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.

Feminists have better relationships, study finds

Noted without comment, because I saw this about 3 seconds before I was going to log off and go to bed:

The results, appearing in the online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Sex Roles, show that for both women and men there was a benefit to having a feminist partner. Feminist women were also more likely than others to be in a romantic relationship.

“If you’re a woman paired with a male feminist,” said Rudman, “you have a healthier relationship across the board”–better in terms of relationship quality, equality, stability and sexual satisfaction.

“And men paired with female feminists have greater sexual satisfaction and greater relationship stability,” she said. “So, [there were] higher scores on two of the four dimensions, with no difference on the other two.”

There you have it: Feminists are sexy.

(“Study: Feminists are better mates”, Chicago Tribune)

Hear, hear.

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)

“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.)

Monday lazyblogging

In which I piggyback on the brilliance of others.

The first post in this series was written over two years ago, but I just found it, so as NBC used to say, it’s new to me: The AmbivAbortion Rant (part 1, part 2, and part 3).

Amba writes about the humanity of the unborn, the humanity of women, the precariousness of women’s lives, and her own abortion in powerful, passionate language. She’s pro-choice, but reluctantly so, and believes that the culture must change to acknowledge what’s at stake in every abortion — the death of an individual human being. I’ve seen the ideas she discusses here before, but I have rarely seen them expressed with such grace. Some passages will be uncomfortable for pro-lifers, others for pro-choicers, and that’s good. Whatever conclusion you ultimately reach, I think that if you haven’t grappled with the issues Amba raises, you haven’t thought your position through as fully as you could.

Just a bit more recently, Fred at Slacktivist compared U.S. society’s acceptance of prison rape with the despicable practice of “extraordinary rendition”.

One thing that both posts have in common is the idea that we should avoid violent acts not only because they harm their victims, but also because they degrade those who engage in or tolerate them.

Amba writes:

In a way I think we do more harm to ourselves, and to the fabric of reality, than we do to the individual who will never be. How desensitized do we have to be to destroy this astounding, tiny thing, a complete human being rapidly spinning itself out of next to nothing? If you’re not ready to keel over in awe of that, for Godsake get yourself a shot of Depo-Provera.

[…]
Accepting abortion as no big deal requires regressing rather than advancing in our higher qualities, awareness and gratitude. It is definitely a part of the Darwinist culture that takes pride in our being nothing more than fancy animals driven by brute self-interest.

Fred, meanwhile, quotes Hilzoy:

But sympathy is not our only reason for not torturing and raping people. There’s also self-respect: the thought that whatever someone else might choose to be like, and even if that person has chosen to be Jeffrey Dahmer, there are certain things that I will not choose to do, because I do not want to be the sort of person who does them.

So, great posts. Go read ’em.

Concerned TV Networks for America

Even Fox feels the need to pander to the 10% or so of the population who oppose birth control. I told you their influence was all out of proportion to their actual numbers!

Trojan recently tried to place an ad for its condoms on the four major networks. ABC and NBC accepted the ad, but Fox and CBS rejected it. Fox’s response was particularly telling:

Fox and CBS both rejected the commercial. Both had accepted Trojan’s previous campaign, which urged condom use because of the possibility that a partner might be H.I.V.-positive, perhaps unknowingly. A 2001 report about condom advertising by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that, “Some networks draw a strong line between messages about disease prevention — which may be allowed — and those about pregnancy prevention, which may be considered controversial for religious and moral reasons.”

Representatives for both Fox and CBS confirmed that they had refused the ads, but declined to comment further.

In a written response to Trojan, though, Fox said that it had rejected the spot because, “Contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.”

So the networks either don’t think they’ll get flak, or they’re willing to take it, for promoting condom use to prevent disease. But not to prevent pregnancy. Hmm. What could account for the difference?

“There’s a utopian view that women ought to be able to have sex any time they want to without consequences” [emphasis added]

— Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, explaining her groups’s opposition to legislation that would promote contraception and comprehensive sex ed

Oh yeah.

Women for Women International

Following up on the previous post: Women for Women International responded to my query.

Dear Jen,

Thank you for your email and interest in our organization. Women for Women International does not advocate for or against abortion. During our rights awareness training session on women’s reproductive health, we focus on educating women about standard health practices for themselves and their children. We discuss prenatal care, infant and child care, nutrition during pregnancy, natural family planning methods and other topics designed to reduce the maternal and infant mortality rates in the communities where we work. I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.

I’m very glad to hear that. WWI seems like a great organization. Their stated purpose is “Supporting women in war-torn regions with financial and emotional aid, job-skills training, rights education and small business assistance so they can rebuild their lives.” You can become a “sister” and sponsor another woman, or just donate to WWI, who will use the funds for their educational programs and administrative costs. There are also other, non-monetary ways to get involved.

They are highly rated by Charity Navigator and the American Institute of Philanthropy.

For those of you leaving Amnesty

Marysia asked for links to human rights organizations people can support if they feel compelled to leave Amnesty International due to Amnesty’s new abortion policy. I commented over there, but thought I would post them here as well.

Consistent Life are suggesting the following:

Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC)

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Human Rights First

Friends Committee on National Legislation

I sent a donation to FCNL, with a note explaining that I was coming over from Amnesty and why. I also let AI know that I would be supporting other organizations and why.

Additionally, I have been looking into Women for Women International, for people who want to offer women in war zones such as Darfur life-affirming, nonviolent assistance.* I don’t think that WWI is involved with abortion advocacy, but I have written to them for a clarification.

* I was particularly infuriated this week by the Amnesty spokesperson who cited a World Health Organization estimate that 68,000 women die annually as a result of abortions, and said, “Once we looked at that figure, neutrality would have meant essentially saying it’s okay that 68,000 women a year die because of criminalization of abortion.” That is a monstrous claim, and the exact equivalent of warmongers accusing those of us who opposed the Iraq invasion of saying it was okay for Saddam Hussein to murder his own people.

“The poor cry out for justice and equality…”

“…and we respond with legalized abortion.”

Graciela Olivarez, separate statement to the Rockefeller Commission on Population Growth And The American Future, 1972. (Some things never change. Unfortunately.)

I was working on a post about this, then JivinJehosaphat went and beat me to it: Katha Pollitt’s first blog post is soliciting funds for a pregnant Tennessee woman.

She’s a single mom with a 19 month old; co-conceiver skipped town; no child support because that dude skipped town; she is clinically very depressed and extremely desperate.

Naturally, the funds are being collected not for legal aid or mental health care, but for an abortion. To Jivin J’s points, I would add this: although there is much debate over the exact incidence of post-abortion emotional health sequelae, one thing on which virtually everyone agrees is that certain factors make it more likely that a woman will have problems. Those factors include pre-existing mental health issues, and feeling pressured into having an abortion. So, not only is this woman impoverished, abandoned, and depressed; but the abortion that Pollitt and her readers are buying her will leave her impoverished, abandoned, depressed, and at risk for further mental health problems.

But hey, at least she won’t have her son or daughter.

I’ve said it before — the reason we still have abortion is not because our society isn’t conservative enough. It’s because we’re not progressive enough. Not progressive enough to ensure social and economic justice, especially for women. Not progressive enough to embrace all human beings as members of the human family for whom we are responsible. And not progressive enough to renounce violence as a means of solving problems.

Welcome to the blogosphere!

I’m very excited to see that Marysia has started the Nonviolent Choice Blog. She will be posting on pro-life feminism, a subject which she has studied extensively.

Marysia is also developing the Nonviolent Choice Directory, with the aim of providing “wide spectrum of resources necessary to alleviate the root causes of abortion–from comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education to support for the women and children of crisis pregnancies before, during, and ever after birth, at all levels of society from the individual to the global.” This is an ambitious project, but one that is sorely needed. I encourage everyone to visit and give her feedback.

Altering the system to fit women’s lives, for a change

The Christian Science Monitor ran a story last week, “Housing holds back moms in college”, about colleges starting to provide housing and other needs for student mothers (ht: Mother Talkers).

There’s a lot of good news here. It’s the kind of thing that Feminists for Life’s College Outreach Program has been working on for years — improving options for pregnant and parenting students by recognizing that their needs are just as legitimate as the needs of the childless, and fighting to get those needs met. (I was hoping that the College Outreach Program might be mentioned, but no luck. If you have experience with the program, I would encourage you to send a message to the reporter and/or the editors of the Monitor to let them know about your work for the advancement of student moms.)

Unfortunately, making college more accessible to mothers is seen by many as a sort of luxury or favor to mothers, rather than a matter of justice.

“Institutions should do whatever they can to aid in this process,” says Chelsea Toder, a co-president of VOX, a branch of Planned Parenthood. But, she asks, “If you provide housing to undergraduate mothers, how about married students? … [Or] students who have to care for family members? Everyone has things in their lives that limit them, and it is difficult to figure out when you must alter your own life and when a system should be altered for you.

This is exactly the mindset that pro-life feminists have criticized for years — that we have to alter ourselves and destroy our children in order to fit into a system that was made by and for people who can’t give birth.

Yes, it’s true that institutions can’t adapt themselves to each and every unique situation of people’s lives. But motherhood isn’t some exotic and unpredictable circumstance; over 80 percent of women in the U.S. have or will have children, and over four million women have babies each year. We recognize that it would be unjust to exclude people with physical disabilities from higher education, so colleges must accomodate them. We don’t seem to have come to that recognition with regard to mothers yet, even though motherhood is much more common.

Besides, I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of single fathers walking around on college campuses.

The things you learn on the internets

Let me get this straight. A society so values boys over girls that sex-selection abortion has resulted in a large surplus of men, who are now having trouble finding women to marry. And who’s to blame for this state of affairs? Feminists.

(The blogger also says to someone in the comments: “1. You’re an atheist. So, do try to recall that you don’t get to call anything “wrong” that doesn’t involved your behavior unless it is factually inaccurate.” When are Americans going to get over this idea that morality can only derive from religion? Sadly, it doesn’t look as though that day is coming anytime soon.)