Pro-Choice, Feminist Support For Motherhood


Talking motherhood and feminism with Amber Kinser. Kentucky puts a stop to criminalizing women who choose to give birth despite drug addictions, and why mandatory ultrasound laws are immoral, insulting, and ineffective.

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Justice served in Kentucky

Pregnancy prosecutions in Kentucky

Trena’s story

Prenatal Exposure to Illegal Drugs and Alcohol

“Moral” and “pro-life” Rush Limbaugh on feeding poor children

Do ultrasounds change women’s minds?

No, not really. 

They let women buy cars?

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Amber Kinser about motherhood and feminism.  Also, a segment on the prosecution of drug-addicted mothers, and another one on the issue of ultrasound laws and abortion.

If you’re not addicted to the TED talks, I highly recommend getting onto their website or iTunes and checking them out.  Since there’s an international focus, and since HIV is such a major world issue, there’s lots and lots of information about sexual health in these talks.  I particularly liked Elizabeth Pisani’s talk on HIV.

  • pisani *

The entire talk is about why the concept of rational decision-making only works if you take specific context into account.  Only until you start to really understand why people do what they do will you start to see the best ways to make sure people are able to practice safe sex and not share needles.

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Sometimes in our dark times, one might be forgiven if you despair of good stuff ever happening in the battle for reproductive justice.  It seems that there’s a constant drumbeat of attempts to rob women of basic human rights, and at best, the misogynist forces are only held off for a little while here and there.  But in Kentucky, some straight up good news happened.  The state supreme court ruled in favor of Ida Cochrane, who was prosecuted for delivering a baby to term that tested positive for cocaine.  This is a common strategy of zealous prosecutors trying to score points with voters, even though, as the representative at the ACLU pointed out, criminalizing giving birth has long been something the courts in Kentucky disallow.

  • Kentucky 1 *

Unsurprisingly, in places where there’s a lot of support for criminalizing women who choose not to go forward with pregnancies, there’s also a lot of support for women who choose to go forward with pregnancies even if they’re addicts.  Well, it may surprise you if you think that the anti-choice position was ever about “life”, but if you realize that it’s about misogyny and control, all this makes sense.  It really creates a damned-in-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation for pregnant women suffering from addiction, who may not want to abort but find that so-called “pro-life” penalties make that their only option. 

To make it worse, prosecuting women for delivering babies while using drugs only means that pregnant women with addictions will be afraid of seeking medical help during their pregnancy.  Pregnancy is often a time when women with addictions will actually be motivated to stop using, and depriving them of help during this time is short-sighted, and does nothing but hurt children.  So why is such a short-sighted policy so popular?

  • Kentucky 2 *

Going after drug addicts is a popular way to open that particular door, at least as long as you target drug addicts who are poor and/or are racial minorities.  While middle class white women have been known to use during pregnancy, they’re very rarely the people targeted by this. But once the door is open, no one should be surprised at what comes next.

  • Kentucky 3 *

Indeed, a woman in South Carolina was thrown in jail for attempting suicide while pregnant.  Despite the fact that suicide is basically an outgrowth of a real mental illness, which is depression, this woman was treated like a criminal because while she survived her fetus didn’t.  Even though if she’d chosen to have that pregnancy terminated in the standard medical way, she wouldn’t be sitting in jail now. 

Speaking of South Carolina, they are by far the biggest problem in this department.

  • Kentucky 4 *

Stuart TV did a video about Trena Walker, a South Carolina woman who had the fortune of knowing a lawyer who handles the cases of drug-addicted pregnant women..  Trena had a 300 to 500 dollar a day cocaine problem and was homeless when she got pregnant.  Her story neatly illustrates why it’s such a bad idea to criminalize being pregnant while being a drug addict.

  • Kentucky 5 *

As the National Advocates for Pregnant Women have amply demonstrated, the science simply doesn’t demonstrate that cocaine use while pregnant is as bad as hyped.  In fact, 30 leading doctors spent 20 years of research on the issue, and said, quote, “none of us has identified a recognizable condition, syndrome or disorder that should be termed ‘crack baby.’”  It’s obviously not good to use cocaine while pregnant, of course, but it’s much, much worse to be cocaine-addicted, homeless, often unable to get food, and prostituting yourself on the streets while pregnant.  Not good for you, and not good for the baby.  And yet these are the women who have the most trouble getting the treatment, even though they arguably need it more than anyone.  Good for the Kentucky supreme court for seeing the flaws in these prosecutions.

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insert interviews

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If you listen to this program, odds are you’re familiar with the explosion in state laws around the country requiring women to look at an ultrasound before getting an abortion, often while being subjected to a misleading lecture based on the whims of anti-choice, anti-science legislators.  It’s a particularly frustrating law for many reasons, starting with the fact that most abortion providers already provide all the information their patients could want, and these laws imply that they wouldn’t if not forced.  But the laws play on the two main self-serving tropes of anti-choicers: that women are fundamentally too stupid to breathe and that only a bunch of misogynist Bible-thumpers have the knowledge to guide them.  And so they get passed.  Most of the time.  Except recently in Florida.

  • ultrasound 1 *

And that news anchor wins the award for most asinine comment on abortion politics of the week, possibly of the year.  I realize he was editorializing, trying to imply that attempts to force women to have babies against their will is somehow “moral”, and that giving women a choice is “political”, and that these two things are opposed.  But politics are often about moral issues.  And believe me, those of us who firmly believe women are human beings who have a right to control their own bodies are working from a moral position. And we, or at least I, question the morality of people who view women as walking uteruses who don’t deserve rights.  I think of them as “moral” in the same way I think of pro-segregationists or people who want to starve children on welfare are “moral”. 

Oooooh, speaking of, here’s “moral” anti-abortion talk show host Rush Limbaugh, expressing how “moral” he is, when he is confronted with the specter of kids who live in poverty and don’t have enough to eat.

  • ultrasound 2 *

Remember, the very same people who think it’s funny to tell children living in poverty to eat trash if they’re hungry are the  ones who claim they’re against abortion because they love children so much. 

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled discussion of the ultrasound laws, most of which are sailing through their state governments, voted in by a bunch of men and a handful of women who enjoy rationalizing their belief that women are stupid by pretending that they care about them. 

  • ultrasound 3 *

In other words, the official reason to push for mandatory ultrasounds is the belief that women are too stupid to realize that abortion ends a pregnancy.  But when you actually look at what the bill requires, you realize that they’re looking for ways to make abortion more expensive, basically forcing those who are least able to afford to have a baby to have one whether they like it or not.  It’s an attack on women and poor people!  Maybe if they required that pregnant women below a certain income level ate some trash in front of Rush Limbaugh  before getting an abortion, anti-choicers the nationwide would die from the sheer sadistic pleasure of it all.

These ultrasound laws are pushed as some sort of way to reduce the abortion rate, but in reality ultrasounds don’t really have an impact on a woman’s decision. 

  • ultrasound 4 *

She has a few details of the study wrong.  It was done in British Columbia, not Great Britain.  But she has the meat of it right.  Anti-choicers insist that women getting abortions are in denial or even unaware of what an abortion really is.  In reality, 73% of patients getting abortions want to see the sonogram even if it’s not required.  84% of them said that it didn’t impact the difficulty of getting the abortion, and 100% of them had the abortion anyway.  That’s 100%.  Why such astounding numbers?  Because it seems that women aren’t stupid, no matter how much anti-choicers insist otherwise.  In fact, for some women, the ultrasound relieves their concerns, because they can see that the fetus isn’t as developed as anti-choice propaganda may have led them to believe.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, did you know they let women have their own money these days edition.  The dudes on Fox & Friends are unnervingly upset that a survey was done to find out American women’s preferences when buying cars.

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Who knew that women buying their own cars would press the fear of emasculation button so hard he was reduced to calling women “skirts”?

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte