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March 5, 2011 / Anna Louie Sussman

Assclown of the Day: Kirsten Powers sweeps past Seif al-Gaddafi

Population control specialist?

Assclown-watchers know that when Seif al-Gaddafi steps up for a live TV interview, as he did today on Al Jazeera English, odds are about 99:1 that he’s taking home the Assclown of the Day award.  I won’t dwell on his assclowniness in this interview, I’ll just give you three words to describe him: incoherent, imbecilic, and most of all infuriatingly condescending to the kickass reporter who asked him tough, awesome questions.  It probably didn’t help her cause that she was female.  He practically rolls his eyes at her questions.  It’s maddening.

I was also pretty tempted to give the Assclown of the Day award to whoever gave orders for soldiers (they can share in the prize, like when a Pulitzer is awarded to a reporting team) to fire on unarmed women protesters who were demanding the resignation of fraudster, assclown president Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire.  Seven or eight women were killed.

But because the term “assclown” to me implies a certain degree of rank stupidity, not just evil or inhumanity, I’m going to have to bestow the pointy hat today on Kirsten Powers, for her stunning, what-kind-of-crack-are-you-smoking claim in the Daily Beast that access to contraception does not reduce abortion.  She writes:

During the recent debate over whether to cut off government funding to Planned Parenthood, the organization claimed that its contraceptive services prevent a half-million abortions a year. Without their services, the group’s officials insist, more women will get abortions.

I’ll admit I bought the argument—it makes intuitive sense—and initially opposed cutting off funding for precisely that reason.

Then I did a little research.

Not only is this an example of smug, terrible writing (the “First I thought the obvious, but THEN I did a little research” set up is tedious and clichéd), but just to be clear, by “research” she means “totally misinterpreting some Guttmacher stats and squeezing her eyes shut in the face of the intuition [sometimes it’s there for a reason] that told her that access to contraception helps prevent pregnancy.”

Here is what her “research” led her to conclude:

This doesn’t mean that access to contraception causes more abortion—though some believe that—but that it doesn’t necessarily reduce it

Apart from not explaining how in the #@%&! access to contraception could possibly cause abortion (I thought it was pregnancy that caused abortions, not methods of preventing pregnancy), she shamelessly concludes, with zero substantive evidence, that Planned Parenthood’s

…deception smacks of a fleecing of taxpayers in an effort to promote an ideological agenda, rather than a sincere effort to help women plan families.

The “ideological agenda”, by the way, is that it is:

…in reality, a population-control organization. Funny, this was never mentioned in the gauzy $200,000 advertising campaign launched last week. It also doesn’t make it into the “About Us” section of the group’s website, which repeatedly claims its mission is to protect women’s health, when in fact the real mission is to keep the birth rate at whatever level the leaders believe it should be.

Well, luckily there’s Lindsay Beyerstein at Big Think, who rebuts her in the blink of an eye with a simple left-right combo:

Actually, the original study found that 12% of women who weren’t using birth control when they got pregnant cited lack of access as a reason why not.

Powers’ logic is as faulty as her facts. Her main evidence that birth control doesn’t prevent abortions is a study of women getting abortions. If you only look at women seeking abortions, you’re only going to see cases in which contraception failed, or wasn’t used.

If you want to measure the power of prevention, you have to look at the millions of sexually active people who use birth control and don’t get pregnant.

It’s so painfully obvious, I feel like if I tried to talk about this verbally I would wind up sputtering and screaming.  Even prominent right-wing donor Richard Scaife has come out in favor of Planned Parenthood, writing in a column what most of us, save Kirsten “Assclown of the Day” Powers, know already:

Of course, no one wants teenagers to get pregnant. Yet far too many do — and they need reliable, honest advice about what to do next. For many of them, Planned Parenthood is the only reliable source of that advice. For many others, Planned Parenthood is the only safe, reliable source of counseling to avoid getting pregnant in the first place.

I’m still struggling to understand how:

1) someone could write something this intellectually flimsy and expect for it to stand up and hold its shape

2) this article was greenlit by an editor at the Daily Beast

3) the Beast has not yet run a version of it with the entire text in strikethrough and a gigantic apology at the end.

How is it possible?  Any guesses?

Also – if you think I’ve missed a bigger assclown, please feel free to send suggestions or comment below or on Twitter, @annalouiesuss.  I know there are many out there and sometimes they slip below my radar.

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