This week in the War on Women: Let’s send some women to end this damn war (U.S.)

Posted on July 29, 2012


Source: Democratic Underground

In those long-ago days of early 2011, the “War on Women” was not a commonly used phrase. Outside of feminist circles, it was largely dismissed as hyperbole. It’s not a war on women, critics argued. At most, it’s a war on the “right to choose.”

Things sure have changed since then, haven’t they?

We’ve seen just how far the Republican Party is willing to go to wage its war. It’s not just about restricting abortion rights. It’s about defunding women’s basic health care; opposing birth control; redefining rape; opposing protection for victims of domestic violence; opposing equal pay for women; slashing food stamps and welfare and Medicaid and other basic services on which women rely to care for themselves and their children. The War on Women is no longer merely a feminist catch-phrase; it is front and center in our national discourse, especially in this election. The Republican Party has mobilized to deny the existence of its war; to insist that it a fake issue contrived by the media and/or Democrats and/or President Obama; to even claim that it is Democrats who are waging a war on women. Not that anyone is buying their bogus claims.

The War on Women isn’t about zingers. It’s about a constant legislative assault by the Republican Party, at the state and federal level, on women’s equality and basic rights, from health care to equal pay to funding programs to combat violence against women. Women aren’t stupid, even if Republicans, like Herman Cain, insist that “men are much more familiar with the failed policies than a lot of other people.” Women know what they care about and whose policies they think are better for them. Republicans can’t deny that away, and they know it. And they’re scared. And they should be.

Judges go wild on abortion

Here is the basic principle on abortion restrictions set out by Supreme Court precedent: The state can try to talk a woman out of having an abortion, but only if it doesn’t present an “undue burden,” and only if the materials used are “truthful, nonmisleading information.” In a 7-4 ruling this week on a South Dakota restriction, the 8th Circuit Court basically threw the second principle out of the window, implying we can’t rely on the prevailing medical evidence about whether abortion causes suicide. Meanwhile, a recent hearing in the pivotal Arizona 20-week ban challenge suggests a federal judge there is inclined to similarly disregard precedent.

At issue in South Dakota is a 2005 “informed consent” law that, among other provisions being battled in separate cases, demanded that doctors tell women seeking abortions that abortion carries an “increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide,” despite no one ever having proved the causation, and the repeated discrediting of studies that claim to. The judges have mostly rationalized this by saying that telling women who are planning to have an abortion that there is an “increased risk” of suicide isn’t the same as telling them that abortion causes suicide. In other words, the state is just providing a helpful FYI! Even if the correlation is simply that preexisting mental health issues correlate with unwanted pregnancies.

Presented with an American Psychological Association meta-analysis that dismissed the causal claim and found methodological flaws in the studies of correlations, alongside several studies cited by Planned Parenthood in its challenge, the majority basically threw up its hands and went postmodern on the entire notion of truth. “It is difficult to identify a solid objective basis for the criteria employed in these reviews to identify the ‘best’ studies,” they wrote. “We express no opinion as to whether some of the studies are more reliable than others; instead, we hold only that the state legislature, rather than a federal court, is in the best position to weigh the divergent results.”

The dissent points out that the main “expert” on abortion causing suicide has been discredited by her peers; RH Reality Check’s Jodi Jacobson reports that the Journal that published one of the key studies cited by abortion opponents is actually considering retracting it, after the paper was subjected to two rounds of rigorous analysis that found, each time, serious errors and distortions. The first round of fact-checking involved calculation errors; the second involved realizing that author Priscilla Coleman had decided to count mental health outcomes that happened before a woman had an abortion. (This is the same Coleman who recently tried to dismiss a study showing abortion was 14 times safer than childbirth by saying it had failed to take into account the alleged “wealth of data showing childbirth is protective in the immediate and long-term against death from non-obstetrical causes, both from natural causes such as breast cancer and unnatural causes including suicide.” Pregnancy as a cure for suicidal folks everywhere!)

Tonya Reaves’ death: Right-wing abortion exploitation

Her name was Tonya Reaves; she was 24, from Chicago and pregnant. Last Friday, she died of a hemorrhage at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Because her death, ruled an accident, occurred hours after she had an abortion at Planned Parenthood and was rushed to the hospital, it was almost instantly seized upon by opponents of abortion rights as an example of the dangers of abortion. That’s despite the fact that, according to the most recent data, a woman is 14 times more likely to die in childbirth than from abortion-related causes.

On Tuesday, Cliff Stearns, the Republican congressman from Florida who is already attempting to bring down Planned Parenthood via investigation, told Fox News, “I would like to put them under oath. I would like to find out how they spend our half a billion dollars, and I would also like to explore some of the safety aspects, particularly in light of this death, of this tragedy.” When, the same day, Barack Obama reiterated his support for Planned Parenthood on the campaign trail – “Mr. Romney wants to get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood. I think that’s a bad idea. I’ve got two daughters. I want them to control their own healthcare choices” – Operation Rescue saw an opening that involved exploiting a woman’s death and racial politics.

Troy Newman, the group’s president, told LifeNews that the president had “disrespected Tonya,” adding, “We have to wonder how Mr. Obama would have felt if that had been Malia or Sasha bleeding to death on that abortion table.” Then he threw in Trayvon Martin for good measure: “Apparently for Mr. Obama, a black man who is killed by a white man is worthy of justice, but a black woman killed by a campaign contributor is something that we should give no regard.”

According to the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, during the most recent five years (2000-2004) for which there is data, 27 black women in Illinois died of pregnancy-related causes, a period in which only one white woman died of the same causes. So far as I could learn, no one called a national investigation into their tragic deaths or made them into a campaign issue.

Posted in: Women's rights