work in their favor, and then presented it as if it were a mystery over which side is right. Here’s part of the segment where they talk to pro-choicers who are pushing abortion storytelling as a form of activism.

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So that’s side number one, arguing that one of the reasons that abortion has become so stigmatized is because it’s so hidden, allowing anti-choicers to distract people with their lies. Even before we start to talk about evidence, this is clearly a straightforward argument that has a lot to recommend it, including the fact that one of the reasons that abortion got legalized in the first place is that women had abortion speak-outs that replaced ugly stereotypes with lived truths. But instead of pointing that out or asking if, say, there are any studies to help guide our understanding of this, [NPR] instead let an anti-choicer just claim that all these abortion stories are actually helping his side.

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This is a good point to pop in and say that the actual quality of the stories on offer is wildly divergent between pro- and anti-choice sites. Believe me, I’ve read tons of both. With pro-choicers, you have women from a variety of backgrounds, and they can usually explain in lucid terms what the abortion did and did not accomplish for them. With anti-choicers, it’s pretty much all women who are deeply religious and have been encouraged by family and by their pastors to blame everything that’s wrong in their lives on the abortion. With pro-choicers, in other words, you have women that are largely speaking from their own heart on their own terms, whereas with the anti-choice sites, most of the time you are reading stories of women who are echoing what they’ve been told about the evils of abortion. I almost wish the difference weren’t so stark, but there you have it. More to the point, there’s a real difference in tone. Pro-choice abortion stories tend to be aimed broadly at the public, hoping to gain understanding and empathy. Anti-choice stories are really geared more towards the legislatures and courts, giving them cover for abortion restrictions, and it’s much less about trying to actually convince anyone. In a sense, they’re not even particularly comparable. But despite this, they are treated as comparable on NPR.

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Actually, it’s very clear. This story implies there are an equal number of stories between women who regret and women who are glad they have abortions, which is simply false, because women who are glad they had abortion vastly outnumber women who regret them. NPR should have noted that, and did not, creating the sense of false equivalence. More importantly, they even admit that storytelling about race and LGBT issues improves empathy, so why on earth would it be a toss-up when it comes to abortion? That makes no sense. But, and this is most important, there is research, however preliminary. A study that was released a full week before this shows this! Quoting from ThinkProgress: “According to a team of researchers led by UCLA doctoral candidate Michael LaCour, when abortion opponents have an in-person conversation with a woman who’s chosen to end a pregnancy, they’re more likely to shift their view about whether the procedure should be legal.”

Look, I think it’s great to do a piece that shows how both pro- and anti-choice folks say that abortion storytelling breaks in their favor. But if you’re going to do that, don’t shrug and pretend there’s no way to weigh their claims against each other. You should point out that research, statistics, and common sense shows that the pro-choice side has the advantage here. After all, why would anti-choicers spend so many years stigmatizing and shaming women over abortion if not to shut them up about it?


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, steel overcompensation edition. One of the most fascinating and frankly telling aspects of gun fanaticism is how deeply misogynist it is. Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America was bragging recently about how he upset Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who is clearly awful in his eyes because she’s female and from Brooklyn.

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He’s lying, by the way. He claims she got upset because of his inarticulate wankery he tries to pass off as constitutional analysis, but she actually got upset because one of his members threatened her and he was supportive of it. You can read about it in the show links. But it’s just telling that he tries to write her off with the dismissive sexist stereotype of the “crazy lady.” Maloney is the one here who accurately assesses the reality of this country, where there are 11,000 gun homicides a year.