The XX Factor

What Was the Worst State for Women This Week?

Or to be more precise, don’t mess with Rep. Jonathan Stickland.

Photo by Ben Sklar/Getty Images

Fundamentalist perversity: It’s not just for the stars of reality shows on TLC. The legal war on women gets downright bizarre in this edition of Worst State of the Week, which features a dumb lie, a weird lie, and a call for security. 

Second runner-up is Wisconsin, but the real honoree is Gov. Scott Walker. In a talk radio interview Walker gave Friday, he framed a bill he signed mandating ultrasounds for women seeking abortions as an awesome gift. “I think about—my sons are 19 and 20, you know, we still have their first ultrasound picture,” he said. “It’s just a cool thing out there.” 

Walker has implied that pregnant women are somehow being prevented from accessing this technology, and his law simply remedies that. This is not true. Most abortion providers do them anyway, to help determine the best way to abort the pregnancy. What Walker’s law would do is make the uncomfortable process last longer, by forcing providers to describe what’s onscreen to patients, turning what should be a quick diagnostic test into a lengthy guilt trip. 

In second place is West Virginia, where anti-choice forces are trying to hunt down the next Kermit Gosnell. Pro-choicers in the state are demanding the removal of anti-choice activist Byron Calhoun from his job at West Virginia University’s Health Sciences Center because of the role he played in a nuisance lawsuit against the Women’s Health Center of West Virginia. The lawsuit, filed by the Family Policy Council of West Virginia on behalf of a woman named Itai Gravely, accused the Women’s Health Center of leaving a fetal skull inside her body during an abortion. Dr. Calhoun did treat complications from Gravely’s abortion—which was possibly exacerbated by her then-undisclosed heroin addiction—but the pathology report did not indicate that there was any fetal skull inside her uterus. 

RH Reality Check investigated and found that Gravely didn’t even hear about this supposed skull until a year after her abortion, when Dr. Calhoun called her out of the blue to tell her about it and refer her to another anti-choice doctor who helped her sue the clinic. The lawsuit was dismissed this month, but this mysterious fetal skull—which was not recorded and which only Dr. Calhoun has laid eyes on—may have helped create the pretext for the attorney general to step up efforts to shut down clinics in the state. Getting an abortion is hard enough, but in West Virginia you apparently have to contend with right-wingers combing through your records hoping you’re an easy mark for abusive legal practices. 

Moving up from last week’s second-place showing to the winner’s podium is Texas, where state legislators nearly came to blows over whether or not attacks on women’s rights are coming hard and fast enough. Rep. Jonathan Stickland really wants women to lose insurance coverage for abortion, and claims that state house leadership promised him it would happen. But then the calendars committee decided that micromanaging America’s vaginas wasn’t a top priority for the moment, and the bill stalled out in committee.

Stickland, aggrieved, got into the face of Rep. Byron Cook, a fellow Republican, who Stickland blamed for the stall. According to Houston Chronicle reporter Brian Rosenthal, things nearly came to blows before the sergeants-at-arms dragged Stickland out of the room. Happily for him, though, the temper tantrum worked: Legislators pulled strings to get his ban out of committee. 

This is the second time Stickland has been kicked out of the capitol building for getting aggressive with fellow legislators, and he made headlines a few months ago for trying to hang a sign reading “Former Fetus” outside his office. Under the circumstances, the phrase “Overgrown Baby” would be more fitting.