jessica valenti

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I discovered that TED and TEDWomen have never featured a talk on abortion.

…When I asked around, the consensus was that the omission was simply an oversight. But it turns out TED is deliberately keeping abortion off the agenda. When asked for comment, TED content director and TEDWomen co-host Kelly Stoetzel said that abortion did not fit into their focus on “wider issues of justice, inequality and human rights.”

“Abortion is more of a topical issue we wouldn’t take a position on, any more than we’d take a position on a state tax bill,” Stoetzel explained. She pointed me to a few talks on women’s health and birth control, but this made the refusal to discuss abortion only more glaring. In the last three years, the United States has seen more abortion restrictions enacted than in the entire previous decade; the United Nations has classified the lack of access to abortion as torture; and Savita Halappanavar died in Ireland because a Catholic hospital refused to end her doomed pregnancy. Just how is abortion not an issue of “justice, inequality and human rights”?

The Empowerment Elite Claims Feminism, my latest at The Nation

We live in a country that makes procuring reproductive care as difficult as possible: we give young people inaccurate and dangerous information about sex via ideologically driven abstinence-only education; 87 percent of counties in the US have no abortion provider; we deny financial assistance to the most in need and put up obstacles for younger women; one-third of women seeking abortions have to travel more than twenty-five miles to obtain one, and crisis pregnancy centers routinely lie to women about far into their pregnancy they are. Not to mention that we provide nothing in the way of support to parents—no mandated paid parental leave, no universal preschool or subsidized child care.

The Republican war on reproductive justice is directly responsible for women’s seeking later abortions. It’s easier for anti-choicers to perpetuate a myth of callous women who cavalierly decide to end their twenty-two-week pregnancy than to admit that their cruel and punitive policies are why women don’t get the care they need earlier.

The GOP’s Twenty-Week Mistake, my latest at The Nation

While I agree that forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy that is the result of rape is an even further assault on women’s bodily integrity, the foundation of a rape exception is that some women “deserve” abortions and some don’t. The underlying message is pretty clear - a woman who has been forced to have sex has done nothing wrong, a woman who had consensual sex has. (Bill Napoli’s now-infamous example of a “sodomized virgin” comes to mind.”)

Other restrictions and attempted limits on abortion access prove just as transparent. In 2007, for example, legislators in Ohio pushed a bill that would have mandated women get a written note from the father of the fetus before being able to obtain an abortion. If they didn’t know who the father was, they would not be allowed to access the procedure. This is about humiliating women and making the decision to have an abortion as difficult as possible.

Why Is North Dakota Torturing Women, my latest at The Nation (on a UN report classifying a lack of access to abortion as “torture.”)