Who wants to run for Vice President?

Consistent life ethic advocate seeks same for mutually fulfilling ballot arrangement. Likes: moonlit petition drives, long walks on the campaign trail, and social justice. Dislikes: violence, greed, apathy. Not necessarily looking for a heavy time commitment, but open to more if you’re willing. Contact Joe if this sounds like the right match for you.

Dr. King, the consistent life ethic, and Barack Obama

Last month, Marysia speculated about what Martin Luther King, Jr. would have thought of the feminist consistent life ethic. (part one, part two) Whatever the answer to that question may be, one thing is clear: if Dr. King’s message of equality, dignity, nonviolence, and empathy were to truly take root in our society, we would become consistently pro-life.

If we believed in equality for all human beings, we would not single out the youngest members of our species as killable non-persons. We would value women’s full humanity, not just their sex appeal or ability to bear children. We would honor women’s sexuality and motherhood. We would not accept a racially biased criminal justice system. We would not see the loss of lives in other countries as an acceptable price to pay for our national goals.

If we believed in dignity for all human beings, we would not allow people to die of treatable diseases because they’re poor or uninsured. We would not allow the neighborhoods of the poor to be poisoned with pollution. We would not refer to human beings as “products of conception” or “fetal tissue”. We would help the sick and disabled live their lives as well and fully as possible — no matter how short or how different from ours those lives may be — rather than trying to eliminate them before birth.

If we believed in nonviolence, our candidates would not compete with each other to prove who would kill more people in other countries, who would kill more prisoners, who would restrict the killing of unborn human beings the least. Our electorate would find such contests repugnant instead of galvanizing. We would have to be more creative in finding ways to solve problems instead of reflexively reaching for the violent solution. We would be brave enough to sacrifice a bit of safety and security in the short term for a better future.

If we had empathy for all human beings, we would accord all people of the world the right to self-determination that we claim for ourselves. We would not let pregnant women feel that they have no choice but abortion. We would recognize ourselves in every human being, even those most unlike us. We could not torture.

In a speech marking the 79th anniversary of Dr. King’s birth, Barack Obama invoked the words of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”: we are all tied together in “a single garment of destiny.”

Does that sound familiar? It should. It’s the same imagery that consistent life ethic proponents have used for 25 years to argue that it’s not enough for fight for the rights of some people while ignoring others. All our lives are intertwined.

Unfortunately, Senator Obama’s garment is full of holes. Although I believe he would personally prefer a lower abortion rate, he would allow for essentially unrestricted destruction of human beings before their birth. Although I believe that he would be less aggressive than his opponents, he favors a buildup of a military which is already larger than the militaries of the rest of the world combined. Although I don’t believe he’d be a great proponent of it, he does not repudiate the death penalty. He isn’t the one who’s going to tear down the anti-life society in all its forms; he’s going to uphold much of it.

I voted for him today anyway. Because the society Obama describes, the one King fought for, is pro-life. And he alone among the candidates appears able to inspire hope and courage and confidence among the people in the grassroots who have been so beaten down for the past seven (or twenty-seven) years. The grassroots leaders he inspires and gives breathing room and may possibly even listen to a little bit are the people who can strengthen that single garment. Yes, even to include the unborn. Once people believe in the equality and interconnectedness of all human beings, they’re 90% of the way there. Our job then is to convince them to expand their vision of humanity.

As Patrick says:

He’s not an insurgent; he’s the standardbearer for a faction of the country’s political elite. I believe that, on balance, this particular faction happens to comprise many of the the smartest and most conscientious individuals from within that elite. So I’m supporting Obama and his train, people like Samantha Power and Robert Malley and Lawrence Lessig, just as a peasant might cheer for an aristocratic faction made up of reasonably decent individuals against other factions made up of out-and-out thugs. Not because the peasant doesn’t know the game is rigged, or doesn’t have the wit to imagine a better world. But because incremental change matters, and because the right incremental changes can lead, like water flowing downhill, to bigger and more profound ones.

And frankly, in the end, nobody better is in a position to win. Perhaps someday, if we peasants work hard enough and change enough minds, the leaders will have no choice but to follow.

The consistent life ethic on ActBlue

Elections may not be the most effective way to make progress, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to get the best candidates we can. To that end, I’ve created a new ActBlue donations page for consistent life ethic proponents in the Democratic Party.

If I try to run this alone, it will languish, so please feel free to comment here with your suggestions, candidates, etc. Also, please pass the word along to all your consistent-ethic friends!

If we can find any CLE Republicans, the GOP has something similar called RightRoots.

Of course, this doesn’t help with third party and independent candidacies, but it’s a start.

Followup on Dayton PAC

I spoke with a representative of Dayton Right to Life yesterday about their PAC, and was disappointed to learn that they are not using the term “consistent life ethic” the way we use it. They are using it to refer to opposition to abortion, embryo-destructive stem cell research, and euthanasia.

There should be a consistent life ethic PAC, though. (Well, we should have publicly financed elections, but that’s another story.) There used to be one called JustLife PAC, but that hasn’t existed for at least ten years. These days, though, there are ways to raise money for your favorite candidates without forming a full-fledged PAC. More in the next post.

More “non-persons”, this time at Guantanamo

In ruling that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act doesn’t apply to them, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals declared that four British men being held at Guantanamo Bay are not “persons” under the Constitution. (PDF)

Because the plaintiffs are aliens and were located outside sovereign United States territory at the time their alleged RFRA claim arose, they do not fall with the definition of “person.”

Although this case was about the RFRA, I can’t see how this holding permits an objection to any action against the detainees, up to and including murder, on Constitutional grounds. Statute, treaty obligations, and the UCMJ may all prohibit murdering non-citizens outside of the United States, but is it really the case that the Constitution itself doesn’t deny that power to the government?

This is just one more reason we need an inclusive legal definition of the word “person”.

It won’t happen, but I can’t help imagining the following scenario: the lawyers for the detainees appeal their case to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overturns the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling, declaring that the term “person” as used in the Constitution means any living human being (defined biologically as a member of the species Homo sapiens). Rasul v. Rumsfeld would be the case that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Vasu Murti on pro-life liberalism

Apparently Celebrate Life magazine was planning to do an issue on pro-life liberals. Yes, that Celebrate Life magazine — published by the American Life League, stalwart opponent not only of abortion but also of contraception, gay rights, liberalism, and secularism. I admit that this exchange between Judie Brown and Marysia doesn’t leave me optimistic about how ALL would portray pro-life liberals. However, no matter how friendly or hostile the issue might have been toward us, it still would have featured articles like Vasu Murti’s excellent introduction to pro-life liberalism, and that could only have been a good thing. Vasu has placed a copy of the interview on his web page. I highly recommend it.

Good news on the death penalty

New Jersey is moving to abolish the death penalty:

State lawmakers are now one vote away from repealing the death penalty in New Jersey.

The Senate yesterday, by the narrowest of margins, passed a bill to abolish the state’s capital punishment law. The 21-16 vote — a bare majority in the 40-member Senate — sets the stage for a historic floor vote Thursday in the Assembly.

If the Assembly approves the bill, Gov. Jon Corzine is prepared to act swiftly and sign the legislation, according to aides, perhaps as soon as Friday. That would make New Jersey the first state to legislatively abolish the death penalty.

Unfortunately, a majority of New Jersey voters polled oppose abolition. I wonder what the numbers would look like if all people in New Jersey had been sampled, rather than just voters; I suspect that this may be a case where the different demographics of voters and non-voters makes a significant difference.

We may get our humanity back yet

The U.S. Supreme Court postponed the execution of Earl Berry today pending review of his appeal. They may decide, as they have with three other executions, that the execution must be delayed until they issue a decision next spring on whether lethal injection constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment”.

The American Bar Association has issued a report on the failings of the death penalty, and is calling for a nationwide moratorium.

Meanwhile, leading Democrats are actually publicly condemning torture and demanding that our public officials condemn it as well. You know what that means — they sense that public opinion is turning against it. Here’s hoping they’re right.

Aborting for less violence is like bombing for peace…

… and we all know what that’s like.

Sergio Cabral has been reading too much Freakonomics:

The governor of Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday said that making abortion legal could be a way to help contain violence in the crime and drugs-plagued city, one of the most dangerous places in Brazil. […]

Contain it within women’s bodies, you mean.

“If we take the number of children per mother in the well-off areas such as Copacabana or Lagoa, we see a birth rate similar to that in Sweden,” he said.

“But the slums, like in Rocinha, have a birth rate similar to Zambia or Gabon. These are the makings of misfits,” said Cabral, a 44-year-old Catholic.

(I don’t know how they do things in Brazil, but here I would regard that as a not-so-subtle attempt to whip up people’s fears about black people reproducing. Points for guessing the racial makeup of the slums Cabral’s talking about.)

Brazil has some of the worst income inequality in the world. Almost a third of its people live in poverty. Drug trafficking — very little of it done by newborn babies, it turns out — is rampant.

But none of that is the problem. That’s just how the world works. Fertile women and their children — that’s the real cause of violence. Or at least, maybe you can get enough people to believe that. Label those kids “misfits” and kill them. In a generation, your society will still be sick and millions of children will be dead, but by then it’ll be someone else’s problem. They’ll probably find some other powerless people to blame anyway.

Wangari Maathai on Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! aired an interview with Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai yesterday about the connections between environmental, human rights, and anti-war advocacy. Although the subject didn’t come up in the interview, Maathai also opposes abortion. She gave an interview to a Norwegian newspaper in 2004 in which she said that abortion is wrong, and that it hurts both unborn children and their mothers. (partial translation — if anyone out there speaks Norwegian, I’d love to get a full translation)

News from the last week (or so)

Good news:

Bad news:

  • The breast cancer mortality rate isn’t dropping for black women.
  • The maternal death rate is rising among American women. It is especially high among black women, and may be even higher than official figures indicate.

Where I get the news:

  • The above items all came to my attention via the Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy report. It’s a roundup of news from mainstream media sources, so the usual disclaimers apply, but it’s a good place to get an overview.

Commentary on the news:

  • Day Gardner of the National Black Pro-Life Union comments on the Jena Six
  • liberaljournal at Booman Tribune reminds us, Don’t Forget the Other Jena’s.
  • District Attorney Reed Walters said of a protest by several thousand supporters of the Jena Six on September 20: “I firmly believe and am confident of the fact that had it not been for the direct intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ last Thursday, a disaster would have happened. You can quote me on that.” Thanks, I think I will. Apparently a large gathering of mostly African-American protestors is a sufficient threat as to require divine intervention. I bet poor Jesus never even had time for a smoke break during the 50s and 60s.

News that makes me worry that I was unintentionally prescient:

September 11

Have been avoiding the news today. I don’t need the media to tell me what I remember. I’ll read about the Petraeus report, but I’ll do it tomorrow, as I refuse on general principles to go along with this latest effort by the Bush Administration to pretend that the Iraq war had anything to do with September 11.

Instead, observed “Patriot Day” by writing my members of Congress to beg them to try to stop George Bush from attacking Iran.

Hey, the warmongers have their definition of patriotism, and I have mine.

“Women Deliver” global maternal health conference

I was just reading about the “Women Deliver” conference. It sounds wonderful, and badly needed. Most of it.

Promoting the health of mothers and children is something that should naturally be a part of the pro-life cause. I mean, I shouldn’t even need to say that. We should be all over a conference like this. We should be holding it! And yet, it appears to be run by the type of advocates who consider expanding access to abortion — all abortions, not just those done out of medical necessity — as part and parcel of improving women’s health. It makes sense if you accept that women will always have abortions, and that the best that can be hoped for is to replace unsafe abortions with safe(r) ones.

Of course, people who consider abortion violence against a human child (not to mention violence directed toward the mother as well) can’t accept that, any more than death-penalty opponents can accept capital punishment as part of the agenda for reducing crime. But just as death-penalty opponents can work with proponents on crime-prevention measures such as improved policing, pro-lifers should be able to work with pro-choicers on improving womens’ access to medical care, safe delivery options, HIV prevention, family planning, and many other measures.

I say “should”, because I don’t believe it’ll actually happen. Too many pro-lifers seem to think that working with pro-choicers on anything is tantamount to being complicit in promoting abortion. And too many pro-choicers are unwilling to ever work on issues like women’s health and family planning without bringing abortion access in as part of a package deal.

There is a scheduled plenary session called “Working on Common Ground”:

Ensuring that women and newborns are healthy and are able to contribute their full potential is both a social and an economic investment. How can various disciplines and movements work together and advocate more effectively to realize this potential?

I think that would be a fine venue for promoting the idea that pro-lifers and pro-choicers ought to be able to work together on nonviolent means of improving women’s and children’s health, don’t you?

Of course, given the agenda of the “Addressing the Controversies in Reproductive Health and Rights” plenary:

1994 ICPD marked a paradigm shift in population policy to a woman-centered, reproductive health and rights approach. It also led to controversy. This plenary will examine four areas where action has not matched international commitments:

* Are religion and culture positive or negative forces in influencing reproductive health policy?
* Do young people have a right to access a full range of reproductive health services as well as information?
* How best can the public health goal of eliminating unsafe abortion be achieved?
* Are women’s rights human rights?

…well, my hopes aren’t high.

(And damn it, I hate that the term “reproductive health and rights” throws up red flags for me, because reproductive health and rights are vitally important! Access to medical care, choice in childbirth, contraception, the right to be educated about how one’s own body works, the right to be free from sexual violence and coercion — it’s a tragedy that so many women, hell, probably most women, don’t have these things. And yet, and yet, and yet… the violence of abortion always creeps in. As if we can’t even imagine our lives free of pain, free of violence, free of destruction.)

Other suspect people

To: Lisa Boyce, Vice President of Public Affairs, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin

Dear Ms. Boyce:

An article in last week’s Shepherd-Express attributed the following to you:

Boyce also noted that while WRTL condemned Paul Hill Days, its press release provided enough information about the event and its organizers to allow supporters to seek out more information and attend it.

You seem to have been implying that Wisconsin Right to Life actually covertly supported Paul Hill Days, and that their statement of denunciation was just for show.

If in fact that is your position, I wish to bring to your attention some people who provided even more information about Paul Hill Days than WRTL did, usually in the form of linking to the event’s web site:

Better keep an eye on all of us.