Abortion Stories, Contraception Lawsuits, and VAWA


Debra Hauser tells us why it’s so important to share abortion stories. Why is the Violence Against Women Act not getting renewed? Also, NPR does a bang-up job covering the Hobby Lobby lawsuit.

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Who has abortions?

Violence Against Women Act killed

More on the VAWA non-reauthorization

NPR takes on Hobby Lobby

Rush Limbaugh’s transphobia

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Debra Hauser from Advocates for Youth about telling abortion stories. More in-depth reporting on the Violence Against Women Act, and NPR does a great job covering the Hobby Lobby contraception lawsuit.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I may have further coverage of how people marked the anniversary starting next week, but for now, a reminder of what abortion in America actually looks like, courtesy of Guttmacher.

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It’s a good video to keep in your pocket as the debate will be hot this week, and it’s important to remember that women having abortions don’t conform to anti-choice stereotypes at all.

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I mentioned this briefly a couple of episodes ago, but now it’s looking like it really truly is a permanent state of affairs. The Violence Against Women Act, which first passed in 1994, is no longer. And not, as you might hope, because we licked that problem and don’t need federal legislation addressing it any longer. I wish! No, it’s because the House simply let the bill die out, and their excuse as to why is deeply pathetic.

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To explain further, Eric Cantor’s excuse is that he’s suddenly and remarkably obsessed with maintaining rigid, arbitrary jurisdiction laws as they stand now, even if they’re not working to actually achieve justice. The reason is because, that’s why. It certainly has nothing to do with a pattern of attacks on women at the behest of a far right fringe that sees this legislation as undermining patriarchal power in the home. Perish the thought! It’s because Cantor just believes that jurisdictional lines should never change, even as the lines of congressional districts should be endlessly manipulated for maximum electoral results. The fact that the right wing media has been accusing feminists for decades of simply making up the problem of widespread rape and domestic violence so that we can create a “boondoggle” to enrich ourselves is just a remarkable coincidence, right? Now we’re whining because we were all supposedly making millions off running domestic violence shelters and stuff. Certainly couldn’t be because we care about victims of violence, because no one really cares about them, do they?

Okay, angry sarcasm over. For now. Melissa Harris Perry had a couple of things to say that are worth listening to.

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So they didn’t just kill the bill, they super killed the bill. I’m sure that some would simply say that’s an accident and they didn’t want it to turn out this way. But it’s interesting that the second they had an opportunity to destroy a piece of legislation that was a signature bill for the sitting Vice President and that the right wing press has been complaining about ever since it passed, they took it. And they took an opportunity that makes it that much harder to get any bill like it passed ever again.

So, what does the Violence Against Women Act do? A number of things, including providing resources for women trying to escape abusive relationships and training law enforcement to handle rape and domestic violence cases more effectively. Since it passed, the rate of domestic violence has declined pretty dramatically, so the loss of this legislation is worrisome.

Brown University professor Tricia Rose was on Current TV talking about the classism and racism of the excuse to kill the legislation.

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It’s critical that people see the connections between the hostility towards VAWA and the increasing restrictions on reproductive rights. Both disproportionately hurt poorer women, younger women, and women of color, and that’s not an accident. That’s the point. Obviously, it’s not like people who support these anti-feminist policies have much love for any women, but the levels of contempt and hostility go up dramatically when it comes to those who already aren’t privileged. We are increasingly becoming a country of the have and have nots when it comes to basic women’s rights, where women who have money and social privilege can get reproductive health care and even legal help escaping abusive relationships, and women who don’t have those things are out of luck. 

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insert interview

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It finally happened! NPR did a report on the battle over the contraception mandate and they did so without being ensnared by the bad faith arguments being offered by conservatives pretending that this is about anything but their attempts to reduce women’s access to contraception. This is exciting stuff, because NPR is usually so paranoid about being accused of a liberal bias that they often let, you know, the facts fall by the wayside. But in the case of Hobby Lobby’s war against paying their employees their earned benefits, NPR did a really great job. A quick summary of the case for those who haven’t been following:

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What’s nice is that NPR did not give Greene airtime to promote the false claim that the contraception mandate covers abortion. Greene has been making this claim at every opportunity, but it’s simply not true. He rationalizes this lie by claiming to “believe” that hormonal contraception, especially emergency contraception, is abortion, but the problem with that is that just because you believe a lie doesn’t mean it’s not a lie. NPR needs to quote people from all sides of the story, of course, but if they’re not going to fact check their lies on-air, they need to at least avoid giving those lies air time. Which they did, so that’s good.

They also let the ACLU, you know the preeminent defenders of actual First Amendment rights in this country, come on to explain why giving employers a right to impose their faith on employees is the exact opposite of religious liberty.

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And that’s just what this is about, paying women fairly under federal law. Hobby Lobby isn’t suing to say that they should get to single out male employees and prevent them from getting their federally mandated preventive care coverage. And yes, there are some things that are for men especially that are mandated in the list of covered services, though you wouldn’t know it from the hyper-focus on contraception in the media.

But the funniest part of this segment, for my money, is the desperate attempt from the conservative group American Center for Law and Justice to cast around for an excuse for why companies shouldn’t meet minimum standards for health care coverage for employees.

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Yep, you just heard a conservative lawyer reference the potential for a universal single payer program for contraception. Good on NPR for calling out the extreme bad faith of this argument, coming from someone whose organization wouldn’t hesitate to throw up every legal challenge possible to the government pushing for any kind of single payer health care. In fact, a lot of right wing media, trying to drum up outrage about the contraception mandate, call it “taxpayer funded”, even though it’s actually an argument about whether or not women can spend their own earned benefits on contraception. Now you have the lawyers, who are just throwing legal arguments around in order to win this case, suggesting a preferable alternative would be taxpayer funded contraception. I mean, I agree—single payer in general would be better than a hodge podge of insurance plans tied to your employer—but they don’t mean that and are just looking for any legal argument they can cling to. But their supporters may not know that it’s pure bad faith and could freak out on them.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Rush Limbaugh trots out transphobia edition. Limbaugh is so afraid of transgendered men that he’s taken to calling them “add-a-dick-to-me babes”.

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He thought it was so funny he kept using it over and over again. He seemed grumpy that the student in question’s name isn’t available to the public, but with people like him out there being so nasty, is it any wonder?

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte