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 There’s news today (via Majikthise) that Congressional Dems have withdrawn legislation that would have required U.S. military bases to stock emergency contraception.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



Not Gonna Knock Knocked Up
June 10, 2007, 10:28 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, frivolity, funnies, media, news, reproductive justice, sexuality

Well, color me surprised.

knocked up

I was already to write a post deriding Judd Apatow‘s new film Knocked Up. I haven’t seen Apatow’s other work (Freaks & Geeks, the 40-year-old virgin), so this was not what you might call an educated opinion, but I figured that a movie called “knocked up” couldn’t be good. The phrase knocked up just rings of misogyny.

But I was pleasantly surprised. SF and I saw it last night. A.O. Scott was right. It was funny. It was sweet. And, for the most part, it lacked the misogyny that often pervades the two genres with which it toyed: so-called chick flicks and stoner movies.

I was nervous about the film’s treatment — or lack thereof — of abortion. I had heard that the film sort of glosses over it. Apparently, the topic was interesting, and obvious enough, to make its way into the NY Times Styles section this week. While it’s true that “abortion” is never uttered in the film, the issue is not ignored either. More than that, what (admittedly little) conversation there is about abortion in the film seemed to me to be a fairly biting satire of our inability to talk honestly and apolitically about abortion in the U.S. And the film’s general treatment of pregnancy, reproduction, and birth (in a very impressive Stan Brakhage-esque scene) is often much better than the Hollywood standard.

And I’m not alone in my relief: Amanda Marcotte’s review at her new blog Unsprung echoes a lot of my thoughts.

Still, I can see why some pea-brained conservatives seek validation for their misogynist political opinions from the previews of the movie. From the preview, the movie seems like a wet dream for anti-choicers, a story of an uppity bitch who gets hers by getting trashed and sleeping with the wrong guy, which leads to punishment-by-pregnancy. Add in the college Republican fantasy of being able to trap a wife through pregnancy, and you’ve got a bit of anti-choice propaganda. Those folks will be sorely disappointed by the movie, unless they’re too dumb to pick up on the not-really-subtle subtleties, particularly with the way that the movie sides with Alison’s right to have her own life and career despite being pregnant.

All of this praise doesn’t mean I don’t have a bone to pick with the film. And that nit to pick is this: why is it that the only people who actually sorta kinda talk about abortion in the film are men? Ben’s (the guy who gets Katherine Heigl’s Allison pregnant) stoner friends are the ones who get closest to saying the word “abortion,” while Allison’s mother says only that Allison should “get it taken care of,” or something to that effect. One of Amanda’s commenters also picked up on this; she sees it as yet another example of the “father knows best” mindset. I’m not so sure. Maybe it just speaks to the fact that it’s easier sometimes for men than for women to talk about abortion — and to pontificate about it. But maybe I’m just being too optimistic.

Whatever the case, I was impressed by the film. Anyone else seen it and have an opinion? I’d love to know…



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.



Gay Conjugal Visits (not a punchline)
June 4, 2007, 9:34 am
Filed under: criminal justice, feminism/s & gender, guests, news, news & views, sexuality

(Guest post by SF; no connection to San Francisco)

As the NYTimes recently reported:

Gay and lesbian prisoners in California will be allowed overnight visits with their partners under a new prison policy, believed to be the first time a state has allowed same-sex conjugal stays.

The change arrived over two years after a 2003 California law provided equal rights for registered domestic partners in California, both same sex and non-married heterosexual couples. The delay, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, was due to considerations of whether allowing the visits would expose gay inmates to danger inside the prison, where they are sometimes singled out for attack. The policy shift – finally enacted under the threat of an ACLU lawsuit – is a double victory: for gay rights and prisoner rights. But the sum of the victories is greater than their individual parts.

As a rule, groups that are doubly (or triply) discriminated against (black poor women, for example) are redressed only in one capacity or, in the best case scenario, in each of their individual discriminated capacities. What remains unaddressed is the harm inflicted by multiple, simultaneous discriminations. The situation is even worse in the case of prisons. Scholars and activists like Angela Davis have convincingly demonstrated that racism lies at the heart of the American penitentiary system; in sum: if the people being locked up weren’t black, America would be much less willing to lock ’em up under such harsh conditions and for so long. (Slavery’s long lasting legacy.) We lock up the Other much sooner that we’d lock up our Selves. Viewing the prisoner as Other allows us to deny their basic humanity.

Many states don’t even offer conjugal visits. The fact that California – which now spends more money on its notorious prisons than it does on its vaunted universities – allows conjugal visits in the first place is a recognition (small as it may be) of the humanity and basic human needs and desires of prisoners. That this recognition would be extended to a group whose basic human needs and desires have only rarely been recognized in America is all the more impressive.

It is sad, of course, that gay prisoners in California – deprived of so many freedoms taken for granted outside the prison walls – now have basic human needs and desires recognized in a manner that much of the rest of the country (the current Supreme Court included) likely would reject even for gay female and male American citizens walking freely.



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?