TPM Cafe: Opinion

One of the most persistent issues surrounding abortion—and reproductive rights in general—is that of stigma. Stigma is everywhere you look in the abortion debate; it influences every talking point of the anti-choice movement but also crops up in conversations among people that consider themselves more neutral or even pro-choice when it comes to abortion rights. “Sure, I support abortion, but women shouldn’t use it as birth control.” “Abortion’s fine, but only if a woman just has one.” “Well, as long as you have an abortion in the first trimester, I support it. But after that it’s wrong.” Does the judgment inherent in all three of these statements, and countless others that even ostensibly pro-choice people make, stem from stigma? Or does the stigma about abortion make it easier to pass such judgments?

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In 1620, searching for a place to practice their dissident religion in peace, a small group of English separatists sailed to the wilderness coast of America. They were helped by local Indians, who shared with them a great feast comprised of native foods: turkey, cornbread, pumpkin, cranberries. The Indians taught the Pilgrims how to plant corn and squash together with a fish placed in the soil to encourage robust growth; the colony survived and prospered. Jump cut to the Boston Tea Party, Concord and Lexington, and the modern world’s first successful experiment in democracy.

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This Black Friday, workers are striking at 1,600 Walmart locations for a $15 wage and the end of workplace abuses in a series of strikes. But at the same time, these rights are being undermined, in a legislative chamber miles away, with little input from workers. A new Demos report exposes the increasing political involvement of big retail, and how retailers use the political system to undermine worker rights.

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As the protests and violence unfold on the streets of Ferguson, in the aftermath of Monday night’s announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown, one of the phrases used to describe the unrest will almost certainly be “race riot.” For many Americans, the phrase conjures up a particular series of events, including the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and the late 1960s riots in cities from Watts to Detroit to New York. But there are histories that have been largely excluded from our collective memories that shed a much different light on the phrase and how it has been developed and deployed.

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The first layer of conservative grousing about President Barack Obama’s immigration executive action has been mostly complaints about separation of powers and the president-who-would-be-king’s “lawless...executive diktat.” Close behind that oddball hyperbole come others who claim that Obama’s shift is somehow “destructive” to American workers and the country at large.

Deep down, though, I think that this round of American immigration debates are really driven by competing visions of what America is — and ought to be. To put a sharper point on it, there’s a tension etched into the national seal on those dollar bills in your wallet. Each American’s ideological mileage on immigration varies according to which end of the “e pluribus unum” (“Out of many, one”) equation pulls strongest on their heartstrings. Either we’re a country primarily constituted by our breadth of diversity (‘plures’), or an ‘unum’ nation that constitutes a common cultural, racial, ethnic, and linguistic whole.

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Here we go again. For the third time since 2011, Ohio’s legislature is debating a heartbeat ban – a blatantly unconstitutional ban on abortion starting as soon as an embryonic heartbeat can be detected, often at four weeks past fertilization or sooner. In 2011, the bill passed the house but never made it up in the senate for a vote, not even when lawmakers used their post-election lame duck session to try to force it back onto the floor, figuring with no one’s reelection campaigns jeopardized in the process the ban was sure to pass. It popped up in 2013 with a new sponsor and a room full of Duggars (of “19 Kids and Counting” fame) promoting it, but it failed, too.

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The deadline for Iran to achieve a nuclear agreement with the international community is fast approaching, set for later this month. Over the past year, our nation’s diplomats along with other world powers have worked tirelessly to produce an agreement that will prevent both an Iranian nuclear weapon and another war in the Middle East. Keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is central to keeping American safe—and achieving this through diplomacy is difficult, but absolutely critical for us to pursue.

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There is no doubt about what happened in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963; President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. When it comes to the who or the how, though, the majority of Americans remain skeptical about the official narrative. The broad belief in some conspiracy theory regarding his death tells us that it’s quite mainstream to have at least some “fringe” convictions.

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I guarantee you’ll hear the phrase “My ancestors came here legally” in the aftermath of President Obama’s immigration address. It’s almost impossible to find any conversation about immigration—between elected officials, pundits, online commenters—in which at least one participant doesn’t use the phrase. It’s an understandable position, through which the speaker can both defend his or her family history and critique current illegal immigrants who choose to do things differently. It helps deflect charges of hypocrisy (since most Americans are descended from immigrants). It’s hard to argue with. And it’s also, in nearly every case, entirely inaccurate.

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On television these days, there are no shortage of complex, interesting, and imperfect female characters. Take Liz Lemon on “30 Rock,” Leslie Knope on “Parks and Recreation,” Jessica Day on “New Girl,” and Mindy Lahiri on “The Mindy Project.” We no longer have to cry for women to be portrayed as human — the golden age of television has flawed women in droves. But these women are so flawed as to lose another kind of character: the role model. How can we possibly look up to women who are mentally unstable, victims of emotional or even physical abuse, or people who inflict harm on others? Today, in an era that is making the discussion of feminism new again,it is surprising how many women we idolize on television still allow themselves to be subservient to men, at times dangerously so. As viewers, how are we to reconcile the two extremes?

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Want to contribute to TPM Cafe? Email ideas for your pieces to us at talk@talkingpointsmemo.com

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