A farewell of sorts

As you may have noticed, recently I’ve been involved with an exciting new project. I’ve teamed up with Marysia of the Nonviolent Choice Directory to start All Our Lives. This project has been a long time coming. It started back in 2008, when Marysia and I shared our frustration that there was no longer any organization that advocated for contraception, sex education, and other vital needs without advocating for abortion as well.

Others, like LAMom and Cecilia Brown of PLAGAL gave their support, and we launched in March of this year.

We call ourselves a “reproductive peace” organization, which combines principles of the reproductive justice movement and the consistent life ethic. We reject the violence of abortion, and instead work for all women to have the power to make all nonviolent choices about their sexual and reproductive lives.

If that sounds interesting, please visit our web site and get involved. In particular, we’d love to have help getting the Nonviolent Choice Directory ported over to the new site.

This blog will stay up indefinitely — I have the server space, and it’s easy enough to maintain — but I have no plans to add to it. Thank you to everyone who has read and commented over the years; it’s meant a lot to me to know that there are other people out there who share some of my beliefs and frustrations. :) I hope to see you on the new site!

The law problem

Last Saturday, I had my first long-form interview on the Shared Sacrifice BlogTalkRadio show. It was more than a little nerve-wracking. The great thing about Shared Sacrifice is that guests get a full hour to talk about the issues that are important to them. The difficult thing is — guests get a full hour to talk about the issues that are important to them! I’m very much an introvert, so it’s rare for me to talk to anyone for an hour straight about anything.

It went pretty well, with one exception. The question of legal policy came up, as it always does, and I had a lot of trouble with it. It’s very hard to answer. I know what’s wrong. It’s wrong that unborn human beings have no status in law. It’s wrong for the destruction of one of our daughters or sons before birth to be considered the equivalent of an appendectomy.

It’s also wrong that Amalia in Nicaragua can’t be treated for cancer because she’s pregnant. It’s wrong that a woman who has a miscarriage could face prosecution in Utah. It’s wrong that Christine Taylor could fall down a flight of stairs and then be arrested for attempted feticide after she went to the emergency room to see if she and her baby were OK.

I know what I want. I want social and legal recognition that in every pregnancy, there are two (or more) lives whose needs and interests we need to balance.

What I don’t know is how to get there from here. I don’t know how to get to the point of balancing two people’s interests when we only acknowledge one person’s existence. I also don’t know how to legally acknowledge the personhood of the unborn, in anything remotely resembling the current political climate, without inviting situations like Amalia’s and Christine Taylor’s.

I know what we can do. We can make the case for the human personhood of both pregnant women and the children they carry. We can urge people to consider that when they have sex, they are responsible for the well-being not only of themselves and their partners, but of any children they might conceive as well. We can work for women’s freedom to make all nonviolent choices regarding sexuality and reproduction. We can work for laws that directly benefit both mother and child, such as the expansion of prenatal care in Nebraska.

Beyond that … I’m just not sure.

I would very much like to hear your thoughts, either here or at All Our Lives. What laws can pro-balance people favor to bring about justice for women and children without contributing to the further oppression of either party?

(cross-posted to All Our Lives)

Shared Sacrifice podcast shout-out

I got a shout-out on the February 5 episode of the Shared Sacrifice podcast. Much of the content of the podcast is drawn from a blog post Matt made last summer after the murder of George Tiller. He also referred to my first Shared Sacrifice article from last year, “A Primer on Pro-Life Progressivism”. Matt’s a self-identified pro-choicer, but he sees a lot of common ground with progressive pro-lifers and considers us to be vital to the future of the abortion debate:

“The only reasonable ground to have a debate about abortion is a progressive ground, where both those who are ardently in favor of reproductive rights and those who are concerned about the status of the unborn can come together and help — together — build a world that is truly, and universally, pro-life.”

Thanks, Matt!

Maybe we need a movement to find common ground among people looking for common ground

Speaking of common ground, Marysia has braved the intensely hostile waters of RHRealityCheck with a post titled, What the First Wave of Feminism Can Teach the First Wave of Common Ground.

What I love about Marysia’s writing is that without compromising her own views, she takes the arguments of pro-choice feminists very seriously. She doesn’t dismiss them or lie about them. She doesn’t have to, because her convictions are solid. And frankly, pro-choice feminists are right about a lot of injustices facing women, and failing to understand that will be the downfall of the pro-life establishment.

Signal boost: Send a Safe Birthing Kit for $8

via Nonviolent Choice:

If you have access to the Internet, chances are that even with the global economic downturn, you are still, wherever you may live, prosperous compared to the average person and family in the Two-Thirds World.

Are you still able to spare $8? UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, will send on your behalf a birthing kit to help protect and save the lives of one mother and one baby in a materially poor country.

(Note: UMCOR’s relief work is something that I suspect people of all faiths and none could support–not all Christians use relief work as a pretense for prostelytizing by a long shot–but please check this out for yourself.)

Maternal and child mortality are interconnected global scourges. They are directly caused by the inhumane failure to make widely available even low-tech, inexpensive solutions like birthing kits or oral rehydration therapy to those who most desperately need them.

As UNFPA insists, “No Woman Should Die Giving Birth.” Please visit this UNFPA site if you want to learn more about this unnecessary, preventable global injustice–and please be the solution for one mother and one baby through UMCOR.

Large institutional changes in health care are necessary to solve the problem on a massive scale, but individuals and families in the present cry out for direct and immediate help, too.

Surely this is an area where prolife and prochoice can and should cooperate.

“Abstain, or else no one will believe you if you’re raped”

Via Feministing, an abstinence education horror story.

A group called “Abstinence ‘Till Marriage Education” is receiving $600,000 to provide abstinence-only “education” in Ohio. Now, I’m used to hearing stories about abstinence-only programs calling young people (especially young female people) who have sex impure and possessed of low moral character, or comparing them to chewed gum or used duct tape. ATM’s “Abstain, or else no one will believe you if you’re raped” approach may be a new low, though.

You can see the whole sordid mess at their website, Miss the Mess.com – Party Rooms. (ETA: not anymore — see below)

To summarize briefly: the site tells the story of four teenagers who were at a party. Two of them leave, and then one (Rochelle) accuses the other (Jason) of having raped her. The four tell their accounts of what happened.

According to Jason’s ex-girlfriend, Jason “expected sex to be part of any relationship he was in” while “Rochelle was considered a slut.” The viewer is asked whose story is considered the least credible. I assume you won’t be surprised when the answer is “Rochelle.” She’s had sex, you see — or at least, rumor has it that she’s had sex, and having rumors going around about you is risky behavior! (You’re wondering why having had actual, non-rumored sex doesn’t destroy Jason’s credibility, aren’t you? What are you, some kind of feminist?) She also made “questionable decisions” — like driving her drunk friend home from a party when there was a boy who offered to drive him instead.

Interestingly, I’m looking through the page several hours after I first viewed it, and it appears that ATM have made some quick changes to the public face of their program. The quiz no longer answers the question of who is considered least credible. There’s also now a giant disclaimer at the beginning stating that “any crime occurring as a result of risky decision [sic] is still a crime and ATM Education strongly encourages teens to seek a trusted adult or notify the proper authorities in such cases.”

Good luck getting anyone to believe you though, slut.

(You can contact the White House to ask President Obama to remove funding for programs like this when he submits his proposed budget to Congress.)

Being an ally to women

Marysia asked what prompted my last post. It was no big deal, really — a relatively civilized abortion discussion on Atheist Nexus. Anyway, I’ve decided it doesn’t matter.

Yes, there are people out there who think that any opposition to abortion necessarily indicates misogyny. No, they’re not right. But the best way to rebut them isn’t to complain that they’re closed-minded (even when they are) or even to argue about it. The best way is to be the best ally to women that you can be. Every day, in all parts of your life.

I realize it sounds a bit crazy to talk about being allies to women when so many of us are women. Just to speak about my own position for a moment: I benefit from privilege by being white, middle-class, educated, and heterosexual. I am lucky in that I have a supportive family, my birth control has always worked, and if it didn’t, I have the resources I need to give my child a good life. There are women who don’t have all of that privilege and all of that luck, and I want to be the best ally I can be to them.

As Greta Christina wrote in her great post on how atheist groups can be better allies:

Learn about that group’s experience in the world. Learn what the common myths and misconceptions are about that group, and don’t perpetuate them. Learn what kind of language they prefer… and what kind of language insults them and pisses them off. Speak out against bigotry. Be inclusive — not fake, lip-service inclusive, but real inclusive. Don’t trivialize their anger, and don’t divide the group into “good” ones and “bad” ones based on who’s being angry and confrontational and who’s being polite and diplomatic. If you’re going to be critical, be very, very careful that you have both your facts and your context right. Find common ground. Be aware of your own privilege.

Pro-lifers, please think about that paragraph in terms of being an ally to women, including women who are pro-choice.

Being an ally means listening. It means not assuming that you know better than someone else what hurts them. It means not making everything about you. It means checking your privilege.

It doesn’t mean a knee-jerk agreement with everything any member of the less privileged group does. It doesn’t mean guilt, or self-flagellation. It does mean being open to the possibility that you don’t know everything. It means being humble enough to recognize, correct, and apologize for causing unnecessary hurt — even if it’s unintentional. Perhaps hardest of all, being an ally to women means being willing to take a hard look at yourself and consider whether any of your beliefs or actions may be rooted in internalized misconceptions of or disregard for women. Yes, that can happen to women too.

One more thing about being an ally? You don’t get to tell someone that you’re their ally, and that they have to believe you. It doesn’t work that way. You just have to do your best, and they get to decide whether they consider you their ally. Some people are never going to accept as an ally anyone who opposes abortion. And that may hurt, and you may think it’s unfair or misguided. You’re going to have to live with it.

this has particular resonance tonight

Whenever I get called “anti-woman” for opposing abortion, I feel the same way I feel when I’m called “anti-American” for opposing the Iraq War (or torture, or any of the other unjust acts our government has engaged in).

You needn’t bother telling me it’s not the same thing; I know it’s not. But consider the possibility that opposition to destructive acts can have other causes besides opposition to the interests of those in whose name the destruction is wrought.

Falling down on the job

I’ve been writing up a list of ideas about abortion reduction to send to the Obama transition team, and unfortunately there are a few holes in my list.

I want to write “Work with pro-life, pro-contraception groups to maximize support for your prevention policies,” but I can’t. There essentially aren’t any.

I want to write “There are people who agree with your agenda for reproductive justice in every way except that we view abortion as violence against a human being. Talk to them; they have ideas that people in your circle might not think of,” — it’s true, but who can I point to?

This came to mind again when I read all the hand-flapping about Planned Parenthood of Indiana offering gift certificates.

The network of 35 clinics across the state announced it is offering holiday vouchers for basic health care services “or the recipient’s choice of birth control method.”

The organization decided to offer the vouchers because so many people are uninsured or are putting off health care because of prohibitive costs, said Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Nearly 800,000 Indiana residents don’t have health insurance, she said.

A few thoughts:

  • They’re not “gift certificates for abortions”, the way that many abortion opponents are breathlessly characterizing them. If you look at PP’s page, they’re not being marketed that way at all. They’re clearly meant for basic health care services and contraception. I actually agree with the PP spokesperson who says that although the vouchers can be used for abortions, she doesn’t think anyone would give them for that purpose. Whatever people’s political views might be, there aren’t a lot of people out there who celebrate abortion and would think of it as a fine holiday gift.
  • That said, someone will take a voucher that was given to them in the hope that they’d get necessary preventive health care, and use it to get an abortion. There’s no point telling ourselves otherwise.
  • All the blog posts I’ve seen about this (from “Planned Parenthood is selling gift certificates for abortions!” to “those Planned Parenthood-haters don’t want women to get health care!”) seem to be missing the bigger picture: that there are women for whom this might be the only way they can get a mammogram or a Pap smear. If I’m going to get outraged about something, I think it’ll be that, thanks.

I cordially invite pro-lifers who are outraged about this story to band together and start up their own clinics that provide reproductive health care and contraception, but not abortion. We have utterly, utterly fallen down on the job here.

change.gov

The Obama administration-to-be has put up a web site at change.gov. They’re soliciting feedback from citizens in various ways:

Share Your Story

Start right now. Tell us your story in your own words about what this campaign and this election means to you. Share your hopes for an Obama Administration and a government for the people.

Share Your Vision

Start right now. Share your vision for what America can be, where President-Elect Obama should lead this country. Where should we start together?

Of the People, By the People

Tell us your ideas and help us solve the biggest challenges facing our country

You can even submit photos or video.

I’d like to use this space to let people share their responses, and take inspiration from each other. What’s your vision? Tell the new administration about your longing for justice for both women and their children, about your work toward a consistent life ethic, about the steps you expect them to take toward their stated goal of abortion reduction — and tell us too.

Action alerts

  • Two from Consistent Life:
    • “The September issue of The Progressive magazine has on page 42 an advertisement from Consistent Life on our book, Consistently Opposing Killing: From Abortion to Assisted Suicide, the Death Penalty, and War. If past experience is repeated, there may be some letters to the editor responding to the ad, and some can be quite assertive in a negative way. We ask those who subscribe to this magazine or have a friend who does or who have access to it at a library to pay attention to the letters to the editor in the October issue, and consider if any of these inspire you to write letters of your own into the magazine.”
    • “The research arm of Consistent Life has an on-line survey ready. It’s to help answer these questions: To what extent does the consistent life ethic strengthen the case against issues of violence by being more persuasive? To which kind of people is it more persuasive, and which are more unimpressed? Does the idea of killing as trauma have any impact on people’s understanding of issues involving killing?
      (more).”

    In particular, they are in need of more survey answers from people who identify as pro-choice on abortion, and who favor the death penalty and/or the Iraq war, in order to have more balance as to how many are in each group. This isn’t meant to be a random sample, but they do need participation from lots of different people in order to make meaningful comparisons.

  • Via Nonviolent Choice Blog: the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood is asking for signatures on a letter asking world leaders to make health care for mothers a priority. They are trying to gather 500,000 signatures to represent the 500,000 women who die during pregnancy or childbirth each year. Online petitions don’t do much in themselves, but while you’re there, please read more about the organization and consider joining and taking further action.
  • Depending on the result of Troy Davis’s clemency hearing, there may be another one later today.

Sarah Palin

Whatever else I might think about the Republican approach to abortion, I’ll say this — their new VP nominee walks the walk.

By inspirational contrast, Palin, says of her new son, Trig: “I’m looking at him right now, and I see perfection. Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?” Three days after she gave birth, Palin was back in her Anchorage office with her husband and Trig. “I can think of so many male candidates,” she tells the AP, “who watched families grow while they were in office. There is no reason to believe a woman can’t do it with a growing family. My baby will not be at all or in any sense neglected.”

I hope that her presence on the ticket will bring greater awareness of the needs of mothers, and of women’s concerns generally. That could only be a good thing.

ETA: Looks like I was optimistic.

Pro-life Dems should be proud

Forget about what we didn’t get, for a second. (Though I do want to talk about that in another post.) Look at what we did get. Look at what we did.

Here’s the Democratic platform statement on abortion from 2004:

Because we believe in the privacy and equality of women, we stand proudly for a woman’s right to choose, consistent with Roe v. Wade, and regardless of her ability to pay. We stand firmly against Republican efforts to undermine that right. At the same time, we strongly support family planning and adoption incentives. Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.

Absent any pressure from pro-lifers, absent any push for abortion reduction, what would have changed about that statement? What would have been the motivation for change? I’d have expected a stronger statement of support for birth control, given the recent attacks on contraception, but that’s about it.

Here’s the statement from the draft platform for 2008:

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

So, as you’d expect, there’s expanded language about contraception and sex ed, and that’s great. But that’s not all — look at what else has been added.

Yes, the support for abortion is still there. But because of pressure from pro-lifers, there’s far more support for nonviolent options. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the Democratic Party explicitly committed itself to supporting women’s decision to choose life. Because of pressure from pro-lifers, the platform is stronger on reproductive justice for women. Want to just mull that over for a second? I know I do.

We did this, and we should shout it from the rooftops. I’m not saying that pro-choicers don’t want to support women who carry to term, or that pro-lifers were the only ones who pushed for it. But that language wasn’t there in 2004, was it? We made the difference. There’s a lot more to do, and I don’t want to gloss over that, but let’s be proud for a moment.