Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Two Tenets of Reproductive Autonomy

Due to recent efforts to roll back women's reproductive autonomy, I've pondered all of the involved issues on a level I never had before. I've distilled my thoughts down to two basic tenets:

  1. A woman should never be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy.
  2. Consent to sex is NOT consent to pregnancy.
End of story. Take any anti-choice argument and apply the above. Case dismissed. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Willke: Raped Women are Uptight, Spastic, and Emotional

In an earlier post, I inquired of Rep. Akin, "what are these mystical powers that a woman's body has to prevent impregnation in the event of rape? And what doctors told you this?" Well I've learned the answer to that.

NY Times states that one Dr. John C. Willke seems to be a major proponent of the absurd idea that rape will not result in pregnancy. Why? Because
“This is a traumatic thing — she’s, shall we say, she’s uptight,” Dr. Willke said of a woman being raped, adding, “She is frightened, tight, and so on. And sperm, if deposited in her vagina, are less likely to be able to fertilize. The tubes are spastic.”
Ooooohhh I get it... she's uptight. Like, if she wasn't so damn uptight then maybe you wouldn't have to forcefully take it from her. Her tubes are spastic, like she's spastic right now because you have to take it from her because she is so damn uptight in the first place. 

An article written by this quack describes how the physical trauma of rape prevents pregnancy:
"To get and stay pregnant a woman's body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There's no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy."
You know how women are, they are so damn emotional. Any little thing will just send them over the top and mess up all their hormones, preventing pregnancy or, in the event of pregnancy, prevent them from nurturing that pregnancy. Whatever the hell that is supposed to mean.

This article was cited by one homophobic Bryan Fischer, supporter of Akin, who was the motivating force behind the resignation of Romney's openly gay national security spokeman, Richard Grenell (the Atlantic). So you KNOW he's a man of upstanding character. I recommend reading Willke's full article. It's simultaneously hilarious and maddening. 

One Dr. Fred Mecklenburg wrote an article in 1972 (yes, 40 years ago) called "The Indications for Induced Abortion: A Physician's Perspective" which was part of a collection of articles comprising the book "Abortion and Social Justice" (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The article has apparently been the basis of biological knowledge for the anti-choice folks ever since. Interestingly enough, Mecklenburg cites as evidence studies of women subjected to trauma in Nazi death camps. Wow. Sounds like good science to me!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

You Should Read This: Reflections on the Twentieth Anniversary of ‘Planned Parenthood v. Casey.’

ACS law Blog has an essay called Reflections on the Twentieth Anniversary of ‘Planned Parenthood v. Casey.’ It is very informative and I learned a great deal from reading it and doing a little light research on some of the topics mentioned. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey,
"the Justices rooted protection of a woman’s right to reproductive choice, not in a generalized right of privacy as Roe had, but in a woman’s right to bodily integrity, to personal liberty, and to equal citizenship."
Yes! Thank you! This is a conclusion that I have come to, although without this level of eloquence, on my own. Two points in this essay are that
1) "the Constitution affirmatively protects substantive fundamental rights, including rights not explicitly enumerated elsewhere in the Constitution."
2) "our Constitution’s text and history also buttress Casey’s recognition that a woman’s right to reproductive freedom is essential to the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equality for all persons. "
I'd love to sit here and spill all of my thoughts into this keyboard, but it's late and I have obligations that require me to be well-rested. Let's just say that the SCOTUS's recent ruling on the ACA, which deferred to precedent, give me hope that this court will continue to defer to precedent. Now we just need to make sure that whomever has the power to appoint the next Justice(s) does so in an honest and non-partisan manner...

Texas Monthly article on the "Climax in Government Intrusion"

Texas monthly discusses what goes down when you use icky words and wave vaginal probes around:

The scene: Sid Miller, sponsor of the 24-hour ultrasound bill, described what is required of doctors by the law. After he spoke, Carol Alvarado took the podium:
“I do not believe that we fully understand the level of government intrusion this bill advocates,” she said tersely. The type of ultrasound necessary for women who are less than eight weeks pregnant is, she explained, “a transvaginal sonogram.” 
Abruptly, many of the mostly male legislators turned their attention to a fascinating squiggle pattern on the carpet, and for a rare moment, the few female legislators on the floor commanded the debate. Representative Ana Hernandez Luna approached the back mike and sweetly asked Alvarado to explain what would happen to a woman undergoing a transvaginal sonogram.
“Well,” Alvarado answered helpfully, “she would be asked by the sonographer to undress completely from the waist down and asked to lie on the exam table and cover herself with a light paper sheet. She would then put her feet in stirrups, so that her legs are spread at a very wide angle, and asked to scoot down the table so that the pelvis is just under the edge.” 
At this point, if there had been thought bubbles floating over the heads of the male legislators, they almost certainly would have been filled with expletives of embarrassment or further commentary on the carpet design.
“What does this vaginal sonogram look like?” Luna asked, ever curious.  
“Well, I’m glad you asked,” Alvarado answered, “because instead of just describing it, I can show you.”
And so the state representative from Houston’s District 145 put both elbows on the lecturn and held up in her clenched fist a long, narrow plastic probe with a tiny wheel at its tip. It looked like some futuristic instrument of torture. “This is the transvaginal probe,” Alvarado explained, pointing it at her colleagues as she spoke, her finger on what looked like a trigger. “Colleagues, this is what we’re talking about. . . . This is government intrusion at its best. We’ve reached a”—she searched for the word—“climax in government intrusion.”
Those who could still focus gaped at Alvarado. No one spoke. The silence seemed to confirm for Alvarado something she had long suspected: most of the men in the House chamber didn’t know the difference between a typical ultrasound—the kind where a technician presses a wand against a pregnant belly and sends the happy couple home with a photo for their fridge—and this. She locked Miller in her sights. “What would a woman undergo in your bill?” she asked. 
Miller seemed confused. “It could be an ultrasound, it could be a sonogram,” he began. “Actually, I have never had a sonogram done on me, so I’m not familiar with the exact procedure—on the medical procedure, how that proceeds.”
“There are two different kinds of sonograms,” Alvarado said, trying again to explain. “The abdominal, which most of our colleagues may think [of as] ‘jelly on the belly’—that is not what would be done here. A woman that is eight to ten weeks pregnant would have a transvaginal procedure.” Miller stammered a response, but Alvarado was not done with him. She continued the grilling for several more minutes, keeping Miller on the ropes with a sustained barrage of icky female anatomy talk. Ultimately, however, the room was stacked against her. 
On March 7 Miller’s bill passed 107–42. 
This is a fantastic article that discusses what went down when the ultrasound bill was in debate, the rise of women to political power in Texas, and the decline in support of public funding for family-planning services. I consider it a must-read.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why I Don't Want the Law Between Me and my Doctor

Missouri congressman Todd Akin is a shining example of why we don't need lawmakers legislating our medical care. With all this new emphasis on contraception and personhood, politicians feel ever more comfortable opening their mouths and revealing just how little they actually know about reproductive biology and medicine.

Todd Akin, in a TV interview, on his stance against abortion even in the case of rape (from Huffington Post):
"From what I understand from doctors, that's really rare," said Akin said of pregnancy caused by rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
What?!? Seriously? Do tell, Rep. Akin, what are these mystical powers that a woman's body has to prevent impregnation in the event of rape? And what doctors told you this? Probably the same doctors that qualify for funds in the "pregnancy crisis centers" touted by anti-abortionists in TX.

But wait, there's more (from TPM):
“Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
This is fantastic. He mentions the rapist and the resulting child, but NOT THE WOMAN WHO WAS RAPED. That's because to Todd Akin, and to the scores of other crusty old male lawmakers, WOMEN ARE INVISIBLE. They don't even factor into the equation. It obviously hasn't occurred to this oblivious asshole that being raped is absolutely horrific, but carrying to term and birthing an unwanted child conceived of the rape will punish the victim for the duration of the pregnancy and longer, possibly for life.

These ridiculously misguided statements come on the heels of a radio interview where he demonstrated his ignorance of the difference between emergency contraception and the abortion pill (from The Raw Story):
“As far as I’m concerned, the morning-after pill is a form of abortion,” he told KCMO’s Greg Knapp, “and I think we shouldn’t have abortion in this country.”
As  Planned Parenthood Missouri Advocates points out
"The fact is that emergency contraception prevents pregnancy. Abortion ends a pregnancy."
And also:
"Representative Todd Akin’s false statement illustrates exactly why politicians should not be meddling in women’s personal medical decisions" 
Why is this guy getting so much press anyway? Because he is the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri. Let's hope that Democrat and women's advocate Clare McCaskill wins that one. In the words of my friend in MO, "Fuck you, Akin!"

(Also, check out the slide show at the bottom of the Huffington Post story, "Lies GOP tells about women's bodies")

More on the Akin flap (8/21/12):

Compares the changing political stance regarding women to that of climate change:

An open letter to Akin from Renee Davis, the National Alliance Director for

Discusses Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri and her support for Akin in the Republican primary. I generally disagree with these types of tactics, but wow the implications could be huge. This article makes it seem as though McCaskill ran ads in favor of Akin, whereas another source (I can't remember where I saw it) stated that she ran attack ads against all three Republican contenders, and that the ads against Akin were decidedly less negative. :\

Despite Paul Ryan's support of a personhood amendment, Romney's belief in a rape exception for abortion is the official Republican ticket stance:

However, apparently the GOP platform drawn up in preparation of the RNC includes no exceptions for rape or incest:

Is it terrible to hope tropical storm Isaac hits the RNC in Tampa? Yeah, probably so. 

Surly Thor has Words for Todd Akin LOLZ

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gender Matters in Science

Gender affects the way you are perceived in science. I can see it where I work, and my friend with a PhD in chemistry can attest to this fact firsthand.

The Wall Street Journal tells of Ben Barres, formerly Barbara Barres, and his experience as both a male and a female scientist. The biggest difference, according to Barres:

"People who do not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect," he says. "I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man."

 Wow. On the flip side is biologist Joan Roughgarden, formerly known as Jonathan:

Jonathan Roughgarden's colleagues and rivals took his intelligence for granted, Joan says. But Joan has had "to establish competence to an extent that men never have to. They're assumed to be competent until proven otherwise, whereas a woman is assumed to be incompetent until she proves otherwise. I remember going on a drive with a man. He assumed I couldn't read a map."

Barres' Nature commentary can been read here. What Barres describes is the end result of "the drip, drip, drip of sexism that is the most harmful to our girls. It is everywhere, and too few people are questioning it." This phrasing was used by Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies when sharing the following photo on facebook:

"It can be easily made by girls students and low grade students"

It's also what Rebecca Hains is trying to avoid when she wants her dentist not to assign gender to her son's teeth and react negatively to any "girl teeth" that may be invading his mouth. Get a clue, dentist!

Thanks to Blue Milk for highlighting Barres' WSJ story, as well as The Mamafesto for the link to Rebecca Hains, and to Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies for sharing the photo. These folks keep the gears turning in my head.

"Stupid Single Women" for Democrats

Okay, I usually try not to pay attention to morons spewing their ignorant, ratings-grabbing drivel on TV, but I just have to vent about this one. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ann Coulter, described as a “conservative columnist” (meaning I have no familiarity with her work), is promoting the idea that President Obama and the Democratic Party’s voting base is “stupid single women.”

Her words, as transcribed in The Raw Story (I didn’t have time to watch the footage):

“I think it’s probably a good sign that Obama is so desperate just to get the base Democratic voter — stupid single women — to vote for him,” Coulter told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday. “This is good news that he needs to lock up that part of the Democratic vote.”

“He’s trying to get the stupid single women voter, which is the Democratic Party base,” Coulter repeated. “And I would just say to stupid single women voters, your husband will not be able to pay you child support if Obamacare goes through and Obama is re-elected. You are talking about the total destruction of wealth. It is the end of America as we know it.”

“Great, you will get free contraception; you won’t have to pay a $10 co-pay, but it will be the end of America. Think about that!”

First of all, let’s just break this down. Apparently if you are a single woman, you are stupid! I mean come on, only a STUPID woman wouldn’t be MARRIED! Also, apparently ALL single women have kids because, y’know, women are made for birthin’ babies. Now that we’ve established that all single women are stupid and have kids, we progress to the fact that these stupid single women are just sitting around waiting for a child support check, owing to the fact that women aren’t capable of doing work equal to that of men. That must be why Republican Presidential Candidate Romney is reluctant to support the Lilly Ledbetter Act.

These ridiculous comments stem from Sandra Fluke’s introduction of President Obama on the campaign trail in Denver this week. As you may remember, Fluke was publicly attacked by conservative blabbermouth and ratings-grubber Rush Limbaugh for speaking to Congress in support of contraception coverage by health insurance. I hardly think that Fluke qualifies as a “stupid single woman” seeing how she’s a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. I suppose when strong, well-educated women promote what is right for all Americans, the easiest way to disqualify their voice in the ears of the masses is to attack their character.

Delving deeper, how many women actually buy into this craziness? I think we all know that married women who actually want and love their children still need birth control. Anyone with half a brain in their head and an ounce of compassion realizes that in order to become educated, establish careers, space children so they can be optimally cared for, and limit family size, families (not just women! But whole families! Including men!) benefit from access to adequate means of birth control.

In addition to benefitting individual families, affordable and effective birth control benefits society as a whole. If every child is born into a loving family where they are wanted and cared for, then all children will have a better chance of growing into productive members of our economy. Children who are unwanted and abused, neglected, or living in extreme poverty have a much greater chance of becoming a burden on society as opposed to a productive member of it.

And on a “boy are you a dummy” note: last time I checked, if you are married, you are not single, so I don’t know how single women could be waiting for child support from their husbands.

My thought is that the old white men in charge are scared because at some point they looked up from counting their stacks of money and realized that traditionally oppressed groups are much closer to becoming equals in our society. Of course, it’s not politically correct to attack blacks, so they just attack the president specifically. (In fact, the entire republican platform is “defeat Obama,” with no actual policy having been outlined for once that is done.) It’s not really cool to attack Latinos, seeing how they are perceived as a huge monolithic voting bloc, so they just attack “illegal immigrants.” (Of course, there is no way to tell from looking, just ask Arizona, where you must carry your papers if you are brown.) It’s slightly more acceptable to attack women, mostly because so many women will stand there and back you up (um, Women for Mitt, anyone?). LGBT are still the easiest target, but women seem to be a bigger threat (plus LBGT are still super-oppressed, and a war is on against them to prevent them from gaining civil rights the aforementioned groups already enjoy). So, out of desperate fear stemming from observation of the status quo crumbling around them, older folks of means have tried to roll back gender-equality gains that my generation thought were settled before we were even born.

Two years ago, when my daughter was born, we had just elected our first black president, and a woman was a serious contender for the candidacy. Gays were making progress on the marriage front, and DODT was crumbling. The Dream Act was a brilliant idea that seemed to have potential for becoming law. My thoughts were joyous, I thought to myself, “We made it, I can tell her about how terrible this nation used to be to women, blacks, and many other minorities before she was born, and she will listen wide-eyed and be appalled.” Now it seems like she may have to fight the same battles, only the fight will be even harder because we younger generations don’t even comprehend what it’s like to live with the second-class citizenry being pushed onto women by folks who supposedly are all about “family values.”