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!

Donate for prenatal care in Nebraska

Last week, I posted about women in Nebraska who have lost public funding for their prenatal care due to immigration politics.  Fear and uncertainty are driving some of these women to consider abortion because they're not sure how they'll be able to bear and raise their children.  Now there is a way that you can help. All Our Lives has created a charity badge for donations to One World Community Health Centers, Inc., aka Indian-Chicano Health Center, Inc., of Omaha, Nebraska.

If you wish, you may designate your gift specifically for prenatal care when you make your donation. Please donate if you can; if you can't, please help by spreading the word!

(Crossposted to All Our Lives)

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)

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.

Schultheis to Infants: Drop Dead

Shorter Dave Schultheis: Sure, we could prevent newborns from getting AIDS, but that would mean their mothers wouldn’t feel guilt about having sex I disapprove of.

From Schultheis’ web page: “All life is precious, from conception to natural death.” What, unless you can use that person’s death to punish a slut? Yes, death. I know he just says he wants babies to get very badly ill and then grow up, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

I really don’t want to hear anymore about “voting pro-life” when a guy like this would qualify. Seriously, I am DONE. I may actually make that a house rule on this blog. (And how do I not have a “misogyny” tag yet? Must remedy that.)

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.

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.

Platform meeting

I went to our local Democratic Platform meeting today. I didn’t get a chance to talk about the proposed abortion reduction plank, unfortunately. The way that the meetings are set up, everybody lists the issues they want to talk about, and then the issues are grouped into more general topics. Then, they pick the five or so topics that the most people want to talk about and split up into small groups to hash out the details. Abortion and related subjects fell under “women’s issues and LGBT issues”, but that topic didn’t make the cut. I ended up in the “restoring democracy and the rule of law” small group instead, which was the other subject I’d come to talk about anyway.

Participants were encouraged to submit a write-up of subjects that were important to them but that we didn’t have a chance to discuss in the meeting. The write-ups had to be handed in by the end of the meeting in order to be sent on to the campaign, so I quickly filled up the back of a flyer with ideas on abortion reduction. (I might wish in retrospect that I’d brought something to write with besides a purple pen, but that’s OK.) I wrote that all Democrats, pro-life and pro-choice, should be able to agree on reducing abortion not only by reducing unplanned pregnancies, but also by working to ensure that no woman feels compelled by financial and social pressures to have an abortion. I set out several concrete proposals, including:

* improved access to contraception, and funding for comprehensive sex education;
* direct financial aid for low-income mothers;
* improved parental leave; paid leave; encouraging fathers to take leave;
* subsidized child care for low-income women and students;
* guaranteed health care for pregnant women and children, including unborn children (to cover things like prenatal surgery);
* a public education program aimed at partners, parents, and peers of pregnant women, urging them to be supportive and not abandon the women in their lives;
* passage of the Kennedy-Brownback bill that would provide accurate information and support to families whose unborn child has been diagnosed with a genetic disease;
* passage of FFL’s bill which would establish a pilot program for initiatives aimed at supporting pregnant and parenting students on college campuses. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really remember the details of this.

There are other things I wish I’d remembered, such as health care for postpartum moms (but then, universal health care should be a Democratic position anyway) and economic incentives for job-sharing, flex time, and other family-friendly employment arrangements.

Finally, I urged whoever might be reading to recognize the diversity of opinions on abortion within the Democratic Party, and not to make the mistake of stereotyping opponents of abortion as conservative, anti-woman, religious zealots.

I don’t know if it’ll do any good, but I look at it this way; we may not make any progress with grassroots efforts (at least, not right away), but we’ll never make any progress without them.

(Sorry about the incomplete version of this post that hit the feeds; I hit “Publish” instead of “Save”.)

Cue whining: “But it was just a JOKE!”

So, apparently Damon Wayans is working with handpicked young artists to “develop innovative television shows for the internet.” And apparently their idea of innovation is making fun of violence against women and children. (Warning: the video is potentially triggery, as is the rest of this post.) For those of you who would rather not watch the video and possibly generate ad revenue for its creators, here’s the rundown: a woman calls her boyfriend to tell him she’s pregnant. He pretends to be happy about the news; she’s thrilled that he wants the baby, and starts making plans for their new family life. When he gets off the phone, he calls for help, and “Abortion Man” answers the call. Abortion Man accosts the young woman as she’s walking down the street and beats and kicks her. Miscarriage hilarity ensues.

I really hesitated to post this, because I know that giving the creeps who made this video more publicity is exactly what they want, and will let them claim they’re “edgy”. But we need to speak up and let them know that they’re not edgy or funny or clever; they’re just misogynistic bullies.

This isn’t funny:

At 1:15 in the morning a pregnant woman is beaten in her apartment on Hickory Street. Police say the suspect, who’s apparently the baby’s father, repeatedly punched the woman in her body, face and head. He reportedly told her he was going to “make her lose that baby.”
[…]
According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 324,000 pregnant women are hurt every year by an intimate partner or former partner. And a study a few years ago that found homicide was a leading cause of death among pregnant women.

This isn’t edgy:

Excited by the ultrasound Jan. 7, [Ashley] Lyons made plans to show the fetal pictures to her ex-boyfriend, Roger McBeath Jr., 22. She left her family’s home, telling her mother she would be back for dinner. But when her father and brother found her, she was sitting in her parked car — with the car engine running and the headlights on.

She had been shot twice in the head and once in the neck. In her lap was her handbag — half opened — with the ultrasound picture inside, her father said.

“He knew that if she had that baby that she would be in his life forever, and he didn’t want that,” said prosecutor Shawna Jewell.

On a cold Kentucky afternoon four days later, Lyons was buried with her tiny baby tucked into her arms.

And this is the work of monsters, not superheroes:

[Roxanne] Fernando was pressured to terminate her pregnancy and initially agreed. She later had a “change of heart” and that set in motion a chilling chain of events, he said.

“It would be the fetus that would drive the planned and deliberate killing of Ms. Fernando,” Davidson said.
[…]
Fernando was hit with a wrench up to 20 times, bound with tape and wrapped in a blanket before being stuffed in the trunk of the car.

It was thought she was dead. But as the car began driving away, sounds could be heard coming from the rear.

“There was a realization Roxanne Fernando was still alive. They could hear moaning,” Davidson said. […]

Fernando was taken to a remote area near Mollard Road and Ritchie Street in northwest Winnipeg and repeatedly beaten with a broken hockey stick until she was obviously dead.

I’ll update this post with contact information for Damon Wayans or wayouttv.com as soon as I find some — it’s surprisingly difficult to come by. I left a comment on their web site, but you have to create an account to do that. (On the bright side, you can use Mailinator to create a throwaway email address for your account.) If anyone finds a better way to contact them, please let me know.

(ht: feministing)

Pro Every Life, Pro Woman, Pro Reproductive Justice for All

Marysia has the manifesto online and ready for signing!

Pro Every Life, Pro Woman, Pro Reproductive Justice for All: A Manifesto

Sponsored by: Turn the Clock Forward & the Nonviolent Choice Directory

We, the undersigned, affirm that:

We are pro every life, before, during, and ever after birth.

Therefore we vigorously, straightforwardly advocate women’s right to nonviolent sexual and reproductive choice.

What is nonviolent choice? (more…)