The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Sept. 29 2017 12:10 PM

The E! Reality Show The Girls Next Door Was the Best Thing Hugh Hefner Ever Gave Us

Hugh Hefner is being remembered this week as a magazine mogul, a cultural influencer, and a gross old cad loathed by feminists and conservatives alike. But for a stretch in the mid-aughts, he was perhaps most prominent in one particular role: television sidekick. Between 2005 and 2010, the be-robed bachelor shuffled around in the background of The Girls Next Door, a hit E! reality show following several of his “girlfriends” living in the Playboy Mansion. In retrospect, it was a fitting (almost) final act.

Hefner (who also executive-produced the series) had starred in television shows in the past, including the syndicated Playboy’s Penthouse between 1959 and 1961. By the time The Girls Next Door appeared, his reputation as an aging rake had calcified—he was more dotard than Don Juan—and the show’s charm depended entirely on the three lively young women at its center. There was Holly Madison, the “no. 1 girlfriend,” who performed a role that was both maternal and wifely; she doted on “Hef” and slept in his bedroom. Kendra Wilkinson was young and sporty and funny, and Bridget Marquardt was a girlish giggler whose “thing” was that she had a Master’s degree.

Sept. 28 2017 6:48 PM

Congress Will Vote On a 20-Week Abortion Ban, a Small Step Toward a Scary Political Goal for Anti-Choice Groups

The House of Representatives will hold a vote on a proposed 20-week abortion ban next week, according to an announcement Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made this week. The goal of the legislation, which would punish abortion providers with up to five years in prison for terminating a pregnancy after 20 weeks’ gestation, is “ending suffering and helping people live,” McCarthy said.

Seventeen U.S. states currently ban abortion after 20 weeks, though many of those laws are currently being contested in court. Since Roe v. Wade guarantees the right to abortion care until fetal viability—around 24 weeks’ gestation—advocates have argued that states cannot prohibit abortions performed before this point. In 2014, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Arizona’s 20-week abortion ban, which a lower court deemed unconstitutional. That policy remains enjoined.

Arguments for 20-week bans rest on the anti-abortion groups’ contention that fetuses can experience pain after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Doctors, including those whose research anti-choice advocates cite, say scientific research does not support that claim. Nevertheless, the bill that will come up before Congress next week bears a poetic title: Legislators will vote on the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.”

The House passed similar bills in 2013 and 2015, but was stymied by the Senate both times when the chamber couldn’t get a filibuster-proof supermajority. The makeup of the Senate is no friendlier to anti-abortion bills now than it was then, making the 20-week ban an incredibly long shot for the House Republicans who back the bill, even though Donald Trump is raring to sign it.

But that may not matter to anti-abortion advocates, who are already looking further down the road. The president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a prominent anti-choice group, told Rewire that the ultimate goal is to get Democrats in Congress on the record on this issue before the 2018 election. Recently, Democratic leaders have said that self-identified Democrats who oppose women’s rights to abortion care are still welcome in the party—they’ll even get party funds to help along their campaigns. Groups like the Susan B. Anthony List may hope voters who oppose abortion rights will see their Democratic representatives vote against the bill and get taken down by either a Republican opponent or a primary challenger from the right. Next week’s bill is one small strategic step toward a political goal, not an immediate policy one.

Sept. 28 2017 2:08 PM

How Hugh Hefner’s Incredibly Complicated Legacy Got Cast as Female Sexual Liberation

At age 91, in the Holmby Hills mansion he called home, Hugh Hefner died this week, releasing the complex feelings of an international public that paid witness to his life with a mixture of admiration, titillation, and disgust.

“Thanks to Hugh Hefner our generation learn to read magazines with one hand,” a former Colombian soccer star tweeted. Barstool Sports, home to bros who love boobs and fart jokes, posted a bunch of photos of Hefner surrounded by bikini-clad white ladies, calling him an “absolute legend.” Meanwhile, GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis sent out a statement contending that Hefner “was a not a visionary” but “a misogynist who built an empire on sexualizing women”; others called him “an abuser” and “a world class creep.” One Trump fan and singer who says she’s known Hefner since she was a teenager is beseeching commentators, “please don’t trash a man with class.”

Long before Hefner died, he was already reckoning with the seemingly conflicting legacies he knew he’d leave behind. In interviews he gave in his 70s and 80s, Hefner repeatedly positioned his life’s work as a crusade against sexual repression, a force that limited the fulfillment of men and women alike. His record of philanthropy would seem to demonstrate a progressive understanding of women’s bodily autonomy: He published features that supported abortion rights years before Roe v. Wade, and his Playboy Foundation made gifts to rape crisis centers, abortion support services, and the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. Hefner also fought for First Amendment protections—a predictable cause for the publisher of a nudie magazine—ran some brilliant interviews, and gave money to civil-rights causes.

At the same time, Hef’s magazine explicitly trashed women who stepped outside his feminine ideal. In 1970, the magazine ran an essay on women’s rights that both patted the movement on the head and slapped it in the face: “No other recent struggle for human rights has been so frivolous and yet so earnest, so absurd and yet so justified, so obsessed on the one hand with trivia and, on the other, with the radical restructuring of male-female relationships,” it read. Internal Playboy memos at the time found Hefner declaring of feminists, “These chicks are our natural enemy.” His very first issue scolded female readers, “get back to your Ladies’ Home Companion.”

But the effects of a few articles and donations will pale in comparison to the two signature pillars of Hefner’s memory: his naked photos and his lifestyle. Hefner kicked off his new magazine at age 27 with an act of exploitation, spending $500 on the rights to an existing naked photograph of Marilyn Monroe and running it without her consent. In the decades that ensued, he earned millions off the bodies of the women in Playboy while spinning it as a win for sexual liberation. Women can and do enjoy sex, and they should be allowed to show it, Hefner argued. Fair point! But the women in Playboy, no matter how much they enjoy posing nude and reaping what minimal payment comes of it, are not doing sexy things on their own terms—they’re following the explicit instructions of the men who make and buy the magazine. When I looked at Playboy’s encyclopedic collection of 734 centerfolds earlier this month, it struck me that the bodies in the magazine functioned as both a reflection of and prescription for male desire that, by the ‘90s, Hefner and his acolytes had made into hairless, glistening, plumped-up forms into which no human could ever transform.

This monthly collection of photos of women’s vulvas and breasts, bookended by sometimes-serious journalism, is now considered something far more mainstream than porn, no matter how garish the lights. Hefner didn’t just help make the commodification of female flesh into a multimillion-dollar industry. With his bourgeois gloss and chatter about sexual freedom, he made it the topic of respectable conversation. Perhaps his most stunning rhetorical feat was convincing a certain segment of women—and men, for that matter—that women could channel power from the patriarchy if they performed sexual desirability for men.

There was also the life Hefner led, which became more absurd and piteous with every year. He left his first wife and two children in 1959, the better to make good on the promiscuous lifestyle he sold to his readers. Men since time immemorial have certainly fantasized about leaving their ho-hum desk jobs, banal home lives, and burdensome spawn to become internationally known for their material and carnal acquisitions. Hefner gave them hope that this seductive narrative did not have to be restricted to the realm of fiction. His Playboy Mansion, the site of more than one alleged sexual assault, was the ultimate man cave: a place where, regular dudes imagined, every surface was meant for sex and every woman was meant to be fucked. Take a quick scroll through Twitter today and you’ll find dozens of men asking women for nude photos “in honor of” Hefner’s memory.

By the time he stepped into reality TV with The Girls Next Door in the mid-aughts, his image had become that of a goofy, forgetful old grandpa who nevertheless apparently had sex with multiple identical-looking women on the regular. At that point, his greatest accomplishment was convincing his fans that his life was still worth fantasizing over. One of his girlfriends at the time, Holly Madison, later wrote about the house’s dreary group-sex schedule that no one seemed to enjoy, describing her time in Hefner’s company as a nightmare. He wouldn’t let her see a therapist for her depression, she wrote, and cut her off from the outside world. If Hefner truly wanted a society free from repression, his desire for personal freedom only went so far as it benefited men.

Hefner will be laid to rest in a mausoleum next to Marilyn Monroe, whose talents and beauty helped launch Hefner’s career. The spaces around Monroe’s body are in high demand; one sold for $4.6 million on eBay in 2009. In life, Monroe might never have given these men the time of day, but in death, she has no choice—with enough money, any man can buy the right to sidle up next to her for all eternity. It’s kind of gross when you think about it: What’s sexy about having your corpse decay in relative proximity to someone else’s 50-year-old remains? Of course, Hefner wouldn’t care, because it affirms his conquistadorial image. Monroe’s body, whether animated or deceased, was just another female form for the taking.

Sept. 26 2017 2:34 PM

Obamacare Repeal May Be Dead, but the GOP Lies About Planned Parenthood Live On

On Monday night, CNN hosted a town hall where random civilians asked health care questions of four senators: Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, who wrote the GOP’s most recent Obamacare repeal attempt, plus Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar, who appear on most pundits’ lists of possible Democratic presidential contenders for 2020.

Seeing as the Graham-Cassidy proposal is just as doomed as its predecessors, the town hall seemed like more of a way to let the Republicans save face than to shore up public support for their wildly unpopular bill. This particular bill might be dead, but some of its provisions will almost certainly rise again. At Monday’s town hall, Graham and Cassidy tried to lay the groundwork for future health care fights in the legislature.

Take the prospect of “defunding” Planned Parenthood, which has made it into every iteration of Obamacare repeal that legislators have considered so far. Congressional Republicans have been trying to block Medicaid reimbursements from going to Planned Parenthood for years, putting poor women’s reproductive health on the chopping block to shore up their anti-abortion bona fides. (Medicaid patients are already denied coverage for any abortion care.) Though Graham and Cassidy have witnessed the failure of their latest health care bill, they’re not giving up on their bid to stop Americans on Medicaid from accessing contraceptive services, cancer screenings, and other nonabortion care from Planned Parenthood.

On Monday, both men advanced the lies that undergird the GOP arguments against the network of health care centers when a Planned Parenthood patient at the town hall relayed how her physician discovered cysts and benign tumors on her ovaries. “I’m grateful for Planned Parenthood, because without their care, it’s quite probable that my husband and I would not have been able to become parents,” she said, addressing the Republican senators. “Why would you advocate for a bill that would block women like me from the essential care that helped me to become a mother, provides affordable cancer screenings for thousands and thousands of people, and especially for those who live in the many parts of this country that are not served by community health centers?”

In response, Graham invoked the heavily edited videos released in 2015 by an anti-choice group that purported to reveal evidence of fetal tissue trafficking. “A lot of Americans were pretty upset when they saw the videos of selling body parts of aborted children,” Graham told the Planned Parenthood patient. This is a very clever phrasing: It’s true that a lot of Americans were upset, though it’s not true that Planned Parenthood sells or profits from fetal tissue. In fact, after several state-specific investigations and a drawn-out congressional panel that wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, the only evidence of wrongdoings indicted the videographers, not Planned Parenthood. They were charged with felonies in Texas and California for allegedly using fake or stolen identities, inventing a biomedical research company that did not exist, and recording conversations without consent. Planned Parenthood, every investigation revealed, strictly abided by federal and state laws that regulate fetal tissue donation to research institutions. Now, it doesn’t accept any reimbursement for fetal tissue donation at all.

Cassidy also repeated a few lies about the organization, claiming that most Planned Parenthood locations are in cities with “lots of [other] OB/GYNs” that could provide sexual and reproductive health care to the patients Planned Parenthood currently serves. “The folks who don’t have access to those cancer screenings live in rural areas,” Cassidy told the patient at the town hall. “They live in areas where there are not enough physicians. So the idea is that we want someone to have to drive—a lower-income person drive—three hours to a Planned Parenthood facility there to get her screening? Or would we rather take that money and put it back in the rural area to allow her to get her health care there?”

Actually, more than half of Planned Parenthood clinics are in rural or “medically underserved” areas, making them critical resources for patients with few other places to turn. And when it comes to contraception care, Planned Parenthood is even more essential. A recent Guttmacher Institute study found that there are about 10,700 health centers that offer free or subsidized birth control in the United States. Planned Parenthood makes up 6 percent of them, but serves 32 percent of all patients who get free or low-cost contraception. The vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s contraception patients—85 percent, or about 1.7 million people—live in counties with either no other source of publicly funded birth control or public health centers that would have to at least double their patient load if Planned Parenthood’s patients could no longer get contraceptive services there. In 26 percent of the 415 U.S. counties that currently house Planned Parenthood clinics, the other health centers that provide subsidized contraception would have to sextuple their client loads to make up for the patients a shuttered or hobbled Planned Parenthood would leave behind.

In other words, preventing low-income women from accessing care at Planned Parenthood would force them to travel further to find reproductive health care providers who take Medicaid. And in the short term, forcing patients to switch health care providers to make a political point would cause a possibly dangerous disruption in services. It would take years for any diverted funds to allow other health care centers to scale up and serve a client base that would explode overnight if Medicaid patients got blocked from Planned Parenthood. More likely, those health care centers would never make up for Planned Parenthood’s care at all: Just ask Texas, where defunding Planned Parenthood led to a steep drop in contraceptive use and enrollment in a subsidized women’s health care program. Counties that had Planned Parenthood clinics saw an increase in births by Medicaid patients, who could no longer get their birth control from their neighborhood locations. The world Cassidy envisions, where Planned Parenthood is an urban health care redundancy, is more than a myth or an exaggeration—it’s the exact opposite of the truth.

Sept. 25 2017 5:59 PM

Please Enjoy This Account of One of the Washington Post’s Worst Matchmaking Experiments Ever

The Washington Post is taking its motto very seriously these days. Because “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” even the paper’s famously weird matchmaking section is shedding some disinfecting sunlight on one of the bleakest segments of contemporary humanity: the D.C. dating scene.

Last week’s Date Lab entry featured Blake Neff, a “proud Trump voter” and writer at an unnamed cable news station. Neff’s Twitter profile reveals that, unsurprisingly, that station is Fox, and the show is Tucker Carlson’s. Neff sounds like a real charmer: He told Date Lab that he would “not necessarily oppose [Washington’s] destruction by nuclear fireball, even if I am in it at the time” and likes “virtuous” women who value their families over “ambitious career goals.” He also says he doesn’t date much. Strange!

Date Lab writer Michelle Cottle deserves credit for facing Neff’s relationship challenges head-on in the nicest possible way. Neff required “a bit more care than others when being matched,” she writes, because he “can come across as a wee bit defensive.” He hates the city he lives in and the things people do in it, such as using dating apps and bragging about their “B.S. master’s degrees.” When Date Lab asked about his interests, Neff replied that “most of my hobbies allow me to escape women.”

Some singles might balk at a guy who says he doesn’t like socializing with women and works for a man who thought it was funny to joke about ejaculating on women in work emails. Date Lab had the unenviable task of finding a woman mature enough to look past those slight blemishes on Neff’s dating profile to see the true gem (?) underneath. The lucky guinea pig was McKenzie Smith, a “traditional conservative” and “die-hard Southerner” who likes “frat boy types.” She was “fascinated” by Neff’s conspicuous brandishing of a book on Catherine the Great at their date; Neff was impressed by how “genuinely well-read” Smith appeared to be.

But Neff squandered any benefit of the doubt Smith gave him when he continued opening his mouth. When faced with her blond hair, he told her he preferred brown locks. When he was late to the restaurant and walked in to find her sipping a drink at the bar, he informed her that alcohol is “poison.” Yet Neff told Date Lab that when Smith said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to pursue a relationship, he thought, “If I were Brad Pitt, you would be”—a classic case of a man blaming a woman’s romantic disinterest on something wrong with her (in this case, her imagined superficiality) instead of his own bad personality.

Though both parties inexplicably rated the outing a four out of five, they haven’t gone on a second date. Poor McKenzie told Date Lab that she was scared Neff would “trash” her in his postdate interview. Looks like Neff is still on the lookout for a woman with a “willingness to see the ironies and oddities in anything, even if it’s dark or mundane.” One supposes that includes the irony of a 27-year-old who detests braggarts of educational pedigrees putting his undergraduate alma mater (Dartmouth!) in his Twitter profile, and the irony of a man who uses his hobbies to “escape women” asking a newspaper to set him up with one.

Sept. 25 2017 3:10 PM

Arizona Has Wasted Millions of Dollars Defending Bogus Anti-Abortion Laws

Arizona Republicans who salivate at the prospect of stemming government waste of taxpayer money don’t have to look far to find a big leak. The state has wasted millions of dollars in recent years fighting in vain to defend unconstitutional abortion laws GOP legislators passed.

According to a thorough report from the Arizona Capitol Times, the state has spent about $2.32 million in the past eight years defending several anti-abortion laws that were either overturned in court, settled, or repealed. In all of these cases, taxpayers were on the hook for the attorney general’s expenses—including more than 3,300 hours of labor—and the court-ordered attorneys’ fees the state had to pay to the reproductive rights organizations that challenged the laws.

Sept. 22 2017 6:32 PM

Some of the U.S’s Creepiest Anti-Abortion Men Are Running for Office in Alabama

When Alabamians go to the polls next fall, they may have more than one extreme anti-choice man to vote for. They are Sam McLure, a nutso adoption lawyer seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general, and fellow Republican Roy Moore, who is currently leading in the polls and wants to unseat Luther Strange, the Trump-backed U.S. Senator appointed to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat.

McLure, a Macklemore-looking dude with a dimpled chin, lists four main issues of concern on his campaign website. The first is “Prosecute Abortionists Who Profit from Killing Children.” The man does not mince words! Rewire has done some excellent reporting on McLure’s history as an anti-abortion activist: He claims to engage in regular “sidewalk counseling” outside abortion clinics, though the director of one of the spaces he claims to harass told Rewire that he’s a “brand new” addition to the crowds outside, just there “to get his name out there because nobody knows who he is.”

The Facebook Live video is McLure’s preferred messaging method. One from the beginning of August is titled “Babies are Murdered Here”; in it, McLure stands in front of pro-choice demonstrators holding a printed-out photo of a doctor who provides abortion care. “This woman…profits from deceiving parents into killing their children,” he says. Another video from September finds McLure pointing at abortion clinics, saying “I want to eradicate places like this.” McLure has posted links on his social media pages to one doctor’s personal information, including photos of what is allegedly her car and license plate, challenging anyone to give him one good reason why he shouldn’t prosecute her for murder. In a September 8 video, McLure says that although “it’s not nice” to dox abortion providers, “it’s not nice to kill babies” either. His repeated posts on abortion have prompted one Facebook commenter to wonder, “does he have any stances on other issues?”

McLure has argued in interviews and Facebook videos that, as attorney general, he could “eradicate legal abortion” by making life “hell on earth” for abortion providers and bringing homicide charges against them. He has proposed removing the abortion exception from the “fetal homicide” section of the Alabama penal code and establishing a state militia to defend any state official who might otherwise be jailed for disobeying federal court orders that protected abortion rights.

“A well-regulated militia is necessary for the protection of a free state,” McLure said at a summer gathering for the Alabama Constitution Party, according to Rewire. “Where is Alabama’s militia? If the governor or attorney general of our state defied the federal government and said ‘We’re going to protect babies from murder,’ and some federal law enforcement officer tried to drag our governor into a federal jail, who will protect our governor?” McLure reiterated that stance to Rewire, calling himself “a proponent of the idea that the states need to exert their sovereignty [and] ignore Roe v. Wade.”

Alabama’s got at least one other political candidate who advocates for ignoring federal laws establishing basic rights. Moore, who joined McLure in a 2012 attempt to get the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that shot down Oklahoma’s proposed constitutional amendment on “personhood,” was twice kicked off the Alabama Supreme Court—once because he refused to abide the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmation of marriage equality.

On Thursday, in a debate against Sen. Luther Strange, Moore enumerated several evils that are plaguing America. “Abortion, sodomy, [and] sexual perversion” are hobbling the nation, Moore, said, in addition to a few other combinations of right-wing buzzwords, like “transgender troops in our bathrooms.” The militant wing of the anti-abortion movement loves this candidate’s commitment to the cause. Matt Trewhella, who once did jail time for blocking the driveway of a doctor who provided abortion care, is listed on Moore’s campaign website as a prominent endorser. In the ‘90s, Trewhella and several other activists signed a statement asserting that “lethal force” is “justifiable” to protect “the lives of unborn children”—in other words, that murdering an abortion provider is an ethical act. Between the company Moore keeps and his proven record of flouting federal law as a justice, it’s not hard to imagine the kind of absurd anti-woman (and, of course, anti-sodomy) shenanigans he’d get into in the Senate.

Sept. 22 2017 3:16 PM

More Single Mothers Are Going to College Than Ever. But Very Few Will Graduate.

It seems like a no-brainer—if a single mother wants to improve her income and career prospects in the long term, she should enroll in college. More single mothers are going to college than ever before: In 2012, about one in five female undergraduates and 11 percent of all U.S. undergraduates—nearly 2.1 million students—were single mothers, more than twice the population that attended college in the 1999-2000 school year. According to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, this rate of growth more than doubled that of the general undergraduate population.

But while these statistics sound like good news all around, a closer look reveals some truths that aren't so rosy. An alarmingly large share of single mother students—30 percent—are enrolled in for-profit schools, making them more than three times as likely to attend for-profit institutions as female students who don’t have children.

These numbers are “tragic,” said Holden Thorp, provost at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of the forthcoming book Our Higher Calling: Rebuilding the Partnership Between America and Its Colleges and Universities. “These students have been victimized by a predatory system that’s an embarrassment to higher education in America,” he told me in a phone interview. “The data on the job prospects and earnings pretty much show that a for-profit degree doesn’t give you any advantage.” The average six-year graduation rate among for-profit colleges is 23 percent, compared to 59 percent at public institutions and 66 percent at private nonprofit schools. And because for-profit degrees usually cost far more than comparable degrees from community colleges and public universities, students who attend for-profit schools are more likely to have to take out loans to afford their education. They are also far more likely to default on those loans than those who attended nonprofit or public institutions, in part because the economic benefits conferred upon those with other college degrees don’t transfer to graduates from for-profit schools.

Single mothers are particularly susceptible to the sales tactics that draw students to for-profit colleges. Advertisements hawk flexible schedules and specific skills that seem directly applicable to the job market—skills that students could glean from far cheaper community-college programs that don’t advertise quite as aggressively. The disproportionate number of single mothers sucked in by the for-profit college industry contributes to the population’s extraordinarily low graduation rate: Just 28 percent of single mothers who started school between 2003 and 2009 got a degree or certificate within 6 years of their start dates. Married mothers graduated at a rate of 40 percent, and 57 percent of non-parent female students graduated in the same time period.

Thorp says going to college and not getting a degree is “the worst thing that can happen to a student in higher education.” Adults with some college education but no degree have about the same unemployment and earnings statistics as those with no college education at all, but they have the added disadvantage of having taken time out of the workforce and accumulated some debt. “If you don’t finish, you’re better off not going at all,” Thorp said. “Unfortunately, the way the system is set up, the students who need the most help are going to the schools that have the least money—and especially have the least money devoted to things like academic advising, the kinds of things that help students advance to their degree.”

Financial constraints and child-care responsibilities that necessitate flexible scheduling are two of many factors that might encourage a single mother to choose a school with fewer resources and a lower graduation rate. (Demographic factors also come into play: Single mothers are more likely to come from low-income families and those without a history of higher-educational attainment.) Those same factors contribute to the high college drop-out rate among single mothers. The IWPR report notes that 63 percent of single mothers in college live at or below the federal poverty line; in 2012, the average single student mother had $6,600 in unmet college tuition need, $2,000 more than that of the average married student mother. Nearly two-thirds of single mothers in college spend at least 30 hours a week on child care, 54 percent spend at least 20 hours a week on paid work, and 43 percent work at least 30 hours a week on top of child care and schoolwork. Previous research has shown an association between any amount of paid work and a decline in graduation rates among student parents, while non-parenting students can work up to 15 hours a week without having an effect on their likelihood of getting a degree. “This suggests that students have a finite number of hours that they can dedicate to paid and unpaid work outside of school, and for parents, that work allotment is consumed by unpaid dependent care responsibilities,” the report states.

There is no shortage of incentives for the government to invest in the degree attainment of single mothers. College graduates pay more in taxes, need fewer public benefits, contribute more to the economy, and raise higher-achieving kids, regardless of family demographics or income level. But the current system is only exacerbating the web of challenges that prevent single mothers from graduating from college. The Trump administration is getting ready to loosen rules that would have curbed abuses and fraud committed by for-profit colleges, and its proposed child-care plan falls far short of anything that would make a real difference in the lives of struggling parents. Without meaningful intervention on both of these fronts, single mothers’ prospects for greater economic stability through education will only get worse.

Sept. 21 2017 6:22 PM

It’s Hard Not to Feel a Bit Wary About Ivanka Revealing Her Postpartum Depression on The Dr. Oz Show

Postpartum depression is a potentially serious condition with symptoms that can range from anxiety and irritability to panic attacks, suicidal impulses, and a feeling of detachment from one’s newborn. The condition affects about one in 9 women, according to the CDC.

But it’s hard not to feel a bit wary of the way in which Ivanka Trump revealed her own PPD struggle on Thursday’s episode of the syndicated Dr. Oz Show. “With each of my children, I had some level of postpartum depression,” Trump told Oz, perched on a white armchair in front of a studio audience. “It was a very challenging emotional time for me because I felt like I was not living up to my potential as a parent or as an entrepreneur and executive.” The interview was taped Monday.

Sept. 20 2017 4:06 PM

The GOP’s Latest Obamacare Repeal Proposal Finds New Ways to Be Disastrous for Women’s Health

Senate Republicans are taking one last stab at repealing Obamacare before September 30, when their ability to squeeze a filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bill through the legislature expires. The bill Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy have proposed is the most extreme version Congress has considered so far—it would slash essential parts of Obamacare that benefit low-income Americans and those in poor health without offering any meaningful replacement.

And, like the last health care bill the Senate rejected, this one would be disastrous for women’s health. It would cut off poor women’s access to Planned Parenthood, decimate the private insurance market for abortion coverage, allow states to let insurance companies cut essential health benefits for women, and—this is some new garbage—restrict how states can cover abortion care.

The Graham-Cassidy proposal would accomplish several major rollbacks of women’s health care that Republicans have been trying to push through for years. First, it would block the use of federal Medicaid dollars at Planned Parenthood health centers, a so-called “defunding” measure. Over half of Planned Parenthood’s client base—more than 1 million patients—currently gets its health care through Medicaid. These patients would have to turn elsewhere for care. For all these patients, Graham-Cassidy would cause a possibly dangerous disruption in care; for those who live in rural areas or health care deserts, where the majority of Planned Parenthood clinics sit, it could mean an end to accessible reproductive health care altogether. The average Planned Parenthood serves nine times the number of contraceptive clients as the average federally qualified health center, which Republicans have proposed as alternate sources of publicly funded reproductive health care. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the interruption in contraceptive services caused by a nationwide block of federal Medicaid dollars to Planned Parenthood would result in thousands of extra unplanned, unwanted births.

Women who don’t rely on Medicaid would also see their reproductive health care access curtailed by Graham-Cassidy. The bill would prohibit the use of health care tax credits for both individuals and small businesses on private insurance plans that cover abortion care. That means any woman who gets tax credits because she neither qualifies for Medicaid nor gets insurance through her employer would not be able to purchase abortion coverage with those credits on the individual market. People who work for small businesses that use tax credits to offer health insurance benefits would also be left without abortion coverage. Right now, most private insurance plans cover abortion—but if the federal government slashed the population of people and businesses that could buy those plans, insurance companies would be likely to stop offering them, limiting coverage access for those who don’t use tax credits, too.

Like the previous Obamacare repeal bill, Graham-Cassidy would let states end rules that require insurance companies to cover essential health benefits, such as maternal health coverage. Before the Affordable Care Act mandated it, about 88 percent of health insurance plans didn’t cover maternity care. Planned Parenthood estimates that up to 13 million women could lose such benefits if Graham-Cassidy goes through. The bill would also end the Medicaid expansion, causing disproportionate damage to the health of women, who make up the majority of Medicaid enrollees and 69 percent of the 9 million people who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare. More than half of all U.S. births are currently covered by Medicaid. Substantial cuts to the health program would be devastating to children, mothers, and low-income families.

The most significant bit that sets Graham-Cassidy apart from its predecessors is its introduction of block grants to states. States could spend these grants however they wished, essentially inventing their own health care programs. (As Slate’s Jordan Weissman explains, the loose restrictions on the funds would allow states to put the money pretty much wherever they wanted, making the grants more of a slush fund than a health care program.) But Graham-Cassidy would forbid states from using any parts of those grants on insurance plans that covered abortion in any cases other than rape, incest, or a life-threatening medical emergency. States that currently allow insurance coverage of abortion—including states such as California, Massachusetts, and New York, which require all insurance providers that cover maternity care to also cover abortion care—would be hampered by the rules of the grants. If they wanted to use the block grants to subsidize parts of their health care programs, they would have to limit abortion coverage to those parts that didn’t include federal money.

The GOP’s past proposals for Obamacare repeal met their end in part because of their impact on women’s health. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, both Republicans who cast crucial votes against former proposals, have reliably supported the continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood through Medicaid reimbursements. Collins gave an eloquent defense of the organization in her statement on why she voted against the “skinny” repeal proposed in July. “If Planned Parenthood were defunded, other family planning clinics in Maine, including community health centers, would see a 63 percent increase in their patient load. Some patients would need to drive greater distances to receive care, while others would have to wait longer for an appointment,” she wrote. “This is about interfering with the ability of a woman to choose the health care provider who is right for her. This harmful provision should have no place in legislation that purports to be about restoring patient choices and freedom.” So far, Collins seems like the Republican most likely to oppose Graham-Cassidy, and Rand Paul has already said he won’t vote for the bill. If one more Republican doesn’t turn against the bill, millions of women will pay an exorbitant price in both their dollars and health for the benefit of the wealthy, who’ll get a little treat come tax time.

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