Legal Threats in North Dakota and Mississippi and a Contraception Mandate Update


On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be interviewing Tammi Kromenaker of North Dakota about legal threats to her clinic. Also, a new round of flurry about the contraception mandate in the news and the last Mississippi clinic continues to battle for survival.

Links in this episode:

There’s an excellent video making the rounds that explains the performance model of sex that feminists have been using so that people can see exactly why forcing yourself on others is just so wrong. Sex is compared to jamming with other musicians.

* consent *

If a person doesn’t want to play with you, everyone would grasp that it’s assault to force a guitar in their hands and threaten to hurt them if they don’t play. Same thing with sex.

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I’m sure, if you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ve noticed a whole new flurry of attention paid to the contraception mandate. The big news is that the Obama administration has supposedly compromised with religiously affiliated organizations like hospitals and universities on the mandate, which is getting everyone who enjoys watching liberals supposedly lose all excited. The reality is that the new proposal offered by the administration doesn’t really change much. NPR has a report.

  • contraception 1 *

So definitely complicated, but the complications fall pretty much completely on the shoulders of the institutions that want to avoid paying for contraception. Which is appropriate, because if they want to make a fuss over this, the burden should fall on them and not on the rest of us who are grown-up enough to realize that if a woman wants to use contraception, that’s her business and not her boss’s. What’s critical to understand here is that this doesn’t really change anything for women. Women will still get their contraception without a copay through insurance, even if they work for non-profits that don’t want to pay for it.  Non-profit is also the key word here. All the for-profit businesses that are claiming they have a right to deny earned benefits to their employees are very much left out of this proposal.

Right now, the response is predictable.

* contraception 2 *

The Catholic authorities are probably going to come out breathing fire shortly enough. After all, the claim that this was about “religious freedom” was always a load of nonsense. This is and always has been about finding excuses to separate women from their contraception. Indeed, even though the new rules once again clarify that this is about private insurance benefits earned, like your paycheck, by working, the right wing media is lying and distorting it to create maximum outrage about those she-devils and their birth control pills. Jim Towey of Ava Maria University claimed on Fox News that being paid for your work is basically the same thing as drawing food stamps.

  • contraception 3 *

“Contraception stamps”. That’s his phrase for earned benefits. I guess your paycheck, then, is an act of charity, too. Should call it paycheck stamps instead of a paycheck. By characterizing this form of employee pay as the same thing as welfare, Towey gives the game away. A huge reason that conservatives have latched onto this is that they’re using sex-phobia and misogyny to warm the public up to the idea that your pay for doing your job is a form of charity instead of compensation. And they want to characterize people who demand being paid fairly for their work as people looking for a so-called handout. It’s bad enough that conservatives treat people who are having real financial difficulties like they’re bad people for needing help, but this is a whole new level of nastiness. People need to see this for what it is—Fox News and Jim Towey are straight up saying women shouldn’t get paid what they’re owed for their work.

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insert interview

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The last abortion clinic in Mississippi continues to wait out its fate, having been told they’re in non-compliance with a ridiculous regulation requiring their doctors to have admitting privileges even though, as our interviewee pointed out, abortions are incredibly safe and almost never require hospitalization. Admitting privileges are only necessary for doctors who are routinely admitting patients to stay, not for clinics that have very rare hospital needs that can easily be met by calling for an ambulance. In Mississippi, in fact, anti-choice politicians such as the governor have admitted that the regulation was written just to shut the clinic down, and not really because of any actual safety concerns.

Rachel Maddow had Nancy Northup of the Center for Reproductive Rights on to talk about their efforts to keep the Jackson Women’s Health Center open.

  • Mississippi 1 *

Let’s hope her predictions are correct. I will say that this is a good time to remind everyone that Mississippi voters rejected a personhood amendment that was put on the ballot specifically to ban abortion, as well as restrict contraception access and seriously restrict the human rights of pregnant women generally. Despite this, the governor and the legislature think it’s a great idea using the taxpayers’ money to not only enforce this unconstitutional law, but to defend it during pricey court battles. The Mississippi clinic, in an act of defiance against this attempt to shut them down, has painted their outside of the clinic. Northup reminded viewers that if this succeeds in Mississippi, it’s coming to a state near you. Such as in North Dakota.

  • Mississippi 2 *

Because of this, reporters went into the last clinic in Mississippi late last year and interviewed people in it about why they’re needed and what will happen without their services.

  • Mississippi 3 *

As the reporters found when they interviewed a patient at the clinic, a lot of women who are patients there, contrary to stereotype, are mothers already and love children. The problem is that Mississippi is a really poor state. That means a high unintended pregnancy rate, as women struggle to afford contraception, and a lot of women who simply can’t afford to have children, even if they want to. If the clinic closes, women will have to go to nearby states, all of which also are in the South and have limited access. And no one, including anti-choicers, will be surprised if what happens next is that women start resorting to dangerous and illegal means because the price of traveling out of state to get abortions is simply too high.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, Christian fundamentalist urban legends edition. Radio host Kevin Swanson trotted out a whopper.

  • swanson *

First, the pill works by suppressing ovulation, so no. Second of all, even if it did work by “killing” zygotes, zygotes aren’t, as Swanson assumes, tiny little babies so much as tiny little balls of cells with no form at all. Third of all, even if it did work this way, which it doesn’t, menstruation would flush those zygotes out. We know, because about half of zygotes created in women not using contraception don’t attach. In reality, if dead zygotes hung around forever, it’s women who don’t use contraception that would be full of them, since they’d be creating them multiple times a year. Luckily for everyone, however, that doesn’t happen.

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte