Tag Archives: reproductive rights

Best and Worst Pop Culture Moments of 2013

BeyonceTwo weeks until 2013 is in the dust bin with all of the other expired calendars from years past. So much has happened, including a drawn-out government shutdown, the death of Nelson Mandela, and the Lady Gaga/Muppets Christmas special, among other low points. On the bright side we’ve also witnessed the breakout hit Orange is the New Black, Wendy Davis’s filibustering prowess, and a thrilling conclusion (or even a conclusion) to Breaking Bad. It’s been a year of oh…forget it, don’t let me descend into platitudes. Here’s my best and worst list for the year.

Best Stuff

New Kickass Women in Congress—Yes, Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren were elected at the end of 2012, but they took office this year. And already they’ve gotten involved in issues that have been twisting in the legislative wind for years now.  They sent a letter to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of Health and Human Services to end the ban on gay men donating blood. They’ve also taken on big, systemic issues, maybe most notably with Senator Baldwin co-sponsoring a bill to end to phone tapping by the NSA, and Senator Warren tackling banking regulation, the lack of which got us into the 2008 financial crisis. They’re happy to let us think that this Congress is unable to get anything done, because that’s just when they’ll squeak through urgent changes under the radar. Read More…

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What the Hell Is Wrong with This Country (Part II)

Primary school government classes in the United States explain the ideals of representative government—that our democracy supports the election of (often ordinary) people who then keep access open to their constituents so that the needs in their local districts and states will have a voice in the voting body. Unfortunately, in many districts, this is not really how elections and governing operate anymore. Consider:

  1. From The Campaign Finance Institute

    From The Campaign Finance Institute

    Congressional elections averaged $1.4M for House elections in 2010 and and more than $1.5M in 2012. Senate races averaged nearly $9M in 2010 and more than $10.3M in 2012. The total cost for all congressional races for the 2014 midterm elections is estimated to run $3.5B. That’s billion. These extreme costs narrow the possibilities of who can run for seats, limiting elections to well networked or party-sponsored individuals, the independently wealthy, or people running on a cause that garners a lot of grassroots support. (See Table at the right.)

  2. The Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United has put a lot more money from organizations and corporations into elections, even local-level campaigns. Between 527 groups, PACs and SuperPACs, even small congressional districts see a lot of monetary input, often from groups outside of the state or district in contest. If candidate fundraising doesn’t come from kissing babies and shaking constituents’ hands anymore, then…
  3. Issues taken up by office holders may reflect the priorities of big donors and organizations rather than the general public. At the least there is evidence that so much corporate money spent in SuperPACs has been used to wage negative campaigns against the presumed opponent (SuperPACs are not allowed to raise money for a particular candidate). Thus candidates now must raise money to get their messages out and to defend against the negative campaigns from 527s and SuperPACs (hence the rapid rise in average campaign costs). Read More…

What the Hell Is Wrong with This Country (Part 1)

It’s been a month of terrible news and political developments, not the least of which were the SCOTUS decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, the passage of extreme abortion restrictions in Texas, and the awful acquittals of George Zimmerman in Florida (who pursued a Black teenager and shot him, killing him) and Ezekiel Gilbert in Texas (who shot and killed a sex worker after she refused to have sex with him). All of this comes on the heels of the Steubenville trial, in which members of an Ohio football team gang-raped a young woman at a party and were convicted as juveniles, meaning they’ll be free after only a few years of light detention. It comes after three years of struggle against conservative forces pushing back gains made by workers unions in the Midwest, after a series of voting restriction laws in more than 20 states, and after a half-dozen high-profile mass shootings around the country—including one that targeted 6-year-olds—that have garnered no new restrictions on gun ownership or registration. To say that America is reeling on its collective heels is something of an understatement.

If we only pay attention to major media outlets, the narrative tells us that there is a huge polarization in the United States today, with warring factions at the extremes waging their battles through reductive and incendiary rhetoric about dead babies, massive government databases, corrupt politicians, gluttonous oligarchs, lazy poor people, insane terrorists, and tone-deaf state employees. It’s almost as if a badly written Hollywood screen play had taken over the nation. In truth, most Americans—according to places like Pew—are centrists, not pushing strenuously one way or the other for a progressive or conservative agenda. But this has occurred at the same time that people aligned with a political party have become more loyal to those parties and their stated values.

Let’s take a step back, and reassess America the Melting Pot. How has a nation of immigrants, one so presumed to be representative of a great diversity of people, values, and opinions, become so dichotomized politically? If that’s what’s actually happened, that is.
Read More…

The Watchers and Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis screen capture filibusterThis news out of Texas was quickly supplanted by the SCOTUS decisions around marriage equality today, the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman trial, and somehow, by continued coverage of Paula Deen’s racism. But it’s worth taking a closer look at the 11-hour filibuster by Texas State Senator Wendy Davis because it was a moment that perhaps can give us some lessons to remember for future political battles—which will inevitably will come our way. Or say, next month.

1. The filibuster was well planned and executed—Wendy had several things going for her, including a thick binder of germane content to read on the floor of the chamber, testimony from women that had not been allowed during earlier hearings on SB5, a Web page collecting more on-point testimony, and apparently, a big old Depends undergarment. She also had clearly prepped on the rules of the Senate filibuster allowances, and while she was abruptly ended by the Senate President for getting off-topic, talking about how SB5 would harmfully interact with an earlier passed law on sonograms was arguably still germane to the discussion. Dr. Gunter outlines the argument why that’s the case. But that she held the floor so long, despite extreme bending of the Senate’s rules on the part of the GOP supermajority makes this moment a prime example of successful governance. Big-ticket issues like a woman’s right to choose should be filibuster material, especially when the stakes are the closure of 37 out of 42 abortion-providing clinics in a state with 26 million people. Read More…

The Political Issues Next Year

For the past few years I’ve done a bit of cheeky prognostication on the popular culture front–picking which elected official will get caught up in a sexting scandal, which celebrity will get the most tabloid coverage, that sort of thing. But 2012 has left me with no heart for such frivolity, not with the Susan G. Komen attack on Planned Parenthood, the vitriol that spewed all over the nation through the election season, and Newtown. Now I’m left scratching my head and asking big questions about getting proactive on the issues I think are most important. I mean, I want to stay funny, I really do. I’m just having a tough time isolating my giggle button when it comes to civil rights, the lives of people on the margins, and our political atmosphere that seems hell bent to take us all down. Fiscal cliff, anyone?

Reproductive Rights and Sneaky Fake Women’s Clinics–We saw many examples of the fight against women’s health and reproductive rights this year, everything from the sound bites of the stupid (“Women’s bodies have ways of shutting that down”) to the attempt to gut Planned Parenthood funding, to new impossible regulations for abortion clinics to follow if they want to remain open. Late in the year, a woman died in Ireland, a state which doesn’t (barring new proposed rules since her death) allow for abortion except under extreme circumstances to save the life of the mother, with “extreme” being open to debate. It was a harrowing moment for abortion rights advocates in the States because so many of the GOP’s members are for just the same language and restrictions here. Read More…

A Modest Proposal for Politicians

science education test coverNOTE: This post is about sexual assault and pregnancy and stupid, stupid remarks from men.

Last summer, the otherwise unknown Todd Akin, running for the Senate in Misouri, said the following in an interview when asked why he doesn’t support abortion in the case of rape or incest:

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

There was much snickering and frustration in the land after this sound bite, namely from people who find such nonsense revolting. Immediately progressives and pro-choice advocates slammed Akin, asking if that was how he felt in the cases of 9-year-old girls who get pregnant after sexual assault, and so on. Popular culture and news media aren’t exactly adept at communicating about horrific events like pregnant children, and so it was that for a time, worst case scenarios floated about social networking sites and cable television like confetti after a They Might Be Giants concert (or a political convention).

But looking at Mr. Akin’s statement, we see that he is not alone in holding such an extreme position, nor with this significant amount of conviction. Here are other statements about rape and pregnancy: Read More…

Obsessed: GOP Men with Women’s Reproduction

Rick Santorum sticks around like a sexually transmitted infection. As the Washington Post put it earlier today, while Mitt Romney has trouble connecting with audiences on the stump, Santorum’s message is frighteningly clear: he wants a United States of Christ. Or at least, his interpretation of what that would look like. I can see the cows coming home, and Santorum still hasn’t mentioned any of the Beatitudes. Apparently he’s given up on inheriting the earth.

pro and against abortion signs

Santorum’s Web site claims that he will “lead us from the front,” but in reality it sounds like he wants to lead from the uterus. Not his uterus, since he doesn’t have one, but any garden variety uterus from a random woman in America.

Once upon a time, the fight for abortion rights and reproductive health was fought over the terms of when, abstractly, a human life begins. That abstraction is now being pushed into legislative agendas and bills, in the form of “Personhood” laws that would make pregnancy termination by any means—even, horrifyingly enough, miscarriage—a crime on par with homicide. Read More…

The Persistence of Lies

two men holding anti-immigrant signsI’ve devolved as a news-watcher over the last 25 years. If I waited until the evening to get the news, during dinner with my parents in the late 1980s, I hardly ever see broadcast news now. The promise of American 24-hour news channels never came to pass, in my opinion; instead of thorough coverage from news desks around the world, it’s mind-numbing commentary from uninformed talking heads who seem much more interested in their own product placement contracts than in communicating about our global goings on. Those news syndicates and news desks in other countries have dried up, but what was their other option after years of little funding or support from the channel executives? Now big name news outlets like CNN use amateur video–even solicit it openly–to serve as content providers. So it is that people’s backyards were frequent film footage sources during every large snow of the winter last year.

The GOP primary race has put me over the edge, though. On top of the sensationalized headlines, anemic interest stories, vapid policy analysis, and over-reliance on technology gimmicks (I’m looking at you, hologram interview), now there are countless stupid sound bites from what looks like little more than well funded bigots running to disassemble the Office of the President. Read More…

The Sudden Pink War: Making Sense of the Komen/Planned Parenthood Rift

women arguing over reproductive rightsBy now, chances are you’ve seen the news that the Susan G. Komen Foundation defunded its support of Planned Parenthood, which it had established in 2005. Pressure for the foundation to stop the support began almost immediately, and the national Susan G. Komen board resisted this pressure until yesterday. I spoke with Gina Popovic, Executive Vice President of the Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, who stressed that Komen is not the bad actor in all of this, the anti-choice activists are.

“We don’t want a pink on pink war,” said Ms. Popovic.

One of the first thoughts to cross my mind when I read the headline on the Washington Post about Komen’s PP defunding was the completely inaccurate statement that Senator John Kyl made last April:

Everybody goes to clinics, to hospitals, to doctors, and so on. Some people go to Planned Parenthood. But you don’t have to go to Planned Parenthood to get your cholesterol or your blood pressure checked. If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that’s well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. Read More…

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