So, last week was fun on Twitter. Just one example of many:

I get the frustration; I really do. Black Lives Matter* activists have expressed the same frustration — how can people be so outraged over the death of an animal (however magnificent) but indifferent to the deaths of human beings?

First, there’s a reason we have that old saying that one death is a tragedy and a million is a statistic. It seems cold, but the fact is that we can personally relate to one death in a way that we just can’t with thousands. But I think there’s more going on than that. If deaths happen by the hundreds or thousands or millions as part of everyday life, then maybe everyday life is dependent on those deaths happening. So if they didn’t happen, maybe we’d have to make some real changes. It’s less threatening to say the deaths must be justified in some way.

In the case of abortion, there are some very sharp, personal reasons why people don’t get outraged over the deaths of human beings in the womb. If the death of a child in abortion is something to get outraged over, what will they do if an unintended pregnancy threatens to derail their education? What will they do if they can’t afford to have another kid and still pay the rent? What will they do if the father bails and they have to raise a child alone? What will they do if they get pregnant with an abusive partner and don’t want to be tied to him for life with a child? What will they do if they get raped? If the rapist threatens to sue for custody? Even in more favorable circumstances, what will they do if the birth of a child would drastically alter their life — which of course it will. “Your life will never be the same” are terrifying words!

Furthermore, since everything about American society has to be made to fit into our dismal partisan politics, people think that to be outraged would be to take the side of politicians who think birth control is for sluts, who talk about preserving life and protecting the vulnerable while at the same time voting for more deaths in war and less of a safety net. If your outrage lends support to people who are in many ways working against your interests, maybe you’ll try really hard not to feel it.

So if you’re asking where the outrage is, and you genuinely want to know the answer? Understand that plenty of people don’t think they can afford to be outraged.

*Speaking of Black Lives Matter, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t give a damn about police killings but makes sure to jump in to tell people they should really care about abortions of black babies instead — well, Josh Brahm will tell you in nice, rational words why this is a problem, but I’ll just tell you straight up that you’re being a jackass.

Rachel Held Evans asks:

So yesterday I complained about feeling stuck in the middle between pro-life idealism and those progressive policies I think are most likely to actually curb the abortion rate. But today I’m thinking about practical solutions. There are a few I’ve been advocating and supporting for a long time, but I want to crowdsource a bit: What are some key initiatives (both domestically and globally) around which conservatives and liberals could rally that would address the underlying causes of abortion: poverty, expensive healthcare, expensive childcare, lack of access to contraception and comprehensive sex education, domestic violence, etc? If I find the time I’ll share the best in a blog post. Thanks for weighing in! (And let’s keep it positive and practical!)

I love talking about ways to address the underlying issues that lead to abortion. There’s so much that we can do to prevent abortions — IF, as an early feminist wrote in The Revolution, “We want prevention, not merely punishment.” My reply:


As other commenters have said, free and easy access to contraception is important. The less often that people have to go to pick up prescription refills, the better — there was a study in L.A. that showed that allowing low-income women to get twelve months’ worth of pills at a time decreased the odds of unintended pregnancy by 30%, and the odds of an abortion by 46%. Even better, IF a woman freely chooses them and can have them removed upon request, are long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs and implants that don’t require any action to be taken once they’re in. In general, humans are not great at taking a pill at the same time every day (not just contraceptives). LARCs also can’t be sabotaged by abusive partners.

Speaking of which, we also need to do more to stop rape, and to help women out of abusive relationships. Early research shows that counseling women who come to family planning clinics about reproductive coercion (asking about whether their partners hide their pills, threaten to hurt them or kick them out of the home if they use contraception, etc.) not only reduces unintended pregnancies among women in abusive relationships, it also increases the chance they’ll leave those relationships. Men who father children by rape must not be allowed to have custody or visitation. This is already the case in 35 or so states, but we need to finish the job.

Comprehensive and accurate sex ed, including instruction about how to be safe and responsible about sexual activity if one chooses to use drugs or alcohol.

School and workplace policies that are designed with the idea that workers are human beings who have lives outside of work, not just productivity machines. No more just-in-time scheduling. No more pregnancy discrimination. Paid maternity and paternity leave. Affordable child care.

Nobody should ever be in a position where they don’t feel like they can bear a child because they won’t be able to pay rent or feed their other kids. More power for workers would mean better wages, and a real social safety net (one that’s not premised on the false idea of recipients as moochers who need to be humiliated) would alleviate some of the financial fear that often leads to abortion. Better yet, a guaranteed basic income and/or a child allowance. It’s disgraceful that in a country as rich as ours, hundreds of thousands of abortions happen every year because mothers are afraid they can’t afford to give their children life.


The above comment was dashed off quickly, but I would also add perinatal hospice, so that abortion doesn’t seem like the only option for parents whose children are diagnosed in the womb with fatal conditions. Also, there needs to be community support for parents of children with disabilities. Asking them to go it alone, with all the added stress and expense and work that can be involved, overwhelms many parents. They can’t see themselves handling all that, especially if they also have other kids. They shouldn’t have to handle it without help.

And while it’s not a policy issue, in general we need to foster a sexual ethic that emphasizes care for the health and well-being of oneself, one’s partner, and for any child who might be conceived. Not just safe sex, but caring sex. Wise sex. Sex that acknowledges that we aren’t pleasure-seeking islands, but are connected to — and affect — our fellow human beings.

In Glossip v. Gross, the United States Supreme Court was asked to determine whether the use of a lethal injection drug that might not prevent pain violates the Constitutional prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.” Last week,  Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, found that it doesn’t because hey, lots of people die painful deaths. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Our decisions in this area have been animated in part by the recognition that because it is settled that capital punishment is constitutional, “[i]t necessarily follows that there must be a [constitutional] means of carrying it out.” And because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.

Pro-lifers, does this argument sound familiar? It should. It’s the pro-execution equivalent of “over half of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so who really cares about killing an embryo?” It’s wrong in both instances, for the obvious reason that not everything that happens naturally is OK to do to another person. Everyone dies, one way or another, but we still have a responsibility not to deliberately or recklessly take their lives. Everyone experiences pain, but it’s wrong to be cruel. Everyone’s life ends, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter how.

In a 5-4 decision today (SCOTUSblog analysis here), the United States Supreme Court ruled that Peggy Young’s employment discrimination lawsuit against UPS could proceed. Young was forced to take leave without pay when she was pregnant due to a 20-pound lifting restriction, even though UPS accommodated other drivers in conditions that were similarly, or even more, restrictive.

Young’s suit claimed that UPS violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) of 1978. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, saying that Young couldn’t show that “similarly-situated employees outside the protected class received more favorable treatment” than she did. People who had lost their drivers’ licenses due to DUIs weren’t similarly situated because Young wasn’t legally barred from driving; other workers with physical limitations weren’t similarly situated because they were covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Young wasn’t. She appealed, and the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Circuit’s interpretation of the PDA was too narrow.

Young can now go back and make the case that UPS denied her accommodations that were available to other workers who were similar in their ability or inability to work. If she can show that — and in this case, she has — UPS can try to demonstrate that the reasons for not accommodating her were pregnancy-neutral and not based on discrimination. The argument that accommodations would cost money, though technically neutral, can’t be used as a reason not to provide them to pregnant workers.

All in all, this is a victory for pregnant workers and their babies. However, there’s still uncertainty about what accommodations the law requires, and that uncertainty will mean that the only way for many women to get fair treatment is by taking employers to court. That’s why Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), one of the lead sponsors of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, said on Twitter: “While today’s #SCOTUS ruling in #YoungvUPS is a victory for Peggy, it does not create a predictable, simple standard for pregnant workers. Congress should pass my #PWFA, to establish a clear and predictable standard, guaranteeing reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.” We agree. Pregnant workers shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs on the one hand, and their health and that of their children on the other.

Thanks to Consistent Life for alerting us to this petition. It asks the Secretary of HHS to make pregnancy a “qualifying life event” allowing people to obtain insurance coverage outside of the three-month open enrollment period. Childbirth is already considered a qualifying life event — pregnancy should be too. Making sure pregnant women have access to affordable medical care is good for both mother and child.

Petition: All pregnant women deserve access to insurance coverage

Seeing black children as nothing but criminals, worthy of death, starts early.

Among the findings likely to provoke reaction, sources say, are two emails written by Ferguson police and municipal court officials.

One, written in November of 2008, said that Barack Obama could not be president for four years because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.”

Another, written in May 2011, read: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers.’”

Ferguson police, court showed pattern of racial bias, Department of Justice to report

Just one more reason why justice for moms is good for their children too: Babies born to mothers who face ethnic discrimination have higher levels of cortisol than babies whose mothers did not, meaning that their mothers’ stress has an effect on their bodies. This could set them up for health problems down the line.

The placenta, that semi-clear sac that nourishes the fetus, has enzymes that convert cortisol into a weaker version of itself. However, the placenta can only convert so much cortisol. When the concentration is abnormally high, Thayer posits, some of the non-converted hormone seeps into the womb. Again, a moderate amount of cortisol is healthy for fetal development. Babies who are born prematurely sometimes need synthetic cortisol injections to prompt lung development. But, too much cortisol comes with health problems.

Generational fallout: The meaning of high cortisol levels during infancy isn’t entirely clear. But infants who already have more symptoms of stress compared to their teeny-tiny peers could face health disparities down the road, perhaps related to mood disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Looking at the study more broadly, inheriting bias-induced stress might be part of an observed phenomenon in which maternal health influences a child’s health and development. Some researchers focus on what’s called the epigenetic impact of maternal health, which is roughly the study of how environmental factors (e.g., stress, smoking, diet) actually change genes. Thayer says she’s working on an epigenetic study to see if discrimination against mothers could change the expression of genes related to cortisol production in children.

Inequality compromises its victims’ life chances in so many ways — discrimination, diminished educational opportunities, criminal justice disparities, housing segregation. Now it appears that its effects are written on the body before a child is even born.

For Immediate Release

December 3, 2014

Washington, D.C.—On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Young v. United Parcel Service, a case that will help determine what accommodations employers are legally obligated to provide to their pregnant employees.

Peggy Young is a UPS employee who sought light duty after her doctor advised her not to lift more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy. Although it grants accommodations for other medical needs, UPS refused to allow Young to return to work until she was no longer pregnant.

Women’s rights and labor rights organizations filed amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs on behalf of Peggy Young. In addition, 23 anti-abortion groups signed on to a brief filed by professors from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Some media accounts have framed this as a case of “strange bedfellows”—but not everyone finds it strange.

All Our Lives and Feminists for Nonviolent Choices are two of the organizations that joined the pro-lifers’ amicus brief. Both groups work to address the social and economic factors that put unjust pressure on women to have abortions. Both see pregnancy discrimination in employment as an example of social structures that fail to respect human life.

“Our society claims to value children and motherhood so highly, and yet we don’t value them enough to put them before the maximization of profit,” said Jennifer Roth of All Our Lives. “Without reasonable accommodations, a pregnant worker might have to choose between protecting her health and her baby’s on the one hand, and supporting her family on the other. If their lives really matter, they’re worth the cost of a few extra water breaks or a light duty assignment.”

Dr. Mary Dahl Maher, president of Feminists for Nonviolent Choices, stated, “For a truly pro-woman, pro-life decision, the Supreme Court must rule that the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act mean employers are to meet the needs of pregnant women the same as they would meet the needs of any other worker who’s similarly physically restricted. Employer policies that are merely ‘pregnancy-neutral’ are, in fact, prejudiced against pregnancy and therefore against women.”

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This is why it’s so important to push back against claims like “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Options for rape victims in Pakistan: Stay silent, get an abortion or set yourself on fire

I feel sorry for Pakistani rape victims who can never get the justice they deserve. In the first instance, going by what Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Chief Syed Munawar Hassan said in an interview that a rape victim should stay silent and not report the incident to the police, or anyone else for that matter.

I asked another member of his party,

“What will she do if she gets pregnant?”

He replied,

“Impossible, a woman cannot get pregnant unless she’s willing”, quoting a US Republican Congressman who said the same thing.