All the reasons we had a women’s movement, and all the reasons we still need one today, here in one place for your amazement –
All the reasons we had a women’s movement, and all the reasons we still need one today, here in one place for your amazement –
The most emotionally powerful fiction in politics today is that pro-choice is the opposite of pro-life. These positions are not opposites. They are different, but not on the same continuum.
Pro-life is a choice. Pro-choice advocates respect an individual woman’s decision to have her baby – even if she can’t afford it, if she is too young or too old, if it is her husband’s child or if she doesn’t know the father, even if it is the child of her rapist. A woman may choose to have a baby even if she needs fertility treatment in order to conceive. She may choose to have her baby even if doing so will end her career, stop her education plans, and insure her a life of hard work and low wages, and even if the child will live in poverty, subsidized by welfare and taxpayer-funded services. A woman may choose to have her baby even if it will damage her health or kill her, and even if the baby has severe problems that will insure fetal death or a short, painful, and difficult little life. Pro-life is a choice even when it is based on religion, because the woman makes the choice within her own religious and moral understanding. That no one should – or even could – force a religious choice on another person is not only a democratic principle, it is a New Testament Christian principle that a person must freely choose to follow Jesus.
Pro-choice on the other hand is not a choice. It is the assertion that each woman has a right to make her own reproductive choice because it is her body. Abortion in the first trimester is a reasonable choice – not a good choice, but often the least bad one – and an individual woman should have the freedom to make that choice. The pro-choice position protects a woman’s right to a safe abortion as well as her right to have her baby. In China a national effort to control population growth resulted in women being forced to have abortions under a restriction that permitted only one child to a family. Life is complex and unpredictable, as are nations and legislatures. The only good reproductive rights law that any legislature can enact is one that recognizes the complexity of women’s lives and circumstances, their humanity, their love of life and of children, their freely-chosen moral and religious understandings, and their right to choose when and if they will become a mother.
I have been thinking for a couple of days about how many MBA and other narrowly “expert” people we elect now to government — engineers, medical doctors, etc., and how this might have produced or aggravated our divisive and gridlocked public conversation. The general idea is that a narrowing of the curriculum to produce experts produces at the same time a tunnel vision with regard to ideas. Then along comes this 18-minute video from Ted Talks:
I do not have to research this phenomenon further.
Virginia’s Delegate Israel O’Quinn responded to my letter:
Thanks for your message. I can tell you for certain that not a single piece of legislation I filed was influenced by ALEC or any other national legislative organization. The bills I filed, and will continue to file, come directly from constituents or are items of interest for our region and/or Commonwealth.
He responded also on the matter of the economic impact of abortion-related bills, stating that “normal operating practice” is that every bill receives an economic impact statement. He said, “I’m not sure how your suggestion would expand that particular practice, but it is certainly a question for Legislative Services as I am not quite sure of the answer.”
I appreciate Delegate O’Quinn’s thoughtful response, which demonstrates that he is listening to voters. I am seeking the economic impact statements for the abortion-related bills in the Virginia legislature, and will post a link when I have that information. Updated Wednesday, April 4, 2012.
Open and responsive government that takes care of business efficiently is what we need, and a citizen’s understanding of origins and consequences of bills before they become law is critical to this goal. Legislators also need to know where ideas come from and what their predictable consequences might be.
I recently sent a few comments to Delegate O’Quinn regarding the State Corruption Risk Report Card for Virginia. He responded that he too was disappointed, pointed out the problems of perspective in the report, and stated that he was committed to more open and accessible government in Virginia. I have no reason to doubt his commitment, and I hope that he will honor that as this legislature goes forward. I offered two suggestions for improving openness and accessibility in my letter back to him, reproduced below:
Dear Delegate O’Quinn:
Thank you for your response. I too was disappointed with this report card in Virginia, and while I agree that electing judges is not good, I believe we should have non-partisan judges. Judges should be committed to the equal and non-partisan administration of the law.
In the past — I am 67, so I have a lot of past — elections were partisan, and after the election legislators worked on substantive questions of the Commonwealth like infrastructure and improving the lives of citizens. I have recently been disappointed to learn that over 50 of the bills introduced in Virginia — including virtually all of the pro-gun, anti-woman, and public education assault legislation — were written by ALEC, and not by any Virginian at all. What does this say about us, about the neglect of the responsibility to govern among our elected representatives? Can we no longer govern ourselves? Are we enslaved to people we do not even know are controlling us?
As to suggestions for how to make government more open and accessible, I would appreciate the tagging of each piece of legislation that has been influenced by ALEC and an attached description of the ALEC recommendation that influenced the law on your website.
In an associated matter, I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with the frivolous agenda of the Virginia legislature in the current session, so demeaning to women. In the light of modern science and medicine, our legislators brought the debates of the 1500’s to 1700’s back to the floor. These debates are based on religion and on a pre-scientific understanding that men constitute humanity and are the generative force in procreation while women are “instrumental,” contributing nothing. Surely we are not going to be asked to accept that we are men’s tools for reproducing themselves, and that we have no rights to our own bodies.
The ancient nation of Israel in the Old Testament had birth control, but they had a need to increase population. Maximizing procreation was a practical matter for them, and their rules for sexual behavior did exactly that. The rules that were practical in their time are contrary to good sense for us. Neither the economy or the biosphere can sustain maximum procreation here and now. And making women primarily a means of reproduction by shaming, by limiting choices, or by limiting access to birth control is reprehensible.
It is even more onerous to understand women’s lives in this way when the rules you have made will affect only low-income to moderate-income women — wealthy women have always had access to safe abortions, and they always will have, law notwithstanding. If your daughter can afford two weeks abroad, she can go where the law is more sane and more humane, and return without the problem and without any record of ever having had the problem. Only poor and middle-income women are affected, and none of our families can afford to rear and educate 15 children.
As to suggestions for how to make legislation about reproduction more open and accessible, I would appreciate each piece of legislation regarding women’s reproductive rights to be accompanied by a published economic and environmental impact statement, showing 1) how it will impact the ability of young women to become self-sufficient and on their own economically, and 2) how it will impact the ability of parents to provide adequate medical care, living space, education, and recreation for their children, and eventually how the Commonwealth will generate jobs for a constantly booming population, maintain a safety net for those who are disabled or who become disabled, and care for them as they reach retirement age.
Thank you again for your response, and for the opportunity to share my concerns and suggestions.
I suppose it is not fair to talk about religion without letting people know where you are coming from in the religious context. So before I take on the dominionists for not being on the right path, I will give you some background on my perspective.
I was born into Christianity, but as the dominionists moved in — at first they called themselves the Moral Majority, and then the Promise Keepers — I found myself moving out. When the church quit supporting labor unions and civil rights and public education, i moved out further. To be quite frank, they never supported women, but for a while I thought they were coming along on this matter. But maybe they never did.
I was familiar with Christian scripture, belief, story, and practice before I entered high school. I taught a Sunday School class, taught Vacation Bible School, and was the president of the youth organization Christ’s Ambassadors in the Assembly of God church. Yes. I know. Sarah Palin. In college I earned around 20 credit hours of courses in religion, all of it in the Christian perspective, and all on Christian topics with the exception of one course in comparative religions taught by a Christian professor. I still recognize myself as a Christian, but to my Christian birth family I am an apostate heathen heretic.
I can insult many members of my Christian family by quoting the Sermon on the Mount, telling the story of the Good Samaritan, or pointing out that Jesus told the Woman at the Well that the true worship of God was not tied to race, creed, or geography, and that his message was addressed to individual people, not nations. They feel abused also when I point out that Jesus refused the opportunity to have dominion over the earth, and a dominionist can’t possibly be following in Jesus’s footsteps. But they can in retaliation observe that the Devil can quote scripture. So knowing, using, and citing scripture doesn’t keep me from being an apostate heathen heretic. And then I can remind them that if the Devil quotes scripture, it is still scripture.
So there you have it. I am an apostate heathen heretic, perhaps otherwise known to a few souls of the scattered remnant as a Christian who is not a fundamentalist and not a dominionist. I believe in evolution, in spite of the current round of GOP debates. I am pro-choice.
Some people think I am a Buddhist, and maybe I am because I finally learned to spell it last year. And in my heretical manner of pointing out, I will point out that some people think Jesus was a Buddhist. On that subject, I can see how Buddhist ideas translated through the Hellenistic lens could have produced the early Christian movement. Somebody needs to write a book about that. If you have, send me the ISBN so I can find it and read it. I am sure it is obscure.
I read obscure books.
This raises a question about whether or not we all actually live in the same world:
My friend asked, “Why do Republicans hate taxes and the Department of Education?” This is an interesting question that deserves a thoughtful answer.
Republicans explain that education should be in the private sector, and parents should have “educational choice.” This means that corporations and private foundations can make money from schools as parents pay for the education of their children. Wealthy people’s children will have better education than poor people’s children, but that is as it should be. I am reminded of when I taught ninth grade English at Edgewood High in San Antonio, Texas, in the late 1960’s, using fifteen-year-old textbooks sent to the inner-city school district from affluent schools north of the city. These books reminded me — then and now — of the “crumbs that fall from the rich man’s table.” (Luke 16:19-31) The Remote Area Medical Clinics here in Virginia make me think of that parable, and of food ministries giving backpack meals to hungry children. Reducing the quality and availability of public education establishes a de facto underclass limited to low-wage jobs and permanently mired in poverty.
Taxes maintain infrastructure and essential public services that should not be left to the ups and downs of market influences. Interestingly, most of the things we define as infrastructure — roads, bridges, airports, seaports, electric and sewer lines — support the market itself. Trucks could not bring inventory shipments to market without these supporting structures. So the market rests upon infrastructure built largely by tax money. Individuals use the same roads and bridges, driving their cars to work and to the store. But wealthy business owners who move tons of freight and count on the roads and bridges to bring both inventory and customers benefit enormously from tax-supported infrastructure.
It appears fair to me that these giant beneficiaries of public infrastructure should pay a larger share of taxes. But Republicans say that taxes are redistribution of wealth, taking the wealthy person’s hard-earned money and returning it to deadbeats who would themselves be wealthy if they had worked as hard as millionaires have worked. Reason and experience tells you that most poor and middle-income people work harder than millionaires, but Republicans do not operate from reason or consider experience. They have an “idea” that guides their thinking, which is why we say their approach is “ideological.”
The idea that drives much of the radical right-wing agenda is a Christian doctrine called “dominionism” that seeks to make the Bible the foundation of law in the United States. Their doctrine, or ideology, teaches that God is the only legitimate ruler. God rules through powerful people that he has put in place. You can tell that these people are chosen by God by the mere fact that they are wealthy and powerful. Working people should be content with their place, work hard, and if God decides they are worthy, they may become wealthy. But if they do not, they are still supposed to work hard and be content, and enough money will trickle down through charities and jobs given to them by wealthy people.
Dominionism also includes the social agenda — opposing LGBT rights and women’s right to choose, and assuring that traditional power structures remain in place. The social agenda is the preservation of ideological control, setting up a society in which rules from the Bible become laws.
The dominionist belief that God gives governments the right to rule runs counter to the ideas of democratic government, which come not from the Bible but from secular thought prevalent during the French Revolution and the American Revolution. Thinking about liberty and equality encouraged people to refuse to believe that God had given their kings the right to rule, and instead people began to believe that governments draw their just powers from the consent of the governed. Democratic forms of government with citizens casting votes for their legislators and heads of state originated from this set of ideas, not from the Bible.
If it seems that the GOP is trying to “roll back” progress and “rewrite history,” it is because they are trying to do exactly that. In order to do it, they have to break public education in science, math, history, social science, and the arts. They also have to convince people that God made them either rich or poor, and they must be content with their station in life. The poor receive charity from the rich, and the rich are appreciated and respected because God gave them riches and put them in charge.
That is why the GOP hates taxes and the Department of Education.
The “marriage” vs “civil union” discussion is semantic. If you favor civil union for same-sex couples, you favor extending the civil codes relating to marriage to gay people. I guess the semantic argument bothers me for two reasons — first that I am an old English teacher and administrator who has had to get around too many arguments like this from people who didn’t do their homework, and second because this one has been used for so long to deny people their civil rights.
Today is the anniversary of the 2004 law that made Massachusetts the first state to sanction same-sex marriage, a right now recognized in five states and in Washington D.C. One of the first arguments put forward was by people who declared support for the rights of same-sex couples but who were unwilling to give them the word. On Facebook today the argument is still out in full force — “I support civil unions, but we should not redefine marriage.”
It is a religious quibble to deny civil and human rights to protect the use of a sacramental word in the civil code. Sacramental words are sacred and deeply appreciated within their respective churches, but in civil records “marriage” and “union” are both words with meaningful legal standing. Marriage in the civil code is the union of two people who express their commitment to each other and promise to live together as a couple. You can get “married” at the courthouse before a judge or magistrate without the intervention or sanction of any church, and under the civil law you will be married. So those who object to the use of the word “marriage” can have civil unions any time just by voting for gay marriage. Marriage is already a civil union in the United States.
With or without the law, each church must decide whether or not to sanctify same-sex unions. Each church can also decide what to call whatever they decide to do. Language is organic and takes time to change, but it follows the culture — so your terminology might catch on. If you wait for the language of the civil laws to change before you are willing to correct a recognized denial of civil rights within the culture, you are putting the cart before the horse.
Wolf Blitzer is reporting today that 61% of his viewers believe that Osama bin Laden is in Hell. I have not heard rejoicing on this count, but I have heard some distress over the fact that his unredeemed soul went to a burning Hell. I offer these options for comfort:
So we can within western Christian scripture-based tradition rest easy about the final disposition of the soul of Osama bin Laden. People concerned about the loss of a soul to the Devil can easily adopt one of these means of consolation. All of the options except the last one wrest that soul right back out of the Devil’s clutches, and in the last one the Devil doesn’t inflict himself on them unduly.
Birds sing on in a world without Osama bin Laden, and both Christian and Muslim children who might have followed his instructions into their respective afterlives are entitled to rejoice. Christian and Muslim mothers and grandmothers are looking at the same sky above their children at play, and I imagine that most of them are praying we will choose peace. We can do that.