We’re going full Scarlet Witch!
Robyn and I welcome special guest Wonker Jamie Lynn Crofts, who will help us figure out why in the year 2022, we’re facing the end of Roe v. Wade.
Expect some anger, frustration, and slightly fewer musical theatre references (though I’m not promising anything). Join us at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET. Don’t forget to like, share, subscribe and all the goodies on YouTube.
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Chief Justice John Roberts is big mad. How very dare someone violate the sacred body of the nation's highest court by leaking a draft of the opinion that will force thousands of women and girls to carry their rapists' babies to term! These are the justices' private thoughts about the non-existence of a constitutional right to privacy. Have these people no shame!
"A leak of this stature is absolutely appalling," Roberts told a conference of lawyers and judges from the 11th Circuit, CNN reported. "If the person behind it thinks that it will affect our work, that’s just foolish."
And perhaps he's right. It certainly appears that the Republican appointees are about to lay waste to women's civil liberties, blissfully unbothered by the effect it will have on half the population. They're certainly unaffected by the rage they're stoking in the 80 percent of Americans who support the right to abortion in at least some cases.
But the leak will affect women's work.
Because they'll have to leave their states to access abortion care. Or miss out on educational and professional opportunities if they are forced to carry children they don't want and cannot take care of. Or are stuck in hospitals while doctors debate if they are really sick enough to deserve an abortion, or if they have to get just that much closer to dying before the "life and health of the mother" exception kicks in. Or are forced to carry non-viable fetuses to term, only to watch them die in pain. Or can't access IVF or common birth control methods like IUDs because pig ignorant legislators are ramming through gobbledygook legislation without consulting anyone with a rudimentary understanding of female anatomy, much less a gynecologist.
It will affect my work, because I'll be taking off the morning of May 17 for the Jewish Rally for Abortion Justice in DC. Hope to see you there, wherever there is. See, they're not sharing the location because anti-choice protesters tend to get pretty darn confrontational about people exercising their rights to speech, much less health care. And thanks to the Supreme Court holding that a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics violates protesters' free speech right to scream "Baby killer!" at every woman walking in the door, they've been able get right up close and personal when they do it.
But sometimes people in this lunatic country, where it's legal to regulate uteruses but not guns, get more than confrontational. Sometimes they call in bomb threats. Sometimes they blow up clinics. Sometimes they shoot doctors.
You know who doesn't do those things? Team Choice.
And yet, when the Synagogue Sisterhood shows up in DC, we'll be met by an eight-foot, non-scalable barrier outside the Supreme Court, just in case Dottie Finkelstein gets any ideas. And that buffer zone is a whole lot more than 35 feet, because the justices deserve protection from the mob, unlike those whores trying to get a Pap smear at Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile conservatives are tying themselves into a knot trying to turn the leaked opinion into a threat of violence against the Court.
"The leak was terrible," tweeted "mainstream" conservative Rich Lowry. "Arguably worse has been the unwillingness of pretty much any Democrat to condemn a destructive act that may well put the safety of Supreme Court justices at risk, toward the end of distorting their deliberations on a highly sensitive legal question."
Lowry fails to explain exactly what this "destructive act" is destroying. Nor does he refer to any credible threats to the justices. Again, it isn't our side that waged a 50-year campaign of violence under the banner of "protecting babies."
Presumably they mean that the leak damages the Court's legitimacy, because if it leaks just like every other organization in DC, if it's not a hallowed body of jurists calling balls and strikes from within an ivory tower, then we have to admit it's a political body just like every other. And we have to admit that the harm it is about to inflict on the bodies of American women is a political act.
Which it is.
This is the culmination of a decades-long Republican project, and Mitch McConnell blew up the Senate for just this reason. The Supreme Court has become a tool for Republicans to exert political power in ways they never could if they had to get consent from the American people. And that is the real destruction of legitimacy.
The only effect of this leak of a document that was going to become public in six or eight weeks is to make people mad sooner. We were all going to find out that Alito, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, and Barrett were willing to shitcan 50 years of precedent to make sure that women are forced to give birth to unwanted babies. The streets were always going to be filled with furious protesters. The leak just deprives the Justices of the ability to drop this bomb in June or July and then hightail it out of town. They have to sit here for the rest of the term and face the anger of the people who have to live with the consequences of this decision. And it sucks to be shamed and have your hypocrisy pointed out by the majority of Americans who do not support this decision and think that you're an illegitimate body composed of partisan hacks.
But not as much as it sucks to be forced to carry a baby you do not want.
Stay mad. November is coming.
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Can 'Particicutions' be far behind?
With the Supreme Court preparing to eliminate the right to abortion (and far more) by overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Republicans in state legislatures are rushing to pass new laws criminalizing abortion. But just outlawing abortion isn't enough for many in the GOP: They also want to underline their hatred of abortion (and anyone who'd perform or have one) by imposing harsh criminal penalties, not solely for doctors who perform abortions or prescribe medicine to induce an abortion, but also anyone who has an abortion. After all, if abortion is murder, then you need to send the murderers to prison, if not the gallows.
Charging enthusiastically into the race to the bottom, Republicans in Louisiana are advancing a bill that would classify abortion as homicide and grant full constitutional rights to "all unborn children from the moment of fertilization." Louisiana HB 813, called the "Abolition of Abortion in Louisiana Act of 2022," starts with the Book of Genesis and gets worse from there:
Acknowledging the sanctity of innocent human life, created in the image of God, which should be equally protected from fertilization to natural death, the legislature hereby declares that the purpose of this Act is to:
(1) Fully recognize the human personhood of an unborn child at all stages of development prior to birth from the moment of fertilization.
(2) Ensure the right to life and equal protection of the laws to all unborn children from the moment of fertilization by protecting them by the same laws protecting other human beings.
(3) Recognize that the United States Constitution and the laws of the United States are the supreme law of the land.
Yr Dok Zoom is not a lawyer, but I assume the religious language about zygotes being "created in the image of God" wouldn't formally violate separation of church and state because it's only a prefatory flourish.
But wait! Louisiana already has one of those "trigger" laws that's meant to criminalize abortion as soon as Roe is overturned. Why do Republicans want to pass a whole 'nother law banning abortion? The new bill's sponsor, state Rep. Danny McCormick (R-Gilead), explained he introduced it in March because "We can't wait on the Supreme Court." The bill was passed in committee Wednesday and will now go to the full state House for a vote.
McCormick wrote the bill with the help of Rev. Brian Gunter, a Baptist pastor, who explained waiting until a ruling from the Supremes would be intolerable to God Almighty:
"No compromises; no more waiting," Gunter said. "The bloodshed in our land is so great we have a duty ... to protect the least of these among us."
Gunter also explained that the existing "trigger" law simply isn't vengeful enough against abortion providers and anyone seeking an abortion, because it only "says that abortion providers have to pay a $1,000 fine … that is woefully insufficient." He wants jail time, obviously.
While the bill doesn't specify penalties for abortion, it builds a ban on abortion into Louisiana's existing law against "feticide," which enhances prison terms for crimes in which a fetus is killed. The current law includes an exception for abortions, which would be revoked.
First degree feticide under current Louisiana law carries a sentence of 15 years in prison with hard labor, so that ought to be a linguistically satisfying penalty for people who terminate pregnancies. We'll have to see if that's tough enough to satisfy the holy spirit of vengeance, though. Republicans in other states have in the past introduced bills that would institute capital punishment for abortions, so there's little reason they'll refrain from pursuing that even more fervently when Roe is gone.
Just to be absolutely clear that human life begins at conception, the bill defines human life as beginning with "fertilization" and strikes out the older law's definition, so that "'Person' includes a human being from the moment of fertilization
and implantation" and "Unborn child" is now defined as "an individual human being from fertilization and implantation until birth."
We're fairly sure the intent there is to criminalize IUDs, which prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. But hey, it also seems to mean that if you have an ectopic pregnancy, you'll just have to let it kill you, because that's an actual person with full constitutional rights in your fallopian tube, and never mind that it can't possibly be carried to term, because it will die when it gets big enough to make you hemorrhage to death. Should have thought about that before you let your body do that.
The bill does include a weird section that, as far as I can tell, would allow people to maybe claim self-defense, but it appears only to apply to cases where someone is forced to perform or to have an abortion at gunpoint:
When any crime, except murder where the victim is not an unborn child, is committed through the compulsion of threats by another of death or great bodily harm, and the offender reasonably believes the person making the threats is present and would immediately carry out the threats if the crime were not committed
That definitely doesn't appear to allow a pregnant person to have an abortion because a fertilized egg threatened to kill them by growing outside the uterus. But we'd definitely watch that movie.
And since the bill is already assuming the right to abortion has been repealed, it even includes a couple of bizarre lines declaring the law exempt from any review by the federal courts, and requiring that any state judge who "purports to enjoin, stay, overrule, or void any provision of this Section shall be subject to impeachment or removal." So there, this law is perfect and you can't even question it in court.
Hell, even after Roe is thrown out, that bit seems a tad unconstitutional, but as I say, I'm just an old-fashioned country doktor of rhetoric, not a lawyer.
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Shout it if you need to.
You may have noticed that in the last few days, Yr Wonkette has made a bit of a stink about the term "choice" as a euphemism for "abortion." We've praised Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams both for talking about the right to abortion, and Yr Editrix, in Thursday morning's Tabs, said it's high time we "stop with the focus-grouped, mealymouthed 'right to choose.' (Choose what, choose Jif?)"
A number of folks took issue with that in the comments we don't allow, while others also were none too happy with New York magazine's Rebecca Traister for taking Democratic leaders to task for their seeming unwillingness to say "abortion." (To be sure, a number of comments focused more on how it might be bad strategy to criticize Dem leaders in an election year, also too.)
So we figured this might be a job for a Doktor of Rhetoric. Words matter, language matters, and Crom knows that ever since Frank Luntz and Newt Gingrich teamed up in 1994 to talk about the "death tax" and to make "liberal" the dirtiest word in politics, Republicans have made a dark art of finding terms that will set off electric storms in the amygdalae of rightwing voters, inflaming their emotions with language that will move the base to support policies that help the party's big donors.
A quarter century later, it's starting to feel like framing abortion rights as the "right to choose" is perhaps tainted by the same defensive reflex that led Bill Clinton to proclaim that the "era of big government is over," as he caved to the Right on "welfare reform," ushering in a regime of harsh new barriers to helping people who needed help. Speaking of a "right to choose" almost feels like a concession to the Luntzians: Instead of whole-heartedly saying abortion is essential to freedom and bodily autonomy, "choice" seems to euphemize, as if accepting the Right's insistence that abortion is shameful, a moral failing, the choice of people who should have kept their legs shut and not gotten in trouble.
This isn't to say that "choice" or "pro choice" is a bad term in itself; it's a convenient shorthand that will likely stay around for some time. But it's also good to see the shift toward people talking about abortion without hesitation or guilt, too.
As Heather Young, who had an abortion when she was 17, told CNN for a story that ran just the day before the draft decision leaked,
We need to quit tip-toeing around the word abortion. People need to know that people have abortions for all reasons, not just life or death situations. I was 17, scared. I would probably not be here today if it wasn’t for my mother and doctors who helped me.
Saying "the right to abortion" instead of "to choose" has a similar feel to the 2015 #ShoutYourAbortion social media campaign, which encouraged people to talk openly about why they'd had abortions and how it made a difference in their lives. Popularized by feminists Amelia Bonow and Lindy West after yet another GOP effort to defund Planned Parenthood, the campaign inspired thousands to talk about abortion openly, with the goal of destigmatizing and normalizing it. That led in turn to Bonow and West forming the Shout Your Abortion nonprofit, which offers a very direct message: "We are out here. We are having abortions, and we are talking about them, at whatever volume we choose. It’s time for us to take back our own stories."
I absolutely get why "pro-choice" emerged as the alternative to the demonstrably empty term "pro-life," and particularly as an alternative to "pro-abortion." Heck, who wants to say they're in favor of abortion? So we got "I'm not pro-abortion; I'm in favor of protecting the right of women to have an abortion." But there's also a sense that it concedes rhetorical ground to abortion opponents, when if anything, those who want to take away the right to abortion are the ones who've been hiding behind a euphemism from the get-go.
When my very Catholic mother bundled me up and took me to a candlelight anti-abortion vigil when I was maybe 11 or 12, I know that I was sickened at the idea that people were killing babies. It's very easy to have absolute moral clarity when you're a child. But the Evangelical-driven political movement to do away with abortion rights has always been more about rightwing power than about "life" — after all, until the Religious Right seized on abortion as a wedge issue in the late 1970s, most Evangelicals, and most Republicans, supported Roe. Getting conservative Protestants to join Catholics in opposing abortion was a marriage of convenience that would be helpful in pursuing more immediate rightwing goals like preserving tax breaks for segregationist schools, and for that matter, building support for the segregationist church-run schools that sprang up in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education.
Yoking Evangelicals to the anti-abortion cause succeeded far beyond the dreams of the rightwing activists who started it, and ending abortion supplanted segregation as the Right's driving force, although the racism remained a cherished part of the culture war agenda, too. Were some people truly committed to "pro-life" ideology and the cult of the fetus? Certainly. The Right really does want to stop every last abortion if it can.
But misogyny and hatred of women's independence were constant handmaids, as it were, and that too was reflected in the language surrounding the issue, which sought to turn fetuses into humans with full rights, while dismissing people with wombs as vessels for the "pre-born child" at best, and to demonize them as murderers, or callous airheads who might terminate a pregnancy to fit into a cute dress, Doctors, of course, became villains who performed "partial birth abortions" or might even "rip a baby from the womb" at any moment prior to birth, as if anyone would carry a pregnancy nearly to term and then decide to have an abortion on a whim, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars because abortions late in pregnancy are performed only by a few specialists.
If the term "pro-life" felt like a smokescreen for most of the last 40 years, it was truly given the lie by the COVID epidemic, as Republicans made absolutely clear that they had little interest in preventing the virus from spreading, and indeed tried to suggest that Grandma Millie should be happy to die of COVID if it helped the country's GDP. Not that pointing out the hypocrisy mattered, because the Evangelicals knew it was a linguistic pretense all along.
I also can't help but think that the GOP death cult's decision to snottily coopt the language of abortion rights — "bodily autonomy" and "My body, my choice" — for the sake of not wearing masks or not getting vaccinated may also have helped sour a lot of us on the language of "choice." If the same phrase can apply to the right to have an abortion and to ignoring public health, then why not just come right out and say "abortion" so there's no confusion?
The draft opinion overturning Roe (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey) makes clear that the Right isn't about to bother pretending it's restrained by precedent or law. The Trump administration and its "alternative facts" made clear that the very nature of reality is just, like, your opinion, man, so why not be absolutely clear that the right to abortion is what's at stake here, not an abstraction like "choice."
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