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.
You can find Elf’s compilation of the best advice of professionals of all sorts regarding the best diet during pregnancy at http://www.elfnoodles.com!
In a free market economy, if you can’t afford it you can’t have it. Oh, if you are on the margin, you can easily find a predatory lender who will give you an opportunity to mortgage yourself six feet under, but that won’t mean you have anything. That means you will never have anything. The market-driven corporate economy draws the bottom line. It applies to everything in the current right-wing conservative mindset except children. You have to have children — because life belongs to God. Unfortunately, health care belongs to the insurance companies, and that is why government can’t step in with any regulation or, their God forbid, a national health care system.
That is why we are reading this story in The New York Times today by Erik Echolm:
In Turnabout, Infant Deaths Climb in South
HOLLANDALE, Miss. ? For decades, Mississippi and neighboring states with large black populations and expanses of enduring poverty made steady progress in reducing infant death. But, in what health experts call an ominous portent, progress has stalled and in recent years the death rate has risen in Mississippi and several other states.
The setbacks have raised questions about the impact of cuts in welfare and Medicaid and of poor access to doctors, and, many doctors say, the growing epidemics of obesity, diabetes and hypertension among potential mothers, some of whom tip the scales here at 300 to 400 pounds….
To the shock of Mississippi officials, who in 2004 had seen the infant mortality rate ? defined as deaths by the age of 1 year per thousand live births ? fall to 9.7, the rate jumped sharply in 2005, to 11.4. The national average in 2003, the last year for which data have been compiled, was 6.9. Smaller rises also occurred in 2005 in Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee. Louisiana and South Carolina saw rises in 2004 and have not yet reported on 2005.
The article notes that481 babies died in 2005, 65 more than in 2004.
There is more to being supportive of human life than just denying women elective abortions. Somewhere we have to find the means to take care of human beings who are already breathing.
The Neocon bubble-heads have subverted the American Dream of doing well to a corporate economy none of us wanted. Currently wealth distribution in the United States has the profile of a despotic third world country, not a civilized society in which life is actually valued.
Now if you are ready to say, “Well, if those people would just exercise more and eat less, they would be more healthy and their children would live,” take a walk through a grocery store and price your market basket with fresh produce, lean meat, and low-glycemic Ezekiel bread. Poor people can’t eat right, can’t afford a health club, and don’t have a doctor. Most of the poor don’t have lawns and gardens to tend for exercise. We don’t keep poor rural or urban neighborhoods safe for evening walks or jogging the way we do gated communities. So if you are ready to say “Well, if those people …” first wake up and take a look around you.
Pro-life for my money is pro national health care, pro safe neighborhoods, pro public education, and against saying “those people.”
The Bush administration still has a few months to make headway in the neocon agenda, and under cover of the Iraq war the cultural initiative to return American women to the dark ages is scoring clear victories. Two came out in the past week, both attacks on women’s equality and women’s health.
The first is an announcement without any notice or discussion, a “clarification” of policy by the so-called Department of Education (wink, wink, nudge, nudge, as Glen says).
Surveys can be used to show Title IX compliance, a USA TODAY story by Kathy Kiely states:
New federal guidelines for compliance with Title IX, the law that has helped get more women involved in sports, permit schools to avoid adding more athletic opportunities for students if an Internet survey indicates they are not interested.
Critics say the guidelines, issued Friday with no public fanfare by the Department of Education, represent a significant weakening of the 33-year-old law banning sex discrimination at schools receiving federal funds.
“They’re finding a way to weaken Title IX,” said Neena Chaudhry, senior counsel of the National Women’s Law Center. “This allows schools the easy way out.”
Education Department officials adamantly denied the charge, termed “bogus” by spokesman Susan Aspey.
“This is simply an additional clarification. This is not a new way of doing business,” said James Manning of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. “We’re trying to help schools.”
Reproductive rights advocates say the ruling is more than just another attempt to “chip away” at Roe v. Wade. “It took just a year for the new court to overturn three decades of established constitutional law. It’s a stunning assault on women’s health and the expertise of doctors who care for them,” said Nancy Northrup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights. She offered this paraphrase of the decision: “‘We don’t take precedent seriously. This is a new day. Bring it on.'”
Indeed, many who oppose this ruling consider the decision a golden ticket for even more states to pass outright abortion bans. “This ruling is an invitation to further laws banning abortion, procedure by procedure,” says Planned Parenthood Federation of American attorney Eve Gartner, who argued Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood. “The court’s failure to adhere to past precedent is a signal that it’s willing to reconsider other precedents in this area and perhaps even Roe. There’s no doubt that legislatures around the country will be passing more and more restrictions as a result and the court in not too long will probably be forced to consider the question of whether Roe is the law of the land.”
The military surge is not having the desired effect in Iraq, but the surge in radical right appointments is working fine here at home.
I am sure that it would be interesting to know exactly when churches stopped putting their meeting times and some words of welcome on their signboards and started making up puns and enigmatic messages. It would also be interesting to know why they switched over.
I travel a particular area of Interstate 81 frequently, and once stopped to photograph a church signboard message that read “JESUS – HIS BLOOD’S FOR YOU.” This week that sign said “FREE TRIP TO HEAVEN – DETAILS INSIDE.” Then there was the church near my home that put up for the week before Mother’s Day “ITS MOTHERS DAY, SO HAVE A NICE DAY ALL YOU MOTHERS.”
Today, caught without my camera, I stopped to write down the words from another church signboard. It says “LIBERTY LIES MORE IN THE CHOICE MADE THAN IN THE RIGHT TO MAKE THE CHOICE.”
All I can figure about this statement is that these folks need a dictionary. And a history book or a newspaper might help as well.