New research confirms that providing women access to free birth control does not result in women having sex with more partners -- a false claim that has been repeatedly pushed and promoted by conservative media, and which contributes to their efforts to stigmatize women's sexuality.
Providing women with no-cost contraception did not result in "riskier" sexual behavior (defined by the researchers as "sex with multiple partners") but did reduce unintended pregnancies and abortions, according to a comprehensive study from the Washington University School of Medicine.
As Amanda Duberman noted at the Huffington Post, having new empirical data to push back on the moralizing arguments against birth control is helpful, but raises the question: "why do we care?" The fact that researchers felt the need to study this particular claim about birth control at all reveals an "implicit stigmatization" of women's sexuality (emphasis added):
It is a small, pervasive set of voices that leads researchers to consider "multiple sexual partners" over the course of an entire year "risky sexual behavior."
The past decade of research has confirmed what women's health advocates already knew: the benefits of reducing barriers to birth control access far outweigh any subjectively determined adverse effects.
What's unfortunate is that making a case for something many women need relies on the implicit stigmatization of their sexuality. That researchers and health advocates need to presume harsh judgement of sexually active women to convince skeptics of birth control's utility just reminds us how far we have to go.
Duberman is right; it should not matter whether women have more or less sex when taking birth control pills. But it's not just a small set of conservative political voices pushing this offensive criticism of women's sexuality and inspiring scientific research. Conservative media have played a role in forcing this conversation, repeatedly slut-shaming women who use birth control and insisting that anyone who supports government funding for free contraceptives is equivalent to a prostitute.
From the March 5 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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Fox News host Megyn Kelly and senior political analyst Brit Hume were shocked by the suggestion that Arizona's anti-gay law might allow "a Christian doctor who is deeply conservative in his religious views to deny treatment" to patients on the basis of sexual orientation, an interesting change of pace for a network that has no problems regularly defending the religiously-based denial of women's health services.
In a February 25 segment on Fox's The Kelly File, Kelly and Hume agreed that the Arizona law -- which could provide legal protections to religious business owners who deny services and accommodations to gay couples on the basis of their sexual orientation -- went too far because the possibility of denying medical services to gay people was "an order of magnitude greater than the legal right to deny services to a gay wedding":
But neither Kelly nor Hume managed to point out the obvious -- Christian doctors are already enabled to deny services to all women on religious grounds.
Right-wing media figures, led by Fox News, have launched a campaign against the Girl Scouts accusing the group of indoctrinating young girls into liberal politics. The accusation has been propped up by misleading claims, ludicrous oversimplifications, and frequently repeated myths about the organization, which focuses on empowering girls.
Talking about women's access to health care on Valentine's Day is akin to urging women to get a 'traditional' abortion for the holiday, according to conservative media.
This week Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards posted a Vine video on Twitter promoting access to basic women's health care, using the hashtag #WhatWomenNeed:
In the short video, Richards held placards detailing what women need this Valentine's Day: "birth control," "cancer screenings," "safe and legal abortions," "well woman visits," "breast exams," "maternity care," "preventive care," "Planned Parenthood," "To make our own decisions."
The notion was offensive to the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who accused Planned Parenthood of "urging women to get abortions for Valentine's Day." According to Limbaugh, the tweet evidenced how Democrats "see women as basically walking vaginas looking to have sex every change they get":
LIMBAUGH: Democrats see women as basically just walking vaginas. Democrats see women as nothing but walking vaginas looking to have sex every chance they get, and then they go get an abortion whenever they need one, or they got to get them birth control pills or whatever. If you listen to your average liberal Democrat talk about women, that's it. That's what they think the only thing women are concerned about is, is making sure they can have sex whenever they want to have it, and then they're covered, either with contraception or an abortion. And anybody who opposes that is obviously engaged in a war on women. It's nonsense.
Limbaugh wasn't alone in his attacks. Drudge Report promoted a Breitbart.com article about Richards' tweet with the headline:
Breitbart.com's Robert Wilde alleged that Richards was advocating for an "abortion tradition" on Valentine's Day, writing:
In a global Internet search of the varied customs of Valentine's day expressions of love, there were zero mentions of other abortion traditions. It appears that Ms. Richards can safely claim that she is the seminal inspiration for the "avant-garde" concept that having an abortion is a value to be shared on Valentine's day.
Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker baselessly criticized President Obama for his administration's "willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country," citing right-wing legal challenges to insurance coverage of birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a lawsuit that was filed by the previous administration, not the current one.
In a recent column, Parker complained that Obama's decision to speak out against attacks on religious freedom overseas during the National Prayer Breakfast was done "without a hint of irony," because Obama failed to mention the "eroding protections of religious liberty" in the United States. Parker pointed to several high-profile cases as evidence of the Obama administration's supposed "challenge [to] religious liberty in this country." Parker overlooked the fact that the right-wing legal arguments that form the basis of these cases are a radical departure from settled corporate law precedent and the "well-established" religious accommodation practice for objectors toward neutral laws like the ACA's "contraception mandate." Parker also went on to claim that a separate Supreme Court decision in 2012 that ruled in favor of a church's discriminatory hiring practices was further evidence of the Obama administration's attack on religious liberty:
President Obama gave a lovely speech at the recent National Prayer Breakfast -- and one is reluctant to criticize.
But pry my jaw from the floorboards.
Without a hint of irony, the president lamented eroding protections of religious liberty around the world.
Just not, apparently, in America.
Nary a mention of the legal challenges to religious liberty now in play between this administration and the Catholic Church and other religious groups, as well as private businesses that contest the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare.
Missing was any mention of Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor -- whose cases have recently reached the U.S. Supreme Court and that reveal the Obama administration's willingness to challenge, rather than protect, religious liberty in this country.
The more germane question to cases such as Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters is whether the government can accomplish its goal of making free contraception available without burdening religious objectors. Can't women in Colorado get contraception without forcing the Little Sisters, a group of nuns who care for the elderly, to violate their core beliefs? Their charitable work could not long survive under penalties the government would impose on them for noncompliance.
For now, the Little Sisters have been granted a reprieve, thanks to Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Arguments in the Hobby Lobby case are scheduled for March, with a decision expected in June. Meanwhile, another case settled in 2012 reveals much about this administration's willingness to challenge religious freedom. In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the question boiled down to whether the government can decide whom a church hires as minister. Since when?
National Review Online (NRO) has a problem with feminism and how it's embodied by Democratic women running for office like Sandra Fluke and Texas State Senator Wendy Davis.
NRO roving correspondent Kevin D. Williamson penned a February 6 column decrying modern feminism, which he defined as, "Feminism is the words 'I Want!' in the mouths of three or more women, provided they're the right kind of women."
According to Williamson, feminism is now a "career path," where cunning politicians can succeed by "defending the position favored more heavily by women than by men [which] becomes, through the magic of feminist rhetoric, anti-woman, even part of a 'war on women.'" In other words, a policy that appears to be anti-woman may simply be an innocuous proposal with disparate support among the genders that's become tainted by feminist rhetoric.
The author's examples of such conniving feminist politicians were California state senate candidate Sandra Fluke and Texas Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, popular targets in the conservative media sphere as of late. "Whatever Sandra Fluke is up to, you can be sure she's looking for somebody else to pay for it," Williamson wrote, summarizing her 2012 congressional testimony in support of contraception coverage in health plans as a petulant "'I WANT!'"
Davis, who conducted a filibuster against Texas's new abortion restrictions in June 2013, Williamson accused of "thwarting the interests of a majority of those women she is campaigning to govern," painting her as an opportunist.
Indeed, Williamson's post is full of invective, but low on the facts regarding the very events he highlights as revealing the "Feminist Mystique."
When Sandra Fluke testified before Democratic members of Congress in 2012, she simply argued that women's insurance policies -- which they already paid for -- should cover medication like contraception that is prescribed by a medical professional. To highlight the medical need for contraception coverage, Fluke told the story of a friend whose polycystic ovarian syndrome was treated with birth control pills:
FLUKE: After months of paying over $100 out of pocket, she just couldn't afford her medication anymore, and she had to stop taking it. I learned about all of this when I walked out of a test and got a message from her that, in the middle of the night in her final-exam period, she'd been in the emergency room. She'd been there all night in just terrible, excruciating pain. She wrote to me: "It was so painful I woke up thinking I'd been shot." Without her taking the birth control, a massive cyst the size of a tennis ball had grown on her ovary. She had to have surgery to remove her entire ovary as a result.
Although Fluke briefly mentioned her personal use of contraceptive medicine during the testimony, she never referenced whether it was a financial burden or not.
And rather than "thwarting the interests" of Texas women, Davis filibustered a Republican bill that ultimately devastated women's access to reproductive health care in the state. Besides closing state clinics, the new restrictions Davis opposed also ban abortions after 20 weeks, putting the life of the fetus and mother in danger if certain pregnancies are forced to go to term.
Williamson has a history of making inflammatory remarks about women's issues -- during the 2012 presidential election, he wrote that Mitt Romney was more "high-status" than President Obama because Romney has sons instead of daughters. And after former Rep. Gabby Giffords criticized Senate inaction on gun legislation, Williamson called her "childish."
Right-wing media figures jumped at reports that Sandra Fluke is running for political office in California with sexist attacks and falsehoods about her advocacy for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) birth control mandate.
Right-wing media figures revived the specter of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell to portray him as the face of legal abortion in a dishonest attack on Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis and pro-choice advocates.
In separate posts, Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer both invoked Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder in May, 2013 for illegal procedures performed at his Philadelphia clinic.
In an NRO post, Goldberg highlighted Davis' successful filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill in the Texas state legislature by describing the effort as "going on against the backdrop of the sensational Kermit Gosnell case in Pennsylvania" and recounted details of Gosnell's crimes. Krauthammer pushed similar tactics in his op-ed, suggesting Republicans pursue a "strategy for seizing the high ground on abortion" by invoking Gosnell, and claiming his strategy would "[c]hallenge the other side on substance. And watch them lose":
Last year's Kermit Gosnell trial was a seminal moment. The country was shown a baby butcher at work and national sentiment was nearly unanimous. Abortion-rights advocates ran away from Gosnell. But they can't hide from the issue.
This tactic of trying to tie legal abortion to Gosnell is a familiar strategy among anti-choice media figures, despite the fact that Gosnell's crimes bear no resemblance to legal abortions.
The attempt to tarnish safe, legal abortions by invoking the crimes of a single doctor distorts the conversation about abortion by hiding the fact that the majority of abortions in America are safe and conducted early in the pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute reported that 88% of pregnancies occurred in the first trimester. Pro-choice group RH Reality Check reviewed responses to a congressional inquiry by 38 state attorneys general and found that "abortion in the United States is highly regulated and overwhelmingly safe."
Restricting access to abortion risks pushing women towards unsafe procedures. The American Journal of Public Health found that women are more likely to seek unsafe and unlawful operation with access barriers to legal abortion:
Several studies indicate that the factors causing women to delay abortions until the second trimester include cost and access barriers, late detection of pregnancy, and difficulty deciding whether to continue the pregnancy. In part because of their increased vulnerability to these barriers, low-income women and women of color are more likely than are other women to have second-trimester abortions.
Image via mirsasha under a Creative Commons License
ABC's The View reportedly plans to mainstream conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch by featuring her as a guest co-host on the February 3 program.
The decision to give Loesch a national platform on a highly-rated television show is troubling considering Loesch has gained notoriety for her inflammatory rhetoric, expressing extreme views on topics from gun control to reproductive access.
Loesch made headlines in January 2012 for her reaction to an internet video that appeared to show members of the Marine Corps urinating on the corpses Taliban fighters. On her St. Louis-based radio show, Loesch defended the alleged act, saying that she would "drop trou and do it too" if she was in a similar situation. Loesch criticized "a bunch of progressives that are talking smack about our military because there were Marines caught urinating on corpses -- Taliban corpses," and later defended her comments on a Breitbart.com blog post by claiming she was "defending [the Marines] from overly-dramatic hysteria."
At the time, Loesch was an CNN contributor, and the network reportedly suspended her soon after these remarks.
Loesch was also one of the few right-wing media figures to excuse former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) for his "legitimate rape" remarks. After Akin declared that it is rare for women who had been the victim of "legitimate rape" to become pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," Loesch took to Twitter account and dismissed Akin's comments, claiming he "failed a soundbite" and attacking his critics for "hypocritical overreactions."
Right-wing media are misinforming about a recent Supreme Court injunction that allows the non-profit charity Little Sisters of the Poor to continue its objection to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraception mandate, as they appeal a lower court opinion that rejected their legal challenge.
In its January 24 order, the Court pointed out that the ruling "should not be construed as an expression of the Court's views on the merits." In other words, the nuns haven't won their lawsuit -- the Court has not issued an opinion regarding whether or not their First Amendment rights have been violated. Interestingly, although the order stipulated that the nuns would no longer have "to use the [original] form prescribed by the Government," in order to register their objection, they still must "inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that they ... have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services."
But this preservation of the status quo hasn't stopped right-wing media from framing the case as a big win for Little Sisters. In a January 27 segment on Fox's Special Report, host Bret Baier "chalk[ed] one up for David against Goliath." National Review Online at least acknowledged the meaning of the Court's order, but still crowed about the nuns' "big procedural victory." In a recent editorial, The Wall Street Journal went further, not only calling the case a "victory" for Little Sisters, but also a "rebuke to the Obama Administration's bullying conception of religious liberty":
[T]he permanent stay pending appeal, issued late Friday by the full Supreme Court with no recorded dissent, was rarer still -- and a rebuke to the Obama Administration's bullying conception of religious liberty.
The Little Sisters sued because they believe the form they must sign to supposedly exempt themselves from the mandate instructs others to provide contraceptives and abortifacients in their name, and thus violates their faith and the First Amendment. Nearly all of the lower courts that are adjudicating the 91 lawsuits challenging the rule gave religious organizations a reprieve, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals did not for the Little Sisters.
The Justice Department also argued that this order of Catholic nuns who run a Colorado nursing home and hospice should be forced to comply. You might call it a war on religiously devout women.
Fox News is attempting to revive the myth that the Affordable Care Act includes a secret fee to cover abortions to support the GOP's misleadingly titled "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."
On January 27, FoxNews.com highlighted an article from right-wing website Watchdog.org that was originally posted under the headline "Secret abortion fees hidden in Obamacare premiums." The post promoted the claims of "congressional leaders" who claimed "Insurance companies working under the Obamacare umbrella have secretly added a surcharge to cover the cost of abortions" and claimed the Republicans' proposed "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" would resolve the problem. The claim appeared again during the January 28 edition of Fox & Friends when co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck asked Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham if it was "true that there's a hidden fee to cover abortions under Obamacare":
The right-wing media's "hidden abortion fee" myth is rooted in the original Senate version of the health care law. In 2009, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner posted a blog claiming "Sen. Reid's Government-Run Health Plan Requires a Monthly Abortion Fee." Boehner's claim was picked up by right-wing media figures such as Rush Limbaugh, who read the press release verbatim on his show. The myth reappeared in 2012 when right-wing media figures claimed everyone under the ACA "will be forced to pay a dollar a month to cover abortion on your insurance policy."
The myth has always been built on a misrepresentation of how the ACA handles abortion coverage. In fact, despite the title of the GOP's bill, the provision that the right-wing media is hyping is an effort to prevent taxpayer funding for abortion. The ACA requires states to offer at least one health plan that does not cover abortions. Plans that do cover abortion, however, contain a surcharge that is assessed on consumers who opt in to that plan in order to prevent federal funds from being used, a violation of the Hyde amendment that prevents federal funding from paying for abortion except in case of rape, incest, or the woman's life being in danger. In a March 21, 2012, post, PolitiFact explained:
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren suggested that "Stand With Wendy" -- a campaign slogan affiliated with state senator Wendy Davis' (D-TX) gubernatorial campaign in Texas -- was "code" language being used to ridicule her disabled opponent, Greg Abbott (R-TX). Van Susteren all but ignored the origins of the slogan, which was popularized after Davis' now-famous filibuster in the Texas legislature weeks before her opponent entered the race.
On the January 27 edition of Fox News' On The Record, Van Susteren invited gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott to talk about the race against Davis. During the segment Van Susteren expressed concern that "websites associated with" the Davis campaign were employing language about standing with Wendy in order to mock Abbott, who has used a wheelchair since he was partially paralyzed by a falling tree many years ago.
"I think that's code, 'standing up,' said Van Susteren. "I actually think if I were running against someone who was in a wheel chair, the last -- I would be mortified if the word 'standing' appeared in any of my literature, if only on the off chance that I might hurt someone who's in a wheel chair or say something to people who are disabled. And I don't see that she's ever disavowed it." Van Susteren acknowledged Davis' filibuster, but said she finds it "too coincidental" and recommended Davis apologize for the slogan, "which may have another meaning."
From the January 25 edition of MSNBC's Disrupt with Karen Finney:
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From the January 25 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends Saturday:
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