2013 Media Review, and a Texas Law Takes Away a Woman’s Right to Die With Dignity


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“Abortion Machines”

Texas man can’t take his pregnant wife off life support

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Transcript

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be reviewing the year in misogyny. Also, a Texas writer explains how bad the crisis pregnancy center situation is there, and a Texas man can’t take his pregnant wife off life support, even though that was her express wish.

NPR had a great segment worth checking out on attempts to move the ball forward for reproductive rights activists, instead of always playing defense.

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They have to do that thing where they let anti-choicers come on and tell lies for “balance,” but on the whole, it’s a great overview of attempts to actually codify and protect and even advance women’s access to reproductive health care.

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After the debacle of 2012 where Rush Limbaugh’s insistence on calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” and insisting that she be forced to tape her sexual encounters for his pleasure, you’d think that conservatives would have learned. Limbaugh lost advertisers and there was a definite electoral hit for Republicans because of the perceived comfort with sexism. But despite that, 2013 was an over-the-top year for gross sexism in right-wing media. I’ve grabbed some of the biggest examples, culled from that wonderful organization Media Matters that is so great about staying on top of this stuff. The aggression towards women who advocate for legal abortion alone showed how little the anti-choice position is about life and how much it’s just base misogyny.

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Indeed, Limbaugh was far from the only person on the right to suggest that women who have abortions should die from being shot, presumably through the vagina. Steve Stockman, who is trying to primary Texas Senator John Cornyn right now, has a campaign sticker that says, “If babies had guns, they wouldn’t be aborted.” Considering that anti-choicers have repeatedly, downright routinely, resorted to violence in an effort to prevent women from getting safe, legal abortions, this kind of language should be considered not just hateful, but provocative.

The hostility to reproductive rights has always been part of a larger anger at women for wanting to have more out of life than to be just appendages to men. Taking reproductive rights away is both about punishing women for demanding equality and using our biology as a weapon against us so that we can’t achieve it. It’s hard, after all, to compete with men in the workplace if you are constantly dealing with unwanted childbirth. But 2013 was the year that conservative media started to get more explicit about expressing the belief that women are second class citizens who exist primarily to serve men. Like Lou Dobbs panicking at the thought that women … might actually make as much money as men.

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Why is society dissolving around us? Well, the study he refers to shows that 40 percent of households are ones where women are the sole or primary breadwinner. Most of them are single moms, but a small percentage are homes where women make more money than their husbands. In fact, it’s only 37 percent of that 40 percent. The only real reason to be concerned is that the numbers of “breadwinning” mothers is not higher. If women were equal to men, then half of marriages would be one where the wife makes more. It would be random and not gender-based at all. But Erick Erickson of Fox just freaked the hell out.

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You know, if women are “naturally” an inferior servant class to be used by men, then it wouldn’t take the force of law to keep us there. It’s fascinating that simply letting us be free—giving us reproductive rights, letting us apply for jobs and have bank accounts, letting us go to college with men—somehow made us immediately abandon our “natural” state of subservience. In fact, one would think, looking at the evidence, that there’s nothing ”natural” about women living as second class citizens at all, but in fact that they were only kept there by oppression, and the second that oppression relaxed even a little, we rushed to embrace the chance to be men’s equals. Indeed, that would suggest that our natural state is as men’s equals, human beings just like them. I have a lot of natural instincts, and I can say they take a lot more than mere permission not to indulge them to squelch them. Telling me I don’t have to eat doesn’t mean that I don’t eat when I’m hungry. Usually the only thing that keeps me from my natural state of eating when I’m hungry is taking the choice to eat away from me. If something is natural, then people will largely do it even if they have a choice otherwise. That’s the problem with the claim that women have to be forced to perform our supposedly natural behaviors.

Erickson was also the dillweed who coined the term “abortion Barbie” to describe Wendy Davis. The joke is “funny” because women aren’t real people, just dollies like Barbies, and how dare Wendy Davis try to influence legislation like she’s people. But he was hardly the only one who used the word “abortion” to demean women and express the idea that we are quite literally subhuman.

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If it’s not immediately obvious how objectifying and demeaning that is, think about it this way: Imagine if a woman said giving men the right to control their own bodies turned them into “machines.” Imagine if, say, Hillary Clinton pretended to be concerned said that letting men have access to Viagra reduced them to “sex machines” and, for their own good, we had to take that away from them. She would immediately be seen, correctly, as a man-hater who is only pretending to be concerned in order to reduce men’s quality of life for sadistic reasons. That’s all Limbaugh is doing here, and more than any other quote, I think that sums up the conservative media’s approach to women in 2013.

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insert interview

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As listeners are no doubt aware, anti-choice legislators around the country have spent years upon years passing one law after another designed to build the case that legally, a pregnant woman should be considered more an incubator for her fetus than a full person with full human rights. While the intention of these laws is mostly to lay the groundwork for a challenge to abortion rights, these laws have to be enforced and end up therefore hurting people who often had nothing to do with abortion at all. The latest victims are Erick and Marlise Munoz, a Fort Worth couple who are being put in an awful situation against their will by the State of Texas.

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She was only 14 weeks’ pregnant when she collapsed. Barely out of the first trimester. This isn’t even like previous cases where doctors try to get a maybe-viable fetus out of a woman before she dies or is allowed to die. This is a direct and nauseating case of the law forcing a man to treat his wife’s body like it’s a baby incubator for a baby that he’s already determined he does not want if this is the price that has to be paid. To not only have this happen to your wife but to have the State of Texas tell you that they see her less as a human being with rights and more just as a baby maker has to be devastating. That he can’t begin the process of grieving for months now while his wife’s body incubates this baby. They can’t even do an autopsy to determine what killed her, so it’s just a mystery right now. But say it was a pulmonary embolism. What will the lack of oxygen in her body before they put her on life support do to a developing fetus? It can’t be good.

And while anti-choicers love to portray people making these hard decisions as idiots who aren’t thinking things through, it seems both the Munozes had very carefully considered the choice to reject life support under such circumstances.

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So, they are both medical professionals and have, between them, probably more experience with these kinds of issues than the entire Texas legislature combined. Their choice is really no surprise to anyone who knows anything about this issue, which of course none of these anti-choice legislators can be bothered to do. There’s a lot of research that shows that medical professionals who actually have to deal with these things day in and day out are much more likely than the general public to reject heroic measures or being put on life support when there’s almost no chance of recovery. Indeed, Erick Munoz consistently refers to his wife in the past tense, suggesting that as far as he’s concerned, she’s already dead. As sad as that is, it’s a much healthier attitude than the magical thinking that permeates the anti-choice movement.

CNN interviewed a lawyer to explain the legal reasoning behind this. Needless to say, it’s garbage.

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The thing is that the “unborn” are not, in fact, citizens. But this man and his wife are. This law is really much more about stripping away personhood from women and the fetus is just an excuse. You can tell from that clip that the hospital staff is not particularly happy with the situation, either. I suspect that the people who drafted this law didn’t really think about the implications for families of women whose right to die with dignity has been stripped in order to create legal precedent for the idea that women are incubators first and human beings second. But the sadism of the anti-choice movement has grown to a degree that I can’t imagine most anti-choice activists can be bothered to care at this point.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, imaginary women are threatening you by giving birth edition. Laura Ingraham went on an ignorant rant recently.

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There’s zero evidence for the phenomenon that she just described. Even if it’s happened once or twice, it’s hardly some kind of broad phenomenon that anyone should worry about. Are children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants? Of course, but there’s no evidence whatsoever that it’s a conspiracy. It’s just that people come here to live and work and babies get born. That’s all.

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte