Anti-Choice Leaders Denounce The Ice Bucket Challenge Because An Embryo Died Once
The exploding popularity of the "ice bucket challenge"—where people record themselves dumping ice water over their heads to raise money to fight the neurogenerative disorder ALS—has inevitably attracted people who want to hijack the issue for their own ends. So it’s no big surprise to see anti-abortion leaders trying to scare their followers off of joining in on the fun. As ThinkProgress reports, anti-choicers are arguing that it's not "pro-life" to try to save the lives of ALS sufferers, because doing so might involve the use of embryonic stem cells. Life, apparently, is at its most precious in the cellular form, as opposed to the your-beloved-grandmother-who-is-dying-of-ALS form.
Lila Rose—the leader of Live Action who was last seen throwing a fit because sex educators at Planned Parenthood were caught answering direct questions asked by clients—complained that the ALS Association, which has been receiving donations via the ice bucket challenge, “chooses to support research that thrives from experimenting on and killing tiny, innocent human beings.” (Pictured here.) The Ohio Catholic Diocese agreed, discouraging its schools from participating. (The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, meanwhile, is demurring on this question.)
Think Progress contacted the ALS Association about the issue, and it clarified that most of its research is performed with the aid of adult stem cells, not embryonic ones. As for the one exception: "Currently, The Association is funding one study using embryonic stem cells (ESC), and the stem cell line was established many years ago under ethical guidelines set by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)." So anti-choice fanatics are discouraging people from fighting this horrible disease that causes much suffering to patients before they inevitably die because some embryo was used years ago to create a line of cells, none of which could actually develop into a human being. Got it.
But even if the ALS Association was going hog wild with the embryonic stem cells, using multiple 4-day-old embryos (pictured here) a week to generate brand-new embryonic stem cell lines, so what? These embryos are taken from IVF clinics, where fertility doctors often make more embryos than they end up implanting so that they have back-ups if the first don't take. Embryos that aren't used for stem cell generation tend to end up in the trash. What anti-choice activists are really arguing is that we should cease intriguing research that could save many lives because there was once an embryo that was used to make stem cells instead of being thrown in the garbage.
More human cells—mostly skin cells—probably die when you dump a bucket of ice water over your head than are actually in a four-day-old embryo (pictured here). If anti-choicers are really worried about cellular life, telling people to stop killing their skin cells for those greedy ALS sufferers would be the more direct approach.
Wendy Davis Proposes Lifting the Statute of Limitations for Rape
State senator Wendy Davis, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor who rose to national fame last year by spearheading a fight against a draconian abortion bill, held a press conference Wednesday to highlight her ideas on how to fight sexual assault. Talking about her legislative efforts to process the estimated backlog of 16,000 untested rape kits in the state, Davis said she wanted to take the solution a step further. She proposed lifting the statute of limitations for sexual assault entirely, in no small part to make sure that rapists don't escape justice just because a rape kit lingered untested for so long that the window for prosecution closed.
"While the bills I authored are helping to address the backlog of rape kits, the fact that we would throw survivors’ trauma and courage on a shelf for months or years without a second thought is offensive to them and to everything we say we stand for,” Davis said. “But then to turn around and make survivors pay the price for our failure and neglect by denying them justice is almost criminal in itself.”
What It’s Like for a Working Mom in Oslo, Norway
The state of American child care is pretty abysmal. Day care is not well-regulated, the quality is often poor, and it’s expensive: In 35 states and Washington, D.C., it costs more than a year’s in-state college tuition. We are the only wealthy nation that does not guarantee paid vacation or sick days, so when a snow day or a fever keeps a child out of school, it can mean a career setback for many parents. And for working parents with low-wage jobs, things are even worse.
We point to other countries—often ones in Europe—as models of how to do child care right. But is it really so much easier to be a working parent in Paris than it is in Peoria? We asked working moms and dads from all over the world to tell us their child care experiences. Here is the first in our occasional series.
Name: Else Marie Hasle
Occupation: Marketing professional (currently on maternity leave)
Partner's occupation: Senior engineer
Children: Natalia, 6, and Aksel, 22 months.
Hi, Else. What are your work hours?
When I’m not on maternity leave, my working hours are 37½ hours per week. This is a full-time job in Norway. I have flextime, so I can work 8 a.m to 4 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Who takes care of your kids while you work?
Up until roughly a year ago, our daughter went to a private day care in Oslo, which was government-sponsored (both private and public options are). You only pay about $420 per month for a full-time spot. We got a place there because she was born before Sept. 1 and we applied before March 1, and because we lived in the same building as the day care. The residents in the building got prioritized.
One important thing that is quite frustrating for Norwegian families is that your child has to be born before Sept. 1 to have the right to a place in a day care in August the following year. This is the “magical deadline.” Our son was born Oct. 8, 2012, and he could not get a place until this month, at 22 months old. If couples are young and they haven’t succeeded getting pregnant “in time,” some will often wait until next year to try again.
This Week in Butts
Despite a few road bumps, the human rear end, especially of the female variety, is well on its way to pop culture world domination. I, personally, am struggling with deeply mixed feelings about this. On one hand, butts are awesome and shaking them is a good time for the shakers and any consenting shakees in the mix, unless they are Robin Thicke. On the other hand, all this staring at hineys raises some age-old questions about the sexual objectification of women. When is it kosher for ladies to shake that healthy butt? Perhaps two new tush-centric pop culture moments from this week can help guide us toward a better understanding:
Sports Illustrated Tells Us to Remember Mo’Ne Davis’ Name. How Long Until They Forget?
It’s been a big week for Mo’Ne Davis. Since the 13-year-old South Philly baseball player pitched a shutout to send her team to the Little League World Series last week, she’s amassed 17,000 Twitter followers, attracted praise from Billie Jean King and Lil Wayne, been claimed as a role model for little girls across America, and, this week, ascended to the cover of Sports Illustrated. The magazine elevates Davis to legend status: “Remember her name,” the coverline reads. “(As if we could ever forget).”
That's a bold parenthetical for a magazine that's never seemed particularly committed to supporting female athletes in the long run. Davis cemented her place in sports history on Friday when she became the first girl in the LLWS to pitch a shutout, hurling 70-mile-an-hour fastballs that flummoxed the boys. (She's also just the 18th girl out of the 9,000 total kids who have competed in the LLWS, and the first female pitcher to win a LLWS game, period). Landing the SI cover marks an additional conquest of typically male territory. Of the 73 covers SI has published this year, Davis' cover is only the sixth to feature a female athlete. Davis is currently the sole female athlete appearing on the homepage of SI.com, alongside around 50 male athletes or prominent sports figures. The other women on the homepage are an NFL cheerleader, a model wearing a swimsuit, and another model getting an ice bucket dumped over her head. Where are Mo'Ne Davis' role models?
South Carolina: Where Men Murder Women and Legislators Don’t Care
Tuesday evening, the Charleston Post and Courier released a massive seven-part series on South Carolina’s failure to take domestic violence seriously—a failure that has resulted in the state leading the nation in the murder rate of women at the hands of men (currently the best measure we have for domestic homicide). The series, titled “Till death do us part,” is the result of interviewing “more than 100 victims, counselors, police, prosecutors and judges” to create a multimedia story chronicling the failures of legislators, law enforcement, social services, and even churches to do enough to fight the problem of domestic violence. Journalists Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith, Jennifer Berry Hawes, and Natalie Caula Hauff unflinchingly place much of the blame on South Carolina culture: heavily conservative values about marriage and gender roles, as well as an enthusiasm for guns that makes it nearly impossible to get them out of the hands of men who want to kill women.
South Carolina, they write, is a state “where men have long dominated the halls of power, setting an agenda that clings to tradition and conservative Christian tenets about the subservient role of women,” leading to “a tolerance of domestic violence.” Even though research shows that the murder rate from domestic violence “declines three months” after a couple has been kept apart and “drops sharply after a year’s time,” power players in the state frequently prioritize keeping couples together over the victim’s safety.
Fark Wants to Ban Misogyny. Is That Even Possible?
Fark—the irreverent online aggregator launched 15 years ago under the tagline “We don't make news. We mock it”—has pledged to ban misogyny from its comments section. “If the Internet was a dude, we'd all agree that dude has a serious problem with women,” Fark founder Drew Curtis wrote in an announcement on the site yesterday, citing a line from Mythbusters’ Adam Savage. As of yesterday, the site’s posting guidelines were “updated with new rules reminding you all that we don't want to be the He Man Woman Hater's Club,” Curtis continued. Examples of inadmissible language include “rape jokes,” calling “women as a group ‘whores’ or ‘sluts’ or similar demeaning terminology,” and “jokes suggesting that a woman who suffered a crime was somehow asking for it.” Racism and “LGBT bashing” are also now off-limits. Wrote Curtis: “This represents enough of a departure from pretty much how every other large internet community operates that I figure an announcement is necessary.”
To All My Catcallers: An Apology
New York Post writer Doree Lewak has graced us with a piece on the totally flattering practice of men catcalling women. Lewak chastises feminists for cruelly denouncing the arduous efforts of cat-callers—those beautiful men with their grunts and their hoots—and credits slobbering construction workers with boosting her self-confidence. “Oh, don’t go rolling those sanctimonious eyes at me, young women of Vassar: I may court catcalls, but I hold my head high,” Lewak writes “Enjoying male attention doesn’t make you a traitor to your gender.”
Lewak goes on to detail how getting catcalled has been great for her self-esteem:
When I know I’m looking good, I brazenly walk past a construction site, anticipating that whistle and “Hey, mama!” catcall. Works every time — my ego and I can’t fit through the door!
“I still get that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling whenever I walk past a construction stronghold,” Lewak continues. “It’s as primal as it gets, ladies! They either grunt in recognition or they go back to their coffee break. It’s not brain science — when a total stranger notices you, it’s validating.”
For so long, I’ve experienced catcalling as a form of harassment leveled by men who use sexual innuendo to dominate and humiliate women. But Lewak’s column, complete with a photo of her standing in front of two male construction workers, lovingly eyeing her ass, has made me re-evaluate my frigid women’s studies response to strangers on the street yelling about my rack. And so, a few apologies:
The Pressure to Breast-Feed Is Hurting New Moms With Postpartum Depression
No one knows exactly what causes prenatal and postpartum depression. It’s a complicated dance of hormones, predisposition to depression, and other factors. A new study, presented at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association this week, explores the cultural pressures that new moms face—also dads, but I’m going to focus on moms here—and how they impact depression.
University of Kansas sociology doctoral student Carrie Wendel-Hummell spoke to 30 middle and low-income moms who had symptoms of “perinatal mental health disorders” (PMADs)—which include prenatal and postpartum depression and anxiety, postpartum psychosis, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder—and found that some of the biggest factors in exacerbating their PMADs were breast-feeding troubles, sleep deprivation, and unhelpful partners.
While the public health push for breast-feeding is certainly good overall, Wendel-Hummell’s study, while extremely small, should make us consider that the messaging towards and treatment of new moms who are struggling with breast-feeding might be counterproductive and harmful, particularly to moms also dealing with PMADs. “My research findings also demonstrate how these messages lead to significant mental health stress when breastfeeding does not go well, including internalized guilt for not giving their children what is perceived as the absolute best,” Wendel-Hummell writes.
Immigrant Woman in Ireland Denied an Abortion, Forced Into a C-Section
After the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in 2012 from sepsis after she was denied an abortion for a miscarrying pregnancy, Ireland agreed to relax its stringent abortion ban ever so slightly to allow women who are in real medical danger to obtain abortions. Despite that small concession to women’s basic human rights, Ireland has coughed up another horror story of what happens to pregnant women who want to terminate in distressed situations. The Guardian reports that an unnamed immigrant woman in Ireland was forced into a C-section to deliver a baby at a shockingly premature 25 weeks after she was denied an abortion at eight weeks.
Henry McDonald reports:
The woman, who is an immigrant and cannot be named for legal reasons, was refused an abortion even though at eight weeks she demanded a termination, claiming she was suicidal.
After she then threatened a hunger strike to protest the decision, local health authorities obtained a court order to deliver the baby prematurely—at around 25 weeks according to some reports—to ensure its safety. The infant has been placed in care.