The Planned Parenthood Hearing Shows How out of Step Republicans Are With America
Watching Republicans repeatedly interrupt and yell at Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards on Tuesday, one might get the impression that there's some kind of national uprising against the existence of affordable women's health care. Republicans repeatedly excoriated the organization for focusing on contraception and Pap smears instead of on mammograms, which are typically done at radiology centers. Cancer research, the Boys and Girls Clubs, mental health counseling for nonexistent issues like abortion regret": Viewers got a laundry list of things that Republicans felt should be funded instead of low-cost birth control and STI treatment at Planned Parenthood. Rep. Glenn Grothman even argued (bewilderingly) that since there's medical care he can get "as a guy," then Planned Parenthood—and by implication, its gynecological services (?!?)—is unnecessary. The message was clear: Taxpayer-funded gynecological care is an illegitimate use of government funding.
But if you look away from the horror show in Congress and to the public at large, the message is very different. In the real world, affordable gynecological care is mainstream and even virtuous, although (gasp) it allows women to have sex with fewer risks to their health. Children's author Daniel Handler, known by the pen name Lemony Snicket, and his wife, illustrator Lisa Brown, donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood in response to the hearings. This move was huge not just because of the size of the donation but as a reminder that there is no conflict whatsoever between wholesome activities such as writing children's books and believing that women have a right to a healthy, safe sex life, even if they're young or low-income.
As Rebecca Traister at New York’s the Cut wrote on Tuesday, Americans continue to love Planned Parenthood, despite the relentless attempts to demonize the organization. Not only do 61 percent of Americans polled support funding the organization, she writes, but “Planned Parenthood, and every politician who supports Planned Parenthood, remains more popular with Americans than every politician and party that opposes Planned Parenthood.”
Despite all the hand-waving about fetal tissue, Tuesday's hearings were a confirmation that the attacks on Planned Parenthood are a proxy for the larger religious-right movement to reverse the sexual revolution brought to Americans by feminism and reliable contraception. Recreational sex, however, continues to be wildly popular among the public. Deluging people with bloody fetus pictures isn't dissuading them from their enthusiasm for affordable contraception that makes stress-free recreational sex possible.
Watching Republicans, mostly men, gang up on Cecile Richards indicates the deep contempt for women that drives the anti-choice movement. It reminded me of the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1992, or more specifically, of the way that a group of men condescended to and sneered at Anita Hill for daring to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against Thomas. Thomas was confirmed, but the hearings shocked many American women, and led to a surge of feminist sentiment in the '90s.
The media consensus about Tuesday's hearings seems to be that the Republicans looked like a bunch of petulant bullies and Cecile Richards came out looking like one tough cookie. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post called the Republicans “so many Captain Ahabs.” MSNBC called out Republicans' ham-fisted attempts to trick people into believing that Planned Parenthood does more abortions than preventative services. (They do nearly three times as much of the latter.) Celebrities such as Elizabeth Banks, Lena Dunham, and Connie Britton joined the popular #IStandWithPP social media campaign.
As Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post notes, “activism is almost always energized by opposition.” It's hard to understand why Republicans are picking this particular fight. They might make some gains, defunding women's health services here and there and sneaking abstinence-only programs back into some schools. But the larger culture war over sex? That battle was lost long ago.
WATCH: Every Single Time a Republican Interrupted the President of Planned Parenthood
This morning, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards was scheduled to testify before the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is ostensibly investigating the women’s healthcare provider’s use of federal funding following the release of videos that purportedly suggest that PPFA profits from fetal tissue donations. But before most of the Republican questioners, Richards didn’t end up testifying so much as simply absorbing a barrage of questions that she would begin to answer only to be interrupted, criticized, and/or talked over by Republican congressmen, as you can see in the video below.
Why Are We Always Asking Rich Famous Ladies If They Are Feminists?
For the past several years, reporters have delighted in subjecting woman celebrities to a gender-specific litmus test: “Are you a feminist?” Those who demur or question the term are vilified in progressive circles as feeble-minded dandelions blowing in the winds of patriarchy; those who identify with it often reduce its meaning to the blandest, most innocuous strain.
And still, the query persists. In a Q&A in today’s inaugural Lenny newsletter, Lena Dunham posed it to Hillary Clinton, a woman whose personal statements and extraordinary professional accomplishments are so deeply aligned with feminism that any answer she could give would be almost irrelevant. Still, Dunham declared, the question was “on every Lenny reader’s lips.” Clinton passed the test:
I’m always a little bit puzzled when any woman…says something like, ‘Well, I believe in equal rights, but I’m not a feminist.’ Well, a feminist is by definition someone who believes in equal rights…It’s not going to be good for you as a woman to be denying the fact that you are entitled to equal rights.
Today’s out-and-proud non-feminist is Marion Cotillard, who’s played sympathetic, admirable women in films such as Two Days, One Night and the Édith Piaf biopic La Vie en rose. In an interview with Porter magazine, the actress and singer waffled when asked about the Cannes film festival’s gender diversity problem:
Filmmaking is not about gender. You cannot ask a president in a festival like Cannes to have, like, five movies directed by women and five by men. For me it doesn’t create equality; it creates separation. I mean, I don’t qualify myself as a feminist. We need to fight for women’s rights but I don’t want to separate women from men. We’re separated already because we’re not made the same and it’s the difference that creates this energy in creation and love. Sometimes in the word feminism there’s too much separation.
Though the feminist-identification question has become a moot indicator of a celebrity’s politics, Cotillard’s thoughts on gender inequity in the film industry are telling. Her words recall a statement made by then–Cannes head Gilles Jacob in 2012, when all of the festival’s 22 major films were directed by men. Jacob blamed the previous year’s abundance of woman-made films (four in total!) for the 2012 protests. "That was maybe a wrong move," he told the Observer. "Now everyone this year was expecting five films, then six, then seven. In France nowadays, they speak of parity. They want parity in government, parity everywhere, so why not at the Cannes film festival?"
Both Cotillard and Jacob misconstrue the point of calls for equal representation in the film industry, or any industry, really. Gender parity for the sake of appearances isn’t a goal in and of itself, but gender disparity is a symptom of bias further down the pipeline. Cotillard’s privileged status as a sought-after movie star and all-around rich lady might insulate her from some of the more severe consequences of sex discrimination; she was, after all, featured in one of 2012’s man-made Cannes films, and the very real gender pay gap among high-profile stars—until recently, not even Jennifer Lawrence could escape it!—still leaves actresses with abundant piles of cash to soften the blow.
But the gender differences that Cotillard claims spur “energy in creation and love” also limit the salaries of women working behind the scenes and the roles available to Cotillard and her peers. In fact, the state of affairs in Hollywood is so bad for women, the ACLU has gotten involved. Women exist in the film industry, ergo sexism does, too, ergo filmmaking is at least in part about gender.
Now that I’ve disproven Cotillard’s contention that discussions of gender are out of place in the film world (sorry, Marion), what to make of her anti-feminist declaration? On the one hand, it’s sad to hear an actress who’s benefited from feminism and promoted feminist principles in her work boil the concept down to a battle of the sexes. But even the most visible advocates for gender equality in Hollywood—looking at you, Patricia Arquette—have some troubling ideas about what feminism is (in Arquette’s case, it does not include, but should be heartily championed by, queer people and people of color). The feminist movement is broad and strong enough to serve both of these women, but not fragile enough to buckle under a few throwaway comments from either.
Jessica Biel Does Sex Education in New Funny or Die Videos
Just a few decades ago, information on women’s health was mostly sequestered in library books and doctors’ offices. Women have always passed down know-how through word of mouth, but the multi-generation game of telephone inevitably led to a few garbled connections. Toss in widespread fear or ambivalence toward sex education and a medical establishment that hasn't always prioritized female sexuality or reproductive health, and you’ve got a perfect storm of cultural ignorance about some very basic bodily functions.
Media makers and famous ladies in general are taking notice. Lenny, Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner's new newsletter whose first installment dropped today, has introduced a recurring women's-health column written by former Double Xer editor Jessica Grose called "Rumors I Heard About My Body." (The first question tackled: "How do I know if my period is weird?") Jessica Biel realized her own gaps in self-knowledge when she and husband Justin Timberlake began trying to get pregnant two years ago and wasn’t sure how her previous birth-control use would affect her chances. “Suddenly I realized I really didn’t know what’s going on inside my own body,” she told Glamour. “It was shocking.”
Today, Biel and WomanCare Global, an international nonprofit that works to improve access to products such as contraception and menstrual cups, released a series of videos on Funny or Die called “If You Don’t Tell Them, Then Who Will?” Named to encourage parents and other informed adults to speak honestly with the kids in their lives about reproductive health, the three clips feature Biel kibitzing with fellow actresses Joy Bryant and Whitney Cummings about hetero sex, birth control, dudes, and periods in someone’s kitchen.
The three women cite some messed-up ideas of how female bodies work—e.g., if a condom gets stuck in your vagina, it cannot travel up and out your mouth, contrary to the anatomical fantasies of one Idaho lawmaker—which work as straw men for on-screen text to bat down. “We thought the best way to encourage women to get educated and start the conversation around our bodies was to make it comically clear that people like me, and other non-experts, should not be the source for this information,” said Biel in a statement.
While the Internet has made information on women’s health far more accessible than it was in the olden days, a girl who schools herself on STI prevention from WebMD and message boards is bound to come away with some misconceptions, which will spread like scabies to her friends at slumber parties and lunchroom chitchats. American Girl’s cutesy books on puberty are great for noobs, but for adult women who get most of their honest sex talk from anecdotal sources, a comedy website just might offer a necessary nudge toward sounder advice.
The Latest Video Trying to Exonerate Carly Fiorina Just Proves She Didn’t Tell the Truth
On the same day that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee pummeled Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards with questions about discredited "sting" videos targeting the women's health care provider, yet another anti-choice group has rushed to Carly Fiorina's defense with a video that purports to prove the truth of her comments about Planned Parenthood at the recent Republican debate. As with previous attempts, they instead prove that Fiorina was not telling the truth when she answered a question about Planned Parenthood funding by invoking a video showing "a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain."
So far, the video Fiorina described has not been made public. This latest video most definitely is not it.
The video, titled "Carly Fiorina was right" (warning: extremely graphic), was provided by the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform. They are the group that provided an image of a fetus, moving slightly, that is used by the Center for Medical Progress in one of their videos. This new video shows the context: The fetus is pulled from a woman and placed in a bowl. At no point does anyone say, "We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain." There is no sound. There is no indication that we are inside a Planned Parenthood–affiliated clinic.
The only new information this video adds is the revelation that the fetus came out of a woman's body. If that surprises you, then you have no right to weigh in on debates over women's health care.
Gregg Cunningham of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, who put this video online, "declined to identify the date, location or authors of the video in an interview with TIME Monday night," Michael Scherer at Time reports. "Cunningham says he is confident the procedure was an abortion, and not a miscarriage, owing to the lack of medical treatment offered to the fetus. He said he estimated the age of the fetus at about 17 and a half weeks." Seventeen-and-a-half weeks means that the fetus is pre-viability; also, Cunningham is not a doctor.
I reached out to an actual OB-GYN, Dr. Jen Gunter, about the video. After watching it, she told me that it doesn't look like an abortion, but rather a premature delivery. "The fetus delivers very quickly and without instrumentation," she explained. "This is what we do with a very premature delivery."
Gunter pointed to a few other signs that this is a delivery and not an abortion. "The cord clamp," for one, she explained. "In an abortion the cord would simply be cut." She also noted that the lengthy wait for the placenta is typical in a delivery, but "if this were an abortion the placenta would be removed almost immediately with suction."
While Gunter couldn't rule out abortion completely, noting that that there was a remote possibility that this is "an atypical technique," she emphasized that "unless they produce the doctor that did it," we should be skeptical. Cunningham declines to provide the doctor's identity, claiming "confidentiality," even though a doctor speaking broadly about his work violates no one's confidentiality. Apparently, violating the woman's privacy—which this video does—is no problem at all.
The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform is an anti-abortion group that provides images of abortion, fetuses, and medical instruments in order to make abortion look gross and scary. Childbirth is also gross and scary. And that's what you're almost certainly seeing in this video.
Hillary Clinton Made a “Girl Power” Playlist. We Made a Few Additions.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign recently released a “girl power” Spotify playlist of uptempo feminist jams and power ballads by female artists. Ever wonder what our prospective next president wants us to think she listens to while she’s getting ready for Thirsty Thursday or a fraught political negotiation? Whitney Houston, Jill Scott, and the Dixie Chicks made the list, plus a few contemporary pop queens like Kelly Clarkson, Selena Gomez, and—because Clinton does not want to lose the 2016 election this early in the race—Beyoncé. Here, Double X humbly submits a few additions.
Bikini Kill, “Resist Psychic Death”
“There's more than two ways of thinking /There's more than one way of knowing,” scream-sings Kathleen Hanna on this quick-and-dirty riot grrrl track. The attitude that would bode well for a candidate who hopes to reach out of the mosh pit and across the aisle to lead beyond party lines. Psychic death is a good thing for elected leaders to resist, too.
Shania Twain, “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”
Twain’s going-out anthem promises that she “ain't gonna act politically correct,” which would make Clinton seem a little bit like a maverick, a concept that appears to resonate with voters. The reference to men’s shirts, if not short skirts, seems apt for a public figure who’s made a name for herself as a pantsuit icon.
Girlpool, “Blah Blah Blah”
With just a stilted guitar and a four-note bassline, this duo ekes out an effective dismissal of an annoying cad. The verses are beside the point: Clinton should take note of the chorus as good debate-prep: “I hear you talking like, ‘blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah blah blah.’”
Robyn, “Who’s That Girl?”
Though the lyrics might ring problematic for a would-be president (“I just can't deal with the rules /I can't take the pressure”), Robyn’s 2008 song is an infectious examination of unrealistic standards for women’s looks and behavior.
Beyoncé, “Why Don’t You Love Me?”
Clinton has a predictable pick from Queen Bey, “Run the World (Girls),” but she could add a song that mocks all those pollsters who claimed she wasn’t “likeable” enough to be president. “Why Don’t You Love Me?” comes with a perfect existential question for Clinton not to ponder on the campaign trail (“Why don’t you love me, when I make me so damn easy to love?”) and one of Beyoncé’s best videos, a cheeky send-up of mid-century femininity.
Gretchen Wilson, “Redneck Woman”
If Clinton wants to get anywhere in the South, she could take a few pointers from this unapologetically uncultured country tune: “I say 'hey y’all' and 'yee-haw' /And I keep my Christmas lights on on my front porch all year long /And I know all the words to every Charlie Daniels song.”
Angel Haze, “Werkin’ Girls”
This decidedly NSFW rap has plenty of commander in chief–worthy braggadocio: “I did what I say I did /Did not fabricate one bit /I have been the fucking realest since my exit near the clit.” Those are some smart talking points on Benghazi, emailgate, or any other B.S. Clinton scandal that pops up in the next year.
Study Suggest That Some Women With Breast Cancer May Be Able to Skip Chemotherapy
In a study published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine, a group of cancer researchers got a rare kind of result: one that was way, way better than they had expected. “We knew these patients were going to do well, but we didn’t dream they would do this well,” Joseph Sparano, the study’s lead author, told the Wall Street Journal.
Sparano was talking about a five-year study designed to figure out if certain women could forgo chemotherapy without affecting their chances of recovery from breast cancer. The answer: a resounding yes. For women whose tumors display a certain genetic makeup, surgery and a regimen of drugs to block the hormones that fuel breast cancer are sufficient to prevent a relapse in 99 percent of cases, and leave 94 percent of women cancer-free after five years. Chemotherapy, experts say, would not improve those numbers. In other words, going forward, a subset of women will not undergo the most grueling part of breast cancer treatment.
Doctors have known for years that testing a tumor’s genes can yield precise predictions of how aggressively it will grow and spread, and how well it will respond to hormone therapy. The test that measures these factors to determine whether women are low-risk, high-risk, or somewhere in between—called Oncotype DX—has been on the market since 2004. But until now, there wasn’t enough data available to interpret its results into hard-and-fast treatment recommendations. Researchers who have studied Oncotype DX in the past have tracked women’s outcomes, confirming that the link between genetics and recurrence is a reliable one. But this new study is the first to assign women different kinds of treatment based on their risk and then track how well those regimens worked.
The study enrolled 10,253 women, all of whom had early stage breast cancer that hadn’t spread to their lymph nodes. (This is the most common form of the disease; more than 100,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with it each year.) The test results are measured on a 100-point scale; researchers classified the 16 percent of the women with scores below 11 as low risk, the 67 percent whose scores fell between 11 and 25 as intermediate risk, and the 17 percent with scores over 25 as high risk. None of the low-risk patients were given chemo—and their overwhelmingly positive results were the ones published today.
What about the other 84 percent of women in the study, though? The researchers are continuing to track them in the hopes of someday publishing their findings. All of the high-risk women received chemo, but the group with intermediate risk was randomly divided: some received chemo, and some only hormone therapy. The results from this middle group in particular will determine if chemo is superfluous for only a relatively small number of women—the ones included in today’s findings—or a much larger slice of the population.
“What we are uncertain about is where to draw the cutpoint,” Sparano said, suggesting that “11” may not be the right place to set the line. “How low can we go to that cutpoint? That’s an unanswered question that will be addressed by the ongoing trial.”
In the meantime, we still don’t know how many of breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are actually benefiting from the treatment—and how many could be spared that ordeal without changing their chances of recovery.
Doing the Math on Planned Parenthood’s Alleged Fetal Tissue Profit Scheme
The conspiracy theory about Planned Parenthood “selling” fetal body parts is really getting out of control. Carly Fiorina is still saying that “Planned Parenthood is aborting fetuses alive to harvest their brains and other body parts,” framing abortion as an organ-selling racket. Even though John Boehner dutifully attacked Planned Parenthood in response to the false allegations, his unwillingness to shut down the government over it has helped lead to his resignation. Marco Rubio may have even hinted last week that women are themselves benefiting from the sale of fetal tissue, although his comments were hard to track:
I just think you’ve created an industry now — a situation where very much, you’ve created an incentive for people not just to look forward to having more abortions, but being able to sell that fetal tissue — these centers — for purposes of making a profit off it, as you’ve seen in some of these Planned Parenthood affiliates.
All of which leads to the question: How much profit? I don't mean the real, nonfictional money at stake: $100 million in federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which is required only to fund nonabortion services such as contraception and STI treatment. I'm talking about the imaginary money at the center of the conspiracy theory, the alleged “profit” that Planned Parenthood and its patients are making off this fetal tissue racket. How much can women and their doctors expect once they hop onto this gravy train?
Luckily, we do have some numbers, courtesy of the (mostly) unedited videos filmed by the Center for Medical Progress, in which they spoke to doctors who thought they were discussing tissue donations to a biotech firm. The numbers being tossed around seem rather miniscule for an evil criminal organization: $30 to $100 a specimen. That's not profit—that's reimbursement.
“In reality, $30-100 probably constitutes a loss for [Planned Parenthood],” Sherilyn J. Sawyer, a biotech expert at Harvard, told FactCheck.org. “Most hospitals will provide tissue blocks from surgical procedures (ones no longer needed for clinical purposes, and without identity) for research, and cost recover for their time and effort in the range of $100-500 per case/block.”
Those hospitals probably don't tolerate too much of a loss, so let's be generous and assume the biggest bath they take is $50 per specimen. This math is backed up by five separate state investigations that show Planned Parenthood is making no profits off “selling” fetal body parts.
Per-specimen profit for Planned Parenthood: negative $50 to $0.
But what about economies of scale, you might ask. Perhaps the reimbursements of $30 to $100 sound small on paper, but over the many clinics that Planned Parenthood operates, maybe the picture starts to look different? The problem, as the Associated Press reports, is that fewer than 1 percent of clinics offer the service. That means seven or fewer clinics offering a service on which they either break even or lose money.
Overall profit for Planned Parenthood: $0, multipled by seven, equaling $0. Now, that's the kind of cold, hard cash that can really keep a billion-dollar organization afloat.
Not that any of this required an extensive investigation. Basic common sense will tell you that $30-$100 reimbursements at a tiny number of clinics is not and cannot be a profit-making scheme for doctors or for women. You can make more money selling bottles to recycling plants. The truth—that abortion providers are offering a medical service that women actually need—is just too unbearable for some people to face.
Why Hillary Clinton Called Xi Jinping “Shameless”
China doesn’t have the greatest record on women’s rights—a fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping was probably hoping to obscure when he offered himself as co-host of a United Nations summit focused on the issue. But Hillary Clinton called him out on the hypocrisy. “Xi hosting a meeting on women’s rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless,” she tweeted on Sunday night.
The hashtag #Freethe20 refers to 20 female activists imprisoned around the world. The ongoing U.N. conference marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark conference on women’s rights that took place in Beijing in 1995; the U.S., ever mindful of the awkwardness of having close allies with poor human rights records, wants to emphasize that China hasn’t lived up to its promises on women’s issues. Over the last month, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power has released the name of one imprisoned female activist each day. Three of the women she selected are Chinese:
• Wang Yu was a commercial lawyer until she was assaulted a train station in 2008—and she, not the men who beat her, went to jail for two years. After witnessing the abuse of prisoners firsthand, she became one of her country's most prominent human rights lawyers. Last spring, she defended five feminists, whose public awareness campaign against sexual harassment was prosecuted as a “disturbance.” In July, she was arrested.
• Gao Yu, a longtime journalist, has been in and out of prison for her work since 1989. Most recently, she was arrested in 2014 for sharing a Communist Party directive with foreign media. Human rights groups have petitioned for Gao's parole, arguing that, at 71, she's in fragile health.
• Liu Xia is a poet and artist, and a founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, which promotes freedom of expression. Her husband, Liu Xiaobo, is the famous human rights activist and political prisoner; she was placed under house arrest in 2010, after the announcement that he had been awarded a Nobel Prize.
Sunday night, China’s state media was quick to publish two indignant op-eds in response to Clinton's barb: one in English, one in Chinese. Both accused Clinton of modeling her remarks on those of Donald Trump, who has leveraged his criticism of the country into votes. “Perhaps, Hillary's e-mail scandal has dealt a heavy blow to her, and she is trying to get back in the game by directing people's attention to China,” the English op-ed insinuated.
The Chinese version got a little more creative. "It looks like Hillary is in a panicked frenzy, her eyes have turned red. ... She has started to copy Trump's speaking style and allowed herself to become a fierce big mouth,” it wrote, according to the BBC’s translation.
Like the Chinese government, Clinton has reason to mark the Beijing conference’s anniversary: When she was there 20 years ago, she delivered her now-famous “women’s rights are human rights” speech. Along with a “Women for Hillary” ad that features Lena Dunham, chastising Xi seems to be Clinton's way of marking the occasion.
Australia to Chris Brown: You’re Not Welcome Here
Australia has denied famed abuser Chris Brown’s visa application on character grounds, which stands to prevent him from giving scheduled performances in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth. When Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault and making criminal threats against Rihanna in 2009, he dodged jail time in favor of probation, counseling, and community service. Those who called for a harsher sentence can count this weekend’s news as some evidence that his punishment didn't end there.
Though Brown has toured in Australia twice since his 2009 conviction, in 2011 and 2012, the country has since cracked down on foreign abusers of women. In February, Australia denied entry to boxer Floyd Mayweather, who has been convicted of battery against his female partners on several occasions. Late last year, the country revoked the visa of Swiss-born, U.S.-based “pick up artist” Julien Blanc and refused a temporary visa request from Dan Bilzerian, a poker player and Instagram degenerate who’d been videotaped appearing to kick a woman in the head.
“People need to understand if you are going to commit domestic violence and then you want to travel around the world, there are going to be countries that say to you, ‘You cannot come in because you are not of the character we expect in Australia,’ ” said Minister for Employment and Minister for Women Michaelia Cash of her recommendation to the immigration minister to reject Brown’s application.
Several other countries have character or morality stipulations in their visa codes, though they’re often applied with ample room for discretion. Paris Hilton was turned away at a Japanese airport because of a drug conviction. Martha Stewart was refused entry into the U.K. for her criminal activity. Russia denied a visa to Selena Gomez, forcing her to cancel two shows, on the mere threat from activists who were lobbying Gomez to speak out against the country’s anti-gay laws at her concerts in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
The U.S. has denied entry to pop stars like Boy George, who’d been charged with false imprisonment of a sex worker in London; M.I.A., whose public comments and lyrics were interpreted as potential terrorist threats; and Amy Winehouse, who couldn’t accept her 2008 Grammy in person due to drug charges. Even a simple drug habit is enough to keep a potential visitor from crossing the U.S. border: People with multiple criminal convictions on their records, including those involving “moral turpitude,” such as spousal abuse and rape, can apply for an entry waiver. Drug abusers, like spies and Nazis, cannot.
Australia automatically bans any visa applicant who’s been sentenced to a year or more in prison for one crime, or a total of more than two years for multiple crimes. Brown didn’t pass that preset threshold, making Australia’s Brown embargo a bold statement to other nations on the severity of his crimes, which include a second assault conviction for attacking a man outside a Washington hotel.
Brown has 28 days to appeal the immigration minister’s decision. A statement posted on a Ticketek, where tickets for his Australian shows went on sale earlier Monday, indicates that his management might take that route: “We … have faith that a decision will be made with the full consideration of his continued personal growth, on-going philanthropic endeavours and desire to perform for his fans.” Whether or not Brown actually poses a threat to the Australian population—who could consider his continued violent behavior to decide for themselves—the country’s stand against intimate-partner violence sends a clear message to other abusers: Your right to travel the world is not absolute.