The Fembots of Ashley Madison, and Pope Francis’ Abortion Proclamation

On this episode of Reality Cast, host Amanda Marcotte covers the Pope’s new abortion proclamation and the continuing "war on women." Also, Annalee Newitz, editor in chief of Gizmodo, explains why the Ashley Madison hack isn’t about what you thought it was.

Related Links

“Taste of their own medicine”

Pope Francis’ latest statements on abortion

Jeb Bush on the Pope’s letter

Clinton on the “war on women”

Jeb Bush says Planned Parenthood isn’t doing “women’s health issues”

Independent analysis shows Planned Parenthood videos make false claims

Ugh, Mike Huckabee


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be covering the Pope’s new abortion proclamation and the continuing war on women. Also, Annalee Newitz will be on to explain why the Ashley Madison hack isn’t about what you thought it was.

After a study came out showing that the supposed Planned Parenthood expose videos had dozens of misleading edits in them, Ultraviolet put together a video showing how easy it is to use deceptive editing to make it sound like people are saying whatever you want.

  • Ultraviolet *

A perfect rebuttal to conservatives telling your videos don’t lie.


Say what you will about Pope Francis, but the man is good at getting people to believe that he’s way more progressive than he actually is. Take, for instance, the recent news story about him supposedly liberalizing the church’s approach to abortion.

  • Pope 1 *

As CBS notes, there’s really not a big change here, and yet you are getting a gushy reaction from some quarters.

  • Pope 2 *

Yeah, no, he doesn’t get a cookie for that. Posing like you understand while still passing judgment and telling women they need to beg for forgiveness for simply doing what’s right for themselves and their family? Nope. Nope nope nope. More to the point, nothing has really changed. The church still views it as a grave sin, claiming it’s as bad or even worse than murder. There’s in fact something creepy about the Pope acting like he’s doing women some big favor here. Look, attendance at Catholic churches is declining rather rapidly, in no small part because people are sick to the teeth of hearing that the only right way to have sex is to wait for marriage and then only do it for procreation after that. Catholic women get abortions at the same rate as other women. No doubt it’s nearly impossible for many of them to tolerate having to hear, every time they go to church, how they are the worst kind of sinner possible, the kind who can’t even be forgiven, worse than rapists and child molesters. Streamlining the forgiveness process might, on its surface, seem like a quick fix for that. Women get to feel like they’re not going to hell, while the church gets to maintain its claim that it’s the worst possible thing you can do. But I don’t know, it’s just so condescending.

If there’s any doubt about that, listen to Jeb Bush’s response to the comments.

  • Pope 3 *

Oh so carefully trying to strike a balance between agreeing with the Pope that women who get abortions are just silly children who don’t know better and not offending the part of the base that still insists that women are sluts who need punishing. I don’t doubt that Bush is anxious about this. The whole point of the anti-choice movement is to make women pay for having sex with forced childbirth. Getting an abortion and being forgiven for it, even if you have to do this whole humiliating song and dance about contrition, is not going to be seen as good enough in some eyes. But realistically, the Pope’s comments are a godsend to the Christian right. He didn’t actually change anything about the policy, after all. He just advertised that forgiveness is possible in hopes of getting more women to ask for it. But the idea that abortion is wicked and that you have to beg forgiveness is still there. But now it’s being bundled, falsely, as “compassion,” which fits neatly into the modern anti-choice movement’s claim that they’re trying to help women. As propaganda, it’s genius. But it still perpetuates this idea that women who get abortions are doing something wrong and they need to beg absolution from people who will never understand what it’s like to have to decide to terminate an unintended pregnancy.




So the right-wing press is all up in arms over some comments made by Hillary Clinton recently.

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But no matter how much they fussed and whined about Clinton comparing conservatives to terrorist groups, the faux outrage just didn’t capture mainstream media attention. And that is, to be blunt, because there was nothing she said in there that wasn’t true. If anything, she soft-pedaled it a little, talking mostly about how anti-abortion extremism is out of control but not talking about the larger “war on women.” She didn’t, for instance, mention how hostile attitudes about abortion are expanding and manifesting as hostile attitudes towards any health care that women use to make it easier to have a safe, healthy sex life. Take, for instance, Jeb Bush/s comments recently.

  • GOP 2 *

I suspect what he’s talking about is how Florida gave money to crisis pregnancy centers. So let’s be clear about this. On the list of things that Jeb Bush denies are “women’s health issues” are services Planned Parenthood provides. That list includes not just abortion but also well-woman visits, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and contraception. That also includes basic gynecological care, which I know because I got a UTI treated there once in college. That is all, according to Jeb Bush, not women’s health care. But he thinks that crisis pregnancy centers are women’s health care. Sure, you can’t get exams there. Or treatments. Or contraception. Or a cancer screening. Hell, you can’t even get a blood test. What they will do for you is give you a drug store test to tell you if you’re pregnant and a lecture about how you need to either stay pregnant, or if you’re not pregnant, stop using birth control so you can become pregnant. In other words, ladies, you are just a baby bucket. Any needs you might have outside of growing babies do not count as health care. If you, heaven forbid, want to have sex without getting pregnant or getting sick? Too bad, so sad. That’s not legitimate health care. Your health doesn’t matter, ladies. The only thing that matters is baby production and whether you’re doing it.

This represents a radical shift to the right so far that it’s Duggar family territory. But instead of talking about that, we spent the summer talking about some fake videos making false accusations about Planned Parenthood. There’s news on that, by the way.

  • GOP 3 *

I recommend reading the whole report. The amount of deception going on is absolutely shattering. It’s not just that they cut 30 minutes out of a video that was supposed to be full-length. In the short videos, they made really malicious edits. For instance, they had one woman seeming to say that the fetal tissue donation was about increasing revenue streams. But in the full-length video, it’s clear she’s not talking about fetal tissue donation at all, but about improving the number of services her clinic offers. But it’s probably just stuff like STI testing and contraception services, so not what 21st-century conservatives consider real women’s health care anyway. Give a woman a Bible and tell them to shut their legs until they’re ready to start making babies, and then you’ll be considered a real doctor, in their eyes.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Mike Huckabee goes for broke again. Huckabee continues to use his not really real presidential run to push the idea that we should be having civil war and military coups and blood running in the streets in order to stop women from getting legal abortion.

  • Huckabee *

And blah blah and so forth. I do realize that the original Constitution didn’t recognize women as full citizens. But it sure as hell didn’t recognize embryos as that, either. Since then, women’s humanity and citizenship has been recognized, but Huckabee’s plan would end that. As I’ve said before, not only is Huckabee’s plan predicated on the idea that it’s acceptable for a president to declare himself a dictator who ends rule of law, it’s also predicated on the idea that we need to end “personhood” for women. There is no legal right to use another person’s body against their will. In order to declare that right for fertilized eggs, it’s not enough to declare them persons. You also have to declare women un-persons, which is what I suspect the whole point of Huckabee’s little scheme is.