Nelson: FAIL

Diana Kasdan from the ACLU on prisoner’s rights to healthy pregnancies. Also, Anderson Cooper shoots straight on abortion, and "Sex, Really" romanticizes abstinence.


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Links in this episode:

Tom Coburn thinks we’re soft for caring about women

Cajúne v Lake County

Sex Really on abstinence

The condom-free Rapture


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Diana
Kasdan from the ACLU about a jail that put one of its inmates in danger of
miscarriage. Also, the ongoing abortion debate in health care reform causes
Anderson Cooper to ask about the reality of abortion, and I revisit the Sex,
Really podcast as they romanticize abstinence until marriage.


I have to highlight this clip of Tom Coburn, because it’s a
classic example of how anti-feminism is being used as a tool to attack health
care.  He’s complaining about the
Mikulski amendment to make sure that breast cancer screening stays covered for
women 40 and up.


  • coburn


Like how he implied that if women get breast cancer
screening, men won’t get diddly squat? 
Classic conservative move. The truth is that men will get more access to
health care right with women, but Coburn is encouraging men to shoot themselves
in the foot in order to deprive women of something they need.



Well, none of us can say we didn’t see this coming.  There was no reason to think the that
toxic mix of crazed sexism and opposition to health care reform that resulted
in the Stupak-Pitts amendment wouldn’t crop up again in the Senate.  And just as in the House, the Democrat
who has brought it to the fore is someone whose commitment to health care
reform is questionable, but whose commitment to oppressing women is
unquestionable. Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat with a 0 rating from NARAL,
introduced a Senate version of the Stupak-Pitts amendment.  Here’s Rachel Maddow, covering the


  • nelson
    1 *


That was Senator Mikulski, kicking butt.  On the whole, the Nelson amendment
hasn’t received even close to as much panicking as the Stupak-Pitts amendment,
in part because observers think it’s mostly a symbolic gesture on Nelson’s
part.  Certainly, the whole thing
had a creepy gloss to it.  Nelson
practically bragged about having the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
"review" it. You really have to love the mental image of a middle-aged man
handing over an anti-woman amendment to a bunch of celibate men so they can
make sure that it maximizes the financial penalty for women who find themselves
pregnant against their will.  Or, I
love it, because I love it when people are reminded how much the anti-choice
mentality is about male dominance over women.


Far be it for me to find a silver lining in all of this, but
I figure that after all the relentless coverage of this issue, you guys deserve
some positivity in your lives.  Or
at least some inspiration to find new and better ways to start reminding people
of how important abortion rights are, and how completely screwed up our
opponents are on this issue. 


Anderson Cooper covered the issue by actually covering the
basic realities of abortion.  It
was shocking to see, since we so very rarely actually get a look at abortion
from a pragmatic point of view. 
Cooper actually decided to go to Planned Parenthood in New York City and
gasp! Talk to providers.


  • nelson
    2 *


I’ll confess that I was surprised to find out that even in
New York, providers and patients are in so much danger that they have to have
security.  It’s useful to remember
at this point that 87% of insurance companies cover abortion.  But also that a lot of women probably
don’t realize that they’re covered. 
So Planned Parenthood establishing that up front is no small thing.


  • nelson
    3 *


The revelation that Planned Parenthood takes the time to
make sure that someone owns her decision and makes the right one for her may
seem like old news to you, but I suspect it’s a revelation to much of the
audience watching this.  After all,
most Americans have been trained to think that people who provide abortion are
somehow bad guys.  In reality,
they’re often the only people who are really offering sincere help to women
facing unintended pregnancies.


Cooper then took the time to demystify the actual environment
and process of an abortion.


  • nelson
    4 *


The interesting thing about the price of an abortion is that
it’s right in that spot where it’s inexpensive by medical standards, but still
out of the price range of many women. 
That’s why the Stupak-Pitts amendment is so cruel.  Since this procedure is so common, it’s
a matter of maximizing the number of people who get financially screwed for no
real reason, except to punish them for having sex while female.


  • nelson
    5 *


The problem with anti-choice rhetoric around abortion is
that since it’s attached to sexuality so much, it’s easy for them to pretend
it’s a luxury item.  As if it were
a vibrator or some lingerie, a sexual enhancement of some sort.  But of course, it’s not such thing, and
as that exchange shows, the only impact of restricting funding is that it costs
women more money and makes the procedure more complicated and painful for
them.  Which in turn demonstrates
that anti-choice  moves like
Stupak-Pitts have only one goal and result in mind, which is punishing women
for having sex.  Hopefully,
Cooper’s just-the-facts approach will help clue people in.


The other good news is that the Senate voted down the
amendment. But we still have to reconcile the House and Senate bills.



* insert interview *


It’s been awhile since we’ve visited the Sex, Really
podcast.  But rest assured, Laura
Sessions Stepp is still being paid by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and
Unplanned Pregnancy in order to promote her rigid, gender-stereotyped notions
about sexuality.  Namely, that
women who have sex without obtaining some kind of strong commitment and
hopefully some jewelry to seal the deal are hopeless sluts that will never find
love.  And though the National
Campaign is ostensibly here to help teenage girls and women prevent unplanned
pregnancy, Sessions Stepp remains mostly uninterested in methods that are
proven to work, namely contraception usage.  Oh, they’ve covered it some.  But now she’s back where she wants to be, promoting abstinence
until marriage. 


We’ve heard the horror stories that haunt Sessions Stepp
before: young women who have sex without extracting payment first in the form
of very expensive dinners, girls who have had casual sex spending Friday nights
alone like the virgins do, college aged guys who don’t want to get married yet.
And now for the pay-off: saccharine sweet stories about how the only thing you
need to do to have a perfect life is not have sex until you’re married.


  • sex
    really 1 *


Which is her way of accidentally tipping us off to the fact
that this podcast extolling the virtues of abstinence has no grounding in
reality. I’m sure the people she interviews are real, sure, but they define the
exception to the rule.  Most people
who vow abstinence as teenagers change their mind.  Therefore the people interviewed are exceptions to the rule,
outliers who can’t tell us anything about how most people can or should conduct
themselves in the world.


Her first guest is a Mormon woman who waited until marriage,
though she wants to take time to scare us with frightful stories about kissing
boys without getting the dinner or commitment payment up front.


  • sex
    really 2 *


I think the maudlin music behind Echo’s confession that she
kissed boys she didn’t intend to marry was my favorite part.  Oh, the tragedy!  Oh, the humanity! Boys got kissed and
didn’t have to pay for it by pretending to love you, or at least buy you


Sessions Stepp wants to call Echo the "poster child" for
what she calls, and I’m not kidding, "hot chastity".  The implication is that if you don’t have sex, that’s hotter
than having sex, in the sense that staying out of water is wetter than getting
in it.  This is the story used to
imply that Echo’s got it better than you fornicators.


  • sex
    really 3 *


This is why the concept of "hot chastity" is so silly.  I don’t doubt that kiss was hot, but
the implication is that the rest of us don’t have access to those kinds of
emotions or moments, a statement that is easy to disprove.  People have these feelings after having
sex.  People fall in love after
having their hearts broken.  Love
tends to crop up for people all the time, no matter how much sex they’ve had.


The attempts to romanticize Echo’s story and make it
something that all women everywhere should want are also insulting.  I’m glad that Echo’s choices worked out
for her, but no amount of dramatic music is going to distract most of us from
the cold, hard facts.  And that is
that Echo’s husband is 15 years older than her, and she’s had a crush on him since
she was 9 and he was 24, and that this is all interlaced with Mormon-specific
ideas about how you know who your eternal spouse is.  That works for Echo, but for the rest of us, the details of
the story couldn’t be further from what we want romantically, and frankly, the
idea of falling in love with your husband at age 9 is a little creepy.


The other stories she covers are just as odd.  Which isn’t to say that the people in
them are bad or anything.  I’m sure
they’re great.  But it goes to show
that even when trying to paint abstinence as a viable option, all you’re going
to end up doing is sending the message that it falls outside of the range of
life choices most of us are willing to accept for ourselves.



And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, come again version.  Media Czech at Barefoot and Progressive
found this video from a self-appointed prophet, explaining how it is that most
of us aren’t going to get into the Rapture lottery. 


  • rapture


If this is true, then the Rapture will come and go without
anyone noticing, since the number of people eligible is so tiny. You’d think
that if god wanted to make a dramatic statement with the Rapture, he’d rapture
enough people for it to be a noteworthy event.


Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte