‘Abortion Tourism’ and Married Sex: Conservatives Get Mad at Anything Women Do


“Abortion tourism” or “abortion vacations”: This is the latest (non-)thing that the Daily Caller is trying to get its hard right audience all riled up about, in an article sneering at Lenzi Sheible, a pro-choice activist who started Fund Texas Women, a group dedicated to helping Texans who need to travel to get abortions under the draconian new state laws that have closed all the rural abortion clinics in the state. The Daily Caller piece, written by Eric Owens—a supposed “education editor” who would better be understood as the “stoking resentment and fear editor”—is a marvel of right-wing resentment-stoking and hysteria, trying to make it seem as if there’s some kind of scary abortion conspiracy going on, when in fact it’s just an attempt to get women access to necessary health care, which their own government is trying to take away from them.

The piece also showed that conservatives are losing their ability to keep their story straight when it comes to attacks on reproductive rights. Owens complains that a travel fund is an attempt to “skirt a new state law.” But that would mean that the law is meant to create an undue burden on abortion access, which is illegal under Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Is Owens inadvertently admitting that the law has nothing to do with health and safety, as its crafters maintain, and is in fact just an attempt to make abortion harder for low-income women in rural areas to access?

Even more amazingly, Owens didn’t even try to hide that he was stoking resentment of women over the mere possibility that they could experience a moment of pleasure. Owens goes out of his way to make it seem like the women who are being served by Fund Texas Women are having a great time living in the lap of luxury; he whines that trips to access a legal medical procedure are “abortion vacations” and that Fund Texas Women “pays for airfare, bus tickets, hotel accommodations and various other expenses.” The reader is clearly meant to throw a fit—these women “get” to have fun “vacations” for free just because they had sex! Never mind that these trips are actually quite stressful. Never mind that getting outpatient surgery is no one’s idea of a good time. Never mind that sitting on a Greyhound bus for hours as you drive across Texas, which is what these women have to do, is a downright hellish experience.

Oh yeah, and never mind that if conservatives hate the idea of women taking time off work and seeing another city while they get their abortion, the best way to prevent these trips is to stop passing laws that shut down safe abortion clinics.

What’s interesting about the article—as with the inadvertent admission that the Texas law is unconstitutional—is that it’s another example of right-wing media losing its ability to keep track of its narrative. The official position of anti-choicers is that they are in the fight because of “life,” not because they resent and hate the idea that a woman might have experienced—gasp!—sexual pleasure without being punished for it. But Owens shows how much resentment is built into the core of the anti-choice agenda. Forget resenting women because they might have had sexual fun. Owens is, and he assumes his readers must be, deeply resentful of the idea that young women might feel even the fleeting pleasure of being able to sit in a hotel room for a night after a long bus ride. Any pleasure, no matter how small or imaginary, is cause for resentment.

Similarly, a recent Bill O’Reilly segment showed how the real issue that’s working up conservatives is the possibility that someone, somewhere—especially someone young or female—might be having fun. When Def Jam founder Russell Simmons came onto O’Reilly’s show recently, O’Reilly decided to make Simmons answer for the song and video “Partition” by Beyoncé. (Simmons had nothing to do with the song or video, as far as I can tell, but O’Reilly seems to think everyone involved in hip-hop and R&B is keeping tabs on everyone else at all times, I guess.) O’Reilly complained that the song “glorifies having sex in the back of a limousine,” which it does, of course. But why is that wrong? O’Reilly tried to justify himself by whining, “Why would she do it when she knows the devastation that unwanted pregnancies … and fractured families—why would Beyoncé do that?”

Sex in limousines, as opposed to sex in other places, does not increase the risk of unwanted pregnancy or fractured families. Presumably, the concern for O’Reilly is that girls might hear this song and get the idea that sex is fun; for him, that belief—one that persisted long before Beyoncé and will persist long after she’s gone—is the problem. But here’s what made this whinefest truly special: Beyoncé has blatantly framed the song as an ode to married sex. Her husband is cast in the video, and the framing device is one of them sitting at breakfast, like any other boring old married couple. The point of the song is to highlight the erotic joys of married life. Far from being a threat to the idea of family stability, the song portrays, evocatively, an important part of holding a marriage together, by continuing to have erotic adventures so that you don’t fall into a rut and start resenting each other.

In light of this, it’s hard not to conclude that what angers O’Reilly is the fear that women—even married mothers—are experiencing sexual pleasure without apologizing for it. He’s so hostile to the idea of female sexual pleasure that he assumes it must be destabilizing and destructive, even in the context (marriage) that conservatives claim to believe is the only legitimate place for sexual exploration. I’ve long thought that was just a ruse, an excuse to police and punish sexual pleasure in all forms, but O’Reilly’s meltdown over a woman doing a song about the joys of married sex just proves it.

Why is it so hard lately for conservatives to keep a tight lid on their hostility to female pleasure, sexual and otherwise? It’s hard to say. I argued a few months ago that it is in part because anti-choicers think they’re winning on the abortion front and so have decided to start pressing their luck. But these two examples show that it might also be that right-wing media has dropped the pretense of trying to persuade, and is now in the business of keeping the already aggrieved in a constant state of anger and resentment, particularly toward women.

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  • Talya Price

    this is a very interesting article. And I am sure it will be met with some criticism. I think the world gets mad at what women do, even if they do what is “expected” of them.

    • red_zone

      Here’s the thing; so much has changed from just a century ago; from women getting the right to vote, from seeking employment outside the home to going for actual careers that are NOT centered around having a family. Before we knew it, things like contraceptives became available and eventually, abortion became legal.

      People were pushed out of their ‘comfort zone’. The rules changed too fast for them to keep up with and now we have efforts to roll the clock BACk to where a woman was expected to stay home and bear children, regardless of her personal wishes.

      Society needs to change, by dragging it into modern times, kicking and screaming, if need be.

      • Mindy McIndy

        Don’t I know it. Like me, my great grandmother was a lesbian. However, her family was not happy with her unmarried, solitary lifestyle. She and her sister ran liquor during Prohibition, then she started working at Jeep. So she was shamed into getting married to a much older man, then had a child that she didn’t want. Luckily she only had one, and my great aunts raised my busia very well, and if it wasn’t for that shame I wouldn’t be here, but still. My great grandmother was a very independent woman that men today wouldn’t be able to stand, so I can’t imagine what she was treated like back in her day. (Though she was so awesome that she had grown men afraid of her, so maybe there would be at least a smidgen of respect.)

  • rosie

    Before things became serious between my man and I, I wanted to know what his opinion was on reproductive healthcare for women (contraceptives & abortion). He was aversively against it and was strongly republican.

    I told him, well if you want to continue to exercise your reproductive freedoms…you won’t be restricting mine (or other women).

    I thought he could last at least one week…but nope, he lasted only two days.

    He now realizes it might not be something he ‘likes’ but if you restrict someone else’s reproductive rights, they’ll restrict yours.

    He realized that what he was fed that ‘sluts’ and ‘whores’ need those services…was wrong. It’s the girlfriends, the fiancees and wives…

    We are now engaged.

    It is my belief to get men on board with women’s rights’…their women in their life need to do it. My man was as republican as they come.

    Ladies we can do it!

    PS: Talk is cheap make him sign a contract and have it witnessed.

    • lady_black

      Well honey, better you than me. The very thought of sleeping with a pro-life Republican gives me the Heebie Jeebies.

    • John H

      The Lysistrata gambit? It’s potentially effective, but I dislike coercion, and forcing women to restrict their own sexual agency to try to coerce men’s behavior is even more distasteful. I’ll stick with my Don’t Fuck Republicans rule myself, but I’m glad you found something that works for you!

      • VeggieTart

        Well, maybe if more women refused to screw the anti-choice, you’d see a huge change in attitude.

        If guys like Bill O’Reilly and Eric Owens are outraged at the idea of women having sex for pleasure, they can damn well go without.

        And nobody’s fooling us; anyone who didn’t really know that these regulations were about preventing safe abortion is naive. They just are finally admitting it.

        • HeilMary1

          Bill is rumored to be a pedophile. Read somewhere that before he was a big name and was stationed in Central America, he patronized underage brothels.

          • VeggieTart

            I heard it was Rush Limbaugh who engaged in sex tourism.

          • HeilMary1

            Both!

          • lady_black

            I told ya. For him, wife = beard.

      • KMDAB

        Disagree. Sometimes extreme measures must be taken to make a point. And in this case, it worked.

        • lady_black

          It just isn’t worth having sex with a Republican.

      • HeilMary1

        A birth strike wouldn’t deprive good men and women of sex, and it would make conservaturds’ heads explode.

  • Lindsay

    Hmm… Beyonce promotes the idea that women should enjoy sex with their husbands, and O’Reilly blows a gasket. Is there a Mrs. O’Reilly? If there is, I wonder what she might think.

    • expect_resistance

      Yes, God forbid we might enjoy sex.

    • lady_black

      I don’t think Bill-o is married. Who would have him?

      • expect_resistance

        Yep, divorced. Who could stand to be with him? Yuck.

        “O’Reilly was married to Maureen E. McPhilmy, a public relations executive. The couple separated in April 2, 2010, and were divorced on September 1, 2011.”

        • Lindsay

          Ms. McPhilmy needs to spill some details.

          • lady_black

            My guess would be that she was his beard.

          • expect_resistance

            Remember the O’Reilly “loofah” and “falafel” case?

            From Huff Po: 3/18/10

            “Five years ago Tuesday, producer Andrea Mackris filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O’Reilly. The case was settled out-of-court just two weeks later.

            The case has been remembered as the “loofah” and “falafel” case, but there are in reality many memorable quotes that Mackris alleged O’Reilly said to her, covering ground such as vibrators, threesomes, phone sex, nipples…….”

            More at falafelfactor – blogspot (Sorry can’t post the link it goes to moderation)

          • Lindsay

            You’d think he’d realize that every time he starts bloviating about sex, people start thinking ‘Falafel! Falafel!’

          • lady_black

            I have never been able to eat falafel again since that whole mess. And I like falafel. He ruined it for me.

    • HeilMary1

      Cheated-on Mrs. O’Reilly dumped sexual harasser Bill for a cop.

      • Lindsay

        Wait… at least two women voluntarily had sex with Bill? What madness is this?

        • VeggieTart

          There’s no accounting for taste; four women have actually married Rush Limbaugh.

    • bitchybitchybitchy

      I suspect one reason O’Reilly is so upset about this is that he doesn’t get to have sex in the back of a limo.

  • jruwaldt

    I imagine that part of what freaks them out about Beyoncé is that she’s black. Black people shouldn’t be having sex, in conservatives’ view. Plus, they have too much of it. Also, the idea that a black couple could live a peaceful suburban existence probably bothers them too, because it contradicts the belief that all black people are urban gangsters.

  • expect_resistance

    Lenzi Sheible sounds like a brilliant woman! Kudos to her for pro-choice work and helping women access abortion outside of Texas. I would love to help with something like this in the northern part of the U.S.

  • TheBrett

    The source of it was always conservative Christian anxieties and fears about both increasingly overt sexuality and women’s increasing rights and sexual freedom in the public sphere. That’s why they managed to get the initial reaction by the biggest evangelical group back in 1972 – that abortion was a woman’s choice and that Roe was fairly decided – flipped into hostile anti-abortion and increasingly anti-artificial contraception positions.

    And like anything else conservative in America, we’ve seen in before. It reminds me of a similar backlash in the 1870s and 1880s, led by Anthony Comstock, growing off of increasing conservative anxieties about sexual choice and overt sexuality in the public arena. At least we probably won’t get censorship and bans on contraception out of this wave, although don’t underestimate their ability to try and make it more difficult for poor women to get access to more effective forms of contraception.

  • Ella Warnock

    Resentment against married women who are deemed to be having “consequence-free” sex has always been an issue for society in general. All 27 years of our childfree marriage has been witness to a great deal of resentment not towards my husband – who was just as staunchly against having kids as I was – but against me.

    The amusing thing is that several men my husband knows have wistfully told him in moments of candor, “You probably did the right thing. I love my kids, but . . .” Now, I don’t know that they’d actually change anything if they could, but I it’s more the point that they never considered it as an alternative in the first place.

    • King Rat

      Just like how the catholic schools will fire a woman for getting pregnant, but not her boyfriend/husband!

    • lady_black

      Tell them to take their resentment and stuff it somewhere. I don’t know where you live, but no one around here has ever said a word about my childfree marriage to my husband. Or maybe they just know I would tear them a new asshole is they even tried. Those resentful people aren’t paying your bills. Tell them to go skrew themselves.

      • Ella Warnock

        Oh, they never were that much of a problem, and watching them grapple with their own lives was constant inoculation and usually somewhat entertaining. Living well, however, really is the best revenge. ;->

  • John H

    Hold on a minute there: Beyoncé is Black, so maybe THAT’S why married sex isn’t okay for her, as far as O’Reilly is concerned. We can’t discount the possibility that his position is racist instead of sexist, or both. (It’s probably both, given that it’s Bill O’Reilly.)

  • Jennifer Starr

    I love how the anti-choicers are referring to what Lenzi is doing as ‘trying to skirt state law’, as if going somewhere else for a medical procedure is somehow illegal. It isn’t. But I wonder how long it will be before some legislator will come up with the idea of trying to restrict where a pregnant woman can travel. Just sickening.

    • expect_resistance

      Like she is doing something “sneaking and getting away with something.” It’s a VERY scary idea they think they can restrict where pregnant women can travel.

      • goatini

        Already happened, as in selfish vicious pig Bode Miller, aided and abetted by his selfish vicious pig bride.

        • lady_black

          My husband didn’t know this story and couldn’t understand why I was booing Bode during the Olympics. I gladly told him the story, and he said “it sounds like a problem with the law.” I told him there is no problem with the law, and a man cannot ever be granted custody of a fetus, since the fetus usually goes wherever the woman goes. Then he got it.

          • goatini

            It was SO clear, to everyone who is familiar with selfish vicious pig Miller’s heinous, vile misogyny, that the whole kerfuffle about NBC’s Christin Cooper “push(ing) too far” with her interview was all a big setup, so that the REAL questions that SHOULD have been asked of the selfish vicious pig were avoided, and the selfish vicious pig got to “cry” his big phony crocodile tears so as to make him appear to be some kind of actual human being, instead of the actual pile of fetid vile garbage that he really IS, that uses and abuses females as livestock.

      • HeilMary1

        That was the point of the lesser known movie, “Rain without Thunder”.

  • Ed Higley

    I am in shock at how sick this website is and how evil Amanda Marcotte is!
    May God have mercy on her and the rest of the wicked left.

    • King Rat

      Please elaborate.

    • Jennifer Starr

      Care to tell us more about this ‘shock’ of yours, Eddie ?

    • Jennifer Starr

      Reply to your comment in moderation–links don’t get past our spam filters and don’t show up. Care to try again? And for the record, I like Amanda. I like what she writes.

    • Jennifer Starr

      Again, want to try posting without links?

    • Shan

      Limbaugh fan since 1988. Nuff said.

    • P. McCoy

      You sound like a religious fanatic, perhaps you would be better served going after your right wing co believers-you could use your outrage against predatorial clergy who have raped youths and children, or to defend the lives of children whose lives have only been saved by abortion, abortion done because as children under 10 years of age, they were victims of sexual assault by either a male relative or some male predator in their midst.

      Or is it that the fact that women, that you do not know or do know, are having sex for non procreative purposes and that infuriates you because you can’t control that. Wanting to control others leads to others wanting to control you. To wit : don’t want to financially support contraception and abortion , then I equally will want to refuse to support Medicaid, or Medicare supporting your downs syndrome adult child when the cost of raising that child breaks you financially. Want to discriminate against LGBT people, well, I may refuse to serve you as a believer because I find your beliefs make you part of a cult, a hate group and aiders and a betters to anti abortion domestic terrorists. Everything is reciprocal so, you’d best be careful whom you want to say no to. You too could be found marginalized and even outlawed.

      • PennEd

        Dear Lord, forgive this person of her hatred, especially of men. Let her see the murder of children is wrong. Whatever evil has befallen her in the past that has made her so virulently hateful, please ease her pain. In Jesus name. Amen

        • Lieutenant Nun

          Oh. Fuck you.

          • PennEd

            No thank you, but I know some Godly men for you if you’d like.

          • P. McCoy

            If you met a godly man you would crucify him as a communist subversive. Devils don’t know godly people.

        • P. McCoy

          Devils lack the capacity to pray for anyone’s good. I don’t hate men and I don’t hate children. But you fill me with contempt because you chose not to address my issues; instead, you engaged in pharasical, rhetorical prayers of the fanatic, which serve no purpose. You proceed with the actions of a coward. If your kind wins the Hobby Lobby supreme court decision, to be sure I will politically fight back, to see that your causes, like the ones that I discussed prior, will pass became my religious sensibilities are as valid as yours. I don’t want want to support your quiverfull of downs syndrome children because you choose to bring defective here. Support them yourself, just as you advocate for those to support contraception themselves based on personal responsibility. Also, I will work with those, who advocate watching you and your political groups posing as religious groups so you can be exposed, caught, fined and imprisoned when your true natures, as Domestic Terrorists are exposed.

          • PennEd

            So sad. To live with such hate. The truth is the real “defective” here is pretty evident. You espouse the same belief as the nazis who called people with disabilities defective. You need to know, defective or not, you are loved.

          • P. McCoy

            To be loved by YOU is to be loved by SATAN himself. You are the real Nazi here, wanting to impose a Christian Taliban on the rest of us and destroying for your own selfish reasons the first attempts to have universal health care reform in this country. You are the one who would make LGBT people wear the pink triangles and discriminate against them. I know your kind well, next it would be non-Whites, feminists, or anyone else that didn’t follow your fanatics version of Christianity. Yes I hate your kind, will resist your kind politically and hope to see your movements crushed and folks like you marginalized. You haven’t yet addressed my concerns so please skip writing to me – I have no respect for cowards

    • Arekushieru

      The only one wicked, here, is the person who thinks that women should be denied contraception and be forced to die due to multiple pregnancies and births while they, THEMSELVES, know that they will never have to face such a situation. And that’s not us, ‘honey’. God wants YOU to repent of your misogynistic (evil) ways. SO fucking sorry. I will not hope that God has mercy on you, though, because you have NONE for women, as the wicked rightist you are.

      • HeilMary1

        Ramen!

  • BJ Survivor

    I could be wrong, but hasn’t Billo been married several times? I’m pretty certain that none of his wives ever experienced orgasm while with him. Could be the source of his resentment.

    • lady_black

      Orgasm??? I can’t even handle the thought of him touching me fully clothed.

      • BJ Survivor

        Yeah, it is a nauseating thought.

  • BJ Survivor

    Shorter Texas conservatives: How dare you think of not birthin’ them babies, ladies. Dontcha know it’s all yer good fer?!