The Kennedy Retirement and the Radicalizing of the Supreme Court

Protesters swarmed Washington, DC, to voice their opposition to Brett Kavanaugh.

When Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, alarms went up about overturning Roe v. Wade, which would make abortion once again illegal in many states. As shown in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, in which Kennedy provided the decisive fifth vote overturning Texas’ draconian laws limiting abortion access, one justice can preserve the right to abortion. But Kennedy also voted with the majority in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, when the Supreme Court upheld a state’s right to impose extra requirements — mandatory counseling, waiting periods, etc. — on those seeking abortions. So, while he was willing to curtail access, he never was willing to overturn Roe v. Wade altogether.


In Brett Kavanaugh’s twisted worldview, paperwork is the true burden, while an unwanted pregnancy is not.


But Kennedy was the last independent conservative on the Supreme Court. Anyone Trump nominated was going to be on the far right because he was using the Federalist Society’s list compiled by Leonard Leo. Not quite a kingmaker, but definitely a justice-maker, Leo is also responsible for Justices Roberts, Alito, and Gorsuch.

But some on the right have some doubts about Kavanaugh. In response, the National Review emphasizes Kavanaugh’s judicial defense of “religious freedom.” (Nothing shows the real danger Kavanaugh poses like pundits on the far right reassuring other conservatives.) They lauded Kavanaugh’s ruling in favor of the Trump administration in the case of Jane Doe, the teenage immigrant the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) tried to stop from having an abortion, as “the latest in a long, unbroken line of consistent decisions on issues of religion and abortion.” Continue reading

Credibility Is the First Casualty: Behind the Pro-Gun Blame-Dodging That Targets Planned Parenthood

In the wake of February’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the debate over gun control reached a fever pitch in the news and on the ground. As CNN reported, in the seven days after the shooting, there were more than a thousand mentions of “gun control” by ABC, CBS, and other major broadcasters. Survivors, student activists, and gun control advocates kept the story front and center by mobilizing across the nation, organizing school walkouts and March For Our Lives events to demand smarter gun control laws and safer classrooms and communities.


To men invested in an old order of male dominance, gun culture and reproductive justice are in direct conflict with each other.


Planned Parenthood was among the many voices calling for an end to gun violence. Just two days after the shooting, Planned Parenthood Action posted a call for reform on their blog, noting that 96 lives are lost to gun violence daily. The post made its position clear: “As a health care provider, Planned Parenthood is committed to the fundamental right of all people to live safe and healthy lives without the fear of violence.”

Numerous Planned Parenthood affiliates were doing the same. On the local front, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona was signal-boosting relevant articles on its Facebook page, including a profile of Emma González, who quickly became one of the most outspoken and recognized survivor activists in Parkland.

For pro-gun conservatives, on the other hand, the Parkland shooting was a call to go on the defensive and double down on their messaging. For a long while, a common tactic has been to deflect criticism by blaming access to abortion for “a culture of death,” as Rep. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) put it, or by peddling the notion that Planned Parenthood takes more lives than gun violence. In March, Matt Walsh dredged up that argument on the conservative website The Daily Wire. He dripped with sarcasm, stating he was “impressed [Planned Parenthood] could find time” to join the debate on gun control, “considering they’re also wrapped up in their war against babies and life itself.” To Walsh, Planned Parenthood is not in the business of promoting safe and healthy lives, because he looks past the lives of women. Continue reading

Eroding the Birth Control Mandate

The Trump administration made its boldest move against contraception access on Friday, when it reversed Obama-era policies requiring most employers to include birth control in employee insurance plans. Nonprofit companies, private firms, and publicly traded companies can opt out of providing birth control through employee insurance plans by claiming a “sincerely held religious or moral objection.” This change was made, effective immediately, with no period for public comment.


If you have insurance that still covers contraception, now might be the time to look into IUDs or implants, which can last for at least three years.


Previously, only a small group of religious employers was exempt from the requirement to include birth control in employee insurance plans; the new rule expands the types of businesses that can claim religious exemptions. Furthermore, these employers need not cite any particular religious beliefs, but can simply claim to have moral objections to birth control in order to opt out of including contraception in employee insurance plans.

The ruling drew condemnation from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, contraception is considered a “preventive” service and, therefore, legally must be made available with no out-of-pocket costs to patients. Zero-copay birth control, as this is called, has saved users and their families billions of dollars in the years it has been in effect. Continue reading

After Charlottesville: The Role of Gender-Based Hatred in White Nationalism

Memorial at the site of Heather Heyer’s death. Photo courtesy of Tristan Williams Photography, Charlottesville.

Like many people, I spent the weekend of August 12 and 13 glued to the news coming out of Charlottesville, Virginia, where white nationalists had descended with torches and swastikas for a Unite the Right rally, prompted by the community’s moves to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. At home I watched photos and articles fill my Facebook feed. At the recreation center where I work out, I watched network news on the wall-mounted TV.


The synergy between race- and gender-based hatred has deep roots in the United States.


Hostility toward racial diversity was the driving force behind the rally — and it showed in the racial makeup of the crowds of people chanting Nazi slogans like “Sieg heil” and “blood and soil” — but I also noticed a serious lack of gender diversity as photos and videos circulated. Women were few and far between. However much I kept seeing it, though, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I grew up half Asian in a very white community, so seeing the dynamics of race has always come easily to me — and they were taking obvious form in Charlottesville. Having grown up cis-male, though, I don’t always catch the dynamics of gender on the first pass.

Then Monday came, and I was reminded, once again, of how gender played out at the Unite the Right rally. I read news that a white nationalist website, the Daily Stormer, was losing its domain host due to comments it published about the violence in Charlottesville. Continue reading

The American Health Care Act, Act 2

It’s time to raise your voice.

When the House of Representatives failed to pass the American Health Care Act in March, we thought they would move on to other things. They had already faced the wrath of their constituents in town halls across the country, defending themselves against charges that they were taking people’s health care away.

But a promise is a promise, and the Republicans had promised their voters they would get rid of Obamacare. So they began to negotiate — only instead of negotiating with the moderates in their party and perhaps some Democrats, they chose to work with the tea party faction, who now call themselves, without irony, the Freedom Caucus — which had disparaged the original AHCA as “Obamacare-lite.” If the angry constituents packing town halls to capacity thought the first iteration of the AHCA was too extreme, what on earth made House Republicans think a Freedom Caucus makeover would produce a bill that would inspire less animosity than the first?


We must insist that our representatives remember that health care is a matter of life and death.


So Tom MacArthur, a supposedly moderate Republican who makes Ronald Reagan look liberal, and Mark Meadows, the Freedom Caucus leader who makes Reagan look like a full-blown socialist, hammered out a deal. The tea party objection to the AHCA was that it didn’t get rid of the ACA’s regulations on insurance companies — such as barring insurers from charging more money to women, older patients, or patients with preexisting conditions, or requiring them to cover essential services like preventive health care without cost to patients, emergency services, prescription drugs, and prenatal care. MacArthur and Meadows’ supposed compromise allows states to apply for waivers to opt out of these essential services, or to allow higher rates for those with preexisting conditions if they set up “high-risk pools.” MacArthur’s constituents were not pleased. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Some happy news to share right off the bat — Epic TV Goddess Shonda Rhimes has joined the board of Planned Parenthood! (ABC News)

  • Dr. Willie Parker, a prominent physician and abortion provider, visited The Daily Show to talk about the barriers faced by women seeking abortion and the religious beliefs that inform his pro-choice values. What an astonishingly brave and compassionate man. (Comedy Central)
  • The Democrats’ filibuster was successful, so Republicans went ahead with the “nuclear” option for Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court. We know how they roll, so it’s not a surprise. “Better to change the rules altogether than play the game fairly!” –Republicans (MSNBC)
  • Can you imagine being CONVICTED of molestation for changing a baby’s diaper? Arizona was very close to enacting this, but luckily the law was struck down. (Slate)
  • This is scary: Anti-abortion groups in various states have been  tracking women’s visits to Planned Parenthood and other health clinics via cellphone data (a practice known as “geofencing”), and then sending “pro-life” digital ads to their smartphones! Massachusetts is not having it, but what about the rest of us? (Boston Globe)
  • Ivanka Trump, who purports to be all about the “economic empowerment” of women, held a meeting with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in the weeks following the inauguration and has since done NOT A DAMN THING to advance THE most crucial aspect of women’s livelihoods — reproductive rights. (Politico)
  • The global gag rule, recently put back into effect by President Trump (wonder where Ivanka was???), will only “increase the likelihood of perilous, sometimes fatal [abortion] procedures.” Thanks in advance for contributing to the deaths of scores of women around the world, 45. (Lenny Letter)
  • Republicans have a remarkable knack for taking something that sucks and literally making it suck even worse. Kudos and cheers to Trumpcare 2.0 failing just as badly as the first version. (Think Progress)
  • The spike in oral cancer cases is spurring more and more doctors to order parents to vaccinate their young children against HPV. This goes for girls AND boys! (Chicago Tribune)
  • Speaking of HPV, a quarter of American men have cancer-causing strains of the virus! (Jezebel)
  • One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing non-scientific hysteria surrounding birth control. “Oh, I tried the Pill but it made me CRAZY!” Or, “I gained x number of pounds taking birth control!” Or, “I took the Pill but it made me super-depressed!” Well, science has spoken: Birth control has not been proven to cause depression. Also, please keep in mind, there are dozens upon dozens of different types of birth control pills. They don’t all have the same side effects! (NY Times)
  • Here’s How John McCain and Jeff Flake’s Votes Could End Up Screwing Over 30,000 Arizona Women (Phoenix New Times)
  • “The Donald” has halted all U.S. grants to the United Nations Population Fund, an international humanitarian aid organization that provides reproductive health care and works to end child marriage and female genital cutting in more than 150 countries. (HuffPo)

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • Our smarmy Vice President Mike Pence was all too eager to cast the tie-breaking Senate vote to advance legislation allowing states the right to block Title X funds from going to Planned Parenthood. In case you missed my January analysis of his anti-life legislative record, this guy is the absolute worst. He’s PLINO — “pro-life in name ONLY” — as he backs policies that do nothing to help the well-being of children or families. This move will only hurt the scores of low-income women who depend on us for care. (Politico)
  • The horrendous “born alive” bill I covered in the last rundown was passed by our wretched legislators. It now heads to Gov. Ducey’s desk. (AZ Central)
  • Planned Parenthood has a real asset in our president, Cecile Richards. She’s calling out Ivanka Trump bigly in a recent interview. By the way — Ms. Richards will be at our annual luncheon in Phoenix on April 13! (Buzzfeed)
  • North Carolina’s preposterously cruel “bathroom bill” continues to make news. The law stands to cost the state a cool $3.76 billion in revenue. And, according to this article, “that number will increase by hundreds of millions of dollars if the NCAA follows through on the threat it made last week to block the state from hosting any events through 2022. The NCAA is making those placement decisions this week.” Lawmakers there have apparently reached a deal to repeal it, but the LGBTQ community has valid concerns about the initiative doubling down on discrimination and not protecting people from discrimination until 2020. (HuffPo)
  • Trumpcare may have gone down in a blaze of not-glory last week, but here are seven ways the Trump Administration could make the Affordable Care Act “explode.” Ugh. (NBC News)
  • But hey, maybe there’s a possibility we could achieve the dream of a single-payer/universal health care system soon? (NYT)
  • Just a reminder: SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch has an ABYSMAL record on women’s issues. (NBC News)
  • No Baby Should Be Born With HIV. What Will It Take to Save Them All? (Time)
  • The question I constantly ask myself: Why has it become so hard to get an abortion??? (The New Yorker)
  • In 105 counties, Planned Parenthood is the only full-service birth control clinic! (Vox)
  • Women’s Health has a great post on how to communicate your STD status to a potential partner. (Women’s Health)
  • Lifehacker has a very informative post on individual state laws that is a MUST for bookmarking to keep up with the kajillion harebrained schemes being plotted by lawmakers nationwide. (Lifehacker)
  • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is sooooo pro-life he hasn’t bothered to adopt or foster ANY children in need, has signed new legislation that forces doctors to “investigate” the backgrounds of their patients seeking abortions. If doctors fail at this oppressive task, they could face prison. (Bustle)
  • Surprise, surprise — states with the most Planned Parenthood clinics have lower rates of teen births and STDs. (Glamour)
  • The two yahoos who tried to destroy Planned Parenthood with unlawfully recorded, heavily edited recordings are facing 15 felony charges. Hope they follow the yellow brick road right to prison! (Rewire)
  • Get a load of this bulls****: The state of Iowa was considering a bill that would allow the parents of INDEPENDENT, SINGLE, ADULT WOMEN to make medical decisions for them with regard to abortion. (Raw Story)
  • Forced-birth advocate, opponent of the ACA’s zero-copay birth control requirement, and first-class dummy John Fleming has been tapped as deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Fleming, who is also sooooo pro-life he hasn’t bothered to adopt or foster ANY children in need (according to my research), was duped by an Onion satire article that reported Planned Parenthood was opening an $8 billion “abortion-plex” complete with a theater and water slide. (Jezebel)
  • Another awful appointment to the Department of Health and Human Services? Roger Severino — an anti-LGBTQ activist who’s spoken out against protections for LGBTQ individuals. He’ll now be comfy and cozy in the department’s Office of Civil Rights. #FacePalm (LGBTQ Nation)
  • If you’ve taken comfort in the fact that you have private health insurance and may not be affected by some of the nonsense going on with the ACA, please take discomfort in the fact that the GOP wants to restrict private insurance from covering abortion too. (Guttmacher)
  • I really appreciated this post via Cosmo that expounds upon why there is no economic justice for women without abortion rights. We can never really be whole, autonomous, independent, upwardly mobile persons without the right to control our own bodies, and it is NOT a coincidence that women and children are more likely to suffer from poverty than men. Our fates are inextricably linked to our reproductive choices, and the lack thereof. (Cosmopolitan)
  • I’ll leave you with a laugh, Dear Readers. A recent survey showed that 52 percent of men don’t believe women’s affordable access to birth control has EVER affected their lives. HAHAHA! Ninety-nine percent of women have used birth control, correct? So, what planet are these imbeciles living on??? Aren’t most of these respondents heterosexual, non-virgin men??? Ladies, try to resist the urge to call up all your male exes to demand a THANK YOU ON BEHALF OF YOUR BIRTH CONTROL for not making them fathers. Or, on second thought … maybe we should have a nationwide phone bank to do just that! The turnout would be bigger than the Women’s March. #DialMeIn (HuffPo)