Using Humor to Counter Anti-Choice Protestors

The assault on women’s reproductive rights in the U.S. has been relentless in recent years, but women are fighting back and doing it with humor. Lady Parts Justice, established in 2012, offers info on reproductive laws and setbacks in all 50 states and includes humorous videos.

There’s also this story from The Daily Dot about how one couple decided to use humor to counter anti-choice protestors. This is especially relevant given the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a Massachusetts law requiring a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics. One pro-choice couple in North Carolina decided to join protestors at a local clinic––but with very different signs.

Countering placards screaming “babies are murdered here,” the couple held signs with messages like “Bring Back Crystal Pepsi,” “I Like Turtles,” and “Weird Hobby” with an arrow pointing toward the anti-choice protestors. Obviously we need more than just mocking to reverse the dangerous trends of recent years, but this approach offers a fresh way of calling out the obnoxious, intrusive behavior of these particular anti-choice folks. Read the full story here.

Finer points on Citizens United and Hobby Lobby

First, Jill Filipovic, in her new gig at, gives us 13 Reactions to the Hobby Lobby Case That are Completely Misinformed. Many of them I already knew about, but one that stood out was this:

While Hobby Lobby the company did object to only four forms of birth control, Hobby Lobby the case is about the contraception mandate as a whole, and its holding applies to any closely held company.

For details read the full piece here.

Second, many people understand why Citizens United is unjust. In the Atlantic, Norm Ornstein uses the Hobby Lobby case to elaborate in clear terms on why Citizens United is illogical. One key point: Corporations’ key objective is to make profit, which is never subordinated to their religious beliefs, and this is true for Hobby Lobby as well:

Give the Hobby Lobby owners’ family credit for their deep religious convictions. But if profit-making were truly subordinated to those convictions, which are strongly in opposition to abortion rights, Hobby Lobby would provide paid maternity leave for employees who shun contraception and abortion to have babies. It doesn’t.

Others have made this point by exposing Hobby Lobby’s investments in companies that produce contraceptives. Ornstein’s piece is especially valuable because he uses this case to illustrate the overall flawed thinking of Citizens United. It helped to clarify my thinking on the issue. Read the full piece here.

Amend the Constitution to Protect Women’s Rights

Following up on yesterday’s post, I think it’s a good time to advocate (as so many others have before) a constitutional amendment to protect women against discrimination. At the urging of Maine representative Diane Russell, I just signed a petition to urge President Obama to support the Equal Rights Amendment.

Why do we need this amendment? If it’s not already obvious, especially after this week’s alarming SCOTUS decision on Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, here’s a few facts: As conservative justice Antonin Scalia acknowledged back in 2011, the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Some people believe the 14th Amendment does this adequately, but it has never been interpreted that way and, in fact, does not offer sufficient protection.

While Scalia and others believe that laws can be made to offer the necessary protection against discrimination, it is equally true that laws can prevent such protection from happening, and they can be overturned. That is precisely what has been happening for the past several decades with women’s reproductive rights. The decision on Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby is simply another example of that, because it allows specific discrimination on the basis of privileging the “personhood” of a corporation over that of women.

As I wrote yesterday (and as many others have written), even if women are still able to obtain birth control given that the decision applies to only two forms (the IUD and emergency contraception), the decision sets an alarming precedent by allowing discrimination specifically against women, based on a corporation’s religious beliefs.

The fact is, as Martha Burk points out, “none of the rights women have––except the right to vote––are enshrined in the Constitution.” That means that states can overturn any laws guaranteeing equal opportunity for women in jobs, education––whatever the majority wants. The current, aggressive assault on women’s reproductive rights shows exactly how that can and is happening.

Here’s more info about why the Equal Rights Amendment is so important. Support the effort and sign here.


The Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby”

Pretty much everyone who supports women’s right to reproductive health has been lamenting the SCOTUS decision yesterday on Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, in which the court ruled that certain closely-held corporations can claim exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that companies employing 50 or more people cover the cost of workers’ prescription birth control.

The decision claims to be narrow on the basis of its application to closely held corporations, which are corporations with a limited number of shareholders, and because the decision is limited to two forms of birth control, the IUD and emergency contraception.

Many people are outraged over the general implications: With this ruling, the court not only confirms the erroneous view that corporations are people but goes further by asserting that a corporation now has the right to impose its religious views on its workers. And a corporation’s religious views, i.e., its supposed “personhood,” are now more important than the personhood of its female employees (and, by implication, all women), specifically women’s right to reproductive health as part of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate. Hence the illustrated guide to American personhood meme that’s been all over Facebook.

People are now waking up to the fact that the decision is anything but narrow, in other equally alarming ways. Closely held does not mean small, first of all, and the Wall-Street Journal reports that at least one source claims that about 90% of U.S. companies are closely held.

More important is one of the points made by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissenting opinion, an implication that people are just now starting to absorb (here’s a report of some of the best points). She rightly understands that if a corporation can claim religious exemption about the issue of birth control, there is nothing to stop them from claiming exemption from covering other things, too. A corporation owned by Jehovah’s witnesses could claim they shouldn’t have to cover blood transfusions; Scientologists would have grounds for rejecting the coverage of antidepressants; Muslims, Jews, and Hindus could claim exemption from medications derived from pigs (including anesthesia, IV fluids, and so forth). On this basis, Ginsburg wrote “The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

We are already in the minefield that is the ongoing assault on women’s reproductive health. This ruling comes on the heels of the court’s decision last week to strike down a Massachusetts law requiring anti-choice activists to remain a certain distance from people entering clinics. Now, in certain places, it will be harder to prevent pregnancy, and should you elect to have an abortion in Massachusetts, obnoxious protestors have the right to get in your face and make an incredibly difficult life decision all that much harder.

Chipping away at women’s reproductive health rights and safety is evidently the court’s latest “hobby lobby.”

In conversations and on social media, I’ve been seeing lots of outrage but relatively little commitment to boycotting Hobby Lobby, even though campaigns to do so have already begun.

Here’s the deal: one of the few ways we can influence corporations––perhaps the only way given that the law is not on our side––is to make them understand that we will hurt their bottom line if they try to impose their religious views on others.

That’s why I’ve decided to boycott Hobby Lobby. I don’t care if my daughter is begging and pleading and they’ve got the last freaking piece of yarn on earth. I’d rather she (and all women) have the right to control her health, and I’m not actually confident that she will have that right in the coming years.

If you support the rights of people to be free of their corporate employers’ religious views, will you do more than simply denounce this decision?