Separating Truth From Lies Around the Kermit Gosnell Case

Written by Amanda Marcotte for RH Reality Check.

Kermit Gosnell mugshot
Kermit Gosnell goes to trial soon for his torture of vulnerable women.

Kermit Gosnell, the sadistic monster who exploited lack of access to safe abortion care among poor and immigrant women to both torture women and kill actual babies, is finally on trial and anti-choicers are having a feeding frenzy. Unable to muster actual compassion for Gosnell’s victims, anti-choicers got right to work seeking ways to exploit his crimes to further reduce access to safe, legal abortion — and to create more Gosnells in the future. In order to achieve the goal of driving more women to monsters like Gosnell and away from safe, legal clinics, anti-choicers are telling more lies than usual. (Which hardly seemed possible, but once you wind them up, they can really get going.)  I don’t usually feel comfortable speaking for pro-choicers as a whole, but in this case, I believe we’re all on the same page, so I thought I’d use this space to get the facts straight.

So here is a list of the facts about how pro-choicers are reacting to the Gosnell case. Anyone who denies these facts is lying, and you have to ask yourself why they feel the need to lie to make their case.

Pro-choicers condemn Kermit Gosnell and hope that he sees justice. When the story broke, there was a rush of feminist journalists who covered the case and the tone was universal condemnation and advice on how to prevent such crimes in the future. A quick search of RH Reality Check demonstrates that, and you can read other feminist takes around the internet. For people who aren’t trying to prop up lies to confuse the situation, this universal pro-choice condemnation of Gosnell was entirely predictable. Not only do we believe he is a murderer and likely a sadist, but we believe he exploited the desperation of low-income women who need abortions but struggle to afford quality care. We agree with the prosecutors who wrote that Gosnell “ran a criminal enterprise, motivated by greed.” As advocates of quality health care for women, we have tried, sadly in vain much of the time, to remind people who simple fixes, such as offering Medicaid coverage of abortion, could take the issue of cost off the table and make it easier for women not to resort to illegal operators who use unsanitary and sadistic methods, like Gosnell.

Pro-choicers are the ones trying to prevent future Gosnells. Gosnell made money exploiting desperate women, so the way to prevent future monsters like him is to make sure women aren’t desperate. Pro-choicers raise money for abortion funds, so more women can afford quality care. They set up volunteer-staffed help lines to get women through the process of seeing a reputable provider. They demand an end to the Hyde Amendment, so low-income women can use Medicaid to pay for quality providers. As pro-choice blogger PZ Myers wrote, Gosnell “could get by with criminally substandard treatment because our government has been actively destroying the ethical and competent competition.” We try to keep the ethical competition afloat to keep men like Gosnell from getting business. Which should not be conflated, as lying anti-choicers are doing, with trying to stop regulation. [cont’d.]

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Madeleine Kunin, The New Feminist Agenda: Defining The Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family

Welcome Madeleine Kunin (MadeleineKunin.org)(blogs-ChesleaGreen) and Host Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon.net)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

The New Feminist Agenda: Defining The Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family

Madeleine Kunin certainly knows from women and work. She’s been the governor of Vermont and the Ambassador to Switzerland. Before all that, she did her time as a journalist, a college professor, and an activist. She’s seen the feminist movement go through many permutations, and in her new book The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family, she details out her vision for where feminism should go next. Kunin argues that the movement hasn’t paid quite enough attention to the family, and specifically advocating for policies that allow women (and men) the ability to balance their work lives and their family lives in our hectic, work-focused world.

This book was tailor-made for policy wonks who want to know not just what policies bring the best outcomes, but what political strategies work best for getting those policies into place. Having raised kids of her own, Kunin believes that the current American approach to work forces nearly all women, across class lines, to make compromises and fight unnecessary obstacles to achieve their career goals—or even just to keep food on the table. She recommends that feminists treat the work-life balance issue as seriously now as we have always treated the abortion issue, for the same reason that women’s liberation cannot be fully achieved without finding some way to make sure it can accommodate the demands of family life. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Madeleine Kunin, The New Feminist Agenda: Defining The Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family

Welcome Madeleine Kunin (MadeleineKunin.org)(blogs-ChesleaGreen) and Host Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon.net)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

The New Feminist Agenda: Defining The Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family

Madeleine Kunin certainly knows from women and work. She’s been the governor of Vermont and the Ambassador to Switzerland. Before all that, she did her time as a journalist, a college professor, and an activist. She’s seen the feminist movement go through many permutations, and in her new book The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family, she details out her vision for where feminism should go next. Kunin argues that the movement hasn’t paid quite enough attention to the family, and specifically advocating for policies that allow women (and men) the ability to balance their work lives and their family lives in our hectic, work-focused world. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Julie Greicius, Elissa Bassist, and Antonia Crane, Rumpus Women

Welcome Julie Greicius, Elissa Bassist, and Antonia Crane, TheRumpus.net, and Host Amanda Marcotte, Pandagon.com

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

Rumpus Women

Amanda Marcotte, Host:

When I first picked up the book “Rumpus Women,” I had to admit I had a moment of wondering why. In this modern era of blogging, personal essays by women are easy to come by, and in fact, we are absolutely swimming in them. Why go to the effort of cracking a book?

Well, this wonderful book reminded me why. There’s an intimacy to reading a book that a blog can’t replicate. Not to bash blogs! Blogs have their own intimacy, especially since you can often reach out directly to the writer and share your own thoughts and experiences with her. But reading a book closes you off into your own world, where it’s just you and the author’s thoughts, and no distractions from Twitter or email to interrupt you. As a writer, I can also attest that putting something to paper that won’t immediately go out into the rough-and-tumble internet world makes it easier to open up and express the darker parts of yourself that far too many anonymous commenters are willing to latch onto for maximum bashing purposes. The results are evident in this book: a collection of essays by women who demonstrate the full range of human emotions, from strength to moments of weakness, from compassion to selfishness.

21st century American women are living in an in-between state. Feminism’s work is only halfway done. On one hand, we have many of the freedoms and responsibilities that our foremothers fought for, but we’re still subject to the demands of a sexist world to be objectified, to work twice as hard for half as much, to be perfect in order to be considered deserving. It’s hard to figure out the balance between surviving in this milieu and feeling free to be ourselves. And, as feminists before us figured out, what we have to achieve this is our stories.

Our three writers that are on hand today all touch on these struggles in their essays in the book. Antonia Crane’s essay “Locker 29” is a fascinating look at the walls that strippers build around themselves so they can preserve themselves in a world that tears women down in dramatic ways. Elissa Bassist’s letters with Sugar about writer’s block will echo with any woman who fears producing anything that falls short of perfection. Julie Greicius captures so well the feeling of being overwhelmed and underwater, of sympathizing even for just a moment with those who take drastic measures to escape.

I particularly liked the emphasis on diversity of experiences in “Rumpus Women”. You have unapologetic sex workers right up next to women who simply cannot countenance it, women who glory in self-destruction next to those who write about the evils of it, and somehow you get the impression that everyone involved could be friends. We are all, after all, trying to make sense of it all, not just by living our lives but also writing our way through them. And that keeps us together even as our paths may diverge.

I’d like to welcome Julie Greicius, Elissa Bassist, and Antonia Crane in the comments for questions and discussion.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Julie Greicius, Elissa Bassist, and Antonia Crane, Rumpus Women

Welcome Julie Greicius, Elissa Bassist, and Antonia Crane, TheRumpus.net,  and Host Amanda Marcotte, Pandagon.com

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

Rumpus Women

Amanda Marcotte, Host:

When I first picked up the book “Rumpus Women,” I had to admit I had a moment of wondering why. In this modern era of blogging, personal essays by women are easy to come by, and in fact, we are absolutely swimming in them. Why go to the effort of cracking a book?

Well, this wonderful book reminded me why. There’s an intimacy to reading a book that a blog can’t replicate. Not to bash blogs! Blogs have their own intimacy, especially since you can often reach out directly to the writer and share your own thoughts and experiences with her. But reading a book closes you off into your own world, where it’s just you and the author’s thoughts, and no distractions from Twitter or email to interrupt you. As a writer, I can also attest that putting something to paper that won’t immediately go out into the rough-and-tumble internet world makes it easier to open up and express the darker parts of yourself that far too many anonymous commenters are willing to latch onto for maximum bashing purposes. The results are evident in this book: a collection of essays by women who demonstrate the full range of human emotions, from strength to moments of weakness, from compassion to selfishness. (more…)

Punishing Women: A Woman’s Job?

(photo: danny.hammontree)

If you were looking for a poll to capture exactly how much of America is judgmental and mean-spirited—especially towards women—you couldn’t top the recent Rasmussen poll that found that 48 percent of Americans think abortion is “too easy” to get. I’m not entirely sure why Rasmussen took the poll. Lack of generosity towards others and a dark eye specifically towards those you resenting people perceived as young, sensual, and not weighted down by the responsibilities of adulthood, which is how the public (incorrectly) imagines your average abortion patient to be. (In reality, the majority are mothers trying to make ends meet.)

You may as well have polled people asking, “Do believe kids these days listen to their music too loud?” or “Do you believe that you’re a sexually responsible person but there are some real sluts out there?” Even though the reality is that women from all walks of life get abortions, the perception in the general public is that abortion is an indicator of sluttiness. And sluts, last I checked, aren’t well regarded in our culture. When people imagine the obstacles between a woman and an abortion, they’re making an idealized judgment—some kind of major hassle that will teach the slut to keep her legs shut next time. But mean-spiritedness, stereotypes, and generalized ideas about what counts as “promiscuous” aren’t something on which to base public policy.

I don’t know whether to be sadder that the public still has these stereotypes about who gets abortions, or that the public still thinks sexually free women are evil and deserve to be punished.

The anti-choice media was triumphant over this poll, mostly because it showed that women are more likely to want more obstacles for women seeking abortions. According to anti-choicers, this somehow means this isn’t a women’s rights issue, even though the people who hold the right to abortion are women, aka the sex that gets pregnant by accident. But there’s no reason to think reproductive freedom isn’t an important women’s issue just because women are more likely to judge other women about their sexual choices. In a patriarchy, women are usually tasked with the job of monitoring female sexuality and enforcing norms of modesty. [cont’d.] (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Deanna Zandt, Share This!

Welcome author Deanna Zandt, and host Amanda Marcotte.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread.  – bev]

Share This!: How You Will Change the World with Social Networking

Long before she wrote Share This!: How You Will Change the World with Social Networking, Deanna Zandt was my social networking guru. Of course, I had the benefit of being her friend, so I was privy to her frequent and useful insights on the value of joining Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook, and the most effective ways to use these technologies to promote my ideas and my activism. It was Deanna who convinced me that it benefits your activism to humanize yourself on social networks, and even that you can really spread information far and wide 140 characters at a time. So I have to start off by saying: you rule, Deanna! Your guidance has been invaluable to me.

And now all of you can benefit from Deanna’s wisdom, both by reading her book and by asking her questions right here and now! Share This! is less a book on the nitty-gritty how-to to navigate the interfaces of social networking sites, which you can do on your own, and more a discussion of why social networking matters, and the very human ways to use it to build relationships and spread ideas. If you want to know why it’s good for your activism to talk about the World Cup on Twitter, then this book will make it very clear to you.

But what I really liked about this book is that while it’s good for beginners, it’s also a great book for people who already buy into the idea of social networking, but still need help contextualizing how it works to influence. Right now, you’re seeing many businesses and organizations signing on to the idea of social networking, but they only measure their success in terms of numbers of friends and followers. As Deanna makes it clear in this book, who you get is way more important than how many. A handful of followers who respect your opinion and have the ability to influence the world matters way more than simply having 20,000 followers who have no real interest in what you’re saying or ability to act on it. (more…)

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jeffrey Feldman: Outright Barbarous

Outright BarbarousThe American right wing faces a serious public relations problem, which is that their ideas, honestly presented, would largely fail to capture enough people’s enthusiasm to win elections. It’s a built-in downside when your philosophy elevates the interests of an elite few over the many; the many will not like it. So the only hope for continued movement in the conservative movement is to argue dishonestly, through fear and distraction, to incite panicked decisions instead of slow, thoughtful ones. Unfortunately for the right wing, our system is a deliberative democracy, and thus tends to bend towards the left with time.

In an effort to undermine a system that’s (rightfully) stacked against their interest, the pundits of the right have increasingly turned towards violent metaphors and language in an effort to short circuit people’s rational responses and entice them to vote against their own interests. Jeffrey Feldman analyzes some of the strategies in his new book Outright Barbarous: How the Violent Language of the Right Poisons American Democracy. In it, he details how everything from the right wing obsession with guns to the made-up “War on Christmas” are part of a larger right wing strategy to inject violence and fear into the national discourse, discouraging people from thoughtful discourse and inciting vote-by-panic.

Some of Feldman’s proposed solutions in the book are sure to ruffle the feathers of civil libertarians like myself, he freely admits that they are just suggested solutions. The book is mainly to start the discussion of the problem, a discussion that can, over time, lead to creative thinking about solutions that restore reason to our national discourse without bringing up the specter of censorship. (more…)