Reality Cast Episode 3: Anti-choice Misinformation and the Global Gag Rule

Amanda tackles anti-choice misinformation and the global gag rule and interviews Aimee Thorne-Thomsen of PEP. Also, rethinking intercourse and Reality Cast rips off “The Daily Show”.

Links from the show:

Pope condemns abortion
Pro-Choice Public Education Project
Interview with Sanda Ojiambo
"She Comes First"
Lipstick and fetuses

Show Transcript:

This week on Reality Cast we'll have an interview with Aimee Thorne-Thomson from the Pro-Choice Public Education Project and a mailbag on running back to third after hitting the home run.


From Feministing comes the latest sad sack attempt for anti-choicers to reach out to the younger crowd, even though their patented "sex is wrong" stance continues to make them unpopular with the hormonal set. The attempt? An ad campaign featuring a set of T-shirts with pink ink slogans like, "Guys don't get pregnant" and "Sex causes babies".

Note to the makers of this shirt: You're wrong. Shocking, I know. But sex doesn't cause babies. No, pregnancy causes babies. I know it breaks the fundamentalist heart to hear there's more to baby-making than a guy's O face, but sometimes we have to face up to unpleasant truths. So the key to not having babies if you don't want them is to focus on the pregnancy, not the sex. I guarantee you that if you prevent pregnancies through contraception and terminate unwanted pregnancies, then you will not have a baby that you don't want. Of course, if you want a baby, you have to get pregnant first. Simply having sex won't get you there.

Maybe the confusion comes from playing too much of the Sims. Remember that game? I played it before the online version came out and found it really frustrating that your characters, if they were married, would have sex and before they'd finished smoking their cigarettes, a cradle would show up at the end of the bed. They didn't even get a post-coital nap because the baby would be crying so much. It was a really frustrating design element, because you didn't have any way to prevent babies and abstaining from sex made the game less. The online version overcorrected and you couldn't have babies at all, which was also a problem. Maybe they fixed the problem for 2.0.

Jessica at Feministing did a little digging and found that while the website on the posters advertises itself as a source of real information and straight facts, it turns out the website is owned by CareNet, an anti-choice organization that's not above spreading the same old right wing lies about sex and reproductive health in order to scare young women away from using contraception. Jessica's done some good digging, but I can't help but point out that the poster themselves indicate a willingness to spread misinformation with this "sex causes babies" stuff. Turkey basters also cause babies, but that's no reason to avoid Thanksgiving dinner.

The Pope seems to have a bit of confusion over terms lately, as well, considering the swipe he took at Amnesty International, who recently signed on definitively to the idea that the right to abortion is a basic human right. He stated in a speech in Austria on September 7th that abortion cannot be considered a human right. I strongly disagree. As long as you consider women human, then women's rights are human rights.

In fact, when the news came out that Amnesty International was clarifying its pro-choice stance, I was a little shocked to find out that it took them so long. I expected that Amnesty International would have already had the policy supporting abortion on demand with no apology, but apparently even the largest human rights organization in the world can be a little hesitant when it comes to the idea that women's rights are human rights. Well, it just goes to show that we have a lot of work ahead of us. And I'm glad that Amnesty International is on board with supporting women, even if the Pope is still behind the times.

*interview with Aimee Thorne-Thomson*

The big news this week is that the Democratic-controlled Congress voted to overturn the global gag rule, which was a ban on any U.S. funding going to family planning organizations that offer abortion services or advice on obtaining those services. Contrary to a lot of anti-choice propaganda, the overturn would not mean that the U.S. would be paying for abortions directly, just working with groups that offer abortion as one of their non-U.S.-funded options. Ronald Reagan instituted the gag rule in 1984, but President Clinton overturned it right away when he came to office. And Bush reinstated it right away when he into office, which put a serious hurt on the health of the entire world population.

The good news is that Congress overturned the global gag rule, but the bad news is that Bush, who's beholden to extremist anti-choicers, vetoed the legislation pretty much immediately.

The veto affects a lot more than abortion rights, of course. This interview from Al Jazeera English clarifies the issues. The Kenyan representative for Planned Parenthood Sanda Ojiambo explains in detail how many vital services are lost due to the global gag rule.

*insert Ojiambo interview*

So obviously, this is about a lot more than abortion. But yet again, it's worth pointing out that the anti-choice movement that supports the global gag rule is not just anti-abortion, but anti-contraception, so this widespread termination of health services fits their agenda. Leslee Unruh of the Abstinence-Only Clearinghouse summed up the nuanced anti-choice position on reproductive justice on Fox News back in May:

*insert more babies clip*

I'm sure the people across the globe who are dying of AIDS because they didn't have adequate protection would feel comforted to know they are suffering in the name of such a thoughtful and caring ideology.


OK, here's my question. It's probably dumb and beginner-like because, well, i'm somewhat a beginner, and i got my sex ed from suburban Texas. I'm not sure what information is pertinent, so i'll include whatever i think of.

I've only had sex with one woman, and we're still together (although at the moment she lives in Japan and i, well, don't). Our sex is generally pretty good; at least, we both enjoy ourselves most of the time. However, PIV is usually a disaster, and tends to put a pretty big damper on the rest of the activities when we try it. I always take an incredibly long time to get inside her, and usually by the time i do i've spent myself, and then i feel like crap. Because of that, I've become discouraged about PIV sex, and we've only tried it maybe 10 times (we've been together for a year). I wear a condom (Trojan-enz lubricated, if that makes a difference), so i don't know if that leads to some of our issues or what. I guess my question is two-fold: I'm sure that PIV is something that gets better with practice, but is there something that we could be trying in the meantime to help us out? And second, is there a better condom out there for this sort of thing?

Or should we just focus on what we're already good at?


To clarify for the audience, PIV refers to penis-in-vagina intercourse.

Before I touch on any of the other issues, I want to make it clear that you and your girlfriend should both consult your doctors about this before proceeding to make absolutely sure this is not a medical issue. A lot of women have problems with intercourse for medical reasons and you want to eliminate that possibility before you go any further.

Aside from the possibility of a medical problem, it sounds like you might just have plain old beginner's nerves. And there's nothing wrong with that. If intercourse isn't that fun for you for whatever reasons, you shouldn't feel any obligation to stick with it. Sex is supposed to be about fun and pleasure, so stick to the things that are fun and give you pleasure. Going back to your comfort zone doesn't mean writing off intercourse forever. It might just mean delaying it until you're more likely to enjoy it.

You might want to pick up the book "She Comes First" by Ian Kerner. The title pretty much tells you what the book's going to be about, but it's still worth a read, since he advances this entire sexual philosophy that's specifically aimed at men expressing frustrations like yours. Kerner came to his ideas after suffering from premature ejaculation, but the book is for a larger audience than just men with that specific problem. It's about getting away from the attitude that intercourse is the end-all be-all of sex.

As for condoms, well, Trojans are a fine product. Some people have strong brand preferences and others don't, but it's a trial and error thing. I wouldn't make condom pickiness your first concern. Brand preference is one of those things that comes with time and experience.

Please send mailbag questions to amanda at rh reality check dot org. We do not dispense medical advice at the mailbag, so please direct medical questions to your health practioner.

Now, for the Reality Cast version of the Daily Show's moment of Zen. This is a quote from an abstinence-only presenter giving a lecture to students at Spencer High School in Spencer, Iowa. One of the students, angry at the misinformation being presented, filmed the lecture with his cell phone and posted the clip onto You Tube.

*aborted fetuses*

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • invalid-0

    Enough of these euphemisms already. The two camps in the abortion debate vilify each other (anti-choice!!??) and try to justify themselves with dishonest terms:

    You can’t describe yourself as pro-life if you are happy to go out and support the death penalty.

    You can’t describe yourself as pro-choice if you are happy to remove all the future choices of the fetus.

    It is far more honest to describe yourself as either pro-abortion or anti-abortion. Most people see these camps as hysterical zealots…try some honesty, engage in reasonable debate and stop calling each other names.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Any comments on the actual program today? There's a lot of specifically interesting stuff that's going on here.

  • invalid-0

    IMHO you should make your interviews more interactive. Don’t let your guests go on for so long – it’s more interesting when there is more back and forth. (How does NPR do it? They have some excellent interviews.)

  • invalid-0

    Sex causes pregnancy which causes babies

    BTW, Video games and movies are not the best examples to explain how something works.

  • amanda-marcotte

    If the majority of your sex has lead directly to pregnancy, I'm very sorry that you've had such an anemic sex life. Perhaps you should consult a doctor about the fascinating new methods of birth control they have to fix your problem. Turns out that the vast majority of sex acts don't actually lead to pregnancy. I'd bet even your parents had sex more times than your mom gave birth.

  • invalid-0

    Calling them “anti choice” just brings yourself down to their level. Personally, I reserve “anti choice” for all those who are against ALL choices: abortion, birth control, and comphrehensive sex ed.
    “Extremist wing of the pro life movement” is rather long, but it clarifies better the gap between most pro lifers who are more pragmatic; and the fringe who like to use pregorative terms like “knuckle dragging pro aborts”.

    But I do have one quibble with the above post. Feti aren’t sentient and therefore unable to choose or plan. How can abortion “remove all the future choices of the fetus”?

  • invalid-0

    We could certainly, as a movement, do a lot better than “anti-choice” but “pro-life” is much worse. What does that mean?! It seems to indicate that if you are in opposition to all women exercising free will over their reproductive destiny, then you are somehow advocating for “life”? It is a nonsensical term that only serves to reinforce the dichotomy that a fetus growing inside of a woman is a completely separate being – when it isn’t.

    I will say openly that, as reproductive justice advocates, we must be comfortable acknowledging that abortion does end a life. But this is the conflict, the pain, the difficulty, the dichotomy of living in this world. Women MUST be able to choose whether or not they want to bring life into this world of their own accord.

    I will never use the term “pro-life” – it is absurd. I will say that there is a difference in my mind between those who are anti-abortion on a personal level, and those who actively advocate to strip ALL women of their ability to access abortion. If you would never have an abortion, if you teach your children that abortion is not something you approve of – go for it. But don’t tell me that I cannot access a safe, legal procedure. That’s not “pro-life” at all.

  • invalid-0

    fyi…the youtube link is dead. (or, as youtube puts it, “malformed.”) and i can’t find the video in search. (searching for “aborted fetuses” isn’t really successful…)

    got another link for that?

  • invalid-0

    We’ll see about fixing the link – thanks for noting! Check back in a few minutes…

  • invalid-0

    The link to the ab-only video on youtube isn’t working. I’d love to see it…

  • invalid-0

    I apologize but the link to the YouTube video should be fixed. Thank you both for pointing this out to us!

  • invalid-0

    Regretably this fringe is not a fringe here in south Georgia
    no, it’s most of these people.It is SCARY down here.Willful
    ignorance and absolute conviction that they should have the
    right “under God”to make the laws for everyone else in the country.They have a mind-set that is truly medieval.

  • invalid-0

    Here’s the url for the video:

  • amanda-marcotte

    I call them "anti-choice" because it's accurate. They are not "pro-life", because in order to be "pro-life", you have to support life, and right wingers who support war and the death penalty, and who oppose universal health care that would actually save lives are not "pro-life". Nor are they "anti-abortion", because their opposition to contraception and sex education will increase the abortion rate, making them technically "pro-high-abortion-rate".


    What they oppose is a woman's right to choose what happens with her body. That is the best definition. Opposing a woman's right to choose=anti-choice.


    The notion that using accurate terms makes me "as bad" as them when they lie and misrepresent is off-base. The principle I use is to get the frame that best represents the situation at hand, and the pro/anti-choice frame boils down the debate to exactly what is at stake, the right to choose.

  • amanda-marcotte

    I see your point, and agree that anti-choice, if nothing else, is a mouthful. But I've had trouble coming up with something better. Anti-reproductive rights? Anti-reproductive justice? It gets hairy.


    What's nice about "anti-choice" is that it spreads like wildfire. When I first started in feminist blogging, no one used the term. And a few of us picked it up, and now it's the common usage term on the feminist blogs and is spreading out even further. It's a nice parallel to "pro-choice", it's accurate, and it frames the issue in the way we see it.