Don’t believe the hype, or really? 18 Jars of poo?

Now that Texas has shown it’s disdain for women, I wanted to follow-up on a couple of things that really bothered me about the events of that evening.

1) Erick Erickson is a misogynist d-bag. Erickson, you might recall, got spanked on Fox news for his widely disseminated views that women in the workplace are what’s wrong with America. The night of the vote, he tweeted a link to a coat hanger wholesaler with instructions for liberals to bookmark the link. It was crude, insensitive and offensive. He deleted it and wrote an apology that was even more offensive. I won’t link to it because I’d rather bleed in a cup than increase his Google ranking.

2) The right-wing is lying about the protesters. On the day the Texas Legislature decided they knew better about women’s reproductive health than the state’s health care organizations, doctors and women themselves, there was a big internet outcry because the Department of Public Safety was searching everyone’s bags and confiscating tampons and pads.

Almost instantly Twitter erupted with sarcastic hashtags pointing to the spectacle of state senators being uneasy about women carrying tampons, but perfectly fine to let them bring firearms. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. After a thorough public shaming, the senate started allowing women to carry their tampons again. I guess they’re not so much of a threat after all.

Not long afterwards, rumors started to fly around that DPS had found people trying to bring in jars of urine and feces. DPS put out a press release saying that they had received information that individuals planned to use a variety of items or props to disrupt legislative proceedings at the Texas Capitol. This prompted inspections of the bags protesters brought into the Capitol. The press release further stated that DPS had confiscated one jar of suspected urine and 18 jars of suspected feces.

Three seconds later, pro-forced birthers on Twitter went ballistic. See? See!?! These “pro-aborts” are animals who throw their own poo at their political enemies!

Now here’s the thing: The story seems to be hogwash. There were thousands of people at the Capitol. I dare say most of them had phones with cameras. I saw lots of photos of confiscated tampons, but not one photo of a jar — no urine, no feces. So I started checking Twitter to see if anyone else had seen anything.

Every pro-forced birther on Twitter said it happened. Many claimed to have seen “widely tweeted plans” to throw tampons, urine and feces on the senators, but no one pointed to any of these tweets and I can’t seem to find them. Every new report about the jars quotes the same press release from DPS, but no one seems to have actually seen them.

I read an account of one pro-choice protester who described the inspection she went through before going inside the building. She said the trooper pulled everything out of her purse and shined a flashlight inside. This was before her bag was inspected a second time as she entered the gallery. While in line, she heard a pro-forced birther (wearing blue) in front of her during his backpack inspection tell the trooper that he’d heard the protesters were going to throw bloody tampons at the senators. Again, this all seems to be coming from the right, but no one has any proof.

DPS didn’t arrest anyone for trying to carry jars of urine or feces into the Capitol. Why? Surely that’s illegal, right?

The Texas Tribune sent reporters around to all the entrances and to talk to officers outside the building. According to their report, no officer reported that they’d seen any jars. No one said they’d heard anything about it on the radio either. When questioned, DPS said there would be no further clarification. When pressed, they changed the wording on the press release to say the jars weren’t confiscated, but protesters were given the option to dispose of them or not be allowed to enter the building.

I smell a rat.

I also remember what happened in Denver when the DNC was getting ready to host their convention there. The city council passed an ordinance making it illegal to carry human waste around with you. Once again, they had heard rumors that protesters were going to throw urine and feces to try to disrupt the event. But no one every actually saw any and no one could point to any publicly known plans.

The next day, the pro-forced birthers upped the ante, claiming the DPS confiscated bricks! Now, if someone was trying to smuggle a brick into the Capitol, surely that would be cause for arrest, right? Did troopers just find a brick in some woman’s purse and say “Tsk, tsk” before taking the brick and letting her in?

I’ve asked everyone I know to ask about this and no one can produce a shred of evidence that anyone either planned to bring or tried to bring any jars or bricks into the building.

Let’s take a step back and think about this for a minute.

The demonstrations in Texas were unlike anything they’d seen before. Several senators said so. No one was expecting the public to be in such an uproar over this, but it happened and it caught them off guard. People lined up to wait ten hours or more to get into the building to show how outraged they were over this. The press was watching. Hell, the entire country was watching. The polling showed that the new restrictions weren’t popular with a majority in the state. The experts said the new restrictions wouldn’t make abortion safer, just harder to get.

So if you’re a God-fearing senator trying to save the unborn babies in the face of a tidal wave of angry women and their supporters, what do you do to discredit them? One easy way would be to claim they were planning on becoming violent. Spread the rumor that they were planning to throw feces and urine and bricks and bloody tampons.

Just remember, it was DPS who changed their story, not the pro-choice protesters. That night, they claimed to have confiscated the jars. When asked about the jars, they said the jars weren’t confiscated, but were disposed of and the people allowed to walk on in. All the press reports the various conservative sites are pointing to depend on that one press release. Despite so many photos and videos of nearly every aspect of this session, I’ve yet to see one photo of a jar of poo or a brick. I’ve yet to see one first-hand account of seeing a jar of poo or a brick. You’d think, if they existed, photos of these jars would be all over the internet, just to show how awful these pro-choice women were.

And why jars? How did everyone know to use jars? Why not baggies? Tupperware? Those disposable containers that lunchmeat comes in? No. There are too many red flags. I don’t believe it happened.

3) Right wingers claimed the protesters were becoming violent. Meanwhile, you have people like Congressman Steve Stockman (R-natch) tweeting that Capitol Police are warning pro-forced birthers to leave the building for their own safety, that the building was on lockdown and that DPS was locking some pro-forced birthers in senate offices to keep them safe. Erick Erickson also jumped in claiming the same thing. It should be noted here that they weren’t there that night and not even DPS has made that claim.

While the building was supposedly on lockdown from the scary ole’ peaceful demonstrators, I was watching the live feed from the senate floor and everything seemed calm. I tweeted a few people I knew to be there on both sides of the debate and all the replies I received said it was loud, but not out of control.

In fact, there were no reports of violence breaking out at any point during the protests, but that didn’t stop the right-wing nut jobs from lying about it. And if they’ll lie about that, then they have no trouble lying about a jar of feces.

 

 

 

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It isn’t pro-life, it is pro-forced birth.

As an avid new media fan, I took to Twitter to follow the drama in the Texas state house regarding the draconian abortion restrictions being debated there. It was inspiring to see all those women and men engaging the legislature during what became known as “The People’s Filibuster.” The gallery in Texas was crammed full of protesters in the burnt orange of the University of Texas.

I read updates as Sen. Wendy Davis stood and talked for more than 11 hours about why this was bad law. She was amazing and most likely launched a campaign to gain statewide office. She and the Democrats ran out the clock and the special legislative session ended without the Senate passing the bill.

The next day, Gov. Perry called for another special session. He had no choice, because there were other bills that needed attention, including a highway funding bill and a bill to reform the juvenile justice system in the state. Nevertheless, the state senate took up the abortion bill as the first order of business: SB1.

This time around, supporters showed up in blue shirts to cheer on the Republicans who sat around and voted down amendment after amendment, waiting until the time for the vote so they could go home. Impassioned pleas for sanity? Nope. Testimony from medical professionals? Ignored. Testimony from people affected by this bill? Why bother?

The omnibus abortion restrictions bill is a wish list for pro-forced birthers: It outlaws abortions after 20 weeks (supposedly the point where the fetus can feel pain). It creates a series of new regulations for health care clinics that provide abortion services, including making them adhere to the rules for an ambulatory surgical center, requiring doctors have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of the clinic, requiring all patients seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound at least 24 hours before the procedure, requiring doctors performing the procedure to amplify the fetal heartbeat for the patient, requiring patients who want non-surgical abortions (i.e. taking RU486) to travel to a surgical center and take the pill in front of a doctor.

Similar laws, passed in other states, have been struck down by courts, but Texans have their fingers crossed, I guess, that somehow, they’re special enough to get around that pesky Constitution.

What struck me was the difference in debate style between the two sides: Democrats offered testimony by medical professionals saying the restrictions were unnecessary and would have little or no affect on the care provided patients. The law would just shut down more than 80 percent of health care clinics in the state that provide abortion services. The Republicans cited the Bible, Jesus, the fear of God and debunked claims about the safety of the procedure.

It was daft. The author of the bill, Rep. Jodie Laubenberg refused any and all amendments, including exceptions for victims of rape and incest or considerations for the health and life of the mother. During the first special session, she claimed that the rape kits used by hospitals to collect forensic evidence would clean the woman out, so there was no need for an exception for rape victims. During the second special session, she claimed that the bill wasn’t about reducing abortions and it wouldn’t close any clinics because nothing in the bill specifically said a clinic has to close.

It was an astounding case of brain myopia. Each Republican claimed the bill was about providing a safe environment for the mother to have her abortion. They didn’t intend to restrict abortion at all, just make it safer. But if that were the case, why didn’t a single one of the state’s healthcare organizations endorse the bill?

Dr. Peter Carmel, president of the American Medical Association said the bill was a “needless, dangerous interference in the practice of medicine by politicians.”

But let’s get back to Rep. Laubenberg for a second. After spending hours and hours claiming the bill wasn’t designed to eliminate abortion or close clinics, she ended the evening’s debate by saying she wanted to limit abortions. She said there had been 70,000 abortions in Texas. Now let’s set the way-back machine to 2007, when Rep. Laubenberg was debating a health care bill in Texas, specifically a bill to provide health insurance to children (CHIP).

Laubenberg proposed an amendment to prevent pregnant women from seeking prenatal care under the program until three months into the pregnancy. When challenged by Democrats as to why these supposedly unborn babies didn’t deserve health care, Laubenberg replied “They’re not born yet.”

Look at what the bill requires:

1) All abortions must be performed in an ambulatory surgical center (ASC). Republicans say this requirement would make the procedure safer for women. In reality, surgical abortion is about as safe a procedure as there is in medicine. It is done with a local anesthetic without actually opening up the patient. It is considerably safer than carrying a child to term. On July 8, an offical from the Department of Social and Health Services testified “I wouldn’t be able to say abortion procedures would be safer if performed at an ambulatory surgical center.” Most abortions aren’t actually surgical procedures at all and the bill doesn’t specify that only surgical abortions must be performed at ASCs. In the first trimester, most patients are given medications to take home with instructions on how to take the pills. This law specifies that the patient must go to an ASC no matter what type of procedure she requires.

An interesting note about ASCs that came up during the debate: Abortion clinics are inspected by the state every year, but ASCs are only inspected every three years (and fertilizer plants are only inspected once every 30 years, evidently).

Another interesting note is that Gov. Perry’s sister is a big advocate for ASCs and most likely will make a bunch of money on abortions if the law passes.

2) No abortion after 20 weeks. If this seems familiar, it is because lots of Republican-controlled state legislators rolled out this bill in the last few years. The idea is that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. This isn’t actually supported by medical evidence. In fact, embryologist say that the neural pathways necessary to feel pain haven’t developed by then. Last March, a federal court struck down Idaho’s fetal pain law (enacted in 2010). So far, 11 states have fetal pain laws working their way through the courts.

3) Doctors performing abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. Now, think about that for a minute. Suppose something goes wrong during a surgical abortion. The patient is rushed to a hospital emergency room and is treated regardless of whether the doctor has privileges or not. In fact, even if the doctor has privileges, it is unlikely he or she will be the one to treat the patient at the hospital. So why does it matter? (I mean other than to interfere in a woman’s right to reproductive choice.)

4) All patients seeking an abortion are required to have an ultrasound. The doctor must amplify the fetal heartbeat and show the image to the patient. Patients must wait 24 hours after an ultrasound before having an abortion. Now, if a doctor believes an ultrasound is necessary, then he or she can order one, but forcing a patient to have (and pay for) a procedure that is medically unnecessary belies an attitude that a lot of old, fat men in these sacred halls of power possess: Women don’t really understand what they’re doing and need to be helped along. This law is often proposed as a way of ensuring that women have all the “necessary information” to make a good choice and have time to wrap their pretty little heads around their decisions. It infantilizes women and it is insulting. The 24 hour waiting period just creates another barrier for poor women who must take extra time off work, pay for a hotel room or make two trips.

5) A doctor must be present for every procedure. We live in a world where we can use our phones to watch live streaming video from Mars. Telemedicine has been around for years. Doctors in nearly every other field of medicine use it without problems. Certainly doctors should be present for any surgical procedures, but if the patient is simply seeking a “medical” abortion (as opposed to a surgical abortion) then there is really no reason for a doctor to be in the room to watch the patient take a pill.

As an aside: our second child was born at a birthing center with a nurse practitioner/midwife and a doula. Carrying a baby to term is way more complicated and dangerous than a medical abortion, but we weren’t required to see a doctor at all during the 72 hours of labor.

So let’s stop pretending that this bill was about anything other than throwing up boundaries between a woman and her right to reproductive choice. I’d also point out that Texas’ fascination with the life of a fetus ends with birth. In the last few years they have cut funds for education, family planning, health insurance for children and nutrition programs. The legislature doesn’t care about children, only forcing women to give birth. More than 96 percent of Texas school districts teach abstinence-only sex education. Texas leads the nation in teen births and is fourth in teen pregnancy. Studies and surveys show that teenagers who are only taught abstinence are just as likely to have sex as other students, but were much more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy as a result. The entirety of Texas law in this area seems to be institutionalized punishment for women who have sex.

In a recent interview with the Texas Tribune, Gov. Perry was asked why, given the statistics, does Texas still favor abstinence-only education? He replied “Abstinence works… it is the best form to teach our children.” Gov. Perry turned down $4.4 million in federal dollars aimed at expanding sex ed in the state to include information on birth control and STIs. You know, to help reduce unwanted pregnancy and, by extension, abortions.

It’s seriously like Texas is one big episode of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.” If you’ve ever seen the show, you’ll understand what I mean. The teenaged girls get married to teenaged boys. The mothers refuse to talk about sex with their daughters beforehand and the teenaged boys are suspicious of any gypsy girl who knows too much about sex before the wedding. The boys, on the other hand, are encouraged to have sex with non-gypsy girls so they’re all ready for the wedding night and it is all legitimized under a cloak of “tradition” when in reality it is a form of child abuse.

So what happens next? Well, for one thing, Rick Santorum is headed to Texas in case some of us weren’t aware of his views on abortion. The House will have a third reading of the bill (HB2) this week, then the Senate will pass it. It will be challenged in the courts and will be struck down. Perry has already announced he won’t run for another term. That’s probably a good idea since he’s lost the votes of a lot of women this month. Demographics are catching up with Texas and the fat, old men who believe they know better than a woman about what’s good for her will continue to demonstrate their ignorance and stupidity (I saw two people on Twitter post the same quote from a Texas rep: “An abortion is one of the most violent, terrible acts one man can do to another”) and eventually they’ll die off.

Can’t happen soon enough for the women of Texas.

I will say this for Texas, though. The reason I can get so worked up about it is because it was done in the light of day. Sure, it had to be done in a special session with different rules so the Republicans could ram it through, but by and large, it was done out in the open.

In North Carolina, Republicans took a bill to ban Sharia Law in the state (don’t get me started) and brought it to the floor with additional anti-abortion measures added, making this the most ironic bill to come out this year. It was a bill designed to ban Islamic law which is often used to subordinate women and it became a Christian bill designed to subordinate women. It is full of measures requiring abortion clinics to widen hallways and entrance awnings. You know, in the name of “safety.” Should the bill pass, all but one clinic in North Carolina would be forced to close.

In Ohio, Republicans added anti-abortion measures to the state budget, dumping the entire thing in Gov. Kasich’s lap. Kasich, who has the line-item veto, could have excised them, but instead he signed off. This new budget requires every woman seeking an abortion to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound (the state budget now requires a woman to be vaginally probed against her or her doctor’s will. When this came up in Virginia, opponents called it “State-sponsored rape“)

The budget also defunds Planned Parenthood, threatens jail terms and fines for any rape counselors receiving state funds to offer information about abortion to rape victims, provides funding for “crisis pregnancy centers” which are criticized for giving false and misleading information to pregnant women and requires doctors performing abortions to read from a script to the patient (even if he or she doesn’t believe the information in the script is necessary or acurate).

And, in case you still think this is about the safety of woman, the state budget forbids public hospitals from admitting women who have complications as a result of abortion procedures. None of this was debated. It was simply added to the must-pass state budget.

I’ll finish this screed with this: Right after the Texas House passed the bill on the second reading, Twitter lit up with people on both sides. I read a bunch of Tweets and I knew better, but one struck me and I decided to engage: