Monday Reads: Controlling womenPosted: November 30, 2015
Hope your weekend was great!
It’s been a depressing and sad few days as we continue to watch the world’s fundamentalist religions–based in so much Iron Age Mythology–continue to assert the need to control and dominate women. Saudi Arabia has sentenced a maid to death by stoning for adultery while giving the man a few symbolic lashes. Here in the US, Republican candidates for the US presidency appease a similarly addicted religious minority by skirting the real issues surrounding the shooting at Colorado’s Planned Parenthood. What we are seeing is the same poison fruit from the same poison tree.
There are so many mass shootings in this country—in a school or a church, a movie theatre or a mall—and so little is expected of American politicians in regard to them that, in the two days since Robert Dear began firing his gun at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, the Republican Presidential contenders have largely been able to hide from the tragedy. At midday on Friday, Dear initiated a gun battle that lasted five hours and took the lives of three people, including a police officer, and wounded nine others. Dear’s motives, and his mental state, are not yet fully known. But, of all the places he could have walked into, he chose a Planned Parenthood clinic, and, of all the fragments of deranged rhetoric he could have repeated, he chose, according to the Times and other press reports, to say something about “no more baby parts.” This is a reference to the false charge that Planned Parenthood has illegally trafficked in the sale of fetal organs—and that is the mildest way of framing the allegations that anyone listening to a Republican debate or rally would likely have heard. The loudness of the slurs against the organization is in telling contrast to the cautious silence that descended when it became a target of gun violence.
I remember my work in high school and university on modernizing state laws so that crimes against women and children were moved from the areas of property crimes to crimes against people. I was appalled to find that state law required three witnesses to a rape as evidence a crime had happened. I worked at a nascent rape and domestic violence crisis center back in the early 70s that was started by the Junior League and still continues as a major operation at the local YWCA.
I also remember a panel discussion at my Presbyterian church when SCOTUS was deciding Roe v. Wade. It was my first experience seeing so many ignorant and angry people expressing the need to control other people’s bodies and lives. I thought that the progress we had made would continue. Then, came the 1980s and a backlash from the pews of what my family used to refer to as “holy rollers”.
I have two grown daughters now and I never thought that they’d face so many of the same issues that I faced at their age. When they were very young, I saw those same angry, ignorant faces of my youth beginning to coordinate and organize to target women. We’ve gone so far back since the early 1980’s and we’ve endured so much harassment from radical religionists that it’s sometimes difficult for me to believe we live in a developed country. But, here in many parts of the United States, folks take Iron Age Mythology as seriously as they do in the hills and tribes of Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Women and children have always been at the forefront of the suffering inflicted by the hyperreligious. Vigilance and action is required continually and today like never before.
We are going backwards.
We are losing many battles in a war fought to take away women’s rights and autonomy. I spent some time reading this MoJo article on the last few years of Republican control of many local legislatures. Again, I cannot believe my daughters face challenges that no modern, civilized nation should create.
This is what 2015 looks like: Abortion providers struggle against overwhelming odds to stay open, while women “turn themselves into pretzels” to get to them, as one researcher put it. Activists have been calling it the “war on women.” But the onslaught of new abortion restrictions has been so successful, so strategically designed, and so well coordinated that the war in many places has essentially been lost.
Most abortions today involve some combination of endless wait, interminable journey, military-level coordination, and lots of money. Roe v. Wade was supposed to put an end to women crossing state lines for their abortions. But while reporting this story, I learned of women who drove from Kentucky to New Jersey, or flew from Texas to Washington, DC, because it was the only way they could have the procedure. Even where laws can’t quite make it impossible for abortion clinics to stay open—they are closing down at a rate of 1.5 every single week—they can make it exhausting to operate one. In every corner of America, four years of unrelenting assaults on reproductive rights have transformed all facets of giving an abortion or getting one—possibly for good.
“Every day is just frightening,” Chelian said. “I think things are bad, and then they get worse somewhere else. And you go, ‘Oh my God, it could be worse.’ And I go to sleep with that. I wake up with that.”
Ever since Texas passed HB2 in 2013, the omnibus abortion law at the heart of a pivotal case the Supreme Court will review early next year, more than half of the state’s 41 abortion clinics have been forced to close. As these closures have mounted, advocates in the state have worried that the decline in abortion access could lead to a rise in the number of women trying to terminate pregnancies by themselves.
A new study quantifies some of those fears: At least 100,000 Texas women—and as many as 240,000—between the ages of 18 and 49 have attempted to self-induce abortions, according to a report released today by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP). The study also found that it is possible that the rate of women attempting to self-induce abortions is rising in Texas as a result of the state’s additional restrictions on abortion care. The report points to previous studies that have explored the correlation between a rise in abortion restrictions and the prevalence of self-induced abortions. A 2008 national study found that about 2 percent of women reported that they tried to terminate pregnancies on their own. In 2012, a year after Texas passed several new abortion restrictions, a study of Texas women seeking care at an abortion clinic found that about 7 percent reported attempting to end their pregnancies without medical assistance before seeking clinic care.
“This is the latest body of evidence demonstrating the negative implications of laws like HB2 that pretend to protect women but in reality place them, and particularly women of color and economically disadvantaged women, at significant risk,” said Dr. Daniel Grossman, one of the study’s co-authors and a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California-San Francisco, in a press call Tuesday morning.
None of us that have been active in the women’s right movement for decades were surprised at the most recent attack and murders at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. We anticipated it happening some where and we are not surprised by the deflection of the enablers of violence against women and those who help women. There has been a long, well-funded and organized racket supported by media outlets and capitalized on by the Republican party to reinstate witch hunts and burnings. We also know this is not about life. It’s about controlling women. Amanda Marcotte–writing for Salon–explains this well.
Victim-blaming and avoiding responsibility was the norm on the right, with Rep. Adam Kinzinger going on CNN while Dear was still holding the clinic hostage and ranting about “these barbaric videos,” in reference to the hoax videos falsely accusing Planned Parenthood of “selling” fetal tissue that were released over the summer and that all Republicans are apparently duty-bound to pretend are somehow meaningful despite being thoroughly debunked. He also pushed the idea that there’s a chance that Dear’s choice of a target is random and not rooted in anti-choice ideology.
Since then, of course, conservatives’ slim hope that Dear was somehow just a random psycho instead of an anti-choice nut has grown slimmer. Sources spoke about the “baby parts” line and that Dear mentioned Obama in his statements to police.
Ever since the Paris attacks, we’ve been hearing from the right how there is no excuse for religious fundamentalists using violence to terrorize people for the making life choices the fundamentalists don’t approve of. I do wish they would take their own advice on this front.
This whole display is especially bizarre when you consider that there is nothing new about anti-choice terrorism, which has taken the lives of eight clinic workers prior to this attack. That this would happen was entirely predictable. Since the release of those hoax videos, there’s been a rash of arsons and bombings of Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, a story which has received a surprisingly small amount of media coverage.
In other words, this is what everyone in pro-choice circles has been dreading would happen any day now. As recently as October 29, an abortion provider in Washington, D.C., penned an op-ed in the Washington Post about how her life is being rather unsubtly threatened by anti-choicers who put her picture and address online. You know, for “information.” Answers about who would need that, except someone who was intending to harm her, are not offered.
Anti-choice demagoguery is fruitful politics for the right. There’s a lot of fear out there about women’s changing social roles and increasing independence, coupled with a ton of resentment over other people’s sex lives. The anti-choice movement has created a perfect cover story—it’s about “life” and “babies”!—that allows conservatives to indulge these ugly urges while pretending to have noble intentions.
This combination has been so successful at inciting the masses, raising money, and turning out the vote that the anti-choice movement has become increasingly bold in recent years, expanding the legal attacks beyond abortion and looking for ways to undermine access to contraception as well. The increased outrage at Planned Parenthood in recent months, while ostensibly about abortion, is in actuality a lot more about contraception. None of the money that Republicans are cutting from Planned Parenthood is for abortion, but for contraception and STI prevention and treatment. Or even prenatal care, in some cases.
You cannot relentlessly stoke people’s sexual resentments, day in and day out, while calling it “moral” without some of those people (mostly men) tipping over into outright violence. Anti-choice extremism is a logical home for angry, bitter men who want to blame women and women’s sexuality for their own personal failings and frustrations. And there are a lot of angry men out there, furious at women for not being what they want us to be, using “baby killer” as a cover for resentments that have nothing to do with actual babies.
There’s so much evidence and history that’s it’s very hard to deny that this is a well orchestrated and well funded movement. We have only to go back and remind ourselves of the murder of the late Dr. Tiller and the words of Bill O’Reilly to see how the right lights the fires of fanaticism and violence.
O’Reilly said that liberal groups were targeting him unfairly.
“Even though I reported on the doctor honestly, the loons asserted that my analysis of him was ‘hateful,'” O’Reilly wrote. “Chief of among the complaints was the doctor’s nickname, ‘Tiller the baby killer.’ Some prolifers branded him with that, and I reported it. So did hundreds of other news sources.”
O’Reilly went on to criticize media outlets for glorifying Tiller in order to silence those who oppose abortion, especially late-term abortion.
We wanted to see what O’Reilly had said about Tiller, to see if O’Reilly was indeed being criticized for his reporting on other groups’ characterization of Tiller as he said.
We searched transcripts of The O’Reilly Factor , his show that appears on the Fox News Channel.
We found at least 42 instances of O’Reilly mentioning Tiller by name, going back to 2005. In 24 instances, we found that O’Reilly referred to Tiller specifically as a “baby killer.”
Most of the time, O’Reilly would simply refer to the Tiller as “Tiller the baby killer” or as “Dr. George Tiller, known as Tiller the baby killer” without attributing it to anyone. We found four times when O’Reilly said that “some” called him Tiller the baby killer. We did not find any instance where O’Reilly named an individual or a particular antiabortion group that referred to Tiller that way.
Here is how O’Reilly has discussed Tiller in 2009, prior to Tiller’s death:
• May 15: O’Reilly discussed President Barack Obama’s commencement speech at Notre Dame University, saying he was troubled that a Catholic school would allow Obama to speak. “Barack Obama throughout his political career has enabled abortion. There’s no doubt that he has. All right? He has recently appointed Gov. (Kathleen) Sebelius to (Secretary of) Health and Human Services. Gov. Sebelius is the most proabortion governor in the United States. Based upon Dr. Tiller, the baby killer in her state and all of that, all right.”
• May 11: O’Reilly wondered whom Obama would nominate to the Supreme Court, saying that he thought Obama was “callous” when it came to abortion. “I mean, the guy puts Sebelius in as the health — you can’t get a more fanatically — and that woman is proabortion,” O’Reilly said. “She wants the babies done for. She supported Tiller the Baby Killer out there. So, enough with her.”
• April 27: O’Reilly discussed Sebelius’ nomination as secretary of Health and Human Services. O’Reilly said that Sebelius “recently vetoed a bill that placed restrictions on late-term abortions in Kansas. The bill was introduced because of the notorious Tiller the Baby Killer case, where Dr. George Tiller destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000. There’s no question Ms. Sebelius is one of the most proabortion politicians in America.”
• March 27: Tiller was charged with misdemeanor offenses for violating Kansas law on late-term abortions. Tiller was acquitted. O’Reilly said, “Now, we have bad news to report that Tiller the baby killer out in Kansas, acquitted. Acquitted today of murdering babies. I wasn’t in the courtroom. I didn’t sit on the jury. But this, there’s got to be a special place in hell for this guy.”
• March 26: O’Reilly talked about the ongoing trial: “Another revolting situation is Dr. George Tiller in Kansas, known as Tiller the Baby Killer, who’s on trial for killing babies who are about to be born, late-term abortions.” O’Reilly also said, “If you want to kill a baby, you hire Tiller, you’ve got to pay him 5,000 up front, and he’ll kill the baby. … You should know, his best friend is the governor of Kansas, Sebelius. … She has taken specific steps to carve out the law so that it will protect Tiller the baby killer.”
• March 17: Still on the Tiller trial, O’Reilly said, “You know this George Tiller, called Tiller the baby killer, is charged with 19 misdemeanors. And what this guy does, and we have proven it beyond a reasonable doubt, Kelly, is that he kills babies in late term. He aborts them in late term. They’re no longer fetuses. They’re viable babies. He aborts them for any and all reasons if you pay him $5,000.”
• March 2: O’Reilly said Sebelius took “campaign money from George Tiller, known as Tiller, the baby killer. He’s currently charged with a variety of crimes centering on his abortion practice. He aborts babies at any time for just about any reason if you pay him $5,000.”
• Jan. 26: O’Reilly discussed an executive order Obama signed allowing federal money to go to international family planning groups that provide abortions. O’Reilly complained that Obama quietly signed the order rather than publicizing it. “I wanted George Tiller the baby killer going, ‘Yeah, can I make more money killing babies now,'” O’Reilly said.
That’s just from 2009. There were many other examples in previous years.
There is so much history between the inflammatory and false propaganda from radical christianists that we actually have a term for it. This is an example of “stochastic terrorism”. Republicans and radical christianists systematically incite violence against women and organizations designed to give them rights.
Republican members of the Religious Right incited violence as predictably as if they had issued a call for Christian abortion foes to take up arms. Inciting violence this way is called stochastic terrorism:
“Stochastic terrorism is the use of mass communications to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable. In short, remote-control murder by lone wolf.”
In an incident of stochastic terrorism, the person who pulls the trigger gets the blame. He—I use the male pronoun deliberately because the triggerman is almost always male—may go to jail or even be killed during his act of violence. Meanwhile, the person or persons who have triggered the triggerman, in other words, the actual stochastic terrorists, often go free, protected by plausible deniability. The formula is perversely brilliant:
- A public figure with access to the airwaves or pulpit demonizes a person or group of persons.
- With repetition, the targeted person or group is gradually dehumanized, depicted as loathsome and dangerous—arousing a combustible combination of fear and moral disgust.
- Violent images and metaphors, jokes about violence, analogies to past “purges” against reviled groups, use of righteous religious language—all of these typically stop just short of an explicit call to arms.
- When violence erupts, the public figures who have incited the violence condemn it—claiming no one could possibly have foreseen the “tragedy.”
Stochastic terrorism is not a fringe concept. It is a terrorist modality that has been described at length by analysts. It produces terrorism patterns that should be known to any member of Congress or any presidential candidate who has ever thought deeply about national or domestic security issues, which one might hope, is all of them.
We can be confident that communications teams for Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum and others are scrambling at this very moment to figure out the nuances of plausible deniability—weighing how best to distance themselves from the violence that killed a police officer and two others without making their protestations of surprised dismay sound as hollow as they actually are—without actually denouncing the disgust and dehumanization of women who have abortions and those who provide them.
The FBI warned about the uptick in terrorist threats against Women’s Health Clinics and specifically Planned Parenthood months ago. There have been firebombings and other acts of vandalism. It was only a matter of time before that video and the rhetoric of the Republican Presidential candidates turned into direct violence against people.
For several months now, law enforcement has been concerned about people targeting reproductive health facilities — specifically Planned Parenthood locations across the country.
As CBS News first reported in September, an FBI intelligence bulletin went out to law enforcement agencies nationwide with that warning. It came asCongress was debating Planned Parenthood funding and on the heels of the release of a series of videos by Center for Medical Progress that purported to show Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the harvesting of fetal tissue from abortions.
The intelligence bulletin warned of “lone offenders using tactics of arsons and threats all of which are typical of the pro-life extremist movement.”
At that time there had already been nine criminal or suspicious incidents in seven states and the District of Columbia.
In one incident in August, someone poured gasoline on a New Orleans Planned Parenthood security guard’s car and set the vehicle on fire. According to the FBI, there was another incident in July in Aurora, Colorado in which someone poured gasoline around the entrance of a Planned Parenthood facility, also causing a fire.
The public faces of these fanatics are quick to pray the one day they aren’t harassing women at clinics. You can read JJ’s and BB’s last post over the weekend for many examples of the reaction of the right to the attack on the clinic and the murder of three people. All you have to do is volunteer to be a clinic escort or watch the antics of “protestors” to see the roots of the violence and know that it’s not about life or love.
I was the first appointment that day and noticed a few men, all in their 50s or 60s, milling around the parking lot when we pulled in. Once we got out of the car, one made a beeline for us with a fistful of pamphlets. My aunt said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and he got irate, screaming, “How can you do this? You’re killing your baby to continue on your whore lifestyle, you jezebel!’ Suddenly we were surrounded by five other men — that’s when the baby-doll parts starting hitting us.
They had a box filled with torn apart baby dolls covered with red paint. All three of us were hit — in the head, chest, torso. As they were pelting us, they yelled, “This is what you’re doing to your baby! Look at the street! It’s strewn with the blood of your baby. That’s your baby scattered across the street!” It was surreal and terrifying at once. And we still had to cross a wide street to enter the clinic. Then they shouted at my aunt, “Grandma, why are you letting her do this? Tell her to give her baby up for adoption!” My aunt responded, “First of all, I’m not old enough to be a grandma. Second, come talk to me when you have a uterus and a vagina.”
It’s a systemic attack on women’s autonomy. We know that it’s nationwide, well-funded, well-organized and it’s basically a syndicate like organized crimes. We know this because many of the law suits against these people involve Civil RICCO.
I’m not sure what it’s going to take to get the majority of this country to realize that we have a huge issue with homegrown white male, christianist terrorism. We can’t get sensible gun regulation because of the NRA syndicate. We also see systemic demonization of Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood. One of the major political parties and its small but vocal and voting minority are the problem.
What’s on your voting and blogging list today?