Reproductive “choice” and abortion

So we have a new commenter by the name of A Woman of No Importance who contributed to the thread (still going!) about Asshole Patriarchs. I’ll let most of that stand where it is, but one piece is something that I think should be talked about, and that’s this:

One thing that bothers a lot of moderates on both sides of the issue, which I almost never hear addressed, is this: Why do we need a million abortions a year when birth control is cheap, readily available, easy to use, and mostly works? We should be living in a world in which there are no new AIDS transmissions since it is widely known how to have sex without transmitting the virus, and the same thing applies here. People know how to have sex without making a baby. It’s entirely predictable what may happen if you have sex without precautions. So, if you don’t want a child, maybe the time to decide that is before you decide to have unprotected sex.

Now, AWoNI is in favor of abortion on demand until “sometime in the second trimester” when personhood attaches to the fetus. This isn’t someone who is reflexively opposed to abortion, and AWoNI can of course clarify, but it appears from context that she places herself among the moderates.

That’s important because assuming all that is true, it says quite a bit that a moderate is repeating right-wing extremist assumptions that sex is an entirely predictable thing and people are irresponsibly “choosing not to choose” until after they become pregnant and that, to use AWoNI’s language:

birth control is cheap, readily available, easy to use, and mostly works

Except birth control is not necessarily cheap, it is not always readily available, and “mostly works” is not the same as “it works”.

Further, this is something that is addressed literally all the time. Local schools try to make condoms available to prevent AIDS transmission and pregnancy, then local anti-contraception, anti-sex extremists scream about how a cereal-bowl full of condoms on some school nurse’s desk is killing god and inviting the Chinese Communist Party to rule over the good white folk until the end of time.

Seriously, there’s a huge panic with lots of news stories every time a school tries to increase access to contraception or even simply to good information. And when those news stories are not happening, epidemiologists from the CDC and NIH are producing regular reports about access and information, all of which are available to anyone, including AWoNI. It’s truly bizarre to me when people say that “no one is X” when we have entire industries of people whose job is to study X and put out good, peer reviewed information about it.

Is AWoNI reading that stuff? Evidently not. Could AWoNI read it? Sure could. Accessed through libraries it’s “cheap, readily available, easy to use, and mostly works”. Laws and policies are written all the time using such information and research and professional opinion.

The problem is not that there is no good, non-hyperbolic information. It’s certainly not that no one is discussing these things. The problem is that one side is actively trying to suppress that information through abstinence only education which we know from those same researchers results in more disease and more pregnancy.

And thus the irony: AWoNI is pleading for reasonable discussion, while repeating the assumptions of the people who have, as a significant goal, the squashing of reasonable discussion. Worse, the conclusion that AWoNI comes to is that

if you don’t want a child, maybe the time to decide that is before you decide to have unprotected sex.

And, again, that’s the extremist position of one side: you don’t need the “choice” of whether or not to remain pregnant, because you already had the “choice” of whether or not to become pregnant.

This dovetails with something Alito (or his ghostwriters) said in their draft Dobbs opinion: which is that there’s no such thing as involuntary pregnancy, since anyone who doesn’t wish to be a parent can simply give the child up for adoption.

There can be other posts about ways in which we don’t necessarily have the choices asserted because of x or y. Also too, VASECTOMY, MOTHERFUCKERS. But mostly what i want to say here is that it’s disingenuous to claim that we have so many other choices we don’t need this one, when the person making that claim is simultaneously working to also remove those other choices.

AWoNI has entirely typical views on abortion for a woman in the US — there should be some period where it is an option, then another period where it isn’t, and we should just have a good, productive discussion about when the dividing lines between those periods should be and get this abortion thing solved. It would be silly to blame her or look down on her or think less of her for being an entirely typical woman.

But just because AWoNI is entirely typical doesn’t mean that we can’t notice how the disingenuous communication and even outright lies of extremists end up determining the expectations of the reasonable middle. “Teach the controversy” is another example more familiar to the readers of Pharyngula, but “Sex is predictable, we already have choices at other stages of reproduction, therefore abortion isn’t necessary” is a particularly pernicious one.

 

Originalism, Dobbs v. JWH, and Oblivious, Asshole Patriarchs

So, in keeping with a line of cases most recently exemplified by Washington v. Glucksberg (a right-to-die case), Alito demanded of the respondents (Jackson Women’s Health) that they establish not merely that bans on abortion were an imposition on liberty, but that there existed constitutional and statutory resistance to such bans at the time of the drafting of the US Constitution, or, failing that, at the time of the passage of the 14th Amendment upon which pregnant persons rely to defend against state and local limitations on the right to choose for oneself whether to carry a pregnancy to term or to seek an abortion.

Alito found that there was no constitutional or statutory resistance to abortion bans established by 1789 or even by 1868. And he has some examples to back that up. Let’s not fool ourselves that there’s no such thing as a coherent argument against a federal constitutional right to abortion in the USA. I think it’s a bad argument, but it’s at least coherent. Alito isn’t Marjorie Taylor Greene or Paul Gosar or Rand Paul.

But the historically-based reasoning of Glucksberg as employed in Alito’s decision leaves out crucial context, and that is that while abortion rights were not protected before the civil war, and while the law journals of prominent law schools didn’t have published articles asserting or even requesting a defense of abortion rights until after World War II, the people tasked with protecting rights – the appellate judges and ultimately the supreme court justices of the United States – included 0 women until 1934, when one woman was appointed to 1 circuit court of appeal. It wasn’t until after World War II that there was a single federal trial judge in the district courts.

To put it bluntly: the right to abortion has been protected for longer than women have been permitted to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States. To this day we have never had a woman Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

The reasoning of Roe has frequently been criticized as muddy, but when I read Roe, one thing that I believe those 8 men were trying to examine is, “Would abortion rights have been considered fundamental if women were considered people, considered valid authorities able to determine as well as men what was necessary for the ‘ordered liberty’ the court categorizes as essential to the democratic functioning of the United States?”

Alito would have us skip that question. Alito ignores that women were not considered persons, capable of contract and of holding property. Women were not considered capable of democratic self-determination throughout the period Alito examines. To expect the record of a country’s history during which women were not allowed the right to choose anything for themselves to reflect deep respect for a woman’s right to choose pregnancy or abortion is the grossest perversion of honest investigation.

Alito attempts (in at least one place that I remember from my first reading of this draft Dobbs decision) to distinguish the question of abortion as a question of so-called “substantive due process” and thus as a question of whether or not abortion is “intrinsic to ordered liberty”, meaning that it was a liberty with a “deeply rooted” history of legal protection within the early history of the United States and its forerunner colonies. He goes as far as to say that being pregnant is not a “sex based classification” for the purposes of the court. The import here is that he is trying – most desperately – to avoid any equal protection argument.

But the truth is that the very concept of “ordered liberty” fraught with equal protection problems for an originalist such as Alito. How can one say that the worship practices of Santeria are protected under such an analysis. For if you examine the record of protections (or lack thereof) for traditional African spiritual practices, you will find that Santeria is no more a religious classification than being pregnant is a sex-based one. Why, then, should a First Amendment analysis apply? And why should Santeria practitioners expect their practices to be protected equally with those of Catholicism’s practitioners? The history tells us that Santeria was not a “religion” in the meaning of the framers, and further that protection of Santeria cannot now be granted on the basis of the 14th amendment since there is no history of protecting its practices before the US civil war. One might attempt an equal protection argument, but Alito’s reasoning is clear: equal protection only applies when discussing two classifications within the same larger category. With Santeria determined not to be a religion to the minds of the elite landed men during the early history of White North America, there is no religion to which Santeria can be fairly compared.

In short: equal protection and “ordered liberty” cannot be fully divorced, and the plain language of the 14th Amendment prohibits much that was quite normal (and normalized) at the time. Different levels of analysis (rational basis tests, strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, and even “rational basis with teeth”) seem to arise in US Jurisprudence more to excuse the court from the responsibility of applying the obvious meaning of this most modern-relevant Reconstruction amendment than they do in order to justify applying the power of the courts.

Glucksberg and its predecessors were never cases with which I was happy, but Alito’s decision in Dobbs makes clear exactly where they lead: to an artificial parsing of liberty, of due process, of privileges and immunities, as separate from the context of equal protection -a guarantee contained within the very same sentence. Dobbs is an immediate threat only to rights supported by precedent drawing upon the Due Process clause, but the longer term threat comes from this notion that due process can be fully explored, explained, and protected without reference to the entirely separate concept of equal protection. And in this Originalist separation we find that liberty is exactly what the drafters of the constitution thought it was: a privilege of white men.

I leave the final thoughts to the incomparable Pamela Means:

Yes, I know, I’m reading the opinion right now. Let’s stay calm unt—GOD FUCK ALITO GODDAMMIT

Here is one excerpt I’ve already taken. We’ll discuss a bunch of quotes and my general analysis soon.

 

He thinks Roe was “highly restrictive” in what it imposed.

 

Um, Alito? Roe was the OPPOSITE of imposing a highly restrictive regime. OP POH ZIT. Look it up.

 

 

Anti-Trans Activism is Anti-Feminst and Anti-Woman

So let’s start with saying straight up that I know nothing about Ireland. Never lived there, never visited there, and I’m pretty much less confident in my knowledge of what constitutes Irish experience than I am that Ireland’s plants are purple. But what happened in Ireland during the RepealThe8th movement to overturn Ireland’s lethal ban on abortion is important for everyone to know. So I’m gonna reprint the shit outta the words of someone who does know something about all this, The Slothmare Before Christmas, AKA @CaseyExplosion on Twitter.

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Rewatching Juno: Page’s Story Is One of the Most Important of 2020

As soon as I can find time today or tomorrow, I’ll be rewatching Juno & posting some more thoughts on the Elliot Page news from yesterday. But why am I rewatching Juno at all? Well the answer bears on another question raised in the comments to yesterday’s post by sonofrojblake:

He was in Inception and X-men. It baffles me a bit why this story leaves those off the headline almost everywhere I’ve seen it.

The Umbrella Academy reference is understandable as it is Page’s most recent (and still Netflix-current) work. But why Juno, instead of a much more well known film (or at least one higher-grossing)?

The answer, I believe, can be found in the fact that is that it is the best and best-known pro-choice film for at least a generation. Over the last decade trans persons’ struggle against invisibility and for access to services has gained the attention of abortion providers and others responsible for family planning & reproductive health services as well as organizations that advocate for reproductive rights. This attention is not insignificant. In 2018 during the campaign to repeal Ireland’s constitutional Amendment 8 which banned nearly all abortion in the country, one excuse for some feminists to oppose the movement fighting for the repeal of A8  was that the movement was too supportive of trans persons and the ballot language was written in a way that included trans persons. Fascist fuckfaces argued with apparent seriousness that granting equal abortion rights to trans persons with vaginas and uteruses who might get pregnant would be to permit the proverbial and unacceptable camel’s toe into the tent.

Despite well-publicized pregnancies of a few trans men, and the obvious biological fact that merely coming out as non-binary or trans masculine does not give a body the means to automatically shut that whole thing down, there are people who struggle with the idea that we might want reproductive rights for everyone, even when inconvenient for pithy rhetoric. These people aren’t necessary bad people because they haven’t necessarily consciously thought through what it means to privilege rhetoric over human lives, nor have they necessarily thought about trans people enough to even realize that this is what they’re doing. But when the lead actor in such a tremendously important movie exploring the complicated nature of, the interpersonal and social limitations on, and vital importance of reproductive self-determination comes out as something other than a woman it becomes impossible for honest persons to see Juno as applicable only to women.

Juno will not lose its resonance for cis women. Juno will not become unimportant to cis feminists or cis reproductive rights advocates. It can be and is still a powerful movie addressing issues with which many (if not most) cis women who have sex (or experience sexual assaults) involving sperm will struggle. A cis women doesn’t even need to become pregnant to experience these issues. She need only believe that she is pregnant or has a high chance of being pregnant. A late period, a false test, a test that appears false because of a spontaneous abortion which will never be known, any of those things can be enough.

But without changing anything in the movie itself, trans and non-binary persons capable of getting pregnant (or who believe they are capable of getting pregnant – infertility isn’t announced at birth) can now point to the movie Juno and say, “These are our issues too,” with new credibility. With a credibility, frankly, that can’t be denied by any honest person.

I’m happy for Page, really I am. But I didn’t write about Page’s coming out because this is some random celebrity who happens to share some experiences in common with me.

I wrote about, and will continue to write about, Elliot Page’s experience of trans life because the importance of a specific piece of Page’s work to feminism is now presenting a moment of choice to every feminist who has found Juno valuable in the past. Umbrella Academy can help identify who Page is to those who aren’t automatically familiar, but this isn’t a moment about an actor, and that’s why Inception and X-Men: Last Stand are irrelevant to the story.

This is a moment when feminists have the opportunity to become transfeminists, when feminists can decide again whether they seek reproductive privileges for some or reproductive rights for all.

It presents a moment when feminists may ask each other, “If we fight for abortion access only for those whose gender is acceptable, what, in the end, do we stand to win?”

That question is truly dangerous for those who believe that feminism is compatible with demanding conformance to a broader stereotype, or one’s choice of a few new stereotypes. Elliot Page’s announcement has the power to force a fundamental moment of dawning awareness, a moment in which one can hear one’s own brain sound a feminist :click:, a moment in which those of us feminists who reluctantly support (or fight against) trans inclusion finally understand that to do so means that they have, all unknowing, continued to believe that some stereotypes are acceptable, and that all rights are ultimately conditional on good gender.

What will we, as feminists, choose next when we hear that click?

That feminists now face such decisions is the real news, the important news, in Page’s Instagram announcement. And after 25 years of fighting for feminism-informed trans-advocacy and trans advocacy-informed feminism, I can’t tell you how exciting this moment has become.

Let’s see some change.

 

Jerkfaces uncovered our feminist plan. Meet at the usual place to discuss secret next steps.

It seems that the communications security protocol flaws and lack of physical override/bypass or escape mechanisms we build into male chastity devices have been discovered. Look at how much the men now know:

The Cellmate, [an internet-connected male chastity device] produced by Chinese firm Qiui, is a cover that clamps on the base of the male genitals with a hardened steel ring, and does not have a physical key or manual override.

A security flaw in [the device] could allow hackers to remotely lock it — leaving users trapped, researchers have warned. … “An angle grinder or other suitable heavy tool would be required to cut the wearer free,” [British security firm Pen Test Partners said Tuesday].

The MRAs do not yet know it was engineered this way by scientists at NOW Labs. We must keep that information contained at all costs. In the meantime, get as many men fitted for Cellmates as soon as possible before masculine distrust sets in. Further updates on the secret channel.

 

 

Will You Fucking Stop With This Silver Lining Shit?

So many people are suddenly writing pieces about how overturning Planned Parenthood v Casey (which is, in fact, the controlling precedent on abortion now), queer marriage, and anti-discrimination laws are a losing strategy for the GOP to put a shiny, happy face on the transformation of SCOTUS.

NO. If you’re tempted to go with this reaction, stop it right the fuck now. We do not sit back and let the Republicans enact hostility and hatred. It’s not even that there’s no truth in the position. Yes, inevitably conservative families will see relatives die. Yes, the 80% of people that support the right to have an abortion in at least some cases do constitute a large majority. Yes, if the 33% who believe that abortion should be legal in most cases and the 24% who believe that it should be legal in at least some cases could truly hurt the GOP if they voted to repudiate the fuckers.

But the implied argument is this: Ireland voted in abortion restrictions with Amendment 8 in 1983, sure, but after 35 years, innumerable hardships, and an uncounted number of deaths Ireland got the sympathetic victim of its anti-abortion policies that allowed them to overturn the provisions in 2018. These things don’t last, they’re saying. We’ll have our Savita Halappanavar, they’re saying. That makes everything okay, they’re saying.

Jesus Fried Chicken, NO!

The fact that we will inevitably have our Savita Halappanavars is exactly what makes this NOT OKAY.

Yes, the GOP has been sowing the seeds of its own destruction for decades now.

Yes, the GOP enjoyed the freedom to vote for abortion restrictions that would never be enforceable, and thus used abortion bills to rally its base while the democratic base remained unenthused because democrats never bothered to stand up and fight, relying on the courts to do their work instead.

Yes, that means that individual GOP members of state legislatures are going to have to make more consequential decisions than they have in the past, they’re going to have to face a higher likelihood of accountability than they have in the past.

THAT DOESN’T MAKE THE LIVES OF WOMEN THE GOP WILL END INTO ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES.

IT DOESN’T MAKE THE LIVES OF TRANS FOLK WHOM THE GOP MIGHT KILL INTO ACCEPTABLE SACRIFICES.*1

NONE OF THIS IS OKAY.

THERE IS NO SILVER LINING.

 


*1: I’m well aware that people of other genders may very well die too, but given the total numbers of deaths expected, I don’t feel as comfortable saying that people of other genders are guaranteed to die, whereas demographically the deaths of women are guaranteed.

Trump is Killing to Save Morality

You could just go read Wonkette who covers this well, but if you like, you can get a taste here:

Abortion is already illegal in Kenya, but Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), the organization that had previously been providing low-cost contraception to these women, is supported by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which has refused to comply with Trump’s demands and stands to lose $100 million in funding as a result. Shockingly, no anti-choice organizations have stepped up to help provide that funding or those services.

Long story short, because these women are now unable to access contraception, they are getting pregnant with babies they cannot afford to have and are turning to illegal and dangerous abortion methods instead.

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Ireland’s Success and Catholicism’s Failure

Amendment 8 of the Irish constitution reads:

The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

The people of Ireland voted on its repeal yesterday. Ireland’s The Journal reports:

The Yes result was almost unanimous across the country: 39 of Ireland’s 40 constituencies voted Yes, with only Donegal voting No by a margin of 51.87% to 48.13%.

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