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“Erick Erickson’s Abortion Barbie Game”: Coat Hangers, Pink Shoes, Blond Hair, And Skirt Suits

Who, or what, is Abortion Barbie? That is the name that Erick Erickson, of redstate.com, wants to attach to Wendy Davis, the Texas State Senator who filibustered a bill that restricted abortion rights in her state. The bill ultimately passed, and will have the effect of putting many women in Texas hundreds of miles away from safe, legal clinics where they can end a pregnancy. “It sums her up perfectly,” Erickson said:

All the nation knows about Wendy Davis is that she is ignorant of the horrors of Kermit Gosnell, wears pink shoes, and filibustered legislation to save the innocent in Texas.

And he tweeted:

It is a bit embarrassing that Abortion Barbie doesn’t even have her facts straight on Kermit Gosnell considering abortion is her issue.

Kermit Gosnell was the doctor convicted on murder charges after running an unsafe, illegal operation. Davis had answered a question about him and, after saying that she didn’t know much about the case, had gotten a fact about it wrong. (It had to do with whether Gosnell’s clinic was licensed as an ambulatory-surgical center.) Davis, who has a degree from Harvard Law School, rightly pointed out its disconnect from the Texas bill. She wears pink shoes, and has blond hair, and dresses in skirt suits; Erickson illustrates his blog post with a photo of Davis in a well-tailored pink one. If you are a woman who supports abortion rights and do not fit Erickson’s idea of what such a woman should look like—dreary, presumably—he will find a caricature for you: a silly girl who wore the wrong outfit, the one a man didn’t want to see her in. And then, when people get angry, you can say that your original stereotype was correct: feminists are humorless, girls don’t get jokes.

For Erickson, the subject of abortion rights, and the way that women act as if their life and health depend on it, is a rich mine for humor. The Barbie tweet was actually an encore. After the Texas bill passed, he tweeted, “Dear liberals, go bookmark this site now,” and linked to a store that sold coat hangers. Coat hangers were what some women used in the pre-Roe era, when they were desperate to end a pregnancy, risking their lives. For that reason, they have become a symbol; some of Davis’s supporters carried them. Erickson, in a non-apology “to the kid killing caucus” for the hanger tweet, wrote, “I was mocking you and your outrageous hyperbole and lies.” Women’s deaths are hyperbole only if you don’t value their lives. As for “lies,” even Erickson acknowledges that women died from illegal abortions back then; he says it was just a few dozen a year. And what’s that to him?

Erickson is a provocateur, but he is also a reasonably influential voice within the Republican Party. He makes connections and delivers rhetorical relief. (Confused by Wendy Davis? Here’s how to put her down.) His jokes are not funny both because they are not funny and because the Republican Party is, at the moment, very serious about dismantling abortion rights in state legislatures across the country. Some reduce the amount of time in which a woman is permitted to have an abortion (to twenty weeks after conception, in the case of the Texas bill) or find ways to make it hard for clinics to stay open. (Jeffrey Toobin wrote about this recently.)

Still, what Erickson appears to find most ridiculous is that women are so earnest and think that their stories and dilemmas are relevant to this debate. He ultimately deleted the hanger tweet, in deference, he said, to the hanger supplier. On Wednesday, after an angry response to his Barbie talk, he tweeted, “Think of the accessories Abortion Barbie has with her pink sneakers.”

Erickson’s other response is that if liberals get to call Sarah Palin Caribou Barbie (Maureen Dowd did), then they can’t complain. This assumes a parallel between “Caribou” and “Abortion,” which is hard to see. Abortion, despite what Erickson may think, is not a guise or a fashion, a destination like Malibu or an aspiration like astronaut. If it is a shorthand for anything, it is for what can be the hardest moment in an woman’s life. Perhaps he is used to treating all of this as a political game, making paper airplanes out of court decisions, but reproductive rights are not childish things.

“Barbie” is an insult when it is used as a stand-in for “stupid”—for an unserious mannequin, a professional impostor. Perhaps that’s what has to end, because all of this is very unfair to Barbie (whom I’ve defended before). Barbie was introduced in 1959, when women’s choices, and hers, were far more constrained. In 1961, she did get to be Registered Nurse Barbie. Surgeon Barbie was introduced in 1973—the same year the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade. In Erickson’s original equation, ignorance plus pink shoes equalled Barbie. But she is only dumb if you think that in taking on profession after profession she was borrowing someone else’s clothes. And Barbie would never do that.

 

By: Amy Davidson, The New Yorker, August 7, 2015

August 9, 2015 Posted by | Abortion Barbie, Erick Erickson, Reproductive Rights | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Yet Another Detour”: Rebranding Be Damned, House Republicans Eye More Anti-Abortion Votes

House Republicans’ laser-like focus on job creation — which is to say, they’ve passed zero jobs bills in three years — is poised to take yet another detour.

The House will vote next week on a bill banning abortions across the country after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Doug Heye, deputy chief of staff to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., confirmed to CQ Roll Call that the chamber is on track to consider legislation next week that would ban all abortions after the 20-week threshold — the point at which some medical professionals believe a fetus can begin to feel pain.

The effort started in late April, when Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) started pushing an anti-abortion bill, which he hoped to impose on the residents of the District of Columbia against their will. As we discussed in May, the proposal mirrors efforts that have popped up among Republican lawmakers at the state level: abortion would remain legal, but only if pregnancies are terminated within the first 20 weeks.

Following Kermit Gosnell’s recent murder conviction in Philadelphia, Franks and his allies decided to pursue this as a national policy, to be imposed on all states, constitutional concerns be damned.

It was not immediately clear what House GOP leaders would do about this. On the one hand, they support the party’s culture-war agenda and want to keep far-right, rank-and-file members happy. On the other, the Republican leadership realizes that voters would prefer to see Congress tackle real issues, occasionally even passing meaningful bills that can become law, and more work on pointless anti-abortion legislation undermines the whole “rebranding” idea.

So, would GOP leaders prioritize the culture war, working on yet another abortion bill that can’t pass the Senate and won’t get the president’s signature? Of course they will. In fact, they’re poised to do it more than once.

Franks’ 20-week bill is now poised for a floor vote, but Dorothy Samuels noted yesterday that another anti-abortion provision is on the way, too.

[O]n Thursday, the House passed a Homeland Security Appropriations bill containing a Republican amendment that would go a step beyond the current, restrictive federal policy regarding the ability of women held in immigration detention centers to access abortion services. The extreme provision, which the Senate should firmly reject, could be read to allow an employee with no medical training to decide whether or not a woman’s pregnancy is “life-threatening,” and to grant leeway to refuse to facilitate an abortion even then.

Party leaders are no doubt aware of the GOP’s larger difficulties, including the gender gap, and the fact that younger voters have no use for the party’s right-wing agenda, seeing Republicans as “closed-minded, racist, rigid, [and] old-fashioned.”

But for now, it appears the GOP just can’t help itself.

* Update: My friend Jay Bookman emails to note the Franks bill is arguably even more pernicious than it seems at first blush. The proposal is specifically written to ban abortions in what are called “medically futile pregnancies,” involving fetuses so badly compromised that they have no chance of survival. The bill is intended to force women to carry such pregnancies through to the doomed birth.

 

By: Steven Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 11, 2013

June 15, 2013 Posted by | Abortion, GOP | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“There Is No Gosnell Coverup”: Blame Existing Policies And Public Indifference To Low-Income Communities

This week, the right wing has been working the refs, demanding to know why the press has been allegedly silent on the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor who allegedly committed horrific acts against his patients with impunity for years. Fox News’ Kristen Powers kicked it off with an Op-Ed in USA Today, claiming, “The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace.” Michelle Malkin has helped spearhead a Twitter campaign. Breitbart.com calls it “a full-blown, coordinated blackout throughout the entire national media.”

And mostly, the campaign is working, generating a series of sheepish responses (and a near-instant BuzzFeed listicle). In an Atlantic piece headlined, “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s trial should be a front page story,” Conor Friedersdorf admits, “Until Thursday, I wasn’t aware of this story … Had I been asked at a trivia night about the identity of Kermit Gosnell, I would’ve been stumped and helplessly guessed a green Muppet.” Slate’s Dave Weigel congratulated the tweeters for getting his attention and then filed a piece sympathetic to the coverup claim, lecturing pro-choice people that “You really should read that grand jury report,” and concluding, “Social conservatives are largely right about the Gosnell story.”

No, they aren’t right about the Gosnell story. If you’ve never heard of the Gosnell story, it’s not because of a coverup by the liberal mainstream media. It’s probably because you failed to pay attention to the copious coverage among pro-choice and feminist journalists, as well as the big news organizations, when the news first broke in 2011. There would be something rich, if it weren’t so infuriating, about these (almost uniformly male, as it happens) reporters and commentators scrambling to break open this shocking untold story. You know, the one that was written about here, here and here, to name some disparate sources.

I can’t speak for big news organizations like CNN and the networks, but let’s think about this question another way: How often do such places devote their energies to covering the massive health disparities and poor outcomes that are wrought by our current system? How often are the travails of the women whose vulnerabilities Gosnell exploited — the poor, immigrants and otherwise marginalized people — given wall-to-wall, trial-level coverage? If you’re surprised that in the face of politicized stigma, lack of public funding or good information, and a morass of restrictive laws allegedly meant to protect women, the vacuum was filled by a monster — well, the most generous thing I can say is that you haven’t been paying attention.

But since you’re here, guys — welcome. Here are some important things to know about the tragedies committed in Gosnell’s clinic, based on the sources you missed. This week, as Virginia-based pro-choice activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns noted on Twitter, “Fitting that the right is trying to whip folks into a frenzy over #Gosnell the same day VA is trying to put safe abortion care out of reach.” She’s referring to so-called TRAP laws, which are regulations aimed at abortion clinics that have nothing to do with safety — say, the size of parking lots — to seek to drive them out of business, and which are expected to go forward in a vote today. According to Tara Murtha, a Philadelphia-based reporter who has been covering the Gosnell case from the start, in the aftermath of Pennsylvania’s own TRAP laws, the state went from 22 free-standing clinics to 13. As Murtha puts it, “The bottom line is that politicizing abortion led to Gosnell. Their answer? Politicize it more.”

After all, the question is not just why the state failed to respond to the complaints of women and advocates who visited the clinic, although that matters hugely. It’s why women kept going there anyway: because they felt they had no alternative. Read this account from Jeff Deeney, a social worker from Philadelphia, who points out that the lack of public funding for abortion is a big factor leading desperate women to Gosnell: “It’s worth noting for outsiders that Health Center #4 which serves the same neighborhood is the best in town, providing quality care for the uninsured poor. But Health Centers don’t do abortions, and Medicaid, where a TANF mom’s insurance coverage would come from, if she had any at all, doesn’t pay for them. And for these women the cost of paying for an abortion out of pocket breaks the budget, leaving mom scrambling to make next month’s rent or possibly wind up on the street.” Cost is also how women often get past the legal gestational limit, as they struggle to save up enough money — and Gosnell’s willingness to break the law was what made him their last chance. To everyone who thinks his case was a reason for more abortion restrictions: What he did was already illegal.

A new abortion clinic opened up recently in Kansas, a rare event that itself directly pointed to why there are ever-fewer legitimate abortion providers. It’s housed in a clinic that once housed the practice of Dr. George Tiller, murdered by an antiabortion extremist. As RH Reality Check reported, the clinic’s new providers are already being threatened, and in a jailhouse conversation with Tiller’s murderer, another extremist said of the opening, “It is a reckless act. It is not the act of someone who values their own safety. It is a gauntlet thrown down, by someone who wants a fight.” How much have you heard about that?

By all means, be up in arms about Kermit Gosnell. But blame existing policies and public indifference to low-income communities.

 

By: Irin Carmon, Salon, April 12, 2013

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Abortion, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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