June 17, 2012 § 4 Comments
Okay, okay, enough already with the vagina. Even I, with my newfound comfort level around the correct for term lady-parts, am getting a little tired of the jokes. (Though, I must say, my favorite from this list of “Vagina” alternatives has GOT to be “God’s Stab Wound.”)
Something I hinted at in my previous post, “Vaginas to the Left, Vaginas to the Right,” was that I am borderline compulsive about seeking out opposing viewpoints from which I can learn, and from which a real discussion can be cultivated. In my satirical exploration of why Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown’s comment sent her colleagues into orbit, I also joked that perhaps Republicans were hurt by the implication that they were being compared to date rapists.
Well, heidi-ho, it appears I’ve hit on something. I searched the interwebs for a Republican response to Rep. Brown’s comments, and had a very hard time finding anything in my favorite news outlets, MSNBC, Huffington Post, and CNN. The only thing I could find were discussions of whether or not the word “Vagina” was uttered improperly in the State House’s debate. Truly, that irritated me, but that’s a rant for another time.
In desperation, I turned to Fox News. Not surprisingly, they focused a little more seriously on Republican response. I still found a heavy emphasis on the decorum aspect of Rep. Brown’s parting shot. “‘I ask all members to maintain a decorum of the House, and I felt it went too far,’ Republican Floor Leader Jim Stamas told The Detroit News. He scratched Brown and Byrum from the list of speakers.” I also, though, found this: “Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, said Brown’s comments were “disgraceful” and her “no means no” remark seemed to inappropriately compare the anti-abortion bill to rape. The House approved the bill on a 70-39 vote.” (Both of these quotes came from an article I link to here.)
What do you know about that? Here, my friends, is where this embarrassing episode can cease being fodder for late-night comics and turn into a real discussion about a very simple question I have. This was, obviously, a bill about limiting access to abortion, among other things. From this point forward, I will frame the debate, not in Democratic/Republican terms, but in Pro-Choice/Pro-Life terms. I know Pro-Life Democrats and Pro-Choice Republicans, so leaving political party affiliation out of this seems fair to me.
If we take the highest road, giving the leadership who censured Rep. Brown the greatest amount of credit, I can almost buy that the implying support for the bill was comparable to date rape was, indeed, disrespectful and an affront to decorous behavior. Here is my question, though.
Would that same leadership have penalized a Pro-Life member of the House for implying opposition to the bill was comparable to murdering babies?
If the answer to that is “No,” I’d like to ask a follow-up question.
When did being compared to murderers become more decorous than being compared to date rapists?
March 19, 2012 § 8 Comments
Full disclosure – I did not take this picture, nor do I know who did. I don’t know if it’s new, or if it’s been around for a while. I don’t even know if this is an argument any actual thinking human being is attempting to make, or if this guy is being filmed as an extra on a movie set. Either way, it’s going around fb as an anti-choice statement by people I DO know – AND LIKE – and I felt like responding. 😀
I considered a serious rebuttal to the implied nonsense in this guy’s sign. Then, I decided to treat this mentality like the joke that it is. I created a chart. Charts are logical, right? (Click on it to enlarge…)
I was soooooo tempted to go back and make a better chart – one that really disproved this flippant comparison. You know, how protecting sea turtle eggs had no future consequences for the mothers who lay them; how laying the eggs and leaving to go on with their sea turtle lives could not with any intellectual honesty be compared to the medical and emotional issues that must be weighed when a human female gets pregnant; the financial implications of helping a sea turtle hatch as opposed to forcing a woman to go through a pregnancy, birth a child, give the child up for adoption OR keep the child and raise him or her through adulthood; how a sea turtle mommy is not at risk for the emotional trauma that a human mommy is no matter WHICH decision she makes regarding pregnancy, birth and parenthood – because in my zeal for intellectual honesty, I must NEVER minimize the heartbreak and guilt that goes along with the decision to TERMINATE a pregnancy.
I didn’t, though, because when I set out to write this, I vowed to treat this chart with the same level of complex thought as anyone who would seriously try to make the argument in the sign the guy in this picture is holding.
March 1, 2012 § 27 Comments
I could tell you I was raped. (I wasn’t.) I could tell you I am a victim of incest. (I’m not.) I could tell you my life would be in danger if I got pregnant. (Partly true, but for this discussion, let’s say not.) I could tell you I’m mentally challenged or ill. (I don’t think so, but let’s please not open THAT up to debate…) These are some of the scenarios even the most ardent advocates in the Pro-Life movement might allow themselves and those they love flexibility where safe and legal abortion is concerned. Might.
Let’s talk about a different scenario – one that is completely true. I am a 42-year-old woman. I have been married to my college sweetheart since I was 21 years old, and I have had sex with ONLY him for well over 21 years. I use birth control. We have three children: a 15-year-old daughter, a 13-year-old son, and an 8-year-old son. They are (thank god and knock wood) magnificent, kind, intelligent, healthy kids. I am fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom, comfortable financially, we have health insurance, many friends, a good support system, etc., etc., etc.
What if MY birth control fails? I don’t have any of the extreme situations mentioned in the first paragraph. By all accounts, a woman my age and with my resources should be able to manage just fine with a fourth child. The child would likely be healthy, well-cared for, raised with boundless love, etc., etc., etc.
But what if I didn’t WANT to have another child?
I repeat, what if I did not WANT to?
Even though I could? Even though the pregnancy occurred through an act of love between two married, consenting adults? Even though chances are the child would be fine – we would ALL be fine?
What if I didn’t WANT to? Should I be forbidden access to a safe and legal abortion?
Should the potential of the embryo inside me to grow into a human being and be born and bring light to the world and cure cancer and colonize the moon outweigh my wishes?
My wishes to cherish and spend as much time as possible with the three children I already have before I blink and they are out of the house with families of their own?
My wishes to keep the undefinable, debilitating exhaustion of new parenthood relegated to a distant memory?
My wishes to not have a car seat and stroller at this stage of my life?
My wishes to nourish myself, now that I finally have some time and something creative and productive to do with it?
My wishes to have two free hands and a clear mind as I prepare my daughter for college, my first son for high school and my youngest son for his first season of swim team?
My wishes that my days of volunteering in pre-school be over?
My wishes that one day soon I will be watching what I want on T.V.?
Can you look me in the eyes and tell me my wishes for all these things, and how hard I’ve worked for them, are less important than the potential clump of cells in my uterus?
I understand why you consider a growing blastula, embryo, fetus an absolute miracle, a cherished life form, something to be protected. I feel the same way. I understand your religious and moral reasons for feeling passionately about this life form, such as it is. I respect your zeal, your advocacy, your feelings.
I simply feel that I should have the right to put myself, the life (and lives) I’ve already created for myself and my ALREADY ALIVE family ahead of the potential life of a non-viable fetus. I am entitled to be respected in my ability to weigh and decide matters of such an intense personal nature for myself and my own family, understanding that anything I choose will come with unintended, possibly devastating consequences.
I understand why you might see an abortion clinic and those who utilize it as tragic and unjust. I know the image you have of women who get abortions range from sympathetic (sad and in need of help) to judgemental (irresponsible sluts who use it as a form of birth control.)
I would argue, though, that people who fall into the image in that last category are few and far between. Furthermore, people who use abortion as a cheap and easy fix for their irresponsible behavior (if such people exist) are presenting symptoms of much deeper societal ills than the fact that safe and legal abortions are available to them. Just like people who use guns in an irresponsible, devastating way are reflective of a much deeper ill than the fact that guns are legal.
Finally, I would ask you this. Can YOU understand MY needs? Can YOU respect MY wishes? Can you honestly say you are in a better position than I am to determine what is best for me and my entire family and our futures? Can you assert in good conscience that this most sacred and personal individual choice of mine (and YOURS) should be limited to the following options:
1. having another baby,
2. carrying the pregnancy to term and giving the baby up for adoption, or
3. a back-alley abortion?
Can you understand why, upon hearing about proposed (thankfully defeated) bill for mandatory, unwanted transvaginal ultrasounds, upon hearing about Congress proposing to allow ANY employer to opt out of providing healthcare plans that include access to birth control and abortion, that so many women AND men are looking around us with wild, crazed eyes and asking, “WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THIS COUNTRY?”
February 3, 2012 § 6 Comments
In a stunning reversal on an equally stunning mistake, Susan G. Komen For the Cure has apologized and restored funding to Planned Parenthood for breast exams and screenings. Why am I not thrilled? Maybe because despite the evidence of the absolutely mind-boggling power of social media, this whole episode is symptomatic of a much larger societal ill. And I have many questions, since I by no means think the matter is settled. There is fall-out with which to contend.
1. How will pro-lifers react? According to the Nancy Brinker, donations to Komen in the last two days increased 100%. It’s reasonable to assume the increase was, in large part, a result of pro-life people pleased with their decision to revoke PP funds. What will happen to these donations, now? Will the donors ask that their money be returned? Will they have to suck it up and accept that a donation made SOLELY BECAUSE they wanted to send the message they opposed legal abortion was made in vain? Will there be even more outrage now on the part of the pro-life movement? And will it be taken out on Komen? This can only hurt Komen and the work they do.
2. How will pro-choice people react? As written in this article in Salon, Planned Parenthood is clearly more adept and practiced at handling controversy and criticism than Komen. Planned Parenthood and its supporters need to be wary, though, of declaring victory. That this whole story even happened is cause for deep concern among those who support women’s health and reproductive choice. According to Senator Barbara Boxer (speaking to Andrea Mitchell this afternoon,) on this very day members of Congress are virtually coming to blows on the issue of birth control. Birth control, people. Let’s not get smug.
3. Can Komen recover? General consensus is yes. But Komen for the Cure has been politicized, as many charities have. Before this, it was possible for people to support Komen whether or not they supported legalized abortion. Everyone wants cancer eradicated. Now, though, supporting Komen might be harder for pro-life AND pro-choice people.
4. What is really going on here? Truth be told, according to PP, about 170,000 of the more than 4 million breast exams they’ve provided over the last five years were funded by Komen’s grant. That’s around 4%. Interestingly, abortion makes up only about 3% of the services Planned Parenthood provides. I am in NO WAY minimizing the importance of even one of those lives being saved through the breast exam, nor am I minimizing the heartbreak involved in even one abortion performed. Yet, the nastiness of this controversy may have been avoided (though probably not…) had everyone paused, assessed, and been forthright.
For example, imagine if the powers that be at Komen came right out and said, “We are free to fund whomever we choose, and we choose not to fund organizations that perform legal abortions.” Say what it is and who they are. And let the chips fall where they may. I might no longer donate to them, but I might because I appreciate straight talk and sincerity. In researching, I might decide the position is too abhorrent to me, or I might decide that the good they do outweighs this issue given the relatively small amount of money in the grant.
Imagine if Planned Parenthood reacted by saying, “We are deeply saddened by this, but truthfully, Komen only funded 4% of the breast exams we performed anyway. With your support, we can make up the difference and emerge stronger than ever.” I’m sure the outpouring of support would have been significant.
5. Is this about breast cancer or abortion? If it is about breast cancer, Komen should never have pulled their funding. If it is about abortion, Komen should not have restored the funding. Here’s what I fear. I fear this entire episode had less to do with breast cancer screening OR abortion. I fear it is, more than anything, reflective of how anti-community we have become.
Here’s what I mean by that. Years ago, I joined a gym. When I joined, childcare was included in the membership. Within a year, the gym changed its policy and began charging extra for childcare. I protested, and was told, “People who didn’t use it complained they shouldn’t have to pay for it. Not everyone uses the childcare, so it’s not fair to charge them for it.” I countered by saying, “I don’t use the men’s bathrooms, or touch any free weight over 15 pounds, but I understand my dues fund parts of the club I don’t use, or even like. I’m okay with that because it contributes to the upkeep of the place as a WHOLE.”
Superimpose that approach onto politics. The mentality exists wherein people cannot abide even one penny of their money being used for something they oppose. In the last few days, I read over and over people arguing that if they give to Komen, they want to be damn sure the money won’t be going to fund that horrible Planned Parenthood organization. They slaughter babies, you know. By the same token, I heard people swear they wouldn’t give a dime to Komen now that they’ve made this anti-choice decision. I was one of them. Of course everyone is entitled to their opinions and are free to donate their money however they want. But how I wish we could step back and take a breath.
Take a breath and accept the fact that some of your money (taxes and donations) will be spent in ways you don’t like. Ways you find abhorrent. I understand why people don’t want their money helping to fund facilities that perform abortions. I respect their feelings and convictions. I hope that respect is reciprocated when I say I don’t want my money helping to fund the death penalty, or organizations that discriminate against homosexuals. Regardless, in the emotional whiplash of the last week, I think we could all do with a larger dose of acceptance. Of making peace with imperfection and moving on.
I won’t rule out donating to Komen in the future, and as I said before – I may have even if they hadn’t reversed this decision. What I’d love to see (and doubt I ever will) is a pro-life person donating to Planned Parenthood. You know – in support of the 97% of medical services they provide in underserved communities that AREN’T abortion-related.
(I know I may live in a dream world, but it’s nice here.)
November 15, 2011 § 12 Comments
Part Four (closely related to Part Three) of I-Don’t-Know-How-Many in a series of posts inspired by “Miss Representation.” If you haven’t seen the trailer for this movie, and you have 8 minutes, please watch it here now.
A very good and sweet friend sent me a 33-minute video and asked my opinion. A man named Ray Comfort – someone claiming to be Jewish – compares doctors who perform abortions to Hitler, and those who allow this to happen to the German standers-by. It’s done more subtly and with a defter hand than I just did it, but ultimately, that’s the message. It’s very skillful, really – so much so that I myself was not exactly sure where he was going with it.
Please watch it, if you have time. I’d love to hear how others’ reactions compare to mine. If you don’t have time, consider this your crib notes. Here’s an extremely abridged version of how Ray Comfort proceeds to elicit (read, “manipulate”) the responses he wants from his person-on-the-street interviews. My reaction to each step is in parentheses. And, full disclosure? I’m Jewish. And female. And a mother.
Q: Ever heard of Hitler/the Holocaust?
(Me – horrified this stuff is not being taught and/or remembered.)
Q: Ever heard of Hitler/the Holocaust?
A: Yeah, he was the the leader of Germany who started WWII and killed a bunch of Jews, right?
(Me – is there a glimmer of hope for the educational system after all?)
Q: Hitler had his armies dig ditches and shoot Jews into them and fill up the ditches with dirt. Some of those people were still alive. If a German officer had his gun pointed at your head, would you drive the bulldozer that filled up those ditches? You’d be killing those Jews who were still alive.
A: Varied – some yes (most tinged with guilt, but admitting it was only because their LIFE WAS IN DANGER) and some no. They’d rather take a bullet than drive that bulldozer. Also interviewed are token neo-nazis who idolize Hitler – scary, not to be ignored, but mostly aberrations.
(Me – Very tough question. Deep and wrenching ethical issues. )
Q: If you had Hitler in the crosshairs, would you shoot, preventing the killing of millions of innocents?
A: Yes. (Unanimously)
(Me – well, that’s an easy one…)
Q: If you went back further, 30-odd years, and you saw Hitler’s mother when she was pregnant with him – would you kill her? (Comfort repeatedly uses the number 30 years, even though Hitler was 44 when he came to power, but no matter…)
A: Some yes, some no.
(Me – yes, that’s a tougher question…gee, I wonder where he’s going with this?)
Q: So, you value human life?
(Me – oh, how silly of me. Now I know where he’s going.)
Q: How do you feel about abortion?
A: Variety of answers, from “I don’t know” to “I’m Pro-Life, but I would never judge anyone else because each situation is different” to “Hellz, yeah, it should be legal…”
(Me – really appreciating how many are trying to acknowledge the complexity of the different situations…)
Q: At what point in the womb does the fetus become a life?
A: Variety of answers, from “I don’t know” to “3 months in.”
(Me – difficult question – I’m Pro-Choice and I have a very hard time with this one.)
Q: Finish this sentence. “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when…”
A: Most are taken aback, but the answers range from “Never,” to “When the mother can’t take care of it” to “When it results from something that should never have happened.”
Q: (follow-up) Why kill the baby for the crime of the father? What justifies killing a baby in the womb? Why advocate killing children in the womb?
(Me – hold it right there – something’s not right.)
Q: Hitler declared Jews “non-human.” Isn’t declaring fetuses “non-human” the same thing?
A: Answers vary from “Hmmmm…” to “I guess you’re right!”
(Me – hoooooo boy.)
Q: Have you changed your mind about abortion? Would you vote for someone who supported abortion?
A: Yes! No!
(Me – oy.)
Q: All sorts of questions about believing in god, heaven, hell, the 10 commandments, that Jesus died for everyone’s sins and how all we have to do to be cleansed of our sins is accept Jesus as our savior. Then we can get into heaven.
(Me – Okay, this guy Comfort is sooooooo not a Jew like he says he is in the beginning…)
I had to think hard about where Comfort twists the argument. Was it in Step IX, when he asks people finish the sentence “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when…”? What he is implying, and trying to get others to imply is that if an abortion is performed, both the doctor and the mother think it’s okay, rather than that it’s the lesser of two potentially horrible evils, BOTH with deep and lasting consequences. I think that’s extremely unfair.
Was it in Step X, when he equates declaring Jews “non-human” with declaring fetuses “non-human”? Jews with years of life ahead of them, years of life behind them, jobs, educations, families, relationships and ties to this world? Equated to non-viable fetuses? This, to me, is a warped comparison at best, and the height of intellectual dishonesty at worst.
Was it in Step IX, when he challenges the few who dare to suggest that in cases of rape or incest, an abortion might be permissible? When he comes back at them strongly with questions like, “Why should the baby pay for the sins of the father?” And in this entire phase, there is no mention – NONE – of the impact being forced to have the baby would have on the MOTHER in these situations??? Does she merit any consideration, here?
There is no mention of what’s permissible when a mother’s life is in danger. This fascinated me, because in Step IX, I kept waiting for someone to finish his loaded sentence with “when the mother’s life is in danger as a result of the pregnancy.” If anyone gave this answer, it ended up on the cutting room floor.
Strange, because, in Step III, when asked if they would fill in the ditch with dirt, even if some Jews were still alive in it, we heard several of them say, “ONLY because my life was in danger.” And stranger, because Ray Comfort seemed okay with that. He didn’t go after them then like he did when, in Step IX, people said there were situations when abortions were permissible. Does he feel that it is worse to end a fetus’s life than to end a Jew’s life? Surely that would be twisting his words, and I’d NEVER do that.
November 14, 2011 § 6 Comments
Part Three of I-Don’t-Know-How-Many in a series of posts inspired by “Miss Representation.” If you haven’t seen the trailer for this movie, and you have 8 minutes, please watch it here now.
A great friend of mine is supremely frustrated that people in the middle are being drowned out by the shouts of extremists on both sides. I agree completely, though it’s funny: when I’m in the presence of someone aggressively loud, the louder they shout, the less I hear. The more energetic and boisterous they are, the quieter I become. I tune out. I withdraw and stop listening. I bide my time until they’re done, breathe a sigh of relief when they leave, and become firmer in my belief that those who speak the least command the most attention when they do finally utter words. Though no sane person would call me someone who seldom speaks, here is my attempt to speak calmly and quietly, in an effort to be heard over the screamers on each side.
On October 13, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 358 – an amendment to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The amendment is being touted as the “Protect Life Act” by supporters, and criticized as the “Let Women Die Act” by opponents. The only thing upon which supporters and opponents agree about this act is that it further limits access to abortions. In the extremely unlikely event this bill (or a parallel version of it) passes in the Senate, President Obama has said he would veto it.
Since I’m focusing on treatment of women, lately (don’t worry – I’ll be done soon…maybe…) I couldn’t let this thing go by without a look. Before I got very far, though, I got the strong feeling that both Protect Life and Let Women Die were egregious misnomers for this legislation, and for the larger dispute as a whole.
Even reading the SUMMARY written by the Congressional Research Service (a non-partisan arm of the Library of Congress) was a lot of work. Here’s a link to another, slightly simpler summary from Project Vote Smart – a bipartisan breakdown of the facts, issues, and where the candidates stand. Go ahead. Read them.
There! Get it? All clear? No? Okay, well let’s step back and consider the true conflict behind this and its complexity.
Is it acceptable to force a doctor to perform an abortion when it violates his religious beliefs? I don’t think so. It’s a very tough question. It’s not okay to tell a person he or she cannot practice medicine because of their religious beliefs. However, I also believe that if a doctor would not perform an abortion when the mother’s life is at stake, he or she should be allowed or even obligated to send her to a doctor who would. If a hospital employs ER doctors who refuse to perform emergency abortions, they should also be required to have on staff at all times a doctor who will. HR 358 makes it easier for a doctor or hospital to refuse care to a woman (see the section on “Non-discrimination”) in this situation, and that makes me very nervous.
Flipping the coin, is it acceptable to deny a woman an abortion in the cases of rape, incest, or if her life is endangered by the pregnancy? I don’t think so. This is also a very tough question. I think it’s the height of hubris to tell a woman, teenager, or girl she should go through with any pregnancy, whether or not they keep the baby or put the baby up for adoption, regardless of the situation, but ESPECIALLY if it falls into the categories mentioned above. HR 358 seems to acknowledge that (see section on “Limitation of Abortion Funding”) , in re-iterating that federal funds may be used in these extreme situations.
The extremists in support of this amendment (the “Protect Life” view) would have us thinking that abortion is frequently used as convenient birth control and that regardless or situation or gestational period, abortion is tantamount to slaughtering babies.
The extremists in opposition of this amendment (the “Let Women Die” view) would have us believe that right-wing, religious zealots who also practice emergency room medicine would coldly turn their heads and refuse to perform an abortion to satisfy their righteousness even if a young mother were bleeding to death on the floor as a result of that refusal.
Both might happen. I’m sure both DO happen. I admit to being ignorant of the statistics on either side, and my apologies for that. My sense is, though, that what happens the vast majority of the time lies in the middle of this spectrum.
I believe that most doctors whose religious beliefs preclude them from performing abortions have, and would have tremendous difficulty grappling with the loss of the mother’s life. Allowing the death of a woman who is also, perhaps, a mother, sister, wife, friend, daughter to many others to save the life of her unborn baby (or to NOT be responsible for the baby’s death) would haunt even the most hardened, experienced, religiously fervent doctor. I hope.
I also believe that most women in the horrifying situation of having to choose between her own life and her unborn baby’s life has, by virtue of being in that situation, suffered enough. She does not need to suffer the guilt trips and wrath of those who unfairly sit in judgement of her, or the ultimate price – death. Actually, though I have not been in that situation myself, I don’t just believe this. I know it.