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 There’s news today (via Majikthise) that Congressional Dems have withdrawn legislation that would have required U.S. military bases to stock emergency contraception.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?



More on the Dems and Ab Only

The fabulous Ms. Lindsay Beyerstein has taken a new job as a reporter for In These Times. Her first piece, up today, takes on the Democrats and their recent support for abstinence only funding. What do the Dems have to give up, she wonders, in order to secure the success of some of their other priorities? Here’s a snippet:

Even opponents of abstinence-only education might concede that a few extra million for abstinence education is a small price to pay for easing the passage of a very important domestic spending bill that contains a lot of spending that’s important to Democrats.

Yet, principle is at stake here. Few people realize that the CBAE program promulgates out-and-out quackery and barely disguised religious dogma. These programs don’t just encourage students to remain abstinent as teenagers. By law, they are required to teach “a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of sexual activity,” among many other stipulations. In other words, the program must teach that all sexual activity outside of marriage, even between consenting adults, violates some nebulous “expected standard.”

Go check out the whole thing here.



Still Not An Endoresment…

I know you’re all waiting with baited breath, but I still haven’t decided whom – if anyone – to “endorse” going into the Democratic primary. It’s still early. I might. But not yet.

That said, damn Obama’s rhetoric works for me.

Andrew Sullivan’s got the full text of Obama’s recent speech (which Sullivan somewhat derisively though perhaps somewhat accurately calls a sermon) at Hampton University. Obama used the story of the shooting of a pregnant woman (in white, natch) during which the bullet lodged in the arm of the woman’s fetus. The fetus survives but has scar as a reminder.

The story makes my skin crawl a little. But what he does with it is damn good. There’s this:

And so God is asking us today to remember that miracle of that baby. And He is asking us to take that bullet out once more.

If we have more black men in prison than are in our colleges and universities, then it’s time to take the bullet out. If we have millions of people going to the emergency room for treatable illnesses like asthma; it’s time to take the bullet out. If too many of our kids don’t have health insurance; it’s time to take the bullet out. If we keep sending our kids to dilapidated school buildings, if we keep fighting this war in Iraq, a war that never should have been authorized and waged, a war that’s costing us $275 million dollars a day and a war that is taking too many innocent lives — if we have all these challenges and nothing’s changing, then every minister in America needs to come together — form our own surgery teams — and take the bullets out.

And this:

If we want to stop the cycle of poverty, then we need to start with our families.

We need to start supporting parents with young children. There is a pioneering Nurse-Family Partnership program right now that offers home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income mothers and mothers-to-be. They learn how to care for themselves before the baby is born and what to do after. It’s common sense to reach out to a young mother. Teach her about changing the baby. Help her understand what all that crying means, and when to get vaccines and check-ups.

This program saves money. It raises healthy babies and creates better parents. It reduced childhood injuries and unintended pregnancies, increased father involvement and women’s employment, reduced use of welfare and food stamps, and increased children’s school readiness. And it produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program.

This works and I will expand the Nurse-Family Partnership to provide at-home nurse visits for up to 570,000 first-time mothers each year. We can do this. Our God is big enough for that.

So he hits my two pet issues in a single speech: first, the country’s unconscionable jailing of hundreds of thousands of mostly poor and mostly black men and women; and second, the empty rhetoric of the American “pro-life” movement and what an America that really supports families would look like. And he gets both issues right.

Sullivan calls Obama a compassionate conservative — made in the model that Bush supposedly was. I don’t buy that. It aggrandizes Bush and ties Obama to his sinking ship at the same time. It’s also patently false. Obama’s speech rings more of the Democratic Great Society era than of early 21st century compassionate conservatism.

At root, it doesn’t really matter how we label Obama’s speech. The bottom line is that he’s talking about important issues, connecting faith to progressivism, and doing what’s even more improbable — inspiring this cynical blogger.



Wait – Do Elections Have Consequences?

The mantra in the six weeks or so since the Supreme Court handed down its truly awful decision in Gonzaels v. Carhart has been that elections have consequences. After Gonzales, that phrase was used to wag fingers at all of those supposed social liberals who voted for Bush. The phrase has also been used to rub Republicans’ faces in the new Democratic congressional gains.

However it’s been used before, I am feeling today like it’s a bit of a silly phrase, lacking meaning. Why? Because a Democratic Congressman, David Obey of Wisconsin, is pushing for an increase in funding for abstinence only programs. Obey, who is part of the Democratic House leadership and the head of the House Appropriations Committee, is supporting an increase in Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) funding by $27 million — up to $150 million. CBAE is one of the many abstinence only programs that has been proven to be both ineffective and filled with lies. And yet, a Democratic leader in the House is throwing bad money after bad money in support of abstinence only programs.

I’m sure this is a political move on Obey’s part to placate some of te more conservative members of his home state. I get that politics is a game. But Obey shouldn’t roll the dice when young people’s lives are on the line.

SIECUS has an action alert. Got tell Pelosi and Obey what you think.



Why “Slippery Slope” Is A Meaningful Concept Not Just An Annoying Legalism

Over the last few years there has been a drumbeat of paternalistic rhetoric in American politics, particularly in the realm of women’s health and reproductive justice. In South Dakota, which last year passed an abortion ban that made exception only if the woman’s life was in danger, those who supported the ban touted it as necessary to protect women from the emotional and medical perils that supposedly would befall them if they had an abortion. The line was such bunk that anti-abortion wingnuts (er, activists) “>had to recruit fake doctors to make an ad in support of it. (The South Dakota law was subsequently rejected by popular ballot.) The siegelin South Dakota (pdf). But for perhaps the first time, it gained adherents. And it seemed to work.

Then, of course, there was the Supreme Court’s truly horrendous decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which exalted the paternalistic, daddy state knows best language about abortion rights and echoed the rhetoric used to support the South Dakota ban. As Linda Greenhouse noted in the NY Times, the language of the decision was groundbreaking:

But never until Wednesday had the court held that an abortion procedure could be prohibited because the procedure itself, not the pregnancy, threatened a woman’s health — mental health, in this case, and moral health as well. In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy suggested that a pregnant woman who chooses abortion falls away from true womanhood.

And then there’s news today, via Broadsheet, that a pharmacy in Montana refused to dispense the birth control pill to a local woman because they were trying to “protect” her health. Nevermind that the woman was 49, unable to conceive, and using the pill for medical purposes (I really don’t think that should matter, but it’s worth mentioning). According to Broadsheet:

When the woman called the pharmacy to inquire why the pills were being discontinued, the owners claimed that the pills are dangerous for women.

This from the same pharmacy that ran a Mother’s Day ad that included this language:

On this Mother’s Day 2007, we wish to express our gratitude to all mothers for their unselfishness in our behalf. As health-care professionals, we call upon the American people to once again reaffirm the right to life for future generations of the unborn and join with us in our efforts to restore respect, dignity and value to each human life — born or unborn.

Apparently, this pharmacy, under new ownership, has decided across the board to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. Daddy state (or daddy pharmacist) apparently knows what’s best for his women clients. And now he’s got a Supreme Court decision to back him up. And, in keeping with the paternalistic, anti-woman slant underlying the decision of both the Court and the pharmacist, such decisions are ok. Because, dammit, if a woman is going to open her legs for sex, she better be willing to open them for labor.



Scratch the Surface of the UVVA

The UVVA. Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Laci & Conner’s Law. Sounds nice enough, right? We want to be able to punish people who commit violence against pregnant women, because we are concerned both about the heightened risks of violence against pregnant women and about doing as much as we can to ensure a healthy birth outcome.

If only it were that simple…UVVA’s, as many of you probably know, were imagined and implemented with a much more political and much more suspect purpose — to establish fetal personhood and support anti repro justice crusaders.

Want more evidence? Well, around the country, prosecutors have attempted to rely on UVVA’s to prosecute pregnant women for not ensuring a perfect birth outcome.

Last week, RH Reality Check’s Amie Newman took on the issue, in the context of Kansas’s new UVVA, which was signed into law by the state’s “pro-choice” governor, Kathleen Sebelius. And what’s funny about Kansas, and what makes the UVVA’s political purposes so blindingly clear, is that the state already had a law protecting pregnant women. Newman has more:

In fact, in Kansas, this law repeals statutes already on the books that criminalize injury inflicted upon a pregnant woman. Twelve years ago, Kansas enacted “Motherhood Protection” laws (K.S.A. 21-3440 and K.S.A. 21-3441) that, according to the reproductive justice advocacy organization ProKanDo, “recognize the particularly heinous nature of crimes against pregnant women by providing separate criminal charges for those who interrupt a pregnancy in the commission of a crime.” These laws were put into place over a decade ago as the result of anti-choice advocates who, at the time, desperately wanted a UVVA in Kansas. What they got instead were laws that heightened the consequences of intentionally harming pregnant women, recognizing the atrocious nature of this type of crime, without defining fetuses as full people.

Fast forward to 2007 when anti-choice advocates in Kansas were finally able to pass the full UVVA that mirrored their ideology while serving their political purposes. Kansas’ law, according to Julie Burkhardt, executive director of ProKanDo, “contains extreme language when talking about life beginning at fertilization or conception — similar to about fifteen other states’ UVV laws.” So what reason can there be for repealing legislation already in place that ensures that perpetrators of violence against pregnant women will be prosecuted uniquely for their crimes? And why did the law pass now — with a pro-choice Governor and five failed attempts in previous years? There may be many reasons; though none have anything to do with justice, protection or concern for the victims of violent crimes.

Some evidence that the UVVA is neither meant to really address violence against women nor effective at preventing such violence: as Newman notes, in none of the 30 states that have state UVVA laws has violence against pregnant women declined. Not only do the laws not help women, but they put women’s reproductive lives in to jeopardy:

Perhaps what is most disturbing about the steady stream of laws like these around the country is their insidiousness. Julie [Burkhardt, director of ProKanDo, a pro-choice political action committee in Kansas] says, “With this type of bill, anti-choice advocates are hitting the spectrum of women’s reproduction.” While many reproductive justice advocates have wondered for years how anti-choice activists could scream so loudly for the punishment of abortion providers while somehow absolving women who access the abortions, it is no longer a puzzle.

“There is a real disconnect — when people think of reproductive health we think about abortion because that’s the hot button issue. It drives voters. But it’s also good for everybody to look at laws like Kansas’ law – it doesn’t just hurt women who need abortions but hurts women who want to continue their pregnancies and be mothers,” Julie says. Women who get abortions are women who chose to become or are already mothers at different points in their lives. Laws like these punish women across the entire reproductive continuum.

So what next? When supposedly pro-choice governors are signing UVVAs into effect, can we really have hope that we can stop their passage? Well, I don’t know. And I’m not particularly optomistic, particularly since these laws appear to protect both women and fetuses, at least on their face. What will it take to get the message across about the perils of the UVVA? How many women will have to end up in jail and how many others will have to end up injured or worse?



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?