Links in this episode:
On this episode of Reality Cast, Michelle Bruns will be on to talk about her website chronicling the misrepresentation of abortion in much of the media. Also, the right is sharpening its arguments against funding contraception and STD treatment, and I’ll examine two different angles they’re taking.
I usually think Lawrence O’Donnell is a blowhard, but I was moved by his reading an email from a friend who is unemployed and relies on Planned Parenthood.
- Lawrence o’donnell *
He started to cry for real towards the end, when reflecting on how helpless one can feel in the face of an attack as cold-hearted as this one on Planned Parenthood is.
Most of the time, reproductive justice is treated like a second tier issue on the left. And then something like what just happened happens, which is that the conservative movement nearly shuts down the federal government over condoms and Pap smears. Of course, the word “abortion” was bandied around a lot by those excusing this behavior, both on the right and from centrists who cannot accept that the anti-choice movement is anti-contraception, because doing so would be to admit that we’ve let wild-eyed reactionaries have huge amounts of power in this country. But the money being fought over in the budget negotiations was funding to Planned Parenthood and the UNFPA for contraception, STD testing, cancer screening, and childbirth care. The right has taken to simply opposing subsidies for reproductive health care for sexually active women, full stop.
What was interesting was that right wingers pulled out all stops in order to try to cut off funding for non-abortion reproductive health care services. The big gambit was to claim that birth control, cancer screening, STD testing, etc. are in fact abortion. I called this this straight up lying gambit, and it was really popular. Senator Jon Kyle told this whopper on the floor of the Senate.
- lies 1 *
Actually, only 3 to 4 percent of the services that Planned Parenthood provides in any given year are abortion. Interestingly, they are the only reason I personally had my blood pressure or iron levels checked for years, since they were the only doctor I went to in that time and these services are part of the general exam. After lying about Planned Parenthood’s services, Kyle then lied about his lie.
- lies 2 *
Even by suggesting the number was more symbolic, Kyle is basically saying any reproductive health care for sexually active women is abortion. Notice what kinds of health care he thought were acceptable: blood pressure, things like that. He’s basically trying to stigmatize any kind of reproductive health care. This is the anti-choice movement making their big move to make sure that people who have sex are punished with more than forced childbirth, but also untreated STDs and cervical cancer. Right wingers have basically taken to using the word “abortion” to mean any kind of medical care that allows sexually active people to avoid unwanted pregnancy, or getting sick or dying from sexually related conditions. “Abortion” just means naughty sex stuff. Which is how I think Kyle did mean it, and what his so-called retraction was aiming at.
Mike Huckabee has taken to claiming that curing the clap and preventing HIV transmission are the same thing as abortion, as well.
- lies 3 *
Of course, Johnson is the head of some big anti-choice org and has a vested interest in spreading this lie. It’s also possible that Johnson, like Jon Kyle and I suspect like Mike Huckabee, has taken to calling condoms and cancer screenings “abortion”. From their point of view, this actually all makes perfect sense, honestly. The main reason conservatives have objected to abortion since the beginning of time is that they believe it allows sexually active women to escape god’s wrath. The same can be said to be true of avoiding STDs, death from cervical cancer, or getting pregnant in the first place. The word “abortion” causes people to flinch, and they like that, so why not just use it to mean any kind of sexual health care they disapprove of? It’s aborting god’s plan for the sinners, and that’s good enough.
The good news is that while this conflation of abortion and all other forms of sexual health care is confusing, we always have Rush Limbaugh on hand to clarify. I not only appreciate that he’s blunt, but he also takes callers, so you know what the wingnuts on the ground are saying.
- lies 4 *
And that’s what’s really going on here. Don’t be fooled by the frequent use of the word “abortion”. This is about believing that women who have sex are bad women and deserve what they get. By the way, do we really think the woman that called Rush takes her own advice? I’m skeptical that she’s decided to be a virgin her whole life, and wish she had talked about that instead of just laughing at others for thinking they have a right to have sex.
In the first segment of this show, I detailed how opponents of subsidized sexual health services have been trying to characterize STD testing, contraception, and cancer screening as “abortion” in order to stigmatize this care and cut off funding for it. Now for the second part, which is denying that there is a need for inexpensive health care that addresses sexual health concerns. This ongoing fight over Planned Parenthood that nearly led to a budget shutdown involved many conservative media outlets scoffing at the idea that anyone could possibly need an inexpensive STD test or birth control prescription. And, as demonstrated in the first hour, part of all this is suggesting that women who use birth control are sluts. Glenn Beck played a clip of Lawrence O’Donnell defending Planned Parenthood and went this route in his response.
- health 1 *
As Jodi Jacobson noted at RH Reality Check, this means that everyone from young Republicans to housewives to 12-year-olds getting HPV vaccines are therefore “hookers”. Jokes aside, this kind of thing serves only one purpose, to stigmatize the people who use Planned Parenthood, so then they can argue that people who use this care don’t deserve it anyway. Or to characterize Planned Parenthood’s patients as “no one” and say that no one actually uses their services.
The notion that “no one”---at least no one that they think matters---uses Planned Parenthood took off in the right wing media. Bill O’Reilly said it.
- health 2 *
Planned Parenthood kept me from getting pregnant for five years and cured two of my UTIs. I’ve heard from women whose very lives they own to Planned Parenthood, for discovering their cervical cancer. Are we “no one”? I guess in Bill O’Reilly’s mind we are. Or maybe he thinks health care is only health care if men can use it. Of course, men do use some of Planned Parenthood’s services.
Fox and Friends went into a bizarre place claiming that there’s no need for Planned Parenthood.
- health 3 *
Walgreen’s put out a statement denying that they offer Pap smears. I will add that while Walgreen’s can fill out birth control prescriptions, they cannot write them, and that’s going to be a sticking point for someone trying to get all her gynecological care at Walgreen’s. This claim that you can get all your lady health care needs met at Walgreen’s was so ridiculous that Stephen Colbert couldn’t even keep character while making fun of it.
- health 4 *
No one deals with stupid and mendacious like Stephen Colbert, so if you’re telling such stupid lies that he loses it, then well, give yourself an award for your courage in exploring the outer reaches of wingnuttery.
And now for the Wisdom of Wingnuts, oh please with the lifestyle nonsense edition. Bob Vander Plaats is the leader of a group called Iowa Family Leader, and basically they just go around the state fighting marriage equality. He justified this to Think Progress by comparing homosexuality to smoking.
- vander plaats *
Oh god, someone tell Vander Plaats that smokers are allowed to get married. I’m sure he’ll expand his activism to attack their rights immediately! I remain unclear on the argument for why you would discourage people from entering monogamous marriages if you’re supposedly so concerned about them sleeping around and picking up what I’m sure Vander Plaats still euphemistically calls “social diseases”.