a bird and a bottle


American Military Women Betrayed. Again.

Not so shockingly, the US government has sold out American military women yet again. There’s news today (via Majikthise) that Congressional Dems have withdrawn legislation that would have required U.S. military bases to stock emergency contraception. Here’s a snippet:

For reasons that remain unclear, Michaud [the sponsoring Congressman] withdrew the legislation the next morning. According to [his press secretary], it was purely a logistical snafu: “Key supporters had to be in their districts.” But sources close to the issue tell a different story: The legislation, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, with bipartisan support, was dropped by a Democratic leadership unwilling to go to bat for pro-choice issues. Despite Michaud’s confidence that the votes were there, Democratic leadership wasn’t so sure, and they didn’t want to hang around long enough to find out. The legislation might not have sunk, but they jumped ship anyway.

Newsflash for all of you women in fatigues: if you are sexually assaulted by a fellow officer, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have access to EC. How’s that for supporting our people in uniform?

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Connecting the Dots

Two unpleasant news items today: first, via Feministing, I learn that pregnancy discrimination is up. Then I head over to the NY Times and bump head-on into an article about the antis’ increasing reliance on the argument that abortion should be banned because it is bad for women.

And then it struck me: these two news developments are inextricably related.

Here’s what I mean: pregnancy discrimination is up because there is little government mandate not to discriminate against pregnant women. Sure, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act says that where Title VII applies (larger employers, usually), employers cannot discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, but that leaves a whole lot that’s not covered (smaller employers, cases where it’s not discrimination but requests for extra benefits related to pregnancy). The slight nod of acceptance regarding pregnancy discrimination — it’s still not considered unconstitutional to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy even if it is against federal law — links directly into the thinking underlying the Times article: women are not rational actors when their fertility is concerned, and pregnancy is the prime example of that.

In the case of the anti-abortion rhetoric, the thinking goes that women who are pregnant and who are considering abortions cannot fully understand the consequences of their actions for their own mental health or for their families (when the Supreme Court accepted this argument in its recent Gonzales v. Carhart decision, I threw up a little in my mouth). If the Supreme Court’s decision is any indication, that way of thinking, in all its condescending and backwards glory, seems to be gaining adherents. And it’s fed into by the pervasive notion in American culture that pregnant women are somehow less human…less intelligent, less able to make decisions. Why, if that’s the case, then it all but makes sense to discriminate against them at work!

See what I mean about those dots being connected?



Veto Crazy

After waiting five years to exercise his first veto, President Bush is going veto crazy. Continuing in the backwards tradition of his first veto (of the stem cell bill), the President seems to only pick up his veto pen for laws that might actually do some good. Of course, there’s his veto the other day of the war spending bill. But that’s not it.

Cases in point: two current veto threats.

The first is Bush’s threatened (promised?) veto of the new hate crimes legislation. The bill would expand federal hate crimes protection to include gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. It’s headed for approval in Congress. But Bush has already got the cap off of his veto pen. Why, you might ask, would the President veto so common sense a bill? Here’s the reasoning:

The statement said state and local laws already covered the violence addressed in the legislation. “There has been no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement,” the administration said.

It’s laughable, really. Apparently, this administration felt that abortion regulation — with the exception of its basic foundation, something generally left to the states — needed to be federalized. But providing added protection to citizens who are often part of “discrete and insular minorities”? Not so much.

Anyway. This brings me to veto #2. According to today’s NY Times, Bush has “warned’ of a veto over any legislation that would allow federal funding for “the destruction of human life.” Why the veto warning now? Because Congress is thinking about repealing the global gag rule, therefore allowing US funding of international organizations that discuss or provide abortions and ending US promotion of abstinence-or-die.

Of course, a White House mouthpiece said that this is not about veto power but about the president standing firmly behind his beliefs. Apparently the president’s conviction for protecting life ends at birth — at least if one is a woman, has a chronic illness like MS, is gay, or is trans. Excuse me while I go scratch out my eyes at the irony of all of this.



What It’s Like to be a Victim of U.S. Drug Policy
April 6, 2007, 8:07 pm
Filed under: bullshit, civil rights, criminal justice, drug war

Jeralyn at TalkLeft tonight published a truly heartbreaking letter from a middle-aged woman about to serve 9 years in federal prison for trying to buy the painkillers to which she had become addicted. The letter is an indictment not only of the “war on drugs” but also of prosecutorial discretion and the American criminal justice system as a whole.

I’m posting the letter in full (or at least as fully as Jeralyn did). Please read it.

In 2 months I have to self-surrender to prison for 9 years, for Conspiracy to distribute drugs, near a school. (You cannot even see the school from my house..) I am a 46 year old single mother of 4, grandmother of 4. I have no prior record. I was a successful business owner and very active in my community for 20 years. I hurt my back, working hard to support my children. The doctor gave me prescribed pain medication and I got addicted. I was entrapped into a drug deal for buying and selling 8 pills, to a snitch. They raided my home and locked me up. I spent a horrible week detoxing in jail. The judge sent me to addiction treatment center, suggested by the prosecution, and I have over 1 year clean.

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And They Call This Pro-Life?

pepfar

As Jill has written, the pro-life (anti-choice) agenda is only pro-life if it fits their politics. And if you’re not a woman who has sex.

You might think I’m crazy, but I don’t think that President Bush’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) is all that pro-life. Stay with me here. Yes, the program has done some great things thus far, but in its later stages is where the politics of “life” comes into play. And it’s not pretty.

The NY Times reports today in an Editorial that the program’s early stages, which have been focused on scaling up AIDS treatment, have been fairly successful. That’s certainly good news, particularly for the African countries that receive the bulk of PEPFAR’s funding and are bearing the brunt of the world’s AIDS epidemic.

But, as the Times points out, in the long term it’s AIDS prevention programs that are going to have the biggest and longest lasting impact. And that’s where the “pro-life” agenda comes in.

Programs to prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, are perhaps the most important tool in that long-term fight. Yet Congress specified that only 20 percent of the money could be spent on prevention, and one-third of that had to be used to promote abstinence until marriage. More money has been spent in that area than on other prevention activities, including distribution of condoms and blocking mother-to-child transmission.

What this means is that of all of the PEPFAR grants, a relatively small amount is going toward programs that prevent transmission of HIV through sexual activity. And of that small amount, much of it is going to support abstinence only programs.

PEPFAR’s website reports that the program has done a lot to prevent sexual transmission of HIV/AIDS:

Supported community outreach activities to nearly 61.5 million people to prevent sexual transmission.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? 61.5 million people have learned to prevent HIV transmission through sex. Only problem is, they haven’t really. All they’ve learned is that the American right believes that abstinence is the only way and to hell with all those others (the vast majority of people) who choose to have sex. But despite this message, people still have sex. They just haven’t been taught how to do it safely. As Advocates for Children reports, abstinence only programs have been unsuccessful in the U.S.:

Evaluation of these 11 programs [in the U.S.] showed few short-term benefits and no lasting, positive impact. A few programs showed mild success at improving attitudes and intentions to abstain. No program was able to demonstrate a positive impact on sexual behavior over time.

Abstinence only programs, the choice of the “pro-life” crew and, not surprisingly, Bush’s PEPFAR, just don’t work. Instead of taking a pragmatic approach, which would support abstinence but teach people how to prevent HIV when they do have sex should they choose to do so, PEPFAR says ‘don’t have sex. And if you do, it’s at your own risk.’

To teach this to teenagers in the U.S. is irresponsible. To use it is an HIV prevention tactic is unconscionable.

Yet it’s the favored approach of the “pro-lifers.” Go figure.



Your Racist Asshole of the Week
April 1, 2007, 10:47 am
Filed under: 2008, bullshit, civil rights, is our children learning?, news, politics, tongues

Newt Gingrich.

In a week rife with stupid comments (Schlafly, Bush, Gonzales, MC Rove), this one takes the cake.

Speaking yesterday at a meeting of the National Federation of Republican Women, Gingrich shared his enlightened views on immigration, education, and the franchise:

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday described bilingual education as teaching “the language of living in a ghetto,” and he mocked requirements that ballots be printed in multiple languages.

“The government should quit mandating that various documents be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up” to vote, Gingrich said.

There’s so much wrong with this statement, I barely know where to start. First, the term “ghetto” in and of itself is offensive. Second, Spanish is spoken by people across socio-economic lines; what he doesn’t want is his precious nativist government catering to poor Spanish-speaking, mostly undocumented, immigrants. Third, Gingrich doesn’t respect the right of all citizens to vote. Yes, as he notes later in his rant, there is an English proficiency test as part of the citizenship test, but it’s a farce. Plenty of people without working knowledge of English are citizens. Floating ideas like this indicates a desire to systematically disenfranchise non-English speaking citizens, many of whom vote Democrat.

What’s funniest to me about this comment (and there is something) is that Gingrich, who is considering a presidential run, just killed any chance he had at success. The GOP more and more needs the Latino vote to win. And I can’t imagine many people of Latino descent will be voting for him now.