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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

“Is This The Return Of Back Alley Abortions?”: The “Republican War On Women” Is A Fact, One That Voters Are Certainly Aware Of

Sometimes, women have sex. Sometimes, that sex is unprotected. Sometimes, women get pregnant. And sometimes, they chose to terminate their pregnancies by having abortions. In fact, one in three American women will have an abortion by the age of 45. These are all basic and undeniable facts of life, facts just like evolution and climate change and the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage that both universal truth and voter opinion plainly endorse. And then there’s the Republican Party, determined to face these facts in the same way it faces its inevitable substantive and demographic irrelevance — in other words, not at all.

According to a recent poll conducted by NARAL Pro-Choice America, almost 7 in 10 Americans “believe having an abortion is morally acceptable and should be legal” or are “personally against abortion” but “don’t believe government should prevent a woman from making that decision for herself.” Included in that number are fully 53 percent of Republicans who say they don’t support government limits on abortion.

The Republican Party has a major — and growing — problem not only wooing women voters but also male voters who support women’s reproductive freedom, let alone economic equality. And yet confronted with facts, including that Republicans in Texas are forcing the closure of the majority of the state’s abortion clinics, what does Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican Party, do? Distract from the facts.

On Meet The Press this past Sunday, Chuck Todd asked Priebus about last week’s ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court to allow Texas’ restrictive anti-abortion law to take immediate effect. Here’s their exchange via RH Reality Check’s Jodi Jacobson, who has characterized Priebus’ response as a downright lie:

TODD: A court upheld a new law in Texas. One of the things about the Republican Party is you don’t like a lot of regulation on businesses, except if the business is [an] abortion clinic. Eighty percent of these abortion clinics in Texas are going to be basically out of business because of this new law. Too much regulation, is that fair? Why regulate on the abortion issue now until maybe the law is—and maybe wait until you win a fight in the Supreme Court where you outlaw abortion altogether. Why restrict a business now in the state of Texas?

REINCE PRIEBUS: Well, you obviously have to talk to someone in Texas. But the fact of the matter is that we believe that any woman that’s faced with an unplanned pregnancy deserves compassion, respect, counseling, whatever it is that we can offer to be—

CHUCK TODD: But 80 percent of those clinics are gone. So that they have to drive 200 or 300 miles for that compassion?

REINCE PRIEBUS: No, look, listen, Chuck. The issue for us is only one thing. And that’s whether you ought to use taxpayer money to fund abortion. That’s the one issue that I think separates this conversation that we’re having.

Wait a second! The Texas law has absolutely nothing to do with taxpayer dollars — after all, Texas banned public support for reproductive health a long time ago. No, the Texas law merely places extremely onerous and unnecessary requirements on abortion providers for the sole purpose of forcing those providers to stop performing abortions. Which, by the way, is working — as a result of the Fifth Circuit ruling, seven or eight additional clinics in Texas will close, forcing women in many parts of the state to drive 300 miles or more to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion. The Texas policy, after all, is the manifestation of GOP-led attacks on abortion across the country, which have gone to such an extreme that 87 percent of counties in America do not have abortion providers and medical training on abortion care has been so undermined that, as The Daily Beast reported, a new online course is trying to fill the gap.

Maybe Priebus was confused. Republicans also oppose government funding for contraception — or even, in the case of Obamacare, government requiring private insurers to cover contraception — despite the obvious fact that affordable access to contraception lowers the rate of unintended pregnancies and thus the need for abortions. Then again, I give Priebus more credit than that — and assume that his words weren’t accidentally misspoken but deliberately misleading.

Again and again, as I have written, it seems to boil down to Republicans being offended that women — especially poor women — even want to have sex. How dare they! Soon they’ll be wanting equal pay. “You could argue that money is more important for men,” Republican congressional candidate Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin once said, explaining his opposition to equal pay laws. Birth control is for women who “cannot control their libido,” said former Arkansas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

These attitudes, along with backwards policy stances, paint a picture of a GOP not only out of touch with women’s reproductive and economic freedom but downright opposed to it. Is it any wonder that women, especially young liberated women, are fleeing from a party that is so profoundly and anachronistically condescending to more than half of the population?

Rank-and-file conservatives by and large do not share these extreme anti-equality, anti-abortion, anti-women attitudes. But such views are becoming dangerously prevalent among Republican leaders and candidates — and being translated into policy at a record pace, with results so frightening that Republican leaders realize they can’t even be honest with voters about the effects. In other words, the “Republican War on Women” isn’t a politically convenient construction of the Democrats, it’s a fact — one that voters are certainly aware of.

 

By: Sally Kohn, The Daily Beast, October 7, 2014

October 8, 2014 Posted by | Reince Priebus, Reproductive Choice, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Todd Akin Is Ready For Another Close-Up”: His Problem Was That He Was Too … ‘Conciliatory’?

In 2012, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) was facing a tough re-election fight in Missouri, so she helped boost the Republican she assumed would be the easiest to beat: then-Rep. Todd Akin (R). The plan worked extraordinarily well.

Akin was an extremist by any measure, but the far-right lawmaker secured a spot in the Awful Candidates Hall of Fame when he famously said women impregnated during a “legitimate rape” have a magical ability to “shut that whole thing down.”

Akin soon after lost by 15 points.

All of this unpleasantness, however, was two years ago. Now the far-right Missourian is back and he wants the spotlight again.

Todd Akin takes it back. He’s not sorry.

Two years after the Missouri Republican’s comments on rape, pregnancy and abortion doomed his campaign and fueled a “war on women” message that carried Democrats to victory in the Senate, one of the few regrets he mentions in a new book is the decision to air a campaign ad apologizing for his remarks. “By asking the public at large for forgiveness,” Akin writes, “I was validating the willful misinterpretation of what I had said.”

Hmm. Todd Akin’s problem was that he was too … conciliatory?

Making matters worse, as Joan Walsh noted, Akin is not only retracting his 2012 apology, he’s also back to defending the comments that caused him so much trouble in the first place. “My comment about a woman’s body shutting the pregnancy down was directed to the impact of stress of fertilization,” Akin argues in his new book, adding that “this is something fertility doctors debate and discuss.”

Republican officials are clearly aware of Akin’s willingness to re-litigate whether women can “shut that whole thing down,” and they have a message for the former congressman: for the love of God, please stop talking.

No, really.

Todd Akin is back talking about rape in his new book and Republicans have a message for him: Shut up. […]

“Todd Akin is an embarrassment to the Republican Party and the sole reason Claire McCaskill is still part of Harry Reid’s majority,” said Brian Walsh, who served as communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2012 cycle.

“It’s frankly pathetic that just like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell in 2010, he refuses to take any responsibility for sticking his foot in his mouth, alienating voters and costing Republicans a critical Senate seat. Worse, he’s now trying to make money off his defeat. The sooner he leaves the stage again the better.”

The GOP has vowed to prevent the stumbles on social issues that plagued Republican candidates on the trail last cycle. So its overwhelming reaction to Akin: his five minutes of fame need to be over.

That may be little more than wishful thinking. Yesterday afternoon, Planned Parenthood Votes issued a report that not only detailed Akin’s disturbing record, but connecting Akin to 2014 candidates. From the materials:

“Todd Akin and his dangerous agenda for women were soundly rejected by voters in 2012, yet candidates like Thom Tillis, Cory Gardner and Greg Abbott continue to follow in his footsteps,” said Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Votes. “Todd Akin’s appalling beliefs about women and rape were too extreme for America’s women, and they represent policy positions shared by politicians like Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis and Greg Abbott – among others. Just as Todd Akin was held accountable for his beliefs, these candidates will have to answer for their opposition to basic access to medical care for America’s women, and especially their cold indifference to women who are survivors of rape and incest.”

While Todd Akin was best known for his comments about legitimate rape, he also supported a wide range of measures – such as redefining rape, wanting to ban emergency contraception for survivors of rape and incest, and supporting measures that could interfere with personal, private, medical decisions relating to decisions about birth control, access to fertility treatment, management of a miscarriage, and access to safe and legal abortion – that were far too extreme for the vast majority Americans.

Similarly, Abbott, Tillis and Gardner have used their positions to do things such as prevent rape survivors from suing those who negligently hire their attackers, trying to deny rape survivors from accessing emergency contraception, and forcing survivors of rape and incest to undergo an invasive trans-vaginal ultrasound before accessing an abortion.

Under the circumstances, the more Akin talks, the happier many on the left will be.

Disclosure: my wife works for Planned Parenthood but played no role in this piece.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 11, 2014

 

July 13, 2014 Posted by | Todd Akin, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How The Right Wing Is Killing Women”: Far Right Ideology Is Trumping The Health Needs Of Millions Of Americans

According to a report released last week in the widely-respected health research journal, The Lancet, the United States now ranks 60th out of 180 countries on maternal deaths occurring during pregnancy and childbirth.

To put it bluntly, for every 100,000 births in America last year, 18.5 women died. That’s compared to 8.2 women who died during pregnancy and birth in Canada, 6.1 in Britain, and only 2.4 in Iceland.

A woman giving birth in America is more than twice as likely to die as a woman in Saudi Arabia or China.

You might say international comparisons should be taken with a grain of salt because of difficulties of getting accurate measurements across nations. Maybe China hides the true extent of its maternal deaths. But Canada and Britain?

Even if you’re still skeptical, consider that our rate of maternal death is heading in the wrong direction. It’s risen over the past decade and is now nearly the highest in a quarter century.

In 1990, the maternal mortality rate in America was 12.4 women per 100,000 births. In 2003, it was 17.6. Now it’s 18.5.

That’s not a measurement error because we’ve been measuring the rate of maternal death in the United States the same way for decades.

By contrast, the rate has been dropping in most other nations. In fact, we’re one of just eight nations in which it’s been rising.  The others that are heading in the wrong direction with us are not exactly a league we should be proud to be a member of. They include Afghanistan, El Salvador, Belize, and South Sudan.

China was ranked 116 in 1990. Now it’s moved up to 57. Even if China’s way of measuring maternal mortality isn’t to be trusted, China is going in the right direction. We ranked 22 in 1990. Now, as I’ve said, we’re down to 60th place.

Something’s clearly wrong.

Some say more American women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth because American girls are becoming pregnant at younger and younger ages, where pregnancy and birth can pose greater dangers.

This theory might be convincing if it had data to support it. But contrary to the stereotype of the pregnant young teenager, the biggest rise in pregnancy-related deaths in America has occurred in women 20-24 years old.

Consider that in 1990, 7.2 women in this age group died for every 100,000 live births. By 2013, the rate was 14 deaths in this same age group – almost double the earlier rate.

Researchers aren’t sure what’s happening but they’re almost unanimous in pointing to a lack of access to health care, coupled with rising levels of poverty.

Some American women are dying during pregnancy and childbirth from health problems they had before they became pregnant but worsened because of the pregnancies — such as diabetes, kidney disease, and heart disease.

The real problem, in other words, was they didn’t get adequate health care before they became pregnant.

Other women are dying because they didn’t have the means to prevent a pregnancy they shouldn’t have had, or they didn’t get the prenatal care they needed during their pregnancies. In other words, a different sort of inadequate health care.

One clue: African-American mothers are more than three times as likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth than their white counterparts.

The data tell the story: A study by the Roosevelt Institute shows that U.S. states with high poverty rates have maternal death rates 77 percent higher than states with lower levels of poverty. Women with no health insurance are four times more likely to die during pregnancy or in childbirth than women who are insured.

What do we do about this? Yes, of course, poor women (and the men who made them pregnant) have to take more personal responsibility for their behavior.

But this tragic trend is also a clear matter of public choice.

Many of these high-poverty states are among the twenty-one that have so far refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government will cover 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and at least 90 percent thereafter.

So as the sputtering economy casts more and more women into near poverty, they can’t get the health care they need.

Several of these same states have also cut family planning, restricted abortions, and shuttered women’s health clinics.

Right-wing ideology is trumping the health needs of millions of Americans.

Let’s be perfectly clear: These policies are literally killing women.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, May 12, 2014

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Medicaid Expansion, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Women Have Options”: Obamacare, The Greatest Pro-Life Victory Ever

A new report finds that between 2008 and 2011, the abortion rate hit its lowest point since 1973, when Roe v. Wade declared access to the procedure a Constitutional right.

The rate fell 13 percent to 16.9 per 1,000 women in 2011, down from its peak of 29.3 per 1,000 in 1981.

While conservatives want to claim credit for the decline with onerous restrictions on a woman’s right to choose, the availability of contraception and family planning deserve most of the credit, according to the Guttmacher Institute’s Rachel Jones, the lead author of the study.

“The decline in abortions coincided with a steep national drop in overall pregnancy and birth rates,” she said in a statement. “Contraceptive use improved during this period, as more women and couples were using highly effective, long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, such as the IUD. Moreover, the recent recession led many women and couples to want to avoid or delay pregnancy and childbearing.”

Use of contraceptives has become near-universal and more common among married women than single.

Obamacare’s birth control mandate obligates all insurers to cover contraception without a co-pay, as it does all preventive care. Before the law 28 states already had such mandates in place and 85 percent of large firms offered coverage as part of their plans. Since August 1 of last year, that coverage is now standard for women no matter where they live or how they acquire health insurance.

A Washington University study released last year showed that providing birth control at no cost reduced the rate of abortions by 62 to 78 percent compared to the national rate. Meanwhile the right’s strategy of reducing abortions by requiring sonograms has had no effect on a large majority of women, according to a new study in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Instead of encouraging the pro-life benefits of Obamacare, conservatives continue to try to minimize them. Republicans want to give employers the ability to opt out of the mandate, asserting falsely that some of the birth control options available induce abortion.

By opposing the mandate, the right reveals that its goal has always been to reduce women’s options, not unintended pregnancies. Obamacare will reduce thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of abortions and could reduce even more if the Republican-led states that rejected Medicaid expansion would agree to provide subsidized care to approximately 4 million Americans.

Instead, so-called “pro-lifers” enable politicians who deny health insurance to those who need it most, threatening the lives of thousands. If only they were as pro-life as Obamacare is.

 

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, February 4, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Abortion, Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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