Reproductive Rights

Editorial Deceptions

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Another anti-abortion editorial published in The Oklahoman is so excruciatingly disingenuous and so filled with false comparisons it deserves a mention if only for conducting a rhetoric analysis of juvenile argumentation.

The short editorial, titled “Health question:,” (Aug. 5, 2013), makes the point that a recently proposed Alabama bill and other similar bills throughout the country restricting abortion is really an issue about good health standards, which “would be noncontroversial if abortion weren't involved.” But the clear intent of the Alabama bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin and later blocked by a federal judge, is to essentially do away with the abortion procedure in Alabama, not protect women’s health. In other words, so this argument goes, to ensure good health standards we should do away with medical procedures. That’s setting good standards, isn’t it? Let’s do away with basic medical treatments in order to have good standards.

“The real purpose of this bill is to make safe and legal abortion in Alabama unavailable under any circumstance," said a Planned Parenthood official about the bill. Who would think otherwise?

The editorial then makes its way to this comparison:

It strikes us as odd that standards for humane treatment of animals headed to slaughter are widely supported, yet the idea of requiring that a women's health clinic be tied to hospitals in case of emergencies is seen as an unconscionable attack on women.

Note the “us,” as if that’s clear in an unsigned editorial, but especially note the illogical comparison between animals and humans. So, in other words, if you’re in favor of the humane treatment of animals, you should also be in favor of legislation that essentially stops access to the abortion procedure. It’s a non sequitur. Why not just say, It strikes us as odd that the same people who drive their cars to work each day also like to sing in the shower and mow their lawns. It’s absurd. There is no equivalency in the argument itself.

For good measure, the editorial gets in another false comparison AND bashes Obamacare. Here it is:

It's ironic that groups like hers [a reproductive rights activist] support the most intrusive health care law ever passed in this country (Obamacare), but want abortion removed from most any regulation or restriction. What's wrong with having high standards in place? For the abortion industry in this country, the answer is “Plenty.”

So, in other words, if you support the Affordable Care Act, then you should be against abortion because what all these draconian bills do is shut down places that perform abortions. See the logic behind that one? It’s incredible. No, even if you think the ACA is "intrusive,” it’s still about giving more people access to medical procedures not stopping more people from getting medical procedures.

Here’s more on McClurkin and the Alabama bill, which is pretty much similar to what was passed recently in Texas. The clear intent of these bills is to shut down medical clinics that perform abortions. To argue that it’s about women’s health is disingenuous, if not an outright lie. If you want to end legal abortion in this country, then just make the argument. Why hide behind rhetorical deception?

McClurkin also made the rather strange claim that abortion is “a major surgery that removes the largest ‘organ’ in a woman's body.” A fetus is not a body organ; it wouldn’t be the largest organ, anyway.

The Oklahoman doesn’t mention that gaffe, of course, in its relentless quest to end safe abortions for women in this state. Here’s the real irony: The editorial implicitly argues for a return to back-alley abortions as it claims to be the defenders of good health standards.

Harassment, Intimidation Real Reason For Anti-Abortion Measure

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Last week, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that should have anyone who cares about equal rights here take a deep breath and consider just how far the GOP will go in its continued war against women’s reproductive freedoms.

The bill, House Bill 2015, adds to the absurd and intimidating morass of reporting and paperwork physicians and patients must now complete whenever there is an abortion procedure. Alone that should be enough to significantly bother anyone who believes in women’s reproductive freedom, which is the major cornerstone of gender equality.

But the bill also added a new provision that would actually allow taxpayers, whether they are involved in a specific abortion or not, to sue doctors if they believe they are not meeting the requirements of the reporting law. Although this new provision seems entirely unconstitutional, it does have the potential to further intimidate physicians who perform abortions here.

The bill passed 79-15, with seven excused in the House, and 39-7, with two excused in the Senate. Its principal sponsors were state Rep. Sean Roberts, a Hominy Republican and state Sen. Kyle Loveless, an Oklahoma City Republican. The overwhelming vote majorities show the state legislature for the foreseeable future will continue to hassle abortion providers and their patients in a quest to end legalize abortion, which would have to happen by an unlikely U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

According to one media report, Fallin and the bill’s principal sponsors said the bill was needed to ensure doctors were complying with the law, but the added reporting requirements and making an lawsuit option available to people—let’s face it—who are simply opposed to abortion and will do about anything to stop it obviously make it a legal measure of intimidation and harassment.

Here is some of the language of the new reporting requirements in the bill:

Were the remains of the fetus after the abortion examined to ensure that all such remains were evacuated from the mother's body?

If the remains of the fetus were examined after the abortion, what was the sex of the child, as determined from such examination?

. . .

Prior to the pregnant woman giving informed consent to
having any part of the abortion performed or induced, if the
pregnancy was at least eight (8) weeks after fertilization, was the pregnant woman told that it may be possible to make the embryonic or fetal heartbeat of the unborn child audible for the pregnant woman to hear?

Note the old anti-abortion tropes that somehow women are getting abortions because of the sex of the fetus, which is a myth in this country, and the standard implication that hearing a fetal heartbeat SHOULD be some moral litmus test when it comes to abortion. Again, women should have the right to a private, non-intimating abortion procedure and physicians should be allowed to perform the procedure under accepted medical guidelines without the intrusion of anti-abortion dogma.

Here’s the language concerning the taxpayer lawsuit option in the bill:

If an abortion provider fails to submit any report required pursuant to Section 1-738k of this title, upon the refusal, failure or neglect of the State Commissioner of Health, within twenty (20) days after written demand signed, verified and served upon the State Department of Health by at least ten registered voters of the state, to institute or diligently prosecute proper proceedings at law or in equity to compel an abortion provider to submit any report required pursuant to Section 1-738k of this title but not yet submitted to the State Department of Health, any resident taxpayer of the state after serving the notice aforesaid may in the name of the State of Oklahoma as plaintiff, institute and maintain any proper action which the State Department of Health might institute and maintain to compel the abortion provider to file such report. If a court of competent jurisdiction determines the claims to be meritorious, the abortionist shall be compelled to file the report and to pay the fee(s) prescribed in subsection B of this section, with costs and reasonable attorney fees. If all claims stated by the resident taxpayers in the written demand are determined in a court of competent jurisdiction to be frivolous and brought in bad faith, the resident taxpayers who signed such demand and who are parties to the lawsuit in which such claims are determined to be frivolous and brought in bad faith shall be jointly and severally liable for all reasonable attorney fees and court costs incurred by the abortionist.

Beyond the excruciatingly awful legalese of this passage, note that the taxpayer who brings the suit may do so “in the name of the state of Oklahoma as plaintiff.” Note also the use of the word “abortionist” to refer to a physicians who perform the abortion procedure. Obviously, the bill is actively trying to encourage such lawsuits against “abortionists,” but without any legal standing or personal damage how could such a plaintiff really make a claim?

Can you imagine a legal system in which virtually anyone could file a lawsuit against you in the name of the state in which you live because they disagree with you on a political issue? If this provision is upheld, then the door is wide open to this sort of legal abuse and political intimidation.

Oklahoma has passed several anti-abortion laws in recent years that have made it more of a hassle to get the procedure performed here. This is because the state government is dominated by right-wing, religious folks who have supposedly made stopping abortion a priority. But the GOP, with the help of some Democrats, has also made it a visceral, wedge issue to manipulate religious Christian fundamentalists into voting against their financial interests. That political strategy has continued to be effective here, but make no mistake that the social costs here and the damage to the state’s national image have been high.

Intrinsic to gender equality is the idea that women control their own bodies and make their own decisions about their bodies. If women lose that right here, and such control is given to the state, then women will lose even more rights in the future, such as access to birth control and even beyond that. That a female governor signed this terrible bill into law should be an affront to all the state’s women, but, tragically, that won’t be the case. The wake-up call has yet to be heard, but it will come someday.

False Epiphanies and Cringing Arguments

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A recent editorial in The Oklahoman attacking the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice is a disingenuous, snarky piece of sophomoric drivel that deserves some basic refutation and a collective response.

Titled “Feminists for double-standards” (April 25, 2013), the editorial is filled with enough weird, overly wrought false comparisons and red-herring claims to make any decent English instructor cringe in embarrassment for its writer, who obviously needs to go to a writing lab for remedial help.

The overall thesis of the piece is difficult to discern. It seems to be that OCRJ members, who rallied at the Capitol this week during Pink Wave 2013, are feminists who contradict feminist tenets. The editorial never directly criticizes the group’s focus on bringing attention to Oklahoma’s draconian anti-abortion laws or legislative proposals that threaten the rights of women to control their bodies. It even agrees with a comment made by Martha Skeeters, OCRJ president, about the state’s high female incarceration rate.

What’s the point? If The Oklahoman wants to argue that state lawmakers should control women’s reproductive capabilities then by all means it should do so, but why simply attack a group that thinks otherwise with misleading claims that it somehow contradicts itself on some philosophical level about women’s rights? Again, what’s the point, especially since the editorial’s overall argument is not really an argument but more of a twisted maze of false, self-proclaimed epiphanies? It’s a make-believe, gotcha commentary without any real gotcha.

The editorial begins by making the claim that essentially OCRJ members are “self-proclaimed feminists” who embrace “double standards.” Note that it doesn’t focus on OCRJ’s work or the point of the rally. The point seems to be to undermine OCRJ's credibility in some manner, not to argue against its positions.

The main evidence provided for the dubious and just plain weird double-standards claim is that in her remarks Skeeters argued in favor of alternative sentencing for many imprisoned women in Oklahoma, which leads the nation in female incarceration. The editorial actually agrees with Skeeters’ overall point, but finds her “logic bizarre.” Isn’t that bizarre in itself?

Speaking of bizarre logic, here’s the editorial’s big point: “If women can be trusted to make their own decisions and live with the consequences when it comes to having an abortion, shouldn't the same standard apply to women who decide to break the law?” That’s supposedly a double standard, though not in any traditional sense that anyone can really understand.

It’s difficult to even parse the false comparison. I’ll try. Yes, women can be trusted to make their own decisions. It’s not a question, ever, of “if” or “when” or “how.” How does that belief somehow contradict the belief that the state has a ridiculously high and embarrassing female incarceration rate? What’s the “same standard”? Let’s be very clear: An abortion is NOT a crime, and Skeeters is not arguing that women who do actually commit criminal acts should not face consequences. She’s just arguing for sentencing that would allow more incarcerated mothers to live with their children.

But, the editorial screeches in the arrogance of stupidity, “. . . why stress the separation of mothers from their children when incarceration also separates fathers from children (not to mention the permanent separation that abortion creates)? Should the law treat criminal parents differently based on gender when each commits the same crime?”

Note, again, that the writer is not actually talking about OCRJ’s main mission of fighting for reproductive justice and rights for women. The writer is making red-herring claims about double standards to make snarky asides, such as “not to mention the permanent separation that abortion creates.” (Note the italics. It’s a code.) Skeeters is not arguing that fathers should not also be given alternative sentencing to be with their children, and, of course, what about single mothers or pregnant women who are incarcerated?

And, of course, men don’t have reproductive organs, and OCRP’s mission is to fight for reproductive rights for women.

The editorial then criticizes Skeeters for supporting sex education classes in our schools. “Skeeters' comments,” according to the editorial, “suggest she's fine with politicians intruding on private parental decisions regarding their children's learning about the birds and bees, but not similar efforts regarding citizens' abortion decisions.” Again, the false comparison and weird logic is simply staggering. Sex education classes help prevent abortions. That’s one of the points of sex education classes. It’s the Oklahoma right-wing religious folks who are the hypocrites when they try to criminalize abortion at the same time they fight against sexual education classes in our schools. That’s the real double standard.

The editorial, and so many like it in The Oklahoman, can make this a suffocating place in which to live. OCRJ is a group with a clear mission that is standing up to express its political viewpoints against a tidal wave of right-wing hypocrisy in this place. They do so in a peaceful, heartfelt and intelligent manner, and this is what they get from the state’s largest newspaper, which won’t even engage them on the real issues. If The Oklahoman wants to send women to jail for having abortions, then it should argue the case and leave the logic and the critical thinking to the grownups in the state.

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