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.
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.
Pro-choice, multiple choice, or pro-life, Mitt Romney rejects a hyphenated title. He pledges instead “to preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.” This is not a label or a reaction to any endorsement. He has not changed his mind, and he will not change it. Listen to his statement:
When things don’t go well for some time, it is apparently reasonable to suggest that we need to kick out the incumbents, and I think it might be time to kick out the incumbents in religion. Christianity has been around for a long time and controlled kings and empires, and “peace on earth good will to men” has not happened. Christian Dominionists keep war against unbelievers on the front burner. Islam is a few years younger than Christianity, and they have that whole jihad terrorist fatwa thing going — a state of affairs that is not evidence of progress in meeting expectations for the good life. Judaism is over three thousand years old, and their God promised a lot more than has been delivered. Peace is even farther away from realization because each group has its own supremacists, which means we are all condemned to war until the last sect standing.
I am not suggesting that we kick out the incumbent God. God is either there and impervious to kicking out, or not there to kick out in the first place. But we do not hear directly from God, we hear from God’s managers, translators, handlers, and emissaries who tell us what God wants us to do. They have had thousands of years to get the message right, and somehow the whole group of prelates, bishops, imams, preachers, prophets, gurus, rabbis, evangelists, and even the Pope himself, have been ineffective. If we kicked them all out and replaced them with people who weren’t so much into the ideology, or the organization, or the profitability model, or whatever it is that has them stuck, maybe we would get a better result.