Benevolent Sexism, Boston College’s Condom Problem, and Plan B To Be Sold OTC


Rachel Maddow on the theocrats

Boston College tries to ban private distribution of condoms

Plan B ruling

Chris Hayes on Plan B

Tom DeLay claims VAWA promotes “deviance”

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to Melanie Tannebaum about benevolent sexism: what it is and why it’s harmful. Boston College is trying to stop students from giving free condoms to each other and a federal judge has ordered the HHS to approve over-the-counter sales of Plan B without restrictions.

Rachel Maddow had a great 10-minute segment recently about how out of control the right wing legislation frenzy really is getting.

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It’s truly stunning when you step back and look at it, because literally, we’re talking about a small minority of Americans who couldn’t be more out of touch with how the overwhelming majority of Americans live their lives. And yet, through complex manipulations of the political system, they have an outsized amount of power.

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The year is 2013 and they’re coming for your birth control. Apparently, Boston College, a Catholic university, isn’t content simply to not have their own health services pass out condoms or to have a website that admonishes students to abstain. Now, they’ve decided that it’s critical to actively interfere with efforts to help students in need get access to condoms. A local news anchor explained what’s going on here.

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To be clear: These condoms are not provided or distributed by the school. This is an initiative the students take on for themselves, getting assistance from outside organizations. The group is unofficial. They run this program out of their rooms and out on the sidewalk. This is something to consider in light of anti-choice claims that they oppose the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate because they don’t want schools to quote-unquote “pay for” other people’s contraception, because it violates their religious beliefs. Set aside the claim that a school has a right to control how the compensation it provides to employees is spent. If the concern is not that contraception exists and is being used, but some kind of concerns about complicity in its use, then this program should be unassailable, correct? The school is not paying for it or even endorsing it. It’s the equivalent of any random student giving another student a gift. But the school has decided that if the gift I give you is the gift of safe sex, then they have a right to prevent that.

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So, the university has stated that it’s against the rules for a private student acting of their own accord to give another private student a gift, if the gift somehow violates religious beliefs of the school’s, though not obviously of the student’s. Got it. So, how far are they willing to take this? Once you’ve decided you get to control what one student gives to another, why limit it to condoms and safe sex information? What if the school disapproves of a certain book, maybe one that criticizes Catholicism? Are you allowed to ban lending of that book? Why is giving a condom away the breaking point? Will simply having condoms on your person be the next rule infraction? That’s how serious they are about making sure that student sex is unprotected: They’re interfering with the private choices of students.

The B.S. is running thick with this one.

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They respect that students may disagree with them on this, but they’ll be forcing students to live by their values anyway. That is a clear-cut violation of the students’ freedom of religion. The university is literally telling students that, in their private interactions that have nothing to do with the university, they are not allowed to choose to act according to their religious beliefs that allow for condom use. Even the tortured logic behind denouncing the contraception mandate isn’t in play here. This is a straightforward claim by the university that they have a right to get into the students’ private business. I don’t even know why they bother with the pretense about distribution at this point. They clearly just want to treat condoms like contraband and are looking for any angle where they can chip away at student rights. The ACLU has threatened to sue if students are punished for distributing condoms, and the college is not going to have an any time defending against such a lawsuit.

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insert interview

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I don’t get to cover good news on this podcast very much, so I’m thrilled to tell you that we have a major victory for reason and science over the forces of misogyny and sexual phobia. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took unprecedented action in December 2011, overruling the FDA’s decision to allow Plan B emergency contraception to be sold over-the-counter in pharmacies without ID. Well, now a federal judge has issued an order requiring that Sebelius rescind that decision.

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The science is in: The pills are safe, they aren’t “abortion” like opponents claim, and research shows that younger teens are perfectly capable of following the instructions on the package. It is, after all, one pill you take after unprotected sex. A pair of shoes could figure it out. But even if you’re skeptical, there was plenty of research and expert opinion offered to the FDA that they used to determine that Plan B could be safely sold over the counter. And even though the Obama administration prides itself on putting evidence and science before political considerations, they blew right past all that research to make fear-based arguments with no basis in reality for refusing to let the FDA do their jobs.

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In addition, there’s common sense. If you think a single dose of hormones is dangerous for an 11-year-old, why on earth do you think the alternative, which is a potential unwanted pregnancy, is preferable? That just defies reason. Like the New England Journal of Medicine, I’m forced to conclude that the decision was pure politics, mostly the President not wanting to have a bunch of accusations about aiding and abetting junior high school kids’ sex lives during a campaign season. They also said that Plan B appears to be more dangerous for politicians than for adolescent girls. Luckily for all of us, the judge on this case came to the same conclusion.

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The smart thing for the White House to do now is let it go. They got their re-election without having to deal with this, and this judge has given them an opportunity to save face. Unfortunately, the first statement we have on the record about this is from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who said the President stands by the decision just as he did back then to restrict emergency contraception. Of course, there’s always a chance they’re just saying that and they won’t drag this out any further by appealing the decision.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, because wife-beating is apparently not deviant behavior edition. Tom DeLay, who is apparently out on bail, has been doing the rounds on the conservative speaking tour and complaining about the Violence Against Women Act.

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Make no mistake; this argument casts homosexuality as a behavior that’s supposedly so deviant that one should turn a blind eye to domestic violence rather than act LGBT people as full human beings. It literally casts being LGBT as more deviant than wife-beating or rape. Think about that.

Follow Amanda Marcotte on Twitter: @amandamarcotte