The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

June 28 2016 4:49 PM

The Clinton Super PAC’s New Attack Ads Assume You Already Know That Trump Is a Pig

Americans are already so clear on Donald Trump’s boorishness that we barely need to be reminded of it. That’s essentially the message from a pair of stylish new attack ads released this week by the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Priorities USA. The ads reiterate the now-familiar idea that Trump’s flagrant misogyny disqualifies him from the nation’s highest office. And, at 15 seconds apiece, they seem to acknowledge that whoever’s watching has almost definitely heard that reasoning before.

Like a flashcard for a factoid that you’ve already memorized, the first ad, “Greater Fathers,” pictures fleeting shots of a dad tending to his toddler, while a radio host asks Trump in voice-over, “Do you actually change diapers?” “No,” Trump replies, as the dad on-screen begins to do just that. “There are a lot of women out there [who] demand that the husband act like the wife. I like kids, I mean I won’t do anything to take care of them.” And that’s pretty much that. The words “America is greater than Donald Trump” flash on the screen, but the mood isn’t ominous. The music, a keyboard’s serene tinkling, seems to be saying, “You got this, America.”

Advertisement

The super PAC’s other new ad, “Greater Women,” zooms in on a mother horsing around with her kids. In the background, Priorities USA replays some of Trump’s most notorious comments, such as the line that journalist Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever” when she criticized him in a debate, and the foul come-on in which he told a Celebrity Apprentice contestant, “Must be a pretty picture—you dropping to your knees.” It’s essentially a much shorter, much quieter version of a 30-second ad that Priorities USA dropped in May, which began with The Donald claiming, “Nobody respects women more than Donald Trump”—and then went on to prove that statement aggressively untrue.

The new ads are too dignified to work at convincing you that you’re too good to vote for Trump. They presume, politely, that you already know. As the Associated Press has reported, voters will certainly see the spots enough times: Priorities USA “plans to spend about $4 million a week through most of June” and then to unload “$60 million in ads between September and Election Day,” as the AP wrote in May. Since the latest projections show Trump being outspent on TV ads by a $116 million margin, swing-state residents may appreciate that, if nothing else, Clinton is keeping it brief.

June 28 2016 4:09 PM

Experiences Over Stuff Is a Tired—and Sexist—Idea

Experiences over stuff. This is a common maxim of the brand of secular spirituality currently in vogue among the knowing, one that instructs us that a snorkeling trip around the Great Barrier Reef is indisputably superior to the purchasing of an L-shaped couch from Crate and Barrel. The former offers transcendence, while the latter further confines us to the dullness of domestic life.

Writing in the New Republic, Phoebe Maltz Bovy takes issue with this privileging of experiences over stuff, anointing it “our era’s reigning banality.” She points to the ongoing fetishization of voluntary minimalism and argues that there is a sexist subtext to the idealization of such a lifestyle.

Advertisement

“Whether women are being encouraged to rid our homes of useless belongings, or urged to shop for new ones, the result is the same: Society continues to associate women with the home and the material, men with the outside and experiences. … An orientation towards stuff over experiences, moreover, gets cast either as recklessly materialist or, as Tony perceives it, an impediment to enjoying life. The only constant is that what women prefer, or are imagined to prefer, is thought inferior,” Maltz Bovy writes.

The Tony she refers to is the pseudonymous author of a personal essay recently published by Toronto Life, in which a 31-year-old single man who lives with his parents explains why he spends all his money on extravagant trips and at high-end restaurants and bars. “I’m seeing the world, plunging into rich, diverse experiences head-first. Would I be better off chained to a mortgage?” he asks. That there are other options never occurs to him.

Maltz Bovy finds his flagrant conspicuous consumption irritating—the first paragraph alone contains the phrases “penthouse suite,” “horse with artichokes and pecorino,” and “Lamborghini Gallardo”—but it’s his assumption that his life is somehow more meaningful because of his decision to avoid domestic responsibilities that really bothers her.

There’s that. And then there’s also that experiences aren’t the antithesis of stuff. Experiences are facilitated by stuff no more or less than domestic life is facilitated by stuff. It’s just different kinds of stuff. Tony makes this exceedingly easy to illustrate. There’s the planes, trains, and cars he uses to travel to destinations; the sheets he sleeps on, ironed and smoothed by the hands of hotel workers he will likely never see; the food he eats; the landmarks he visits; and the 170 different wines he tried within the past year. What’s more stuff-y than wine? Tony’s high credit card bills reflect a very perverse, and very now, take on minimalism. Nevertheless, his mindset is one with a long legacy in the West, and the adventurous frontiersmen and rugged individualists who have long defined us.

The first proponent of experience over stuff that many of us come into contact with is Henry David Thoreau, who so quotably “wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life.” But, as Kathryn Schultz enumerates in her glorious takedown of Thoreau published last year in the New Yorker, what “not life” really meant was engaging in “a fantasy about rustic life divorced from the reality of living in the woods, and, especially, a fantasy about escaping the entanglements and responsibilities of living among other people.” In other words, it wasn’t so much stuff that he gave up—and while he did give up a lot of stuff, he got to choose what to live without—but people.

The Beats made the Thoreauvian agenda of routing out “not life” their own—and adapted it to a postwar consumerist America. Minimalism for them was seeking residence in the automobile and open road, which they would accessorize with cigarettes and women. (Both of which were disposed of, and replaced, with a near-equal ease.) The present day inheritor of this tradition is the regular traveler, a creature enabled by our age of affordable airfare and open borders, inspired, perhaps, by the highly produced peregrinations of Anthony Bourdain. His or her tastes might not run as expensive as Tony’s, but the insistence that experiences matter more than stuff endures. But as with those who came before, it’s the domestic, and not stuff, from which they are really rebelling.

In her new book Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?: A Story About Women and Economics, Swedish writer Katrine Marçal looks at how pioneering economist Adam Smith failed to take into account the domestic labor of women into his theories about capitalism. More than two centuries later, economists still ignore carework in favor of the more easily measurable activity of “self-motivated economic actors,” as Smith put it. It’s no surprise that we fail to culturally value all things domestic, considering that economists don’t quite know how to value them either.

I fell victim to the experiences over stuff paradigm in my early teens and spent much of my 20s trying to live up to Thoreauvian and Kerouacian notions of self-actualization. I’m now, at 36, about eight years into the “stuff” phase of my life (mortgage, husband, kid), and I have learned far more about myself during this period than I ever did while sojourning around the globe. Domestic stuff—our couch, our dining table, the bathtub, the dishwasher—don’t just serve as the backdrop to my life; they are the tools we use while engaging with one another, and ourselves. Experiences. I’m living what Thoreau would likely consider “not life,” and I find it far more life-affirming than anything I could achieve alone in a cabin in the woods. A pity Thoreau never gave it a shot.

June 28 2016 3:34 PM

Why Is the New York Times Crossword So Clueless About Race and Gender?

The New York Times crossword puzzle is like an elderly uncle: lovable and fun but prone to sounding out of touch. Sometimes that fustiness is charming, like when longtime puzzle editor Will Shortz sparred with writer Julianne Smolinski over the definition of the word Illin’.

But Tuesday’s puzzle includes a clue and answer that many solvers are complaining falls on the uglier end of the spectrum. On today’s grid, 31 Down runs straight through the center of the puzzle. The answer: HAREM. The clue: “Decidedly non-feminist women’s group.” Groan.

June 28 2016 2:04 PM

Women’s Groups Say Monday’s Abortion Ruling Is “Just the Beginning”

Until this week, the future of abortion rights in America looked pretty bleak. All over the country, conservative legislators were passing restrictive laws faster than pro-choice organizations could file suit against them. It was an endless, exhausting game of whack-a-mole, and women and progressives were losing.

But in the wake of Monday’s Supreme Court decision—in which the justices ruled against TRAP laws, which specifically target abortion providers, for the very first time—those barriers look more like a series of dominoes that are already beginning to fall. In a 5-3 decision, the court ruled that both aspects of the Texas law under review—one that said clinics must have admitting privileges at local hospitals, and another that forced them to comply with the requirements for ambulatory surgical centers—imposed an “undue burden” on women’s rights. These provisions weren’t specific to Texas: Versions exist all over the country and will likely be invalidated now that the court has spoken. Alabama’s attorney general has already announced that he will end his crusade to defend a similar provision, which threatened to close four of five clinics operating in his state. And, on Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court declined to review appellate court rulings blocking admitting-privileges requirements in Wisconsin and Mississippi, spelling the end for those laws, as well.

Advertisement

“As the news in Alabama, Wisconsin, and Mississippi shows, yesterday’s landmark ruling was just the beginning,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said in a statement. “This decision has opened the door to go state by state, legislature by legislature, law by law, and restore access to safe, legal abortion. These unconstitutional laws punish women by blocking safe medical care—and they will not stand.”

Requiring admitting privileges—a medically irrelevant piece of paperwork—has proved a particularly effective anti-abortion strategy. They’re virtually unattainable for clinics in conservative parts of the country, where hospitals resist affiliation with anyone who performs the controversial procedure. Eleven states, including Texas, currently have some version of this requirement on the books, and five more states were in the process of implementing such a law, according to The New York Times. Now, it’s likely that none of them will pass legal muster. Among the first to go may be a provision poised to shut down three of the four clinics still open in Louisiana. “It's hard to see how similar regulations could stand,” Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told reporters yesterday. “We expect to rely on [the ruling] heavily in cases going forward.”

Florida is also scrambling to decide what to do about an admitting-privileges-style law set to go into effect Friday. With language more flexible than many of its counterparts, the Florida legislation is not expected to force any clinics to close—but if it did, “that would be very difficult to defend in light of today’s ruling,” Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said yesterday.

The same may be true of ambulatory surgical center laws, which can cost clinics millions, forcing them to undergo major renovations or rebuild from scratch in order to comply with detailed architectural codes. ASCs are designed to house relatively complex outpatient surgeries. They do nothing to improve the provision of abortion, which, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out Monday, is safer than childbirth. As of this past March, 22 states, including Texas, had passed some form of ASC requirement, according to the Guttmacher Institute. If advocates take them on in state-by-state lawsuits, it’s possible that few, or perhaps none, would survive the challenge.

Most important, yesterday’s decision may undermine a much broader swath of TRAP legislation—including strategies that conservatives have yet to dream up. “This opinion makes it clear that the court is going to look at the stated justification for a law, and look at the burdens it imposes,” Northrup said. “It’s about making sure that regulations are truly justified.” The court has affirmed the meaning of the “undue burden” standard, and that should spell doom for any law whose sole aim is to make getting an abortion more difficult. To make the most of this decision, women’s groups have their work cut out for them—but it’s exciting that they’re finally armed for the task.

June 28 2016 9:00 AM

Germany, Set Free the Rabenmutter!

Parents complain about sleep, about the end of sex, and about parental leave, populating the web with a sea of exegesis on the displeasing demands of raising children. These complaints are so common that they gave rise to a sub-category of complaints, in which parents complain about parents who complain too much. I occasionally share this impulse, but my loyalty is ultimately with the complainers. We’ve got centuries of maternal grievances to air and we’ve really only just begun.

An articulated complaint, whether to a friend, Twitter, or the audience of a parenting blog, is a well-deserved act of catharsis for a weary parent. It’s also a potent political tool, one that allows us to see that the problems encountered by mothers tend to be the product of culturally and legally-conditioned expectations rather than personal ineptitude. Complaining is not without its risks; it can make a problem seem worse than it is, or it can inadvertently reinforce the expectations it’s attempting to discredit. Still, the sum total all this kvetching has emboldened moms, and now German women—inheritors of one of the most stubborn “good mother” myths around—are starting to catch on.

Advertisement

Earlier this year, Orna Donath, an Israeli sociologist, published a book in Germany entitled Regretting Motherhood, based on her Israel-based 2015 research on women who say they love their children, but, knowing what they know now, would have never had them. The women of Germany, where simply going to work is enough to be called a bad mother, have had a lot to say about this. Novelist Sarah Fischer published Die Mutterglück-Lüge (The Mother-bliss Lie), writers Alina Bronsky and Denise Wilk contemplated the contradictory expectations placed on German women in a book called The Abolishment of the Mother, and the hashtag #Regretting Motherhood has gone viral. Not everyone participating in the conversation regrets having children or plans on avoiding them, but many have feelings of ambivalence or frustration that have long gone unacknowledged in Germany.

Barbara Vinken, a scholar who wrote a book about the myth of the German mother in 2007, told the AFP that Donath’s study "radically questions the joy of having children in a society that expects everything from mothers, and where the mothers demand everything of themselves." German women live under the shadow of the rabenmutter (raven’s mother), a defamatory label given to moms who are seen as putting their own needs above their children’s. (It’s based on the idea that ravens fail at properly nurturing their nestlings.) Women can be branded a rabenmutter for committing the grave sin of only taking maternity leave for ten months or putting their toddlers in daycare. One mom reported being derided by local parents for signing up her nine-year-old boy for an after-school program.

Germans have a long tradition of idealizing motherhood and expecting women to sacrifice everything for it. The German government only recently began to reform the half-day school system, one that came about during a pre-feudal era when children worked; the half-day schedule survived into recent times because of the widespread belief that children should be home with their mothers. Romanticized notions about motherhood were a big part of Hitler’s pronatalist politics. He initiated a program to train 18-year-old girls in the art of caretaking and awarded medals to the most fecund women in the nation. Such attitudes survived the fall of the Third Reich, and the mantra of “kinder, küche, kirche” (children, kitchen, church) took on a second life in West Germany after World War II. There, women could be divorced for being a “bad housewife” up until the 1960s, and needed their husband's’ permission to work until 1977.

Even as German women have held back on a widespread protest against the bananas expectations placed on moms, they have made their views clear in other ways. Germany has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, a trend that hasn't budged in spite of generous parental leave policies. (There is some evidence that overly long leaves can backfire.) I imagine that many German women without children are well aware of the fact that only about 14 percent of German mothers with one child, and only 6 percent of those with two children, go back to work full-time. Overall, participation of German mothers in the workforce is much smaller than that of mothers in other nations.

If Germany wants to boost the number of babies born, they’d be much smarter to make like France and encourage mothers to enter the workforce, in part by providing reliable—and stigma-free—daycare. Doing so has made their Gallic neighbors the “best baby-makers in Europe.” In order for this to happen, the Germans are going to have set free their rabenmutter and allow her to make the long journey back to the 21st century where she belongs.

June 28 2016 8:30 AM

Channing Tatum and Jesse Williams Are the Wokest Baes du Jour

Channing Tatum hath bathed, he hath fasted, and he is ready to be ritually anointed into that highest of earthly orders: the brotherhood of the woke bae.

Tatum—of Magic Mike XXL fame, a.k.a. “the most important feminist movie of 2015”—clinched his initiation in a Facebook Live interview with Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, in which he railed against the lenient sentencing of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.

Advertisement

“This is like if you killed someone, if you got caught red-handed murdering someone, and then just because you went to a nice school and you were a good swimmer, you somehow get a lesser sentence than what you would’ve for cold-blooded murder,” Tatum said, adding: “If you start doing that, where do you end? Where does that stop? Where does that line actually quit? I don’t think it’s right. I think he should’ve been punished, personally.”

Tatum also made a heartfelt appeal for consent education and sex-positive parenting:

Look, I’m uncomfortable talking about [sex] and I’m saying we should be comfortable talking about it. ... How do we actually come up with a plan to be able to communicate about sex and what do we need from each other, and what are the lines, and how do you even know where the lines are if you’re not strong enough to say, “Okay, I’m not comfortable with this anymore…” People want from both directions, and the only way to get to what you want is communication.

The resplendence of wokeness and baeatitude shone this weekend, not only in Tatum’s Cosmo interview, but also at the BET Awards, where Jesse Williams accepted the Humanitarian Award with a gorgeous, no-holds-barred speech on racism and Black Lives Matter. Williams dedicated his award to “the black women, in particular, who have spent their lifetimes dedicated to nurturing everyone before themselves. We can and will do better for you.” This is in no way the first time that the Grey’s Anatomy star has exemplified intersectional thinking—last year he published a widely-read, 24-part Twitter essay on the death of Sandra Bland.

It’s refreshing to see these stars weigh in—and, in Williams’ case, tirelessly write and advocate—on pressing, current events. Though ripped and preternaturally symmetrical cismen like themselves may be valuable messengers of the feminist cause, most of the time their contributions appear to be graded on a curve. Their female counterparts are subject to the incessant scrutiny of the “Is [blank] a feminist” genre of thinkpiece. Meanwhile, leading men need only a pinch of fame and a drop of compassion for women’s plight and, voilà, a woke bae is made. Take Mark Ruffalo, who frequently appears on laudatory listicles despite being an alleged 9/11 truther; or Ryan Gosling, who, as Broadly has pointed out, “ascended to the status of feminist hero by merely looking handsome in a pair of glasses and being nice about his female co-stars.” Even Matt McGorry, perhaps the most conspicuously woke bae of 2015, had only to pen an earnest essay about his feminist conversion to secure his seat at the table for life.

Channing Tatum is no philosopher—and no Jesse Williams—but at least he’s clearly given the issues some thought. “Rape culture is a very real thing,” he told Cosmo. Wouldn’t it be great if more dead-lifting, occasional-goatee-growing bros like himself agreed.

June 27 2016 5:55 PM

The Daily Show Had the Worst Possible Response to the Supreme Court’s Texas Abortion Decision

Monday was a great day for women and a bad day for the Daily Show. In response to the Supreme Court’s 5-3 decision striking down Texas’ disingenuous abortion restrictions, Trevor Noah’s social media editor tweeted this:

June 27 2016 3:21 PM

The Supreme Court Upheld the Law Against Domestic Abusers Owning Guns. If Only Someone Would Enforce It.

One of the only gun control measures to have passed Congress in recent decades easily withstood a Supreme Court challenge on Monday. In Voisine et al. v. United States, the justices ruled 6-2 against two Maine men who argued that a law barring domestic abusers from owning guns shouldn’t have applied to them.

The law in question is the Lautenberg Amendment, introduced in 1996, which forbids anyone “who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” from possessing “any firearm or ammunition.” As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern has written: “It’s hard to get a gun regulation through Congress. There’s a reason this one passed.” For some context: More than half of American women killed with guns in 2011 were murdered by intimate partners or family members, and when guns are present in homes were domestic violence occurs, the risk of homicide for women rises by roughly 500 percent, according to research from the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Advertisement

Stephen Voisine was convicted of misdemeanor assault of his girlfriend not once but twice—in 2003 and 2005. The case that bears his name turned on a semantic debate over what it means to be guilty of the “use…of physical force,” which is central to the law’s definition of domestic violence. Under Maine’s statute, Voisine was charged with harming his girlfriend “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.” He argued that a person who commits assault “recklessly” hasn’t “used” the force that causes his intimate partner’s injury. This made for an intriguing philosophical debate—but not, in the eyes of most of the Justices, a particularly compelling case. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her majority opinion, “Nothing in the word ‘use’—which is the only statutory language either party thinks relevant—indicates that [the law] applies exclusively to knowing or intentional domestic assaults.”

This skepticism appears to have been heightened, at least for some of the Justices, by their belief in the statute’s function. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in oral arguments: “The government tells us that heavy consequences ride on this… that many domestic violence situations would not be subject to prosecution under this statute on your read, if you require knowing or intentional, rather than reckless, state of mind.”

Gutting the Lautenberg Amendment would indeed have had “heavy consequences”—but unfortunately, this wise piece of policy could be serving us far better if the government were truly enforcing it. An Everytown analysis from 2014 found gaping loopholes. “[F]ederal law (and the law in most states) allows domestic abusers and stalkers to easily evade gun prohibitions by purchasing guns from unlicensed, private sellers,” the report pointed out, noting that 1 in 4 prohibited gun buyers who turned to the internet for weapons had a domestic violence arrest on record. What’s more, “forty-one states do not require all prohibited domestic abusers to relinquish guns they already own.” Voisine himself demonstrates this problem. He was barred from owning guns starting in 2003, but he continued to keep them in his home until 2009, when the discovery that he had shot a bald eagle—an endangered species—led officers to notice that he shouldn’t have had a rifle in the first place.

Some convicted abusers turn their illegal weapons against the people whom the Lautenberg Amendment was written to protect. In 2014, a man with a family violence protective order against him in Dallas County, Texas, went on to kill the woman who was pregnant with his child. The next year, the county announced that it would force abusers to turn over their guns. Data suggest that better enforcement makes a vital difference: A study from Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that “laws restricting firearm access for batterers subject to restraining orders are associated with a 19 percent reduction in rates of intimate homicide.”

There’s even strong reason to believe that applying the Lautenberg Amendment more stringently would reduce the number of mass shootings, as Margaret Talbot of The New Yorker has written. Everytown reviewed every shooting with four or more victims between January 2009 and July 2015, and found: “In at least 76 of the cases (57%), the shooter killed a current or former spouse or intimate partner or other family member, and in at least 21 incidents the shooter had a prior domestic violence charge.” The link between violence at home and more widespread slaughter seems clearer than ever in the wake of the shooting in Orlando, the deadliest in U.S. history, which was perpetrated by a man who allegedly held his first wife hostage.

It’s a relief that Voisine failed to tear a hole in the Lautenberg Amendment, despite the flaws in the law’s implementation. In lower courts, the plaintiff also argued that the Lautenberg Amendment presented a constitutional issue, infringing on his right to bear arms. The Supreme Court declined to hear that aspect of the case, but oral arguments made headlines largely because Clarence Thomas broke his decade-long silence to affirm his support of the Second Amendment. Thomas’s dissenting opinion likewise asserted that Voisine’s constitutional rights had been violated, but not a single fellow Justice joined him in that aspect of his dissent.

In other words, the idea that domestic abusers shouldn’t have guns is pretty uncontroversial, even in Congress and among the court’s conservative Justices. It’s depressing that, despite that consensus, so many offenders have no trouble staying armed.

June 27 2016 12:25 PM

The Supreme Court Exposed the Anti-Abortion Sham of “Protecting Women’s Health”

The Supreme Court struck down two Texas restrictions on abortion providers in a landmark case on Monday, offering the strongest affirmation of the constitutional right to safe, legal, accessible abortion since Roe v. Wade.

Justice Stephen Breyer’s majority opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is an unequivocal rejection of the mistruths at the heart of a fast-spreading rash of state abortion restrictions that shut down abortion clinics under the guise of protecting women’s health. Texas lawmakers have argued that the two provisions of HB2 challenged in Whole Woman’s Health—one required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals; the other demanded that abortion clinics be outfitted like hospital-grade operating theaters—were necessary to prevent abortion-related complications and deaths.

Advertisement

Of course, abortions are already some of the safest medical procedures out there. The intended and actual effect of the laws was not safer abortion clinics—it was fewer abortion clinics, period. Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick asked in March, “Will the Supreme Court see through the charade?

The court more than saw through the anti-abortion crowd’s farce. It dismantled it bit by bit, exposing its every hypocrisy and self-contradicting argument. All the Supreme Court had to do was rule that the effect of the laws presented an undue burden to women’s access to abortion. Breyer went beyond the undue burden finding to knock down the very justification of these laws, proving that the thin pretext of keeping women safe was a sham.

In his opinion, Breyer noted that Texas had “no significant health-related problem for the new law to cure,” since abortions rarely result in dangerous complications, and if they do, they’re far more likely to arise in the days and weeks after the procedure. His opinion cites examples of several medical procedures far more dangerous than abortions that Texas still allows outside of surgical centers—colonoscopies, child birth, liposuction, medical treatment after a miscarriage.

Seeing all the facts laid out with such judicial rigor feels like a vindication of the arguments abortion rights advocates have been making for years. “We have found nothing in Texas’ record evidence that shows that, compared to prior law (which required a ‘working arrangement’ with a doctor with admitting privileges), the new law advanced Texas’ legitimate interest in protecting women’s health,” Breyer wrote. “We add that, when directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

Breyer also acknowledged that the admitting-privileges provision was more a political stunt than a practical safety measure, especially since many hospitals will refuse admitting privileges to abortion providers for religious or political reasons. Monday’s opinion uses the example of an OB-GYN who delivered more than 15,000 babies in 38 years of practice but couldn’t get admitting privileges as an abortion provider at any one of the seven hospitals near his clinic. Thus, Breyer wrote, “the admitting-privileges requirement does not serve any relevant credentialing function.”

Texas had argued that HB2 didn’t pose an undue burden to abortion-seeking women because the state’s existing abortion clinics were already operating under capacity and could hire more practitioners if other clinics were forced to shutter. Breyer wrote that argument defies “common sense,” which suggests that “a physical facility that satisfies a certain physical demand will generally be unable to meet five times that demand without expanding physically or otherwise incurring significant costs. … We disagree that, according to common sense, medical facilities, well known for their wait times, operate below capacity as a general matter.”

A Supreme Court justice tearing down an anti-abortion argument based on pure common sense is a mark of decisive victory, but the best part of Breyer’s opinion is his contention that the undue burden HB2 placed on women’s access to abortion actually negated any spurious health benefit a woman might gain from a provider’s admitting privileges or a clinic’s surgical-center qualifications:

In the face of no threat to women’s health, Texas seeks to force women to travel long distances to get abortions in crammed-to-capacity superfacilities. Patients seeking these services are less likely to get the kind of individualized attention, serious conversation, and emotional support that doctors at less taxed facilities may have offered. Healthcare facilities and medical professionals are not fungible commodities. Surgical centers attempting to accommodate sudden, vastly increased demand may find that quality of care declines. … These effects would be harmful to, not supportive of, women’s health.

For icing on that cake, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a concurring opinion that the undue burden Texas created would cause unsafe, illegal abortions rather than curb the practice at all, a prediction that has already been borne out by research in Texas and around the world. “It is beyond rational belief that H. B. 2 could genuinely protect the health of women,” Ginsburg wrote. “When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety.” In an era marked by the rise of lawmakers who prioritize political games over facts when it comes to reproductive health, it’s reassuring to see the court strike such a decisive blow against sham laws based on lies. It’s a major political win for the reproductive justice movement, but more importantly, it’s a strong safeguard for the quality and autonomy of future women’s lives.

June 24 2016 5:08 PM

Without EU Employment Protections, U.K. Women May Suffer After Brexit

The United Kingdom’s decision to #Brexit the European Union on Thursday will have far-reaching effects on economies, politics, and environmental well-being around the globe. As in all geopolitical turmoil, women will bear a disproportionate share of the burden of change as their rights and protections hinge on a U.K. untethered from a progressive, stabilizing force.

In the Telegraph last week, feminist journalist Caroline Criado-Perez outlined the many steps toward gender justice the EU has fomented in the U.K. over the past few decades. In matters of employment rights, sexual harassment, and equal pay, the EU has prodded the U.K. time and time again to do better by its women. Once the nation is no longer subject to the broader protections the EU requires, women of the U.K. may see their country regress on issues integral to their prosperity and fair treatment.

READ MORE STORIES