No Constitutional Right to Tampons

When Verizon decided to block text messages sent out from NARAL to members who had signed up to receive them, the public reaction was swift and fierce. The company reversed its decision within hours of a NY Times article being published about the situation, after the public—and more than 16,000 text messages to the company to register that outcry. Turns out a lot of people figure that the same technology used to transmit earth-shatteringly important messages like, "U horny? Me 2. My place 10? I got cndms, u bring lube" could be used to protect the rights that help make that message possible.

The vehement and immediate reaction to this shows that Verizon unintentionally hit a real nerve out there. I think part of the explanation is that the little bit of censorship was a perfect emblem of the unfair obstacles out there for progressives that reactionaries don't have to deal with. Verizon initially told NARAL that the company "does not accept issue-oriented (abortion, war, etc.) programs – only basic, general politician-related campaigns (Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, etc.)." Of course, the oh-so-convenient side effect of this policy would be that those following a straightforward and secular model–who are much more likely to be progressive–get dinged; reactionaries who bundle their political messages in the language of religion get a free pass to be political without being "political."

But I think the main reason the censorship hit a nerve was the way that Verizon's defense used the words "controversial or unsavory" to describe text messages they reserve the right to censor. Pro-choicers know all too well about the use of unsavoriness to attack women's basic rights–contemplating the mechanics of a D&C isn't conducive to craving a sandwich, after all, and anti-choicers, knowing this, don't bother to use real arguments most of the time and just bombard people with provocative pictures of bloody fetuses and lurid descriptions of the process of an abortion, and let people's disgust take over their logical thought processes. Surgery is disgusting ergo surgery should go away ergo surgery should be banned, at least if you contemplate the details of the cutting and slicing and suctioning and bleeding. Or, as Atrios puts it, "abortion is icky."

The "abortion is icky" argument is such that the anti-choice crowd could easily start agitating for a ban on menstruation without skipping a beat. The fact that menstruation is incredibly common shouldn't slow them down; after all, the anti-choice position demands that you believe that more than 1/3 of American women are murderers. Menstruation is, except maybe to a handful of insistent earth mother crunchy feminists, generally regarded as pretty icky. I throw a bloody tampon at you, you'll probably do your best to avoid it. Getting the camera out for some gruesome and shocking close-ups of the macabre used tampon just carefully thrown out in the trash or heartlessly flushed down the toilet would be simpler than getting pictures of aborted fetuses. Blow up the bloody tampon pictures, put them on some placards and you're ready to start convincing people that this is so disgusting that someone needs to ban something to make it stop.

When feminists protest and point out that banning menstruation is both not going to work and just a way to abuse women, label them "pro-menstruation." Have pundits on Fox News imply that anyone who defends the right to menstruate is part of a bloody feminist army trying to force all women to bleed all the time. Male pundits and shock jocks could make rib-nudging jokes about how those sex-hating feminists just want to make sure that every night is a "not tonight, Aunt Flow is here" night. Religious nuts would come up with snappy slogans like, "Jesus did not bleed on the cross so you can bleed on your panties!"

To cover up the anti-woman bent of the anti-menstruation campaign, ban advocates would cultivate an army of soft-spoken good Christian women who want to ban menstruation for women's own good. To bolster their claims that menstruation hurts women, they would point to the instances of toxic shock syndrome, menstrual cramps, and anemia, all while ignoring that the proposed alternatives of non-stop pregnancy or mandatory hysterectomies run higher risks. Leslee Unruh of the Abstinence Clearinghouse could go on TV to accuse Big Cotton of duping women into menstruating to maximize their profits. Republican candidates for President would scramble to cover up any campaign donations received from Tampax or Kotex.

Feminists For Life would offer a "moderate" position that would allow women to menstruate for the period after childbirth for up to 6 weeks, so long as they returned to a pregnant status afterwards. Hearing the magical word "moderate," a flock of mainstream liberal pundits and Democratic politicians are drawn like moths to the flame. Even though polls show that the right to menstruate without government interference is wildly popular, Democratic consultants would advise politicians that they don't want to seem too soft on menstruation. A bipartisan committee would put together a plan to avoid having to ban menstruation through government-funded hysterectomies and government benefits for those who choose non-stop pregnancy as their menstruation stoppage plan.

Mainstream feminist organizations would protest the plan by pointing out that the non-stop pregnancy plan would burden young teenagers the most, requiring non-stop pregnancy to start as early as nine years old. Menstrual ban proponents would react to this by accusing NARAL and Planned Parenthood of fostering child abuse by suggesting that young teenagers should be touching themselves all the time with instruments of child torture like tampons and pads. Moderates float the idea of a parental consent law, mandating that girls ask permission of their parents before they start to menstruate, giving plenty of ban advocates the chance to gloat on blogs and to reporters about how their daughters would never lower themselves to the practice of menstruation.

"Let the states decide if they want this disgusting practice in their backyards," would become the mantra of the menstrual ban advocates. Some states would pass laws restricting access to pads and tampons so severely that women have to pool their resources to have someone smuggle in crates of Tampax from other states. The hysterectomy rate would go through the roof. Liberal men who oppose bans on menstruation would be accused of just wanting sexual access to women who have fully functioning uteruses without being pregnant all the time.

Lest you think my fearful fantasy here sounds a little too paranoid, let me point you to this story about a school in NYC that's conducting a crackdown on the grave threat of teenage girls who want the right to menstruate in peace.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • invalid-0

    A typical vicious misrepresentation of the pro-clean position. if you want to show you care about feminine cleanliness, display our emblem: white panties, worn on the outside so we can check.

  • invalid-0

    “Most people think I’m lying about being a virgin because I prefer jumbo tampons, but I can’t help it if I have a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina!” Mean Girls, 2004

    Now THAT’S big cotton!

  • invalid-0

    A minor nit – the school in question is in New York state, but not NYC. It’s in Grahamsville, which is pretty rural, but close enough to NYC that NYC media has invaded it since this story broke.

  • invalid-0

    I don’t even want to imagine what they’d think of my Lunapads or Keeper! :)

  • invalid-0

    I be bleedin’ in your bed.

    I be bleedin’ in your toolshed.

    I be bleedin’, bleedin’ red.

    I be bleedin’, but I ain’t dead.

  • invalid-0

    While you can’t ban menstruation, there was and is certainly a lot of religious law in place to keep menstruating women as far from society as possible.

  • invalid-0

    Could you please fix this sentence:

    “The company reversed its decision within hours of the NY Times article about it came out…”

    Then delete this comment.

    –The Grammer Police

  • invalid-0

    You really can’t get much cleaner than inside the vagina. Yay acid!

    Next, the ProClean movement will be against anal sex– specifically two men engaging in anal sex– the rectum can be a very dirty place. XD

    I like the filter, if you can solve 9+0, your opinion can’t be too valid.

  • invalid-0

    Keep in mind that sometimes menstrual fluids also contain fertilized eggs which have not successfully implanted — so those horrible pro-bleeding feminazis are also killing ‘babies’!

  • invalid-0

    I don’t approve of Verizon’s “censorship,” but as a private company they can do what they want. Private blogs do it all the time, and my comments have been deleted by more than a few pro-choice blogs, including yours and NARAL’s.
    Verizon wasn’t discriminating specifically against the pro-choice side, but just keeping an “unsavory” topic off their networks the same way a supermarket might remove abortion-related political flyers from its public bulletin board. Planned Parenthood itself finds the word “abortion” so unsavory that it omitted that term from the press release defending its opening of the Aurora clinic. Can you really blame Verizon for sparing the public from the same discomfort?
    The New York Times editorial condemning Verizon for “authoritarianism” was hypocritical. The Times supported the government’s right to censor television ads by Wisconsin Right to Life under McCain-Feingold. Not exactly “progessive.”

  • invalid-0

    The “public bulletin board” analogy doesn’t hold up. Verizon was blocking messages being sent to people who had requested those messages. NARAL wasn’t spamming the network.

    Your comment about “sparing the public” from “discomfort” just reinforces Amanda’s point about the emptiness and misogyny of the anti-choicer’s “it’s icky” rhetoric.

    And I don’t know about NARAL, but Amanda only starts banning people from her blog when they get abusive, not because they disagree with her.

  • invalid-0
  • invalid-0

    this “anti-choicer” uses a Keeper.

    I think they’re awesome.

    Thanks for asking! :D

  • invalid-0

    I understand that the leftists have been placing tampon dispensers in girls’ restrooms in the public schools so that girls can menstruate without parental notification.

    If I ever catch my 15yo daughter menstruating, I’ll kick her out of the house, I will. Because I love her and care about her moral guidance.

  • invalid-0

    You’re trying to get ‘discovered’ as a blogger, aren’t you? Too bad you are terrible at it.

    Tell you what: why don’t you man up a little and start posting your weekly rants in unlocked communities that allow open discussion on the issue, and we’ll see how long you last. If you do, you will achieve your little fantasy of becoming the next online Ann Coulter. If not, then you can go back and hide in a community where people ritualistically kiss your ass.

    And in the meantime, for My sake, stop claiming to speak for Me. You’re only embarrassing yourself and pissing Me off.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Incorrect again! You have made this an art. Turns out the guy who made the decision was an anti-choice nut who specifically hates NARAL because
    they donated big to his opponent in a Senate race he then lost.


    You know that there's an ongoing mourning of how your misogyny totally upended and destroyed your grasp on rationality, right? I have yet to see you draw short or condemn any disgusting, evil behavior that you would have condemned if it was in service of any other ideology but this sex-phobic, misogynist one you've fallen in love with. One is reminded of Ezra Pound's slipping from being a great poet to a propagandist for the Nazis, except it's not as interesting.

  • invalid-0


    Like me, he’s a committed pro-lifer trying to counteract your culture of death. He just doesn’t believe in cluttering up the comments sections with an entire post.

    Chill out.

  • invalid-0

    The pro-clean movement is not anti-menstruation. We just want to give women a free choice between godly, glorious cleanliness and disgusting, painful, menstrual cycles that will just make them feel miserable. Women don’t have that choice because the society we live in is so viciously pro-menstruation – your ridiculing of our views is just another facet of the menstrual oppression. You even misrepresent us with archaic talk about hysterectomies, when you know very well that we have a very modern, compassionate plan to force all American women to use the IUS or take Lybrel. But no matter how many text messages you send to Verizon, you can’t silence us!

  • invalid-0

    Culture of Death, huh? I’m flattered to see you’ve read my earlier blog entries like Numbers, Joshua, and Judges. And here I thought you didn’t care.

    If it were only this blog entry I were referring to, then you’d be right. But there’s a lot more. The countless posts of name calling nonsense along with his complete lack of any realistic solution to abortion tell me that he doesn’t value life at all; he simply wishes to have a forum to make fun of pro-choice advocates. And it’s all said in the safety of a locked members only community or his own moderated blog. With great catch phrases like “insane baby killers” who “shred babies limb from limb”, it’s no surprise that anytime he pokes his head into an open debate forum, he’s laughed into obscurity again.

    So yes. Kudos to him for saving space. But he’s still just a wannabe shock blogger who’s been called out on making things up one too many times to ever have any credibility.

  • invalid-0

    Dear Amanda,

    (1) If, in fact, the policy was Tauke’s direct doing then I will concede that it may well have been motivated by anti-NARAL animus arising out of a 17-year old grudge rather than a general policy against discussing abortion or other disagreeable topics like the war, etc. But it’s not something that was remotely apparent from the New York Times’ coverage of the issue, and not even NARAL has raised the point — which it certainly would have done had it believed it was specifically targeted. More pertinently, it’s not something YOU raised, leading me to believe that you were unaware of it until after you wrote this post. So the “error,” if that’s what it was, was as much yours as mine.

    (2) Not knowing whether Verizon did in fact prohibit text messaging on other controversial topics, I can’t conclude with the same certainty you do that this was a Tauke vendetta. Did they also previously refuse pro-life and anti-war groups? If they did, and the policy was in effect for any period of time, it would be a bit of a stretch to say this was an anti-choice conspiracy. You’d have to believe that Tauke formulated the whole policy as a cover, months or years in advance, just so that he could slap down NARAL when and if they applied for text messaging. And that somehow he was so stupid that he didn’t realize they’d raise a fuss, despite his experience with them in 1990. And somehow he didn’t really care about the policy enough to fight for it, but decided to reverse it after one day – because of protests by the hated NARAL supporters.

    (3) You’ve missed or ignored my central point, which was that the pro-choice movement itself considers abortion disagreeable in the same way Verizon allegedly did and avoids using the “a” word as much as it can – as Planned Parenthood did in defending its abortion clinic in Aurora. And as I’ve noted, I’ve had my comments deleted by NARAL’s blog, your blog and other pro-choice sites (having never deleted a single comment on my site). So the notion that only the right wing is active in censoring and limiting the discourse on abortion is nonsense. Pro-choice advocates censor themselves and those who disagree with them.

    (4) As I explained in my response to you here, none of my pro-life activities are misogynistic. As to this alleged “mourning” of my rationality, I started writing on pro-life topics within a few months of beginning my blog in 2002 and received very little criticism of my reality-perception until last year. The disagreement seemed more directed at my position regarding the line-drawing on criminalization (the subject of perhaps two of 1,500 posts) than my general grasp of logic with respect to other topics, particularly theology. In this connection, I’d note that you’ve never systematically set forth your position on the God-question (or its relationship to morality/politics), so I have no basis on which to evaluate the soundness of your logic or reality-perception. I do recall you saying something about aligning yourself with the religious left so if you equate religion with irrationality you’re at least as confused as you seem to believe I am.

    (5) When I was blogging more regularly I criticized plenty of evil disgusting behavior so I don’t know what you believe I missed. Having been involved in pro-life volunteering and advocacy for a number of years I’m well aware that a sizeable percentage of the men involved (and some of the women), particularly the politicians, are sexist, women-hating pigs with no real concern for their welfare and, in fact, no real moral objection to abortion other than those they pretend to express in furtherance of their agenda. I just don’t happen to be one of them.

  • invalid-0

    My GOD, your even MORE clueless here than at Pandagon, as if that were possible.

    Well, it must be, as you’ve proven it.

    You silly twit, it has NOTHING to do with cleanliness and everything to do with the imagery of evisceration. It’s killing, you cow, plain and simple. As the peaceniks are (rightfully) outraged over images of war, so rational people are outraged by images of destroyed babies, and even moreseo by the sanctimonious and profoundly illogical ramblings of lunatics such as you.

    Makes me glad I was banned from Pandagon.

    And calling this place the “REALITY CHECK”?

    Get a life. And some anti-psychotic meds. Crazy people are the last ones to admit they’re delusional.

  • amanda-marcotte

    I'm not sure that "misogynist" is a formal diagnosis of mental illness, nor did I suggest that because you are one, you are insane. Just completely and utterly wrapped up in this bizarre desire to lash out at women for being sexual, i.e. human beings, that has pulled you far, far away from any pretense of rationality that you used to adhere to. You used to be a real atheist, but since you got sucked into anti-choice nuttery, you started believing in magic, quoting theologians, and clinging to obvious falsehoods—not matter how preposterous a statement, if it coincides with your hatred of women and fear and loathing of female sexuality, you agree with it. It's sad, really.


    I mean, the screeching about this censorship by Verizon is just pathetic. Even the company did a swift turnaround when they realized that they had a wingnut overstepping his bounds to abuse their clients. But the censorship was misogynist, and thus you will defend it at all costs because misogynist=correct to you, even if everyone else takes a step away from the stink of woman-hating.

  • invalid-0

    (1) I disapprove of censorship, governmental or private, by anyone, misogynist or non-misogynist, and unlike you and NARAL have never practiced it on my blog.

    (2) The distaste for discussing or even mentioning the word “abortion” is shared by Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and probably the public at large, and that is the most likely reason that Verizon originally denied NARAL’s application.

    (3) I would personally prefer much more discussion about abortion, even by NARAL, because I think the more it is discussed the more people turn against it.

    (4) The more research I’ve done, the more I’ve become convinced that Tauke really had nothing to do with Verizon’s short-lived decision. If in fact some hard evidence surfaces (other than conjecture based on his undsiputed anti-choice views) I’ll publish it on my blog and the Dawn Patrol with a public apology to you. But the failure of NARAL itself to make that claim, or the New York Times, is extraordinarily telling. So is your own statement in this very post that “Verizon UNINTENTIONALLY hit a real nerve” despite your current claim that it was all a premeditated hit on NARAL.

    (5) Your claim that I started “believing in magic, quoting theologians, and clinging to obvious falsehoods” is characteristically example-free. I do admit to quoting theologians, but atheist blogs do little else. As I noted before, I was into anti-choice nuttery pretty much from the inception of my blog, at the same time you allege I was a “real atheist”, so the notion that the nuttery later replaced the atheism is ridiculous. And as I’ve always maintained, the framing of abortion as a solely “religious” issue was an deliberate stragegy of the pro-choice movement, not a true reflection of the nature of the issue. After all, Planned Parenthood employs clergy, and many outside American clergy are pro-choice — but I haven’t seen you argue that their logic is tainted by magic and irrationality.

  • invalid-0

    Excuse me, do you have anything to say about the article, or did you just come here to throw a temper tantrum and name-call Ms. Marcotte? If you’re so pro-life, why don’t YOU go out and get one?

    It’s the use of the ick-factor and the gorey pictures that made me hate PETA. If you want to change someone’s mind, do it with logic, not nasty, typically fake pictures and appeals to emotion.

    However, I don’t mind fighting fire with fire. Show me an aborted fetus. I’ll show you a woman dead in a backalley or from complicationd during birth or pregnancy.

  • invalid-0

    debate and dialogue at RH Reality Check. If you've got something productive to add to the dialogue, please make your thoughts known. But we'd prefer not to engage in name-calling to make a point. I always wonder if folks like you – vehemently anti-choice – have ever actually seen an abortion or an embryo for that matter? Have you ever been to a clinic? Because sadly your information seems to have been collected from the posters you see paraded outside of clinics. And that is not "information" but propaganda. 92% of women who have abortions have them in the first trimester of pregnancy when the embryo is the size of a bean. Fetuses aren't being torn apart, there are no "images of evisceration." The embryo is tiny. I worked at a clinic for almost seven years and while many women choose to view their ultrasound before the abortion, most were surprised (shocked!) at how tiny the embryo was on the screen. They had been "educated" by an anti-choice misinformation, propaganda campaign based in zealotry and terror. Is it a living being? Yes, it is. And some women choose to take the embryo home with them to bury and say goodbye in their own way. Is it sad for some women? Yes, it is. Is it sad for all women? No, it's not. Some women feel relief, gratitude. But, yes, an abortion procedure isn't pretty to look at – in fact there is no surgical procedure that is (especially if you take photos, blow up said photos and glue them to posterboard). If you believe abortion is wrong, don't have one. But abortion is legal for a reason – it's a safe procedure that women have every right to access.

  • invalid-0

    i am pro-choice and i too would appreciate more frank discussion about abortion, as well as about pregnancy and birth control. see, as a young woman who doesn’t want children now (but isn’t absolutely certain i will NEVER want children), i’ve done my research on all three subjects. sure, abortion is kind of icky, but you know what, pregnancy and child birth are much MUCH worse, especially in terms of danger to the life, health and well-being of the woman involved. it’s quite sad to me that most people, especially the women directly affected by these matters, are ridiculously ill-informed of the facts and statistics. information could never hurt the cause, it can only help. it’s pretty hard to be reactionary when everyone you’re trying to get a reaction out of already knows which parts you’re exaggerating and which parts you’re forgetting.