This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a.k.a. HB2 — the case that examines whether Texas’ abortion clinic regulations place an undue burden on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. This is the first abortion rights case in nearly a decade to hit the Supreme Court, so it’s a pretty big deal — and the impacts are potentially devastating. If SCOTUS finds that the regulations are not overly burdensome, that sets a precedent for other states to all but do away with access to legal, safe abortions — which is what has happened in Texas.
So that’s scary — really scary! It puts into perspective the kinds of things that we fear on a more visceral, immediate level: tall bridges, caterpillars, Donald Trump’s penis. (Sorry!) I love finding out what someone’s very own personal irrational fear is because it really reveals the vast spectrum of things we can be afraid of — and often what we fear most is the least of our real concerns.
Without further ado, our chasers for this week will be the real-life, delightfully unique phobias of some of my friends, family, and colleagues. I had no idea there was such a variety of things to dread in the world — and such vicarious relief to be had reading about them. Let the following soothe you and give you strength to face the true terrors of the world.
SHOT: For an overview of how the HB2 ruling — expected in June — can affect access to abortion in the U.S., read this rundown from RH Reality Check. The takeaway: Texas is not the only state that’s passed highly restrictive abortion legislation in the last few years — far from it — and if HB2 is allowed to stand, those laws will too.
CHASER: I’ll go first. I am blindingly, heart-seizingly terrified of blood tests, and anything that has to do with drawing blood or injecting anything into a vein. My father once took me to the doctor to get some blood work done, and I literally fled the lab and hid in the bathroom while he and the nurses looked for me. I was 17, and things have hardly improved in the ten years since.
CHASER: Related to my fear, above, but also so, so different: “When I was in elementary school, we had to clean the cafeteria tables with these gross rags with ketchup stains on them. It ruined ketchup for me forever, and now whenever ketchup is on the table, I try to sit as far away from it as possible and hide it from my sight.”
SHOT: The National Partnership for Women and Families just released a report showing that of the 353 anti-choice bills introduced at the state level this year, 70 percent are based on false information. That is flabbergasting, and there’s really nothing more to say about it than that.
CHASER: A recent transplant to Seattle told me that he will not go in the ocean here because he’s terrified of orcas. Why? “Because they eat seals, and humans sort of look like seals.” Ex-cuse me! Speak for yourself!
SHOT: Mississippi’s one remaining Planned Parenthood clinic does not offer abortion services. Nevertheless, the services it does offer — including birth control, STI tests, and cancer screenings — are all endangered by a state Senate bill passed this week, which would prevent Medicaid from reimbursing PP for “family planning services.”
CHASER: My father used to go on research trips to Latin America and bring back presents for his kids. Once, he brought back a giant dead tarantula encased in a paperweight for my brother, to disastrous effect: “I think he thought it was cool and that I would like it. Instead, I had a panic attack from which I believe I have never totally recovered.” He is now the biggest arachnophobe I know. Thanks, Dad!
SHOT: Unplanned pregnancies are at a 35 year low, thanks to increased use of long-lasting, effective birth control — so why is subsidized contraception under attack? The result of cutting off access to affordable and/or free birth control, according to Donna Crane, vice president of policy at NARAL, is an “an unjust, dystopian place” in which reproductive autonomy is enjoyed by only the economically privileged.
CHASER: “Swimming near large objects — I get nervous because I feel like something could be hiding on the other side of it and humans are so shitty at swimming (compared to things that actually belong in water) that we’re pretty much screwed if there is something lurking.”
SHOT: Surprise! The coauthor of HB2 — a law ostensibly created to protect women from the alleged dangers of abortion — actually knows jack shit about how abortion works. Watch Samantha Bee take him to task.
CHASER: In light of one of last weekend’s big Oscar winners: “My greatest fear is being attacked and eaten by a bear … though I never step foot in the wilderness.”
NIGHTCAP: This is why it’s important to have equal representation of the sexes in government: The three women justices on the Supreme Court are our best hope for striking down HB2.
UPDATE: Today, the Supreme Court blocked a law in Louisiana that threatened to limit abortion providers in the state to a single doctor at a single clinic. From The New York Times: “’That lone doctor, working in one clinic, cannot meet the need for approximately 10,000 abortions in Louisiana each year, a need that was previously met by six physicians in five clinics across the state,’ the clinics challenging the law told the Supreme Court in an emergency application filed on Feb. 26.” Thankfully, it looks like that won’t be the case — although that still doesn’t mean that obtaining an abortion in Louisiana is an easy prospect.