Reproductive Health Care in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, Buffer Zones, and Defining Rape


Related Links

Chemistry makes sex better

Court ends Massachusetts buffer zone law

One couple’s story

Supreme Court hypocrisy

George Will’s rape minimizing

Zerlina Maxwell responds

Will responds to critics

St. Louis Post-Dispatch responds

Just too many women, you know

Transcript

On this episode of Reality Cast, I’ll be talking to a representative from the Center for Reproductive Rights about a report on the Rio Grande Valley. I’ll also be covering the Supreme Court’s decision on clinic buffer zones, and the melee over George Will’s column minimizing the problem of campus rape.

The American Chemical Society has a video out about all the ways that chemistry improves people’s lives, and one of their new ones is all about sex.

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They also talk about the chemistry of lubrication, warming agents, and of course, hormonal contraception.

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The Supreme Court announced Thursday that they won’t have a decision on the Hobby Lobby case until Monday, which just so happens to be when this podcast comes out. [Editor's note: Read about the Court's ruling for Hobby Lobby here.] But they did have a big decision that was released on Thursday, regarding a Massachusetts law barring anyone from standing 35-feet from an abortion clinic unless they were going in and out of it or just passing through. The law was to keep protesters from crowding a clinic and harassing women right up to the door. It was really helpful in reducing tensions around clinics, but sadly the Court struck it down.

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For what it’s worth, the claim that clinic harassers routinely talk women out of abortions is a lie, a lie concocted to cover up their actual purpose in being there, which is, from what I can tell, that they get a rise out of shaming women for having sex without their permission. Indeed, some protesters don’t even bother to go to abortion clinics these days and just protest any family planning center, secure in the knowledge that the women they throw invective at are probably having sex. Sadly, the court bought into the lie that the plaintiff was just some nice little old lady who cared about the patients. Rule of thumb: People who are outraged that you have a private sex life and who think you should be forced to have children you know you can’t take care do not care about you.

CBS Boston interviewed a couple that were quite clear how little the protesters actually care about women.

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Imagine how much worse it is without a buffer zone, when protesters, who don’t know you at all, can chase you down while insulting you and making assumptions about how you’re a terrible person and a slut and a killer and all these other cruel things that conservatives say about women who need abortions, for whatever reason. But even the ones who try the “gentle” angle are awful. Like Michelle Dean at Gawker said, passive aggression is still aggression. The “I’ll pray for you” act is just that, an act, and their real purpose is to try to shame and harass you because they have all these unresolved issues about sexuality and they want to force you to have to deal with them.

One thing that immediately became apparent to a lot of liberal commentators is that this is unbelievable hypocrisy from the Supreme Court. The Court determined that free speech basically requires private citizens to entertain a public sidewalk debate about their private medical choices. But the Supreme Court, which is composed of public officials doing work that affects all of us, has its own buffer zone to ward off protesters. Rachel Maddow had some stuff to say about that.

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Here’s the thing that I want you to take away from this. The First Amendment was established in order, primarily, to protect political speech. Indeed, the political nature of abortion is one reason that the court justified this. But people getting abortions are private citizens making private medical decisions. They aren’t making a political statement. Many of them may not even be pro-choice, as wacky as that sounds. It’s true! As much as anti-choicers like to think you’re getting abortions at them, in fact, what women choose to do with our bodies is none of their damn business. In contrast, the Supreme Court’s job is to listen to the public—that’s why they accept amicus briefs as well as oral arguments—and consider our arguments and ideas before rendering decisions. They have more obligation to listen to the opinions of strangers before making a decision than a private woman making a private choice about her private life. So why do they think private women have more obligations to entertain the opinions of strangers than they do?

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Interview

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It might be because it’s otherwise the summer and therefore a relatively slow news cycle, but I can safely say I’m a little dumbfounded at how much conservative whining and griping has exploded in the face of the Obama White House starting a task force to address the problem of campus rape. It seems like common sense to me to try to create a consistent set of general standards and to help schools figure out what their rights and obligations are when it comes to setting standards on what counts as sexual abuse or harassment, and to help schools enforce those standards when students are brought in front of university disciplinary committees for breaking the rules. And yet conservatives are in an uproar. Part of it is that everything Obama does creates an uproar on the right. We’re talking about people who griped about what kind of dogs the first couple adopted, after all. But it’s also because it turns out there’s a lot of people who are deeply interested in denying that sexual assault is a real problem and who will go to great lengths to shame rape victims for speaking out.

George Will of the Washington Post kicked off the latest round of highly emotional debate with his contemptuous article that, to be blunt, accused rape victims of making it up to get attention. He refused outright to believe statistics that show how widespread sexual assault is, writing, “that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.” He declined to explain what these privileges are or how one is supposed to get those privileges by answering the questions on a survey measuring sexual assault, even though the survey is anonymous. The blowback he got was, however, heartening. Zerlina Maxwell went on the Ed Show to talk about it.

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Zerlina also talked about what a proper response to hearing about these statistics looks like.

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The thing about Will’s piece is it was a crappy piece of so-called journalism. Will’s argument against the contention that sexual assault is common is basically that he doesn’t want to believe it. His example of what he considered a hysterical woman crying “rape” was, it turns out, a woman who was raped by the most straightforward legal definition: The story has the woman reporting that she said no, and that her rapist just disregarded her no because he didn’t care or perhaps enjoyed having sex with a woman who is telling him to stop. The only person massaging the numbers here is Will, who arrogantly decides to declassify thousands of rapes as non-rape simply on his say so. But, because he’s a contemptuous and arrogant old fart, he went on C-SPAN and acted impatient with all these people who don’t like Papa George’s solution of making rape go away by classifying forced sex as non-rape. After claiming that not going to medical school is basically the equivalent of going to prison, Will whined about how mean all his critics are.

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This is hilarious coming from George Will, who I literally have never heard speak in a tone other than indignation. Indeed, the entire reason this controversy got started is he is indignant about what he considers an overly broad definition of rape where all sex against someone’s will is considered rape. He doesn’t say what he thinks the narrower definition should be, of course, but he is prepared to be indignant on behalf of all the young men denied their proper spot in medical school just because they hear a woman saying “no” and figure they can stick their penises in her anyway.

Indeed, the issue here isn’t that Will is conservative or anti-feminist. He’s just dishonest, a really bad journalist. He blithely ignores statistics, fronts like he’s interested in justice while denying the legal definition of rape, and, when confronted, simply acts like his critics are nothing more than yapping women best ignored. Which is why it’s understandable that newspapers like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dropped him, a decision their editor explained to CNN.

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More to the point, it was a dishonest and incurious column. Will never bothered to argue for what he thought the definition of rape should be, and simply asserted that it wasn’t enough for a woman to refuse sex. He dismissed statistics used by the White House with dishonest tweaking of the numbers and basically accusing victims of lying to get privileges, without spelling out what those privileges are. By basic journalism standards, he failed and he really should be dropped from more papers until he can step up his game and make real arguments instead of engaging in contemptuous hand-waving.

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And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, deep denial edition. The White House had a Working Families Summit to talk about the various ways that the workplace needs to get better in order to help people balance family and work lives, with an eye specifically towards how women fall behind because of their extra caretaker duties. Rush Limbaugh, unsurprisingly, was against it.

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Is it true that too many women are bosses these days, or that men don’t go to college anymore? Well, no. Women are a slight majority in colleges, but it turns out that’s because women have to get a college degree to get the same job opportunities as a man with just a high school degree. Women are only 15 percent of executives at Fortune 500 companies. Women only earn 84 cents to a man’s dollar. I would say we still live in the Mad Men era in many ways.

Follow Amanda Marcotte on Twitter: @amandamarcotte