Gray ladies

Abortion bans, gender selection, porn-star vintners and Tony Soprano's female side: All in a Sunday New York Times.

Published February 27, 2006 1:56PM (EST)

This Sunday's New York Times was chock-full of Broadsheet-worthy nuggets, so I thought I'd run them down here.

First was the Week in Review piece by Monica Davey about which side of the choice war the South Dakota abortion ban is liable to strengthen.

Davey quotes some antiabortion activists who are concerned that this could become too bright a conflagration, scaring off more moderate antiabortion supporters. Then there are those who'd like to see Roe v. Wade overturned but worry that their brethren, overexcited by the shifting Supreme Court, have jumped the gun with a group of judges whose decisions remain unpredictable. If the court ruled on the South Dakota case and reaffirmed Roe v. Wade, it would be a major blow to antiabortion leaders. Meanwhile, in pro-choice camps, there is hope that the new ban will snap people from complacency. But the price of doing legal battle in the South Dakota courts -- as Planned Parenthood will -- is high, and more states, emboldened by South Dakota's example, are likely to impose sweeping abortion restrictions in coming months.

Moving from the serious to the ridiculous, the Times published a story about novelist Galt Niederhoffer, her five sisters and their wealthy father, Victor, who (you guessed it) always wanted a boy. At the end of Erika Kinetz's portrait of the family's unusual names and Ivy League pedigrees, she drops this bomb: "And now, thanks to science ... Mr. Niederhoffer will finally beget a boy." The son will arrive via an egg donor and surrogate mother. Niederhoffer père half-acknowledged ("no comment") that there were measures taken to select the gender of his fetus.

The Styles section also ran "Naked Came the Vintner," a very funny story about porn star Savanna Samson, one of the many celebrities currently attaching her name to a brand of wine. Apparently, Samson's 2004 Sogno Uno, a mix of cesanese, sangiovese and montepulciano grapes, is terrific, according to wine expert Robert. M. Parker, who rated it outstanding and told the Times, "It's a very fine wine -- awfully good." The story concludes with Samson's suggestion that drinkers approach her wine with the same attitude she brings to new sexual positions for her movies: "Don't knock it till you've tried it."

Finally, in the Times' jump-the-gun feature on "The Sopranos" -- a useful two weeks before the series resumes on March 12 -- there was a line that should ring familiar to Salon readers. In past years, we've run two stories (one by me, one by Karen Croft) suggesting that despite all the raping and murdering and pole-dancing on the Sopranos, it's actually some of the best women's television ever made. Yesterday, series creator David Chase told the Times that what differentiates his show from previous Mafia dramas is the femininity, stupid! The scenes between Tony and his therapist, said Chase, "opened up this whole feminine side of Tony ... The thing with his mother, and the thing with the shrink. It had all been about men before. Here he had this other aspect to him." Yeah, yeah. So just bring on Tony and Carmela, already!

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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