Texas Wins Round Against Legal Abortion, and Hobby Lobby’s Anti-Contraception Argument


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Comments read out loud

Texas law upheld

Damage is already severe

Amy Hagstrom Miller on the Maddow show

The Daily Show covers Hobby Lobby

Hobby Lobby myths clarified

Sean Hannity wants to micromanage your contraception use

Girls don’t like tag?

Transcript

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to a young activist [Lenzi Sheible of Fund Texas Women] who is trying to help Texas women who need to travel for abortion get to where they’re going. Clinics in Texas lose another round in the battle to stay open, and I’ll review some of the post-argument coverage of the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court.

YouTube comments, especially under videos about feminism, is where hope goes to die. But it does make for some hilarious dramatic reading by YouTube video blogger healthyaddict and friends, as they perform out loud some of the anti-feminist comments she has received.

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If this guy would just agree to read all internet comments out loud for me, I might actually be bothered to start reading them again.

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The Hobby Lobby contraception case overshadowed this news in the reproductive rights coverage in the mainstream media, but this is still a huge deal.

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Sadly, this isn’t a big surprise. The Fifth Circuit Court is highly conservative and their earlier decision to let the law be enforced while it was being battled in court showed there was a willingness to go along with the straight up lies being spouted by the law’s supporters. The supporters claim that this law is about health and safety, but, of course, it is not and is, in fact, about shutting down safe and healthy access to abortion. Outside of the courtroom, there has been little interest in pretending otherwise, in fact. Still, this is a very concerning decision. Texas is far from the only state rapidly shutting down abortion clinics by passing a bunch of medically unnecessary regulations that exist for no other purpose but to shut down safe clinics, but they are the state that has had the most luck in courts getting away with it. They run a very strong chance of taking this case to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court upholds the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, then, not to put too fine a point on it, that is basically the end of Roe v. Wade. Red states will feel free to pass all sorts of ridiculous regulations, claim they are for health reasons, and know that they can get away with it.

As important as the Hobby Lobby case is, therefore, I can’t help but worry this is worse. There are over a million abortions a year, and already women in red states are having trouble getting access. If Texas wins, red states will basically be able to end all legal abortion clinics through excessive red tape. Already the damage is severe, as indicated from a report from the beginning of March on NPR showed.

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And that clinic will be gone when the second round of regulations, requiring clinics to meet ambulatory surgical standards, goes into effect. The court was willing to buy into the transparent lie that hospital admitting privileges are medically necessary, despite the strong disagreement of actual doctors and medical organizations, so odds are high they’re going to claim you need to have a surgery level standards to do what is a quick outpatient procedure and, in some cases, nothing more than swallowing a pill. The fact of the matter is they don’t have these same requirements for doctors and other medical professionals doing similar kinds of clinic work. It’s downright grating for me to hear anti-choicers pretend they are doing this for women’s health when the opposite is true: They are trying to hurt women. Unwanted child-bearing or getting black-market abortions are both much more dangerous for your health than an abortion is. They are trying to raise the risks and punish women for having sex. That’s all there is to it. The lying about it is just the rotten garnish on top of the pile of crap they’re trying to claim is cake.

Back in October, Amy Hagstrom Miller of Whole Woman’s Health spoke with Rachel Maddow about losing these clinics she has run for years.

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Of course, that is why this diabolic plan is so brilliant. They set up the regulations in such a way that the first people to lose access are poor and rural women, the kind of women who have few, if any resources, to stand up for themselves. The next round takes out clinics that are closer to urban centers, depriving another round of women access. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of this law, then it should be easy enough to come up with a few burdensome regulations take out the remaining ones. Require that abortion clinics be built behind moats full of alligators that you have to swim across to get to them or something. Eventually the only women who will be able to afford abortion will be those who can fly to New York or California and stay in a hotel to get it done. This is what this is ultimately about, every time: Making sex a privilege for the rich and punishing everyone else for having it. The abortion regulations are aimed at that and so are the attacks on affordable contraception.

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Insert interview

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The arguments for Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius were presented in front of the Supreme Court in late March, and things are not looking great for the side of science, reason, and human rights. Justice Scalia straight up claimed, against all medical evidence, that Hobby Lobby was suing to avoid providing a health care plan that covered abortion, saying, “You’re talking about, what, three or four birth controls, not all of them, just those that are abortifacient.” This is really frustrating because it is, baldly put, a lie. Hobby Lobby is complaining about contraception, not abortion. Georgetown professor Jill Morrison explained this on Media Matters radio.

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This issue is frustrating, because there’s a long-standing tradition of treating abortion like it’s separate from mainstream health care, and it’s clear that Hobby Lobby’s lawyers are hoping that by confusing the issue, they can do the same thing to contraception. Indeed, during the arguments, the female justices insisted that Hobby Lobby’s lawyer explain why the religious exemption wouldn’t apply just as well to employers who would deny vaccinations or blood transfusions, and his argument, paraphrased, was that he believed that those were necessary enough to trump religious objections, but that contraception was not necessary enough. In other words, Hobby Lobby’s argument rests on convincing the justices that contraception isn’t necessary health care, but should be treated like a luxury like plastic surgery. And to bolster that argument, they’re leaning on the stigma surrounding abortion by suggesting that, as abortion is frequently excluded from all sorts of health insurance coverage, adding contraception to the list is no thing. And to create that alliance, they’re happy to lie and equate contraception with abortion.  Luckily, there’s a lot of resistance out there to this conflation.

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What frustrates about this entire lie about contraception and abortion is that conservatives win either way. By denying that contraception is abortion, you end up subtly reinforcing the notion that there is something legitimate about our current system of marginalizing abortion care and treating it like it’s not necessary, when it is necessary. But it’s not good ignoring the lie, either, because that is clearly going to be used to stigmatize contraception and make it harder to get. Lying, as usual, is remarkably good politics, if you’re morally bankrupt enough to do it, which anti-choicers are.

Scalia also floated the notion that using contraception is not very expensive, which is the equivalent of saying that it’s okay for your employer to dock your pay to punish your private behavior if they don’t dock it by very much. Also, if it’s so cheap, then it is really obnoxious for employers to complain about having to cover it. Moreover, it’s super obnoxious to transfer the costs to employees but then happily take the savings that come from the employees using contraception and not charging the insurance company for higher maternity care costs from unintended pregnancy. But this sense that it’s no big deal to force women to scramble for contraception also, it seems to me, is based in not only an unfounded contempt for women, but also this weird sense conservatives seem to have that sex is so infrequent that regular access to contraception is not necessary. Like Sean Hannity here, who repeatedly lied and said that birth control is only $9 a month—mine, I can tell you, is closer to $75 a month—and then said this:

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Again, this goes back to the idea that sex should be a luxury for the rich and a burden for everyone else. I highly doubt that Sean Hannity thinks he should have to go to a bar and try to snatch a condom out of bowl before the bartender asks if you want a drink every single time he has sex. But if you’re poor, he wants you to have to endure that level of hassle. It also shows the level of control that conservatives are trying to get over your personal life, especially if you’re low income. If the pill or the IUD works best for you and your lifestyle, then you should not have to justify that to Sean Hannity. Sean Hannity doesn’t have to justify his contraception choices to us. He’s a millionaire who works for a corporation that has generous employment benefits. Having to justify your sexual health choices is something he wants you to endure, but he is too rich to have to endure the same disrespect. Well, forget all that. Every person, regardless of wealth, should have the basic right to make these very personal decisions for themselves. If Sean Hannity wants people to start justifying why they use any kind of contraception, he should kick off that conversation by telling us all about his sex life and what he and his wife do.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, creationists are trying to explain nature to feminists again edition. Seriously, old school creationist Phyllis Schlafly may reject the field of biology, but she is going to pretend that it supports her contention of female inferiority.

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Look, the claim that “the feminists” banned tag is an urban legend started by fundamentally dishonest people. But I like the uber-lie that she’s also promoting here, that girls don’t like tag. Where on earth did this idea crop up? I mean, Schlafly is a highly ambitious woman who denies that women feel ambition, so I guess she can walk by any group of girls playing tag and, because of her misogyny, say it’s just her lying eyes deceiving her. But it is rich to claim anyone else is at war with Mother Nature when you believe such outrageous lies like girls don’t like games or playing tag.

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte