There was a panel, and now there’s a post

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, February 2, 2009 21:51 EDT
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Ha! Finally found an outlet so that I can blog a little. I’m at the Feminism 2.0 conference, which is about bringing feminism up-to-date with the netroots world. I’ll admit that I was a little bemused—Jessica Valenti could barely get a panel on the power of blogging at the NOW conference in 2006, and now the president of NOW is at a conference on new media. This isn’t a surprise in a world where all the bigwigs of the Democratic party come to Netroots Nation, but still, it’s funny how much has changed in such a short period of time.

Anyway, I moderated a panel on reproductive rights, ’cause that’s just how I roll. Emily liveblogged it here. There was some controversy over the title—”Roe’s Safe: Now What?”—which I chose because it’s a hook, not because I think Roe is “safe”, because it can’t be safe when it’s already been all but utterly destroyed through the incremental strategy. Which of course we covered with our legal expert Gretchen Borchelt.

I chose the title, as I’ve said before, because in our mainstream media’s eyes, reproductive rights=abortion=Roe v. Wade, and now that a direct overturn of Roe seems increasingly unlikely, that means an end of the issue. I’ve seen a handful of sweet (and misleading) articles implying that the anti-choice movement is giving up and moving towards “prevention”, which is not true in any real sense, since the anti-choice movement as it exists has no interest whatsoever in prevention as most people understand it, which is preventing unplanned pregnancy. When your average anti-choice nut talks about “prevention”, he means handing someone a box of diapers in hopes that it means that she won’t have an abortion. The amount of social services that it would take to change women’s lives to the degree where many women suffering unintended pregnancies would change their mind away from having an abortion is an amount that conservatives certainly can’t sign on to, and most Democrats would shy away from, too. Media coverage that implies that the formal anti-choice movement cares about “prevention” is misleading—the movement stands against the only realistic form of prevention, which is contraception access so women who don’t want to be pregnant don’t have to be.

The anti-choice movement is adapting to the fact that they’re not seeing an overturn of Roe v. Wade. Having already been wildly successful at their main goal of making abortion painful, expensive, and humiliating for the vast majority of women who can’t afford discreet access to the procedure, and knowing that even a formal overturn of Roe wouldn’t extend the horror to blue state women of means, they’re diversifying their attack on reproductive rights. This is not the same as embracing “prevention”. In fact, if anything, the attacks on prevention are increasing dramatically, and last week’s Medicaid debacle is just one sign of the new direction they’re moving—having made abortion miserable and expensive for low income women, the plan is to make contraception miserable and expensive for low income women. My concern, which I stated during the panel, is that the mainstream media is run largely by financially comfortable men whose interest with reproductive rights tends to begin and end with making sure that the women in their direct circle of acquaintances have access. They don’t care if it’s time-consuming or expensive, as long as it’s affordable to the women in their direct acquaintance. The diminishing of abortion rights doesn’t merit much coverage so long as the technical right exists, because middle class women in blue states will always have access as long as it’s not criminal. I fear that similar attitudes about contraception will crop up—as long as women who can pay exorbitant amounts out of pocket can pay for it, that’s all that matters, right? Certainly Chris Matthews indicated that was his opinion when he said he supported the general right but saw no reason for Medicaid to pay for it.

So the question I have is how do we get around this issue? Blogging helps, but blogging alone can’t eradicate prejudices that flourish when well-off men control the media.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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