Open Thread with Clouds and Lake

Some fluffy clouds reflected in a placid lake (photo taken by moi during a walk last week) feature for this week’s Open Thread. Please natter/chatter/vent/rant on anything* you like over this weekend and throughout the week.

A blue sky with scattered fluffy clouds reflected in the waters of a lake

Blue sky and clouds reflected in Lake Macquarie, NSW, Australia

So, what have you been up to? What would you rather be up to? What’s been awesome/awful?
Reading? Watching? Making? Meeting?
What has [insert awesome inspiration/fave fansquee/guilty pleasure/dastardly ne’er-do-well/threat to all civilised life on the planet du jour] been up to?


* Netiquette footnotes:
* There is no off-topic on the Weekly Open Thread, but consider whether your comment would be on-topic on any recent thread and thus better belongs there.
* If your comment touches on topics known to generally result in thread-jacking, you will be expected to take the discussion to #spillover instead of overshadowing the social/circuit-breaking aspects of this thread.

Posted in Life, Politics, Popular Culture, The Cultural Canon | Tagged | 30 Comments

Math disparities the result of unconscious teacher biases

So, here’s a report from Israel via NPR demonstrating pretty conclusively that disparities in math achievement in school between girls and boys are an artifact of sexism, not any innate differences between the sexes. Turns out that if teachers who know the students grade sixth-grade math exams, girls do worse than boys. But when those same exams are graded by outside teachers who don’t know the genders of the students, the girls in fact do better than the boys. However, the lower scores seem to discourage girls from pursuing mathematics at higher levels.

It’s always good to have hard data bearing out feminist analysis.

Another thing to note: as an English teacher, I’m often told by students that my grading is “subjective,” not like the “objective” grading of math and science, where an answer is either right or wrong (in English essays, it’s either well-supported and well-written or not). But this data seems to show pretty conclusively that math grading, even on the elementary-school level, is subjective as well.

Posted in General | 13 Comments

Q&A: Dating When You’re Fat?

Can you imagine a society where 75 per cent of folks are gay, yet society is still as homophobic as the Duggar clan? That’s pretty much what fat people deal with every day, so we’ve made this far-reaching topic the crux of the last episode of this summer miniseries…

PROBLEM

three-quarters of Americans are obese or overweight. yet society still tells us fat people are ugly.
society especially stigmatises fat geeks. one of them asked us how to date girls if you’re fat.

SOLUTION

at our weekly LAN party, we formulated 5 tips for anyone, female or male, saddled with fat baggage.

JENNIFER H.

“i don’t think losing weight will help. weight is likely not the biggest reason for your bad love life.”
“lack of confidence is usually a bigger factor. being thin but insecure will still mess up your love life.”
“like i always say, practising your social skills is more important than your appearance. level up.”

CIARA M.

“you really think fat folks can’t date? you must not have seen fat couples shopping at Walmart.”
“look, 75 per cent of English-speakers are fat. yet we’re still managing to mate, reproduce and marry.”
“being part of the fat majority may suck, but finding love isn’t a lost cause. you can make it work.”

BRYNNE C.

“don’t just assume everyone wants to date thin, simply because you mostly see thin people on TV.”
“ask yourself this. if thinness is so popular, why are porn sites full of curvy, even BBW models?”
“clearly a lot of folks are into big and curvy. i guarantee someone out there appreciates your body type.”

KATRINA R.

“yes, you’ll be rejected often. but how you act when that happens is as important as when you score.”
“don’t sulk when someone at the party rejects you. be prepared with ingenious, clever comebacks.”
“cleverness shows  confidence. others see or hear you? they’ll be impressed, and maybe attracted.”

MELISSA A.

“if you truly believe losing weight will aid your dating, then date others with the same goal.”
“join a running group, for instance. it’ll show you’re committed, plus you’ll meet others like yourself.”
“having support will boost your confidence. and that will help your dating game more than anything.”

Agree or disagree? Post away in the comments.

By now most of you have figured out we plan to start a long-term series of feminist game reviews this winter. One reason we did this summer miniseries was to beef up our experience – you can find a summary of lessons we learned in our latest Tumblr post, though it’s a bit geared toward professional designers. But this excerpt is worth some food for feminist thought…

Often we’ve scratched our heads, wondering how to debug an encoder so it would stop crashing the rendering engine, and we’ve asked ourselves, “If we were feminists doing our first video project, and we were dealing with these arcane technical issues, would we have the patience to keep trying to fix them? Or would we throw in the towel because frankly even experienced editors might not know where to start, much less novices who haven’t spent years on analysing the macroblocking effects of different codecs, like we have?” We suspect the latter has occurred to many aspiring female YouTubers who don’t get the same training or encouragement male counterparts receive from their mates or mentors.

Are we selling girl YouTubers short? Do you have women friends who’ve encountered roadblocks when trying to build themselves on YouTube? Let us know what you think.

(And to show we’re not blowing hot air about our plans, here’s a screenshot of what we’ve been working on lately. Enjoy.)

Untitled

“Q&A” is an on-going effort to bring more original content to Feministe, via conversations with other feminists. If you wish to send hate mail, please direct to the Republican Rape Caucus.

Posted in Dating, relationships | 10 Comments

You never should’ve opened that door…

Employers can refuse to provide coverage for contraception on moral as well as religious grounds.

My reaction to this is slightly more complex than it might be normally. I certainly am in favor of demystifying and debunking the idea that religious beliefs have a special centrality and fervency and we atheists simply can’t imagine as we go about our stolid, prosaic, immoral lives.

However.

I’m in favor of doing that not by elevating every moral belief one might have to the protected status that articles of faith currently hold, but by holding the devout to the same standards the rest of us have to meet. And I still find it absurd to say that companies, or even not-for-profits can hold moral or religious beliefs. They’re not human entities. They don’t have consciousness. They don’t have rights. The end. I find it almost as absurd as I find this quotation:

[The group] opposes methods of contraception that it says can amount to abortion, including hormonal products, intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives. Many scientists disagree that those methods of contraception are equivalent to abortion.

One of these groups is qualified to make statements about how contraception works. One of these groups’ positions is, therefore, correct. The NYT bending over backwards to avoid making a fact-based assertion–and the courts’ refusal to take actual facts into account–is deeply disturbing to me. Contraception does not cause abortion. Vaccines do not cause autism. The world is not flat. There are such things as facts.

And when a humanities professor has to make that point, you know we’re in deep shit.

Posted in General | 13 Comments

Climate Change Hits Women Harder

I found this article, about how natural disasters, and therefore climate change, have significantly greater negative effects on women fascinating. (The article is from March–I have a backlog of stuff I bookmarked to blog about. Most of it does not necessarily seem interesting enough to resurrect several months later, but this piece did to me.)

The statistics are startling. According to the article,

natural disasters on average kill more women than men — 90 percent female fatalities in some cases, prevent girls from going to school, increase the threat of sexual assault.

The article lists numerous reasons for this upsetting disparity: men are more likely to own cell phones, so women are less likely to receive early alerts; girls rather than boys are in charge of fetching fresh water, often at the expense of their schooling and/or safety; women are less likely to be able to swim or climb trees. And natural disasters increase the rate at which girls are married off as well. The article also suggests ways of helping women and girls, some so staggeringly obvious that I’m gobsmacked that they had to be developed rather than be default: asking women and girls what they need/want, for instance, and providing gender-segregated restrooms in shelters so women feel safe going there.

The article made me wonder if the same dynamic was present in, say, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the US.

Surprise, it was. According to this piece, the recovery period showed that rates of violence against women quadrupled in the wake of the hurricane, and due to women’s mobility being limited by childbirth, responsibility for children and elderly relatives, and by making up a higher proportion of the elderly themselves, women are significantly more vulnerable during disaster in the US as well. I also found reviews of this book, told by the women who survived the hurricane themselves and highlighting gendered components of their experiences.

So, it seems that in multiple locations around the world, natural disasters, far from making us all equal, exacerbate existing inequalities. I wish I could be surprise.

Posted in General | 1 Comment

Quick hit: Malala Yousafzai aced high school, naturally

Malala Yousafzai survived a gunshot to the head from the Taliban in retribution for her passionate activism about education for girls starting when she was just eleven. She started a nonprofit to promote and enable education for girls, including those threatened by the Taliban in her native Pakistan. She won a Nobel Prize at age 16. She’s spoken to the UN. She’s traveled the globe to speak with world leaders. She’s also declined to speak with world leaders when it would conflict with her high school class schedule, which is why her grades are better than yours.

Even after winning a Nobel peace prize, with glittering invitations to speak to presidents across the world, education activist Malala Yousafzai always had one priority: her schoolwork.

And the Pakistani pupil’s dedication to her studies has paid off, according to her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, who tweeted that the 18-year-old had achieved six A*s and four As when the GCSE results were released on Thursday.

With her grades, and probably a few letters of recommendation and good extracurricular activities, she’s likely to get into Oxford — her first-choice school — with little difficulty. From there, she’s likely to continue to inspire millions, lead positive change, promote full education for girls, build schools in war zones and refugee areas — you know, same old same old — and I suppose maybe learn to row, since I hear that’s a big thing there.

She plans to remain in the UK for the remainder of her education. “I want to get my education — a good university education. A lot of the politicians have studied in Oxford, like Benazir [Bhutto, who Malala states is her role model]. My dream is to empower myself with education, and then it is a weapon.”

(In all seriousness, this is both awesome and not at all surprising, so congratulations and wow and best of all things to her.)

(Oh, also, she has a movie coming out in October, He Named Me Malala, so that’s another thing that she’s done while still getting top grades.)

Of course, this raises a question: Did Ziauddin Yousafzai first look at her grades and say, “Six A’s? Why aren’t they all A*?” and then pretend he was kidding before she could start crying? Because I’m pretty sure all dads are required to do that.

Posted in Education, Religion, Terrorism | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Quick hit: Duke freshman refuse to, can’t wait to read Fun Home

On the one hand: Several Duke University students have publicly announced their unwillingness to do the suggested freshman summer reading. They refused to read Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about her experiences with her father and her relationship with her sexual identity, because it offends their Christian values. Freshman Brian Grasso took issue with the “graphic visual depictions of sexuality” and said that “[he] would have to compromise [his] personal Christian moral beliefs to read it.” Others said that while they might have been willing to read it in plain print, the graphic format was unacceptable, with one saying it would “violate [his] conscience due to its pornographic nature.” Some students found it offensive that the book was included on the reading list at all.

Although the book selection has prompted valuable discussions for some first ­years, others said it changed their perception of Duke.

“I thought to myself, ‘What kind of school am I going to?'” said freshman Elizabeth Snyder-­Mounts.

Grasso noted that he felt the book choice was insensitive to people with more conservative beliefs.

“Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind,” he said. “It was like Duke didn’t know we existed, which surprises me.”

On the other hand: Other students, not locked into a fearful, fundamentalist view of the world around them, are excited to read Fun Home and gratified to see it on the reading list. For some, the book and subsequent discussions have been their first exposure to the lives, experiences, and identities of LGBT people. For others, just the fact that Duke included the book on the freshman reading list, and invited Bechdel to speak on campus, is a gratifying sign that they might feel accepted on a welcoming campus.

Zephyr Farah, a first year student who attended the Bechdel lunch on August 20, described to us the “surreal” feeling she experienced when finding out “a book that talked so frequently and so deeply about being a lesbian was assigned [as] summer reading for school.” Farah grew up in places as far apart as Qatar, Angola and Texas, and was shocked at the openness she found when she got to campus, based on discussions of Fun Home. Marveling over the moment when she had the chance to shake Bechdel’s hand, Farah remarks, “It wasn’t the basketball, the school spirit, or the enormous Brodie Gym that excited me about Duke; it was the acceptance, the advocacy and the willingness here to treat people as people. Fun Home is a symbol of that for me.”

[…]

It is unfortunate that the Duke Chronicle did not reach out to some of these students, LGBTQ or not, who have engaged so thoughtfully with Bechdel’s work. For example, Duke student Jasmine Lu told us that she was glad that Fun Home was selected as recommended reading because she had “never familiarized [herself] with the very common identity crisis that lesbian women go through.” She points out that while she appreciates the book for how it opened her mind to thinking about the difficulties that face LGBTQ people in coming to terms with their identities, what she got most out of the book was a meditation on how Bechdel’s relationship with her father had shaped her life. Lu wrote to us, “It was [Bechdel’s] revelation to us on how much of a mystery her father was even after all the facts of his life came out that really resonated with me as I’m sure it could with almost anyone. [… S]o while I respect the others’ choices to not read the book, I’m also sad that it wasn’t able to touch them as it had touched me.”

tl:dr: Some Christian students at Duke believe that anything depicting sexuality in a visual format is by definition biblically condemned wank fodder and are offended that their summer reading list was not crafted around their delicate sensibilities; other students acknowledge that college will likely be full of challenging ideas and that sometimes the things that offend them are the ones they most need to understand, and embrace the opportunity to learn something.

Bonus Bechdel: Unrelated to Christian sensibilities or Duke’s reading list, Bechdel has said that while the test that bears her name did appear first in her comic strip, the actual standard was created by her friend Liz Wallace and should really be called the Bechdel­-Wallace test. Adjust future movie analyses accordingly.

Posted in Education, GLBTQ, Literature, Religion | Tagged | 24 Comments

Women’s suffrage (on paper)

On this day in history, 95 years ago, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby signed a proclamation amending the U.S. Constitution to guarantee a woman’s right to vote — after a fashion — with the signing of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Said Alice Paul, of the National American Woman Suffrage Association,

August 26 will be remembered as one of the great days in the history of the women of the world and in the history of this republic. All women must feel a great sense of triumph and of unmeasurable relief at the successful conclusion of a long and exhausting struggle. The suffrage amendment is now safe beyond all reasonable expectation of legal attack. This opinion was secured from high legal authorities by officers of the National Woman’s Party who devoted their efforts after the signing of the ratification proclamation to discover what further steps, if any, would be necessary to protect the amendment. Pending injunction cases were automatically thrown out of court by the signing of the proclamation according to the consensus of legal opinion.

And it was a momentous day, and we should celebrate it. So… let’s do that.

But let’s also not forget that Paul’s statement that “all women must feel a great sense of triumph” wasn’t necessarily accurate, and that many of the women who fought for women’s suffrage wouldn’t be able to enjoy it themselves for another four decades. In much of the country, black women had been excluded from the women’s suffrage movement. Many Southern suffragists felt that women’s suffrage should only be extended to white women, and celebrated feminists including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were explicitly willing to throw black women under the bus in the interest of gaining equality for white women. At Paul’s Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913, black women were welcome to stand in favor of women’s suffrage but were expected to do so from their segregated position all the way at the back of the parade. Between political actions by states and personal actions within communities, black women remained disenfranchised in a way that wasn’t addressed in any substantive, legally enforceable way until the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 — for which they had to much of the fighting themselves.

So yes, the passage of the 19th Amendment was an important and historical day, and it was a long time coming. But as we acknowledge that, we can’t let ourselves fall into the handy rhetorical trap of saying that the 19th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote for all women, because that just isn’t accurate. At best, women’s suffrage was passed without respect for black women, and at worst, it was passed on the backs of black women. The image of Ida B. Wells at the parade in 1913, forced to stand at the back but working her way through a crowd of thousands to march among the white women of her state’s delegation, is sadly representative of the fight for all women’s suffrage, and we need to remember that.

Posted in History, Law, Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Racism | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Mind your business, Ohio legislature

Let me make this perfectly clear:

I just went through a pregnancy for a much-wanted child. I endured morning sickness that lasted throughout the entire pregnancy. I became so short of breath that I had to stop and rest partway up the stairs in my own home. I dislocated a rib. My heartburn was so bad that I had to take two or three separate medications each day. I had a major placental abruption with a level of blood loss that the doctors termed “impressive,” and placental abruption carries risk to both mother and fetus. And if I want to go through that, that is my decision. And if I decide not to go through with that ever again, no matter what my reason is, that is also my decision.

And my reasons for it are no legislature’s business. Whether or not anybody else thinks it’s a good reason. If someone chooses to have an abortion because of the fetus’s sex, race, disability status–not anybody else’s business.

So how does the Ohio legislature plan to enforce its bill prohibiting abortion due to a fetus having Down’s syndrome? Do they plan to bug doctors’ offices? How would any policeman know what a given woman’s reasons for abortion are? Particularly given that the blood test that can tell you whether your fetus has trisomy-18 or Down’s Syndrome (trisomy 21) is done at nine weeks. That’s quite early. Women have abortions that early for any number of reasons. This is a symbolic bill, and what it symbolizes is that the conversations pregnant people have with our doctors are not private, are not ours. It symbolizes that our decisions are never free from the judgment of others. We are never trusted to make our own decisions about child-bearing. But they are our decisions, and our motivations are between us and those we choose to consult. Forced-birthers using disability rights advocacy as a cat’s paw to muddy the issue doesn’t change that.

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Black Girls and the School to Prison Pipeline

If I say “school-to-prison pipeline,” you may think of the criminalization of African-American boys, almost always for behavior that would merit their white counterparts at most detention. But what about the girls? Just as racist police brutality does not give a pass to black women, so too does the school-to-prison pipeline operate for black girls as well. First, some statistics. According to Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected, BY Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw with Priscilla Ocen and Jyoti Nanda, a report issued by the African-American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Policy Studies at the Columbia Law School, in the 2011-2012 school year in NYC:

Black girls were suspended six times as often as white girls, with 12% of black girls being suspended in a given year.

There about twice as many black girls enrolled in public school as white girls, but they are disciplined ten times as often.

90% of expulsions of girls were of black girls. 90%! Not one white girl was expelled that year. (This strongly suggests to me that schools do not value black girls as students.)

“Black girls receive more severe sentences when they enter the juvenile justice system than do members of any other group of girls, and they are also the fastest growing population in the system” Crenshaw, Ocen, and Nanda write. So when teachers and schools fail to value black girls, punish them unreasonably for minor offenses (Crenshaw’s report opens with several pretty appalling examples), and in other ways discourage them from attending school or devalue the education they get, they are putting them at risk for criminal detention in a legal system that is all too happy to keep them. And as for young men, when young women leave school without a high school diploma, they are far more likely to find themselves stuck in low-wage work with very few routes for advancement.

The entire report is worth reading. Some of the appalling miscarriages of justice described are of a piece with what we know affects black boys as well: zero-tolerance policies that lead to expulsions for carrying nail clippers, for instance, and schools focused far more on discipline and high-stakes testing than education. But much of what Crenshaw writes about is gendered: girls experience metal detectors and searches on their way into school as akin to sexual harassment, as feeling “naked” in front of authority figures; girls who act out are punished to a far greater extent than boys who act out in the same way; boys’ sexual harassment of girls is overlooked while the girls’ responses are punished heavily; sexual abuse and other interpersonal violence is an incredibly strong predictor of girls’ involvement with school disciplinary procedures, and is also a significant reason for girls’ leaving school. And family care-taking responsibilities, including children and older family members, fall far more heavily on the shoulders of black girls than on their male counterparts.

I started collecting sources for this post back in April, and the interruption to my blogging has taken its toll; this topic deserves a far more thoughtful piece. But the perfect is the enemy of better-than-my-silence on this issue, and this site of oppression, at the intersection of race and gender and all too frequently, disability, needs to be a topic of discussion among feminists.

Particularly white feminists, because there’s another side to this issue. The side with the active voice. Black girls are suspended, are expelled, are disciplined. But who is it who’s suspending, expelling, and otherwise pushing these girls away from education and toward the criminal “justice” system? Mikki Kendall notes in this interview that “80% of teachers are white and mostly women.” Who is waging this war on black children, boys and girls? Principals, sure, but the teachers on the frontlines are mostly white women. This is a situation where white women are enforcing race and gender norms at the expense of black girls. I have not been able to get my hands on Kendall’s piece about this for Bitch Planet (I keep trying to buy the issue digitally, it keeps not working) but I’d bet solid money that what she has to say is worth reading. I’m going to try and order it from my local comic shop. I’d welcome comments from, well, everybody, obviously, but if anybody has read it, I’d be particularly interested to hear about it.

Posted in Education, Gender, Race & Ethnicity, Racism | 11 Comments

Friday Hypocrisy Link Dump: Ashley Madison edition

Hey, what goes on in a person’s bedroom is their own damn business, and the number of people wittingly or unwittingly invited into a couple’s relationship is also their own damn business. (My personal feeling is that honesty is the best policy, but you do you.) (Or other people, if that’s your thing. Like I said, not my business.) That said, if you’re going to actively fight against marriage equality on account of family values, and claim that it will result in the collapse of traditional marriage and the destruction of families, it helps to have your own marriage on the up and up. It definitely helps to not turn over your credit card information and personal profile to a site dedicated to helping people have affairs like some kind of extramarital OK Cupid. Especially when that site is vulnerable to hacking and massive data dumps. Fr’instance:

19 Side Pieces and Counting. Josh Duggar was one of the stars, in case you hadn’t guessed from the name, of the recently-canceled TLC show 19 Kids and Counting and former executive director of the Family Research Council, from which he was forced to resign after his molestation of five girls (four of whom were his sisters) was revealed in May of this year. But that was when he was a teenager, and now he’s made his peace with God, and now he’s an adult and a better person. (I will grant you that child molestation is way worse than marital infidelity, so good on you with the baby steps, J.D.) Yeah, within the recent leak of Ashley Madison user information were not one but two accounts with his name and address (one in Arkansas, one in Maryland, both his) to the tune of nearly $1,000, running from February 2013 until May 2015 (which, coincidentally, happened to be when the molestation was revealed). Account details indicate that he was looking for (among other activities) “conventional sex,” “one-night-stands,” “sensual massage,” and “bubble bath for 2,” from a woman who is (among other qualities) “stylish/classy,” “naughty girl,” “a good listener,” “has a secret love nest,” “natural breasts,” and “Proverbs 31 woman.” (Okay, I made that last one up.)

While Duggar hasn’t responded to the Ashley Madison revelation, he has copped to a porn addiction, saying that he has been “the biggest hypocrite ever.” But that depends on if you’re calculating gross hypocrisy, or hypocrisy per capita:

Give ‘Em Hell, Alabama. We can’t forget the news that the state of Alabama leads the nation in college football championships, professed conservative values, and paid infidelity. An analysis of the leaked Ashley Madison data shows that Alabamians spent about $5.50 per capita in pursuit of strange, head and cheating shoulders above second-place Colorado, which spent about $4.50. Rammer Jammer, Yellowhammer.

The Big Easy. Marriage might be between one man and one woman, but infidelity is pretty much infinite. For the Ashley Madison trifecta, we have the director of the Louisiana Republican Party, Jason Dore, who also had an Ashley Madison account dating back to 2013. He’s said that while the account was created under his name and personal credit card information, it was actually for use by his former law firm, Dore Jeansonne, for “standard opposition research.” He said in a later statement that he also “only subscribed to Playboy to read the articles.” (Okay, I made that part up, too.)

Your Tax Dollars at Work. To be perfectly fair, furtive pursuit of affairs is not limited to conservatives. Hundreds of U.S. government employees from both sides of the aisle have been logging in to the site from the office, using .gov and .mil email addresses, because taxpayers and constituents are definitely interested in funding governmental hunts for extramarital activity. Users included House and Senate workers, workers in more than two dozen executive agencies, and at least two assistant U.S. attorneys. Profiles included “liberal democrat,” “Educated Professional Democrat,” “A Democrat who loves to kiss,” “Refined Republican,” “Republican 2:16” (and I’m praying that refers to a bible verse), and “Life is a blur of Republicans and meat.”

Please let this be a reminder that everything that’s on the Internet is going to come off of it eventually, and that if you’re on a lengthy, widespread, self-righteousness-fueled campaign to destroy relationships and control people’s lives and bodies in the name of “traditional families,” make sure your own “family values” don’t mean Looking for identical twins pref. blonde for bathtub fun, maybe more.

Posted in GLBTQ, Marriage, Politics, relationships, Religion, Reproductive Rights | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Investigations reveal that no, seriously, Planned Parenthood isn’t selling baby parts

Recently, I disassembled accusations that Planned Parenthood is selling baby parts. (My argument was basically, “No, both Planned Parenthood and just about everyone in the medical field who knows anything about tissue research and donation agree that Planned Parenthood isn’t selling baby parts, and here’s supporting data.”) Following multiple independent investigations, however, it was revealed Friday that… Planned Parenthood still isn’t selling baby parts.

The investigations were launched after the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, began releasing hidden-camera videos in July that supposedly depicted Planned Parenthood physicians and staff members discussing the sale of fetal parts. Conservatives and anti-abortion activists have argued that Planned Parenthood is illegally benefiting from the sales, but the health organization says that any associated fees are simply to cover the cost of processing, storage and transfer of the tissues for medical research, and that all donations are made voluntarily. Planned Parenthood has said the videos are misleading and heavily edited.

[…]

“In every state where these investigations have concluded, officials have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement Friday. “We’ve said all along that Planned Parenthood follows all laws and has very high medical standards, and that’s what every one of these investigations has found. This campaign by anti-abortion extremists is nothing less than a fraud, intended to deceive the public with patently false claims in order to pursue an extreme political agenda.”

In the wake of the original video release, Congress announced plans to investigate Planned Parenthood, and 11 states have launched their own investigations. In Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, and South Dakota, all Planned Parenthood affiliates have been found to be working in complete compliance with all laws. In Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas, investigations also aren’t likely to uncover wrongdoing, since Planned Parenthood locations there don’t donate tissue at all or don’t even have centers performing abortions in that state. (Investigation into whether citizens are pissed that their tax dollars are being used to investigate activities that literally aren’t happening have yet to be launched.)

Several articles in support of Planned Parenthood appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine this month, reiterating that investigations into the allegations have been fruitless and confirming the value of tissue donation and the importance of Planned Parenthood to women’s health. R. Alt Charo, JD, says plainly that “we have a duty to use fetal tissue for research and therapy,” and that the investigations into Planned Parenthood haven’t revealed wrongdoing but have resulted in calls to defund PP and to outlaw the use of fetal tissue in research. And Drs. George P. Topulos, Michael F. Greene, and Jeffrey M. Drazen wrote:

We strongly support Planned Parenthood not only for its efforts to channel fetal tissue into important medical research but also for its other work as one of the country’s largest providers of health care for women, especially poor women.

[…]

It is shameful that a radical antichoice group whose goal is the destruction of Planned Parenthood continues to twist the facts to achieve its ends. We thank the women who made the choice to help improve the human condition through their tissue donation; we applaud the people who make this work possible and those who use these materials to advance human health. We are outraged by those who debase these women, this work, and Planned Parenthood by distorting the facts for political ends.

House Democrats, for their part, are calling for an investigation of the Center for Medical Progress (again, not to be confused with the Center for Medical Progress at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research), the anti-choice group that shot the undercover videos, edited them misleadingly, and posted them online. The Center has allegedly used fake IDs in the course of making the videos and appears to be soliciting donations as a 501(c)3 “medical charity.”

In the meantime, governors of Arkansas, Georgia, and Louisiana have moved to block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood (which may or may not be legal). A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, however, has shown that despite the hit that Planned Parenthood has taken to its image in the wake of the videos, more than 60 percent of respondents said they supported federal funding for prenatal care and women’s health exams, and 54 percent supported funding Planned Parenthood, specifically, to do it.

(h/t The Maddow Blog)

Posted in Health, Law, Medicine, Politics, Reproductive Rights | Tagged , , | 1 Comment