MSNBC: Reproductive freedom is a fight bigger than Wendy Davis

MSNBC: Reproductive freedom is a fight bigger than Wendy Davis

I have a piece at MSNBC today, about why, though State Senator Wendy Davis has emerged as the most visible figure in the Texan fight for reproductive rights, the fight is far bigger than one person:

But millions of people will be adversely affected when Texas’s new abortion restrictions kick in. The most obvious are women in need of healthcare – either to keep a pregnancy healthy, or to terminate a pregnancy they don’t want or can’t sustain. Texas will now ban abortion after 20 weeks, and while a tiny percentage of abortions happen that late, most of the ones that do are performed to save the mother’s life, or to spare her the pain of giving birth to a fetus with such severe abnormalities that it cannot survive outside the womb.

Then there are the hundreds of thousands of Texans who rely on those clinics for primary healthcare: for mammograms, pap smears, contraception, STI testing, and more. What happens when a person doesn’t have access to preventive healthcare? What happens to a populace when thousands of its citizens no longer see doctors and nurses, no longer get tested for HIV, or breast cancer?

The need for abortion is not diminished with the disappearance of clinics. In their place, expect unsafe, illegal abortion. Before Roe v Wade, illegal abortion was a leading cause of death for women of childbearing age. Sixty percent were already mothers at the time.

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: Double standards in sex scandals

MSNBC: Double standards in sex scandals

I have a piece at MSNBC today, about gendered double standards in political sex scandals:

When men are drummed out of office for a sex scandal, we lament their lost potential. Anthony Weiner had such promise, we groaned. David Petraeus was so brilliant, we sighed. Now they’ll never get to fly as high as they might otherwise have, as high as they should have. When Weiner relinquished his seat in the House of Representatives, the Washington Post mourned his “squandered political promise.” When Eliot Spitzer resigned, his colleagues rued his “promise lost.” In his own resignation press conference, the former “Sheriff of Wall Street” himself said, “I look at my time as governor with a sense of what might have been.”

In political sex scandals, women are not lost potential. They are punchlines and punching bags, and then they fade away into obscurity. The women these men were caught with, whether they were trading explicit Twitter messages or having a sexual relationship with the president in the Oval Office, become guaranteed laugh lines. If we know their names, if we remember their names, it is because we mock them. Monica Lewinsky! Chuckle, chuckle. Paula Broadwell! Giggle, giggle.

At the time, we laugh at the men, too, of course – we joke about “hiking the Appalachian Trail” and make sly asides about going “all in,” – all the while knowing that the men could bounce back, given a few years. The women, as The New York Times reported recently, will not be so lucky. The New York Daily News ran a photo of Ashley Dupre, the woman with whom Spitzer was caught cheating, with the headline “Hi, ho Eliot!” He’s running for comptroller; she’s still a “ho.”

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: Access to information is the newest front in the abortion wars

MSNBC: Access to information is the newest front in the abortion wars

I have a piece at MSNBC today, about the newest front in the abortion wars: access to information. Several states have enacted or are trying to enact laws that require doctors and teachers to straight up lie to the people who take their impartiality for granted. Ohio has passed a law that yanks funding from state-funded rape crisis centres that counsel pregnant rape survivors about abortion.

In North Carolina, public school health teachers will, in all likelihood, soon be required to lie to their students, telling them that having an abortion will endanger future pregnancies. North Carolina’s SB 132 would require schools to teach seventh graders that abortion is a “preventable cause of preterm birth” (in addition to smoking, drinking, drug use, and inadequate prenatal care). There is no medical evidence to support this claim. The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatricians, and the American Public Health Association “have all uniformly concluded that abortion does not cause prematurity,” according to one doctor’s testimony.  North Carolina’s Republicans, however, do not seem to care about scientific facts.

In Ohio, access to information will now be restricted for rape survivors who are pregnant and facing the prospect of carrying a rapist’s child. The abortion restrictions–passed through amendments to the new state budget–make clear that no rape crisis center that receives state funding can counsel rape survivors about abortion. As I wrote here earlier, this is a gag rule reminiscent of the one the Bush administration imposed on health centers it funded in the developing world. This means that such centers are forced to choose: remain open, offering only some of the necessary information to survivors of rape, or shut and provide those people with no information or services at all. And it means that rape survivors who are pregnant as a result of rape will not be told about steps they can take to avoid carrying their rapists’ babies.

Kansas, thanks to laws passed earlier this year which have just gone into effect, will now restrict access to information for students and for patients. Doctors who perform abortions are no longer permitted to participate in sex education in public schools. They are also legally required to lie to their patients, telling those who seek abortions that after 20 weeks of gestation, fetuses can feel pain, a claim without scientific backing. Additionally, they must tell patients that “the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.” Doctors are also legally required to inform their patients of a link between abortion and breast cancer–a link that the National Cancer Institute insists is non-existent.

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: Celebrating freedom? In five states, the government can force a woman to give birth against her will

MSNBC: Celebrating freedom? In five states, the government can force a woman to give birth against her will

I have a piece at MSNBC today, about the five states that have implemented stringent new abortion access laws this week, a move that coincides with the celebration of America’s independence.

This week, Americans will celebrate the Declaration of Independence and recognize their nation’s growth from a rebellious colony to a fifty-state global superpower. But in five of these fifty states, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were curtailed for many people this week as their state governments enacted new restrictions on abortion access.

As Rachel Maddow noted on Monday night, there is little political action to speak of in Washington, D.C., at the moment. Right now, the action is in the states. And if you’re in a red state, it’s abortion restriction time.

In Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, and South Dakota, states in which it was already quite difficult to obtain an abortion, it just got even harder. Like Ohio, which last Sunday implemented a handful of abortion restrictions, most of these five states have erected several different kinds of roadblocks between constitutionally protected healthcare and the citizens who want to access it.

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: Ohio Republicans deny women their constitutional rights

MSNBC: Ohio Republicans deny women their constitutional rights

I had a piece at MSNBC yesterday, about Ohio’s new sweeping reproductive healthcare restrictions, which make it the worst state in the country in which to seek an abortion.

What does it look like when seven men ignore seventeen thousand of their constituents?

It looks like this: Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich, flanked by six other men, signing the state’s new budget into law and, by doing so, catapulting the Buckeye State to the number one spot on the Nation’s Most Restrictive Abortion Laws list.

The budget strips funding from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading provider of reproductive healthcare, and gives that money to Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the pseudo-clinics that lure pregnant women with the promise of free ultrasounds and can then misinform them about abortions. That’s just the beginning.

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: A victory of squeamishness over science

MSNBC: A victory of squeamishness over science

Last week I wrote this piece at MSNBC.com’s Voices, about the Obama administration’s resistance to making Plan B, “the morning after pill,” available over the counter without an age restriction.

The scientific evidence in favor of making the morning after pill available is clear. Anyone with an interest in lowering the rate of abortion in America, or in sparing teenagers the physical, emotional, and financial burden of a pregnancy they haven’t planned and don’t want, ought to welcome the wider availability of the morning after pill. There have been concerns that access to Plan B will make teenagers more likely to have sex.

Obama seemed to share them, despite a lack of evidence, when he argued in 2011 that an age restriction was a good idea.

“As the father of two daughters, I think it is important for us to make sure that we apply some common sense to various rules when it comes to over-the-counter medicine,” the president said then. He went on to explain that the decision was made after Sebelius felt it was possible that a girl as young as 10 could find the medication “alongside bubble gum or batteries,” and “if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect. And I think most parents would probably feel the same way.”

As uncomfortable as it is for some parents to imagine their teenage children as sexual beings, that discomfort is no excuse for denying all teenagers this form of healthcare.  Evidence shows that readily available contraception, and education on its proper use, makes teenagers less likely to become pregnant before they want to be. A good proportion of American teenagers have sex for the first time at age 15 or earlier, and almost a quarter of them won’t use contraception during that first time they have sex. This means that there are girls under the age of 15 who want and need the morning after pill. There is no evidence, however, that access to contraception makes teenagers more likely to have sex, and we ought to ask ourselves what it is about teen sex that makes us so uncomfortable that we are willing to throw science to the wind.

You can read the whole thing here.

MSNBC: Lying to women with the “Women’s Right to Know Act”

MSNBC: Lying to women with the “Women’s Right to Know Act”

I have a piece at MSNBC’s Voices today, about a new Kansas abortion restriction bill that, among other things, requires doctors to lie to their patients:

The Kansas law would make it almost impossible for people seeking abortions to use their health insurance to cover the procedure, meaning they would have to pay between $500 and $775 out of pocket. Once they have found a way to pay for the abortion, their doctor will be legally required to read them a script that explains that abortion ends the life of “a whole, separate, unique, living human being,” whether or not the doctor believes that. Doctors will also be required to warn patients of a causal link between abortion and breast cancer, which no one who has read the relevant fact-based literature on the matter believes.

This bill is a travesty on multiple fronts. Through the bill, Kansas is enshrining sex discrimination into law by prohibiting the use of insurance funds for a medical procedure that is only required by female Kansans. That provision also will disproportionately harm low-income patients who are far less able to come up with out-of-pocket funds to cover an abortion.

Next, the bill compromises the integrity of doctors by forcing them read from a script they may not agree with and that defies accepted medical facts. Like so many other anti-abortion bills, this one chips away at access to a right that is constitutionally guaranteed. That is precisely the intent and the effect of the bill’s final provision, which also aims to harm the reputations of doctors by barring health professional who work at a clinic that provides abortions from speaking in schools.

You can read the rest here.