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Battle Over Buffers, and Texas’ New Abortion Desert

Related Links

Sex talk

Supreme Court buffer arguments

More on the buffer zone

“War on Poverty” worked

John Stossel’s misogynist outburst

The problem with Chris Christie is … women?

Do women really ruin everything?

Nope, steroid use in baseball isn’t a fundamental right like abortion


On this episode of Reality Cast, Lindsay Beyerstein will report on what she learned spending time in the Rio Grande Valley, where legal abortion has been regulated out of existence. The battle over buffer zones in front of clinics goes to the Supreme Court and right-wing media is turning every story they can into an opportunity to bash women.

Thomas Ridgewell has a fun video up that is a six-minute version of the sex talk. I really liked that he included information about enthusiastic consent.

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Watch the whole thing at the link!


No, you’re not paranoid. Anti-choicers are feeling particularly entitled lately, which is probably the sole reason that they’re passing an epic number of laws restricting women’s access to abortion and making other efforts to reduce women’s access to contraception. If there’s any doubt about that, then the fact that they’re trying to make hay—again—over laws that keep anti-abortion protesters from blocking doors and yelling in women’s faces and otherwise harassing women should put any doubts to rest. The courts have repeatedly found that it’s perfectly legal for states to pass laws disallowing anti-choice protesters to stand in clinic doors or that forces them to stand at a distance to allow women and clinic workers to go in and out of clinics without being subject to direct, in-your-face harassment. But now they’re in front of the Supreme Court again with it, and for no other reason than anti-choicers think Justice Anthony Kennedy has grown more hostile to abortion rights in the past decade or so.

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Let’s think about this with even a modicum of common sense. Imagine if something as simple as a restaurant, say a Hooters, were suddenly targeted by a bunch of unhinged protesters who were absolutely obsessed with shutting the place down, convinced that all sorts of evil and debauchery was going on in there. Imagine if these protesters blocked the door, got into people’s faces and yelled at them, accused them of debauchery and murder, and routinely escalated the harassment until there is a real danger that one of the protesters will go overboard and start shooting customers. Would this even be a “free speech” issue? Absolutely not. The cops would be there all the time, rounding people up and tossing them in jail. If you have any doubt about that, look what happened to Occupy protesters who were far less invasive and harassing. And if the protesters said that they were just trying to “educate” people about the supposed dangers of Hooters, they’d be laughed out of court. If they claimed that their free speech rights are only protected if they are able to force people to listen to them through harassment, the judges would fall over laughing. They wouldn’t even need to pass a special law protecting Hooters. The existing laws about public misbehavior and harassment would be enough.

And make no mistake, concerns about harassment and violence are not being overblown here. CBS Boston interviewed Liam Lowney, who has personal experience with how ugly things can get when protesters aren’t kept in check.

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But despite claiming to be “pro-life,” anti-choicers are more worried about establishing the right to get up in your face and harass you than they are about piddling concerns about protecting actual people’s lives. There’s a distinct whiff of whininess coming from the anti-choice attorney, Philip Moran, in complaining that it’s supposedly unfair to make anti-choicers keep what is a really small distance.

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They show the buffer in front of Planned Parenthood on the video for the segment, so you can get a full eyeball of how small it really is. It looks like it takes about 5 seconds, max, to traverse. If you stand outside of it, believe me, people going in and out will see you. If women coming into the clinic are interested in what you have to say, they can easily stop and talk to you. So the only issue at stake, realistically speaking, is whether or not anti-choicers are entitled to a captive audience in order to have “free speech.” The issue here is whether or not they get to physically force women to listen to their bile and harassment by getting in their faces. It turns out that not only do anti-choicers think they own your uteruses, they also think they own your ears.

Martha Coakley is the state attorney defending the law before the Supreme Court.

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The freedom of association is also a constitutional right, and it seems to me that part of that freedom is the freedom not to have to put up with someone who wants to harass you. Indeed, this understanding has led to plenty of laws that are there to, as Coakley said, balance freedom of speech with a person’s right not to be harassed. For instance, anti-stalking laws and some public nuisance laws. And, like I said, if this was a Hooters or even just another medical clinic, the notion that “free speech” entitles you to get up in people’s faces and physically block their ability to get into buildings would be laughed out of court. But when it’s an attack on women’s rights, all of a sudden the issue gets confused. It shouldn’t be.


insert interview


Right-wing media notoriously and angrily threw a massive fit over the fact that liberals have characterized attacks on abortion rights and contraception as a “war on women.” It was supposedly off-bounds to claim that warring on women should be seen as a war on women, and wah wah wah. But despite being so hostile to the phrase the “war on women,” it seems that, in conservative media, obsessively hating on women is becoming more and more of a thing all the time. Lately, conservative pundits have started to make a point of trying to turn every topic, no matter how little it has to do with gender, into attacks on women. For instance, there was a spate of coverage of the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s War on Poverty. John Stossel managed to take the topic and make it a whine that women aren’t as trapped by marriage as they were back in the days when their economic and social opportunities were more constrained.

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I don’t even know what to say to someone who thinks that it’s so important to make sure that every man has a wife to pick up after him that he’s willing to force women into starvation and homelessness in hopes that they, in desperation, will marry a man they don’t want to be married to because they fear starvation is their only alternative. The breathtaking misogyny of that, I hope, stands on its own. It’s untrue, of course, that social spending breeds “dependency.” In fact, the war on poverty worked, and the only reason that income inequality is growing again is because many of the initiatives that liberals have passed throughout the years to reduce poverty have been done away with. Poverty, for being a big issue, is actually a pretty simple one. People are poor because they don’t have enough money. The solution, therefore, is to raise wages and bolster the social safety net. The only reason that single women are brought up at all by conservatives is they’re trying to use underlying cultural misogyny as a distraction from the basic facts. It’s like trying to get people so angry at women who dare to think that we deserve basic rights like choosing when and who we marry that people don’t think about how poverty is actually not that hard a problem to solve, if you want to solve it. Which John Stossel does not.

By the way, men’s wages have stagnated and dropped in past decades too, so the belief that women can get out of poverty by becoming financially dependent on men is just a myth.

The exploding amount of obsessive misogyny on Fox has grown to the point where somehow even the Chris Christie bridge traffic scandal is being used by pundit Brit Hume to whine that women have too much power in politics.

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In the real world, the issue with Chris Christie is that his administration is stocked full of cronies who think nothing of creating a traffic jam to exact petty revenge on someone from the opposing party who didn’t offer him an endorsement for an election he won. That kind of petty cronyism has never been considered a good trait in a politician, but sure, let’s pretend that the problem is that women are ruining everything because they are supposedly so weak and delicate. It’s absurd, but despite the fact that even other pundits on Fox News were skeptical that the problem with Chris Christie is that ladies ruin everything instead of Christie’s own corruption, Brit Hume went on the O’Reilly Factor to double down.

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Love that Bill O’Reilly thinks he’s a “tough guy” because he yells at people on his show and cowardly cuts off their mic if there’s a chance they might say something that counteracts his narrative. If this clip didn’t make it clear that these guys are consumed with anger that women are now allowed to be political leaders, then this digression should make it absolutely clear how true that is.

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Oh, Bill O’Reilly thinks men need to be able to “chastise” women, no matter how smart or powerful. Not criticize them, like equals do, but chastise them like an adult scolding a child. The reason that people call that sexist is because it is. You get the impression that O’Reilly feels entitled to bend Hillary Clinton over his knee and issue a spanking. Of course, men like that are skeptical of women being in politics at all, and these men’s anger that women are allowed to sit at the table is not well-concealed here.

But really, out of the most recent examples of conservatives bending every topic to complain about how women are ruining everything by supposedly making everything soft and feminine, this might be the winner.

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Banning millionaires from using drugs to cheat at baseball is not and never has been the equivalent of forcing anyone to give birth against their will. It’s not even particularly about bodily autonomy, but about whether or not paid athletes are allowed to get an edge that their competitors might not have. The notion that Limbaugh’s inability to watch a ‘roided up baseball player bat a ball around is the equivalent to a woman being able to exert basic control over something so personal as when she has sex or when she gives birth is laughable. Almost as laughable as Limbaugh trying to turn his grievance about a minor issue in the rules of baseball into yet another rant about how unfair it is that he doesn’t get to punish strange women for having sex he didn’t sign off on.


And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, let’s minimize the dangers of domestic violence on Fox News edition. Thomas Gagnon was jailed for breaking a restraining order when he invited his ex-girlfriend to join Google Plus. On Fox News, this story was taken as reason to insinuate that restraining orders are just a matter of vindictive women depriving innocent men of their right to contact you whenever they want.

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In the real world, the fact that the break-up happened so close to the proposal suggests that the likeliest explanation is that he was playing mind games with her—the flowers after the beating kind of trick. Roller coaster behavior like that is a red flag for domestic violence. The only question here is whether or not he sent the Google Plus invitation on purpose. If so, then yes, it’s intimidation of the I’m-watching-you variety. If not, then he should be set free. All this speculation only serves to undermine victims of domestic violence and their right to be safe.