Archive for March, 2012

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The short answer

March 31, 2012

to why I continue to support President Obama. There are many MANY more reasons, but this right here is reason enough:

 

“Women are not an interest group…. They’re perfectly capable of making their own choices about their health.”

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It’s my birthday! Let’s talk about abortion!

March 16, 2012

With birthdays come reflection, looking back and looking ahead. I have been blessed in many ways, but perhaps in none so much as this: the only time I’ve been pregnant, I wanted to be pregnant. I was emotionally and financially secure enough to welcome a child. As for my personal “beliefs” on abortion, I am what I call a pro-life pro-choicer. Personally, I find abortion horrific, and don’t think I could ever make that choice. But I also know that I have absolutely no right (or desire) to substitute my judgment for another woman’s – and that the State is even less qualified to do so.

As I said, I have been blessed never to face that choice. I know several women who’ve had abortions – who had been raped, who were very young, or who were simply not in any position to provide for a child. I also know women who made the other difficult choice – to have a child while still in their teens, or to give birth to child knowing that it had a genetic disorder which meant it would only live for a few days after birth. In every single case, the woman wrestled with her options, and what her choice would mean for herself, her partner, her family. None of them made their choices blithely.

In the current round of state-sponsored misogyny, several states have adopted or are considering “compulsory ultrasounds” for women seeking abortion. I am not going to address the obviously grotesque suggestion that women in their first trimester be forced to undergo “transvaginal” ultrasounds – Rachel Maddow and Garry Trudeau have said all that need be said on the subject – but I want to take a moment to question the basic premise of any ultrasound requirement. The politicians who advocate for it always defend ultrasounds as necessary for “informed consent,” as if a woman seeking an abortion just is too feeble-minded to understand her choice; as if doctors who provide abortions don’t have other means of ensuring that their clients understand the procedure fully without the State writing the script for them. Every woman I know who has grappled with this choice – whether she was a teenager or in her forties – understood intimately exactly what was involved in her specific case, in a way a room full of male legislators never can.

In reality, the Republicans see ultrasounds as a way of rubbing a woman’s face in her difficult decision, as if she were being a bad dog. Why not just require women seeking abortions to initial every page of an Anne Geddes’ calendar? Just as ineffective, almost as humiliating, and far, far cheaper!

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Musings on Birth Control

March 14, 2012

“If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”

– Justice Brennan, writing for the majority in Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438, 453 (1972)

I’ve been meaning to post about birth control, but the issue seemed to die down after the Blunt Amendment failed in the Senate a couple of weeks ago. That bill would have amended the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to allow employers not to cover care that was “counter to the[ir] religious beliefs or moral convictions.” It was clearly aiming at birth control, though the wording left it open for someone who finds over-eating to be morally offensive to refuse to cover Type 2 diabetes care. The House GOP retreated from pushing anything similar, because they finally realized that it was not a winner for them, and the media emphasis switched to Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke and it seemed birth control might be safe for the time being…

Then this happened: Arizona proposed a measure that not only allows employers to decide whether birth control will be covered, it also allows them to fire employees who use birth control at all, even if those employees pay for it out-of-pocket. Wrap your brain around that for a moment. If the government has no right to intrude into your decision to use birth control, what possible argument could be made for your BOSS having that right?

Birth control is fundamental to women’s rights. Contrary to pop-culture mythos, women have worked outside the home since the dawn of specialization. Poor women, at least, have always worked. Middle class women in the U.S. joined the work force in droves during World War II, and never looked back (in part because the economy shifted enough to pretty much require two incomes for a family to survive, but that’s another post entirely). Women had the right to vote from 1920 onward. Yet the massive change in attitudes and expectations for women didn’t happen until the late 1960s, early 1970s. You don’t have to trust the accuracy of Mad Men to know that even 40 years ago, blatant sexism and sexual harassment were casually accepted. What changed? Women finally had access to effective contraception. The pill was introduced in 1960, and two Supreme Court cases, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) and Eisenstadt v . Baird (1972), ensured that no state could outlaw the sale of contraception. That one, incredibly important, change allowed women to finally imagine – much less attain – lives that weren’t defined by their roles as mothers. We could choose when we wanted to start having sex, and when we wanted to stop having babies. We could, finally, fully express a sexuality that didn’t fall into “good girl/mom” or “easy girl/slut” paradigms. The pill gave us ownership of our sexuality and our bodies.

You and me both, lady...

There is a loud and powerful fringe in the Republican party that honestly wants to go back to the “simpler” time before the sea changes of the sexual revolution. Whether because of true piety or misplaced nostalgia, they see only excess and licentiousness, where we see the foundations of women’s equality in and out of the home. Women have used birth control for thousands of yearsWe have understood that sexuality is a fundamental aspect of our being, and that it demands expression even when having a child is out of the question. It just took 4,000 years before birth control was reliable enough to change the world. We cannot let politicians pander that away.

In the 1960s, the debate was over whether states could make it illegal for a married couple, or unmarried persons, to purchase birth control. The conversation now is about who pays for it. If highly effective birth control were available over-the-counter, this would be a very different argument. Ridiculous medical costs and the requirement of a prescription mean that many many women cannot afford the pill if their medical insurance doesn’t cover it. Restrictions on insurance coverage act as very real barriers to women’s access to birth control. Planned Parenthood cannot carry the burden alone, especially when its funding is also under attack. The Blunt Amendment, and the insane legislation proposed in Arizona, both underscore the ridiculousness of our current healthcare system. Why should your boss have anything to say about what coverage you have? Haven’t we passed the era of the company town? Corporations already buy and sell our politicians. They already decide our fates in so many ways, large and small. Are we really going to let them control our sexuality, our relationships, our families?

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Rush Beyond the Pale

March 7, 2012

For some reason that defies logic, the Republican party has decided attacking women’s rights is the way to go in this election year. This leaves me in the uncomfortable predicament of having so very many things to say that my words trip over one another and tangle into knots, and then none of them make it to page or the screen. I’ve finally decided to try to tackle this hydra of misogyny one hateful head at a time, though it’s all the same monster. Republicans aren’t conservative anymore, they’re regressive. They want to roll back social change to 1950s, only without that pesky labor movement making sure the middle class could afford to live the American Dream….

Where to start? Obviously, with the loudest and most obnoxious misogynist (this week), Rush Limbaugh.

Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who’s also president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, testified before Congress about the impact of her Catholic university’s decision not to include birth control in insurance coverage for students. If you haven’t read her testimony, you might be surprised by it. She talked about the cost of prescription birth control, and about the dire consequences faced by women who need the pill for other medical reasons. She noted that Georgetown students themselves pay for this insurance, and overwhelmingly support a plan that would cover birth control. She pointed out that women’s health clinics cannot meet the demand, and that the same members of Congress who oppose requiring insurers to pay for birth control also oppose funding for clinics that might provide the services at an affordable cost. She never talked about her own sex life, and did not mention whether she herself used birth control, because this was not the issue. The issue is that women, and families, are being asked to shoulder a cost that the insurance they pay for should be covering.

Enter Rush Limbaugh, doing what Rush Limbaugh always does – slandering people who disagree with him, name calling, belittling, and jeering. Ms. Fluke, he informed us, wants us to pay for her to have sex. This makes her a slut, and a prostitute. He continually joked, over days of air time, that Ms. Fluke is “having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” (as if the pill doesn’t cost exactly the same amount for a faithful wife who has passionless sex .75 times a month as it does for the Whore of Babylon). Lines down the block, Rush said, “sex-addict” numbers of partners, “having sex nearly three times a day for three years straight.” Ever the class act, he even asked, “Who bought your condoms in the sixth grade?”

I’m not an expert on feminist theory, but this pretty much a textbook example of “slut-shaming.” Never mind that Rush has no information at all about Ms. Fluke’s sex life; she is a confident woman who wants autonomy over her choices. She has the audacity to speak publicly about women’s reproductive health. Burn the witch! Rush attacked her – because attacking is what an “entertainer” like Rush always does – with the slur as old as time. Scarlet woman! Wanton whore! SLUT….

But this time it didn’t work. At least, not as it usually does. Rush’s advertisers are fleeing him. The backlash is swift, and organized. Maybe we as a society are finally past that. Maybe the sane majority is disgusted by the spectacle. Maybe Rush actually finally found the limits of our tolerance, and careened over them. My fondest hope is that the right is seriously overplaying its hand. The Republican party had big wins in 2010, due in large part to the Tea Party’s ability to rouse the rabble. This is their base now, and they keep leaning ever further right to appease it, seeming to forget that 2008 had lessons, too. Whether the right believes it or not, this country doesn’t want to be stuck in the 1950s. Racists can’t seem to understand that white Americans voted for Barack Obama, but we did. Homophobes cannot wrap their brain around the idea that straight people can support gay marriage, but most of us do. Misogynistic asshats like Rush Limbaugh can’t grasp that most Americans, even most men, don’t think it’s acceptable to try to discredit, demean, and slander a woman for standing up for reproductive rights. Maybe, just maybe, we aren’t that country anymore. Maybe we don’t want to be. Maybe we want to be – maybe we ARE – something better.

I hope.