October 20th, 2013

I’d share this on facebook but the sort of person she is talking about would be annoyed and more alienated.

August 24th, 2013
Holy shitfuck people that recognise these men should be careful. 

Holy shitfuck people that recognise these men should be careful. 

August 23rd, 2013

You know, because virginity tests are absolute proof of anything. *sigh* Where’s that hymen video gone?

August 7th, 2013
July 25th, 2013
November 14th, 2012

On October 9, 2012, 15-year old Malala Yusufzai was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in response to her campaign against the destruction of girls schools in Pakistan. In the face of terror, Malala risked her life to speak out for the rights of girls everywhere. Malala’s bravery has sparked a global movement and we believe the Nobel Foundation should give her the Nobel Peace Prize.

(To see the petition in different languages/countries see the links below)

The first step in this process is to get Malala nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Only certain people, like a Member of Parliament, are allowed put forward nominations. To make a major statement and to show that Canadians believe in Malala’s work, we need all Canadian federal party leaders to unanimously nominate Malala for the Nobel Peace Prize

Immediately after I set up this petition Liberal Leader Bob Rae and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney both came out in support of the campaign. They have been joined by the NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar who too wrote to the Nobel Committee nominating Malala for the 2013 Nobel Prize.

A Nobel Peace Prize for Malala will send a clear message that the world is watching and will support those who stand up for gender equality and universal human rights that includes the right of education for girls.

Worldwide support 

While I started the first ‘Nobel Prize for Malala’ petition and I live in Canada, almost half the people who have signed the petition come from countries around the world. Now people are setting up this same petition in their own country asking for their political leaders to come together to nominate Malala for the Nobel Prize. The counter on this petition reflects the cumulative efforts of these petitions from around the world. If you don’t have a petition in your country yet and you would like to start one, send me a note at Nobel4Malala@gmail.com with your country in the subject line.

Nominators and endorsers so far:

Canada:
Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Conservative MP from Calgary
Paul Dewar, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic & MP from Ottawa
Bob Rae, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, MP from Toronto
Daniel Paille, Leader of the Bloc Québécois

Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto
Salma Ataullahjan, Conservative Senator, Toronto
Rathika Sitsabaiesan, NDP Member of Parliament, Scarborough
Peter Shurman, Conservative MPP in Ontario
Cheri DiNova, NDP MPP in Ontario
John Parker, Councillor, City of Toronto
Paula Fletcher, Councillor, City of Toronto
Doug Ford, Councillor, City of Toronto
Tahir Gora, Secretray General, Muslim Canadian Congress
Farzana Hassan, author and former president, Muslim Canadian Congress
Munir Pervaiz, Secretray General, Writers Forum of Canada
Raheel Raza, author and president, Muslims Facing Tomorrow

United Kingdom: 
Shahida Choudhry
Prof. Richard Dawkins
Peter Thatchell

United States: 
Irshad Manji, author and Head of the Moral Courage Project, NYU
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, author and president, American Islamic Forum for Democracy
Sunil Dixit, Public policy activist, Freelance, Faculty and Consultant 
Bonnie Lloyd, Building Minds in Sudan, Rochester, NY

Pakistan
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Academy Award-winning documentary producer
Bilalwal Bhutto-Zardari, Chairman, Pakistan Peoples Party
Farahnaz Ispahani, former Member of Parliament, Pakistan
Najam Sethi, Editor of The Friday Times, Lahore
Husain Haqqani, former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States
Nadeem Paracha, columnist, the daily DAWN, Karachi

India:
Harnidh Kaur, poet, New Delhi
Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for HR Development & Member of Parliament  
Lt. Gen (Retd.) H.S. Panag, GOC-in-C Northern Command, Indian Army

Saudi Arabia:
Khaled Almaeena, Editor-in-Chief, Saudi Gazette 

Brazil:
Cora Ronai, journalist and author of ‘Sapomorfose ou O Príncipe que Coaxava’ 

Australia:
Andrew Bartlett, former Senator

France:
Soudeh RAD, Coordinatrice Internationale d’Osez Le Féminisme!
Caroline Fourest, author and essayist

Denmark:
Naser Khader, former member of the Danish Parliament

Germany:
Jeanette Gusko

Italy:
Giovanna Fiume, Professor of Modern History, Universita Degli Studi Di Palermo 

October 31st, 2012

The spring of my sophomore year of college I was president of my university’s Students for Life chapter. The fall of my junior year of college I cut my ties with the pro-life movement. Five years later I have lost the last shred of faith I had in that movement. This is my story.

I was raised in the sort of evangelical family where abortion is the number one political issue. I grew up believing that abortion was murder, and when I stopped identifying as pro-life I initially still believed that. Why, then, did I stop identifying as pro-life? Quite simply, I learned that increasing contraceptive use, not banning abortion, was the key to decreasing the number of abortions. Given that the pro-life movement focuses on banning abortion and is generally opposed advocating greater contraceptive use, I knew that I no longer fit. I also knew that my biggest allies in decreasing the number of abortions were those who supported increased birth control use – in other words, pro-choice progressives. And so I stopped calling myself pro-life.

My views on fetal personhood and women’s bodily autonomy have shifted since that day, but when I first started blogging a year and a half ago I was nevertheless very insistent that the pro-life movement should be taken at its word when it came to rhetoric about saving “unborn babies” from being “murdered.” I insisted that the pro-life movement wasn’t anti-woman or anti-sex, and that those who opposed abortion genuinely believed that a zygote/embryo/fetus was a person with rights in need of protection just like any other person. I believed that the pro-life movement’s actions were counterproductive, but that they were merely misinformed. I wrote a post with practical suggestions for opponents of abortion. I believed that the pro-life movement was genuine in its goals, but simply ignorant about how its goals might best be obtained.

I have come to the conclusion that I was wrong.

As a child, teen, and college student, I sincerely believed that personhood, life, rights, and the soul all began at fertilization. I was honestly opposed to abortion because I believed it was murder. It had nothing to do with being anti-woman or anti-sex. I thought that the pro-life movement writ large – the major pro-life organizations, leaders, and politicians – were similarly genuine. I thought that they, like myself, simply wanted to “save the lives of unborn babies.”

I have come to the conclusion that I was a dupe.

What I want to share here is how I came to this realization. And if you, reader, are one of those who opposes abortion because you believe it is murder and you want to save the lives of unborn babies, well, I hope to persuade you that the pro-life movement is not actually your ally in this, that you have been misled, and that you would be more effective in decreasing the number of abortions that occur if you were to side with pro-choice progressives. If this is you, please hear me out before shaking your head.

Changing Tactics and Breaking Ties

My journey began one blustery day in October of 2007 when I came upon an article in the New York Times. This article completely shook my perspective. It didn’t change my belief that abortion was murder or my desire to save the lives of unborn babies. Instead, it simply completely overhauled my tactical focus and made me realize that the current efforts of the pro-life movement are extremely backwards.

Banning Abortion Does Not Decrease Abortion Rates

The first thing I learned from that New York Times article shocked me: it turns out that banning abortion does not actually affect the abortion rate.

A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it.

Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women’s deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and there are 31 abortions for every 100 live births, the study said.

The results of the study, a collaboration between scientists from the World Health Organization in Geneva and the Guttmacher Institute in New York, a reproductive rights group, are being published Friday in the journal Lancet.

“We now have a global picture of induced abortion in the world, covering both countries where it is legal and countries where laws are very restrictive,” Dr. Paul Van Look, director of the W.H.O. Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said in a telephone interview. “What we see is that the law does not influence a woman’s decision to have an abortion. If there’s an unplanned pregnancy, it does not matter if the law is restrictive or liberal.”

But the legal status of abortion did greatly affect the dangers involved, the researchers said. “Generally, where abortion is legal it will be provided in a safe manner,” Dr. Van Look said. “And the opposite is also true: where it is illegal, it is likely to be unsafe, performed under unsafe conditions by poorly trained providers.”

I was flabbergasted upon reading this. I followed the link to the summary of the study, printed the entire thing out for reading over lunch, and then headed off to class. As I perused the study over a taco bowl in the student union later that day I wondered why I had never been told any of this. I was shocked to find that the countries with the lowest abortion rates are the ones where abortion is most legal and available, and the countries with the highest abortion rates are generally the ones where the practice is illegal. It’s true.

Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America—regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds.

Banning abortion does not actually affect abortion rates. I could not have been more shocked. I learned that all banning abortion does is make abortion illegal – and unsafe. I found that almost 50,000 women worldwide die each year from unsafe abortions, and that many more experience serious injury or infertility. These deaths happen almost entirely in countries where abortion is illegal – and thus clandestine. In fact, when abortion was made legal in South Africa, the number of abortion related deaths fell by over 90%.

Overturning Roe, I realized, would not make women stop having abortions. Instead, it would simply punish women who have abortions by requiring them to risk their health to do so. This is all well and good if the goal is to punish women for seeking abortions, but if the goal is to keep unborn babies from being murdered, this is extremely ineffective.

The Real Solution: Birth Control

But if banning abortion does not decrease abortion rates, what does? Why do some countries have low abortion rates while others have much higher rates? The answer, I found, was simple.

Both the lowest and highest subregional abortion rates are in Europe, where abortion is generally legal under broad grounds. In Western Europe, the rate is 12 per 1,000 women, while in Eastern Europe it is 43. The discrepancy in rates between the two regions reflects relatively low contraceptive use in Eastern Europe, as well as a high degree of reliance on methods with relatively high user failure rates, such as the condom, withdrawal and the rhythm method.

As I sat there in the student union reading over my lunch, I found that making birth control widespread and easily accessible is actually the most effective way to decrease the abortion rate. Even as I processed this fact, I knew that the pro-life movement as a whole generally opposes things like comprehensive sex education and making birth control available to teenagers. I knew this because I had lived it, had heard it in pro-life banquet after pro-life banquet, had read it in the literature. The pro-life movement is anti-birth-control. And opposing birth control is pretty much the most ineffective way to decrease abortion rates imaginable. In fact, opposing birth control actually drives the abortion rates up.

As I mulled this over, I realized how very obvious it was. The cause of abortions is unwanted pregnancies. If you get rid of unwanted pregnancies the number of people who seek abortions will drop like a rock. Simply banning abortion leaves women stuck with unwanted pregnancies. Banning abortion doesn’t make those pregnancies wanted. Many women in a situation like that will be willing to do anything to end that pregnancy, even if it means trying to induce their own abortions (say, with a coat hanger or by drinking chemicals) or seeking out illegal abortions. I realized that the real way to reduce abortion rates, then, was to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. And the way to do that is with birth control, which reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies by allowing women to control when and if they become pregnant.

I realized that the only world in which opposing birth control made any sense was one in which the goal was to control women’s sex lives. After all, birth control allows women to have sex without having to face the “consequences” of sex. But I had never opposed abortion in an effort to make women face the “consequences” of having sex. I had always opposed abortion out of a desire to save the lives of unborn babies. As a child, I had been moved to tears by the image of millions of babies murdered by abortion each year. If making it easier for women to have sex I personally believed was sinful was the price I had to pay to save the lives of unborn babies, it was a price I was more than willing to pay.

As my next class approached, I put the printout back in my backpack and walked out into the October sun. My mind was in turmoil, but there was one thing I knew for sure. I could no longer call myself pro-life, because I could no longer support the policies advocated by the pro-life movement and the major pro-life organizations. I no longer wanted to see Roe overturned or abortion banned. Instead, I wanted to work towards a world in which everyone has access to affordable birth control and unplanned pregnancies are reduced to a bare minimum. That day I became pro-choice.

What about the Zygote?

In the five years since that day in October, I have rethought many things. I no longer believe that abortion is murder because I no longer hold that a zygote, embryo, or fetus is a “person.” I also came to realize that the focus on personhood ignores the fact that a zygote, embryo, or fetus is growing inside of another person’s body. For a variety of reasons, I see birth as the key dividing line. But even as my position shifted, I was still willing to give the pro-life movement the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because I believed that the pro-life movement’s opposition to birth control stemmed not from a desire to control women’s sex lives but rather from the belief that the pill was an “abortifacient.” This meant that the pro-life movement could oppose abortion as murder and yet also oppose birth control without actually being inconsistent. But in the last few months I have read several things that have shaken this belief.

Does the Pill Kill?

Let me preface this with a quick biology lesson. Every month, a woman’s body releases an egg into the Fallopian tubes. If there is sperm there waiting, the egg becomes fertilized, and this fertilized egg has its own unique DNA. This is when I was taught life – including personhood and the bestowing of a soul – began. This fertilized egg, or zygote, then travels from the Fallopian tubes to the uterus, where it implants in the uterine wall. That is when pregnancy begins.

Now, the birth control pill works primarily by preventing ovulation in the first place, and also by impeding sperm so that it can’t get to the Fallopian tubes to fertilize the egg. But leading organizations in the pro-life movement argue that there is some chance that women on the pill will have “breakthrough ovulation,” and if this occurs and sperm somehow make their way into the Fallopian tubes, you could technically end up with a fertilized egg. Pro-life organizations further suggest that because the pill also thins the uterine lining, this fertilized egg would be flushed out of a woman’s body through her vagina rather than implanting in her uterus.

Here is how a Life Issues Institute article describes this:

The estrogen level is so low that it doesn’t suppress ovulation all of the time …, and sometimes there is what we call a breakthrough ovulation – ovulation which breaks through the effect of the drug and is simply a plain old ovulation. It just happens. Fertilization, then, can occur. But if fertilization occurs, implantation within the nutrient lining of the womb is prevented by another action of the same pill. That action is a hardening of the lining of the womb. What occurs, then, is an induced micro-abortion at one week of life.

How frequent is breakthrough ovulation in a woman taking a low-estrogen contraceptive pill? Well, let’s take a high estimate – 20%. Probably lower than that. How frequently does pregnancy occur when an egg or an ovum is waiting? Probably not much more than two or three times out of the twenty.

So if we use a high figure, a 20% breakthrough ovulation, that would mean a two or three percent fertilization rate. But, as a matter of fact, pregnancy occurs only about 1% or less of the time, so, in the other 1 or 2%, fertilization does occur, implantation cannot occur, and the little embryonic baby dies.

The bottom line, then, for the commonly used contraceptive pill is this: in 97 or 98% of the time, the effect is one of preventing pregnancy. But, in perhaps two or more percent of the time, the effect is abortifacient. There is no way in the normal clinical practice of knowing which is happening, or when.

When I learned that birth control, not banning abortion, was the best way to decrease abortion, I knew about this argument. However, I concluded that the small number of times this might happen was outweighed by the number of abortions the widespread use of birth control would prevent. Yet even though that was my conclusion, I could at least understand why those in the pro-life movement almost universally opposed the pill and other forms of hormonal birth control. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that, even though I thought they were misguided in their tactics, they really did simply want to “save the lives of unborn babies.” And give them the benefit of the doubt I did.

I later learned that  an increasing pile of evidence suggests that the pill does not actually result in fertilized eggs being flushed out of a woman’s body. I began to feel that the pro-life movement had no qualms with twisting the scientific evidence if need be, which was confusing because there didn’t seem to be a motive for insisting on the belief that the pill causes abortions if scientific evidence indicated the contrary. I also found that the pro-life movement is not afraid of twisting the evidence when it comes to things like the supposed harmful side effects of abortion, such as depression and breast cancer. Cooking up “scientific facts” in an effort to scare women out of having abortions rather than working to encourage birth control use in an effort to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies seemed extremely backwards, and I became increasingly troubled by the way the pro-life movement treated science and their constant willingness to play fast and lose with the facts.

The Biggest Killer: A Woman’s Own Body

Because I knew that the pro-life movement believed that the pill causes abortions, though, I could on some level understand why they opposed it, and I continued to give them the benefit of the doubt on that score. That is, until I read this blog post by Sarah.

The anti-birth control crowd leaves out one very important fact: a woman’s body naturally rejects at least 18% of fertilized eggs. This means that if you have unprotected sex that leads to the fertilization of an egg (30% chance of successful fertilization), the resulting zygote has an 18% chance of being rejected by the uterus. The human body naturally performs “abortions” almost 20% of the time. So does taking birth control actually increase the chances of zygote abortion, or does birth control actually reduce the chances of this occurring? Let’s do the math.

Without Birth Control:

  • Out of 100 fertile women without birth control, 100 of them will ovulate in any given month.
  • Out of those 100 released eggs, 33 will become fertilized.
  • Out of those 33, 18% will be rejected by the uterus.
  • In a group of 100 women not on birth control: 6 zygotes will “die”

With Birth Control:

  • Out of 100 fertile women on birth control, around 6 of them will ovulate in any given month.
  • Out of those 6 released eggs, only 2 will become fertilized.
  • Out of those 2, 100% will be rejected by the uterus.
  • In a group of 100 women on birth control: 2 zygotes will “die”

So let’s get this straight, taking birth control makes a woman’s body LESS likely to dispel fertilized eggs. If you believe that life begins at conception, shouldn’t it be your moral duty to reduce the number of zygote “abortions?” If you believe that a zygote is a human, you actually kill more babies by refusing to take birth control.

I have to be honest, this blog post totally shocked me. I wondered about the numbers Sarah used, so I went looking for verification. As I did this I opted to use the pro-life movement’s own numbers on the rate of fertilized eggs that fail to implant for women on the pill. Remember, once again, that scientific studies have found again and again that the pill does not result in fertilized eggs failing to implant. However, I felt that if I used the pro-life movement’s own numbers I could not be accused of simply using studies with a liberal bias. And so I explored the numbers. What I found was that Sarah’s numbers were off. What I found was that for every 100 fertile women on birth control each month, only 0.15 fertilized eggs will be flushed out. In contrast, for every 100 fertile women not on birth control in a given month, 16 fertilized eggs will be flushed out. In other words, Sarah’s numbers were far too conservative. She was more right than she knew. It is the people not using birth control that are “murdering” the most “children,” not women on the pill.

After reading Sarah’s article and doing the math using the pro-life movement’s own numbers, I concluded that the idea that the pill is an abortifacient is used as a smokescreen. It has to be. If the pro-life movement believes that even a very small chance of a zygote being flushed out is enough reason to oppose the use of the pill, then there should be an extreme amount of concern about the much, much higher number of fertilized eggs flushed out of the bodies of women not using the pill. Anyone who really thinks about it cannot help but come to the conclusion that if your goal is to save “unborn babies,” and if you truly believe that a zygote – a fertilized egg – has the same value and worth as you or I – the only responsible thing to do is to put every sexually active woman on the pill. Sure, according to the pro-life movement’s figures a few fertilized eggs would still fail to implant and thus “die,” once again according to their own figures, an enormous number of these “deaths” would be prevented.

And yet, the pro-life movement still up the pill as a great evil. Pro-life doctors often refuse to prescribe the pill, and pro-life pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions for it. This makes utterly no sense unless the point is not “saving unborn babies” but rather making sure that women who dare to have sex have to face the “consequences,” i.e. pregnancy and children. As I thought through all of the implications of Sarah’s article, the benefit of the doubt that I had been giving the pro-life movement began to falter. How could they justify opposing the pill when putting sexually active women on the pill would actually save the lives of unborn babies?

Why No 5K to Save the Zygotes?

A few months after reading Sarah’s article I came upon one by Fred Clark. In it, he argues that if those who oppose abortion really believe that every fertilized egg is a person we ought to see 5K fundraisers to save these zygotes. This is very much like what I said above, except that the focus here is whether the 50% of all zygotes – 50% of all fertilized eggs – that die before pregnancy even begins could be saved. Fred suggests that if the pro-life movement really is about saving unborn babies, and if those in the pro-life movement really do believe that life begins at fertilization, then pro-lifers really ought to be extremely concerned about finding a way to save all of these lives. But they’re not.

Name a disease and there’s a charitable research foundation committed to finding a cure, and for just about every such foundation there’s a corresponding 5k race or walkathon, lemonade stand, bake sale, golf tournament, banquet, concert, gala or festival to raise funds.

But for the biggest killer of them all, there’s nothing.

No 5k or 10k. No walkathon. No foundation promoting research. No research.

The deadly scourge that claims half of all human lives ever conceived is completely ignored.

Here’s Jonathan Dudley discussing this killer in his book Broken Words:

Due to hormone imbalances, genetic anomalies, and a number of unknown factors, between 50 percent and 75 percent of embryos fail to implant in the uterus and are passed with the monthly menstrual flow. If we agree with pro-life advocates that every embryo is as morally valuable as an adult human, this means that more than half of humans immediately die. This fact provides pro-life advocates with an opportunity to follow through on their convictions. Surely, a moral response to a pandemic of this magnitude would be to rally the scientific community to devote the vast majority of its efforts to better understanding why this happens and trying to stop it. Yet the same pro-life leaders who declare that every embryo is morally equivalent to a fully developed child have done nothing to advocate such research. … Even if medicine could save only 10 percent of these embryos — and we don’t know because no one has cared enough to ask — it would be saving more lives than curing HIV, diabetes, and malaria combined. One could say that this massive loss of human life is natural, and therefore, humans are under no obligation to end it. But it is not clear why the same argument could not be used to justify complacency in the face of AIDS, cancer, heart disease, and other natural causes of human death.

For anyone who genuinely believes the pro-life argument that “every embryo is morally equivalent to a fully developed child,” the sort of research Dudley describes ought to be an inescapable obligation.

And yet there are no charitable events to support the foundations funding such research. No such foundations exist to be supported. No such research exists to be funded.

Reading Fred’s article compounded what I had felt reading Sarah’s article. The pro-life movement is not about “saving unborn babies.” It can’t be. As someone who as a child and teen really did believe that life – personhood – began at fertilization, and who really was in it to “save unborn babies,” this is baffling. If I had known all this, I would have been all for this sort of research. I would have been all for sexually active women using the pill to cut down on “deaths.” But I didn’t know any of this. The adults of the anti-abortion movement, though, and certainly the leaders, they surely must know these things. This isn’t rocket science, after all. They must know these things, and yet they are doing nothing.

The Ultimate Hypocrisy

Reading Sarah and Fred’s articles and then thinking them through and doing some research made me realize that those in the pro-life movement, or at least the leaders of the pro-life movement, are incredibly inconsistent. You simply can’t be against the pill for fear that it will result in flushed out zygotes and yet not concerned at all about the vastly greater number of zygotes flushed out naturally every day. At least, not if you really truly believe a zygote has the same worth as an infant, toddler, or adult, and not if you’re truly motivated solely by a desire to save the lives of these “unborn babies.” Fresh off of these thoughts, I came upon two news articles on the subject in the last week that have completely shattered the last bit of faith I had in the pro-life movement.

Barack Obama, Pro-Life Hero?

Those who oppose abortion are all set to vote for Romney because he has done things like voice approval for the personhood amendment, which would ban abortion, but what they don’t seem to realize is that, as I found out for the first time last week, Obama has already done more to reduce the number of abortions than any other president ever has or ever will.

On October 3, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine published a study with profound implications for policy making in the United States. According to Dr. Jeffery Peipert, the study’s lead author, abortion rates can be expected to decline significantly—perhaps up to 75 percent—when contraceptives are made available to women free of charge. Declaring himself “very surprised” at the results, Peipert requested expedient publication of the study, noting its relevance to the upcoming election.

As most observers surely know, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) requires insurance coverage for birth control, a provision staunchly opposed by most of the same religious conservatives who oppose legalized abortion. If Peipert is correct, however, the ACA may prove the single most effective piece of “pro-life” legislation in the past forty years.

In the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, we have a previously unimaginable opportunity for satisfying compromise on abortion. In accordance with liberal demands, the procedure will remain safe and legal, and reproductive choices will be extended to those who have been unable to afford them in the past. In exchange, conservatives will see abortion rates plummet, achieving a result comparable to that of illegality but without the fierce controversy or government imposition in the lives of individuals.

I am not so naïve as to believe that this conclusion is likely to be reached soon, or without further contest. Nor do I anticipate that Tom Minnery or Bryan Fischer will embrace President Obama as a pro-life hero. But it seems to me that, if conservatives really believe in the evil of abortion, they are morally obligated to embrace a policy that stands to limit it so impressively.

Obamacare stands to cut abortion rates by 75%. And yet, the pro-life movement has been leveraged in opposition to Obamacare, and most especially in opposition to the birth control mandate. They don’t believe women should be guaranteed access to free contraception even though this access is the number one proven best way to decrease the number of abortions. That access would, to use the rhetoric of the pro-life movement, prevent the murders of 900,000 unborn babies every year.

When I was pro-life, I truly believed it was about saving unborn babies. If I had seen a study like the one above – that making birth control available free of charge would cut the number of abortions by 75% – I would have immediately supported the requirement that all insurance companies offer birth control without copay. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of lives. I cried about this as a child, cried about all the deaths. I felt guilty that I was one who had survived the abortion “holocaust.” Saving hundreds of thousands of these lives a year? I would have jumped at the idea!

And yet, the pro-life movement is fighting tooth and nail to repeal the very act they should be praising to the rooftops. In fact, some of them don’t even just think birth control shouldn’t be covered without copay, they don’t think birth control should be covered at all. When I read this study and thought about the pro-life response to Obamacare, I was baffled. Dumbstruck. But it gets worse.

Making It Harder to Afford Children

One thing I realized back in 2007 is that, given that six in ten women who have abortions already have at least one child and that three quarters of women who have abortions report that they cannot afford another child, if we want to bring abortion rates down we need to make sure that women can always afford to carry their pregnancies to term. Maternity and birth is expensive, adding your child to your health care plan is expensive, daycare is expensive, and on and on it goes. Raising children costs money, and women who have abortions know that.

The reasons women give for having an abortion underscore their understanding of the responsibilities of parenthood and family life. Three-fourths of women cite concern for or responsibility to other individuals; three-fourths say they cannot afford a child; three-fourths say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or the ability to care for dependents; and half say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner.

I realized, then, that if the goal is to cut the abortion rate, the pro-life movement should be working to make sure that women can afford to have and care for children. After all, a full three quarters of women who have abortions say they could not afford a child. If we found a way to offer more aid to parents, if we mandated things like paid maternity leave, subsidized childcare, and universal health insurance for pregnant women and for children, some women who would otherwise abort would almost certainly decide to carry their pregnancies to term. But the odd thing is, those who identify as “pro-life” are most adamant in opposing these kind of reforms. I knew this back in 2007, because I grew up in one of those families. I grew up believing that welfare should be abolished, that Head Start needed to be eliminated, that medicaid just enabled people to be lazy. I grew up in a family that wanted to abolish some of the very programs with the potential to decrease the number of abortions. When I shifted my position on this issue, I was in many ways simply becoming consistent.

With the advent of the Tea Party movement and new calls for a small government and for cutting things like welfare and food stamps, those who claim to believe abortion is murder, who claim to want to bring abortion rates down, have only done further damage to what credibility they had left in my eyes. And lately, it’s gotten worse. You see, in some cases conservatives are actively working to make it harder for poor women to afford to carry unintended pregnancies to term.

Pennsylvania House bill seeks to limit the amount of TANF assistance that low-income women receive based on the amount of children they give birth to while covered under the program.

Despite the fact that low-income women who give birth to children would logically need increased assistance to care for their larger family, Pennsylvania lawmakers — State Reps. RoseMarie Swanger (R), Tom Caltagirone (D), Mark Gillen (R), Keith Gillespie (R), Adam Harris (R), and Mike Tobash (R) — don’t want their state’s welfare program to provide additional benefits for that newborn. If a woman gives birth to a child who was conceived from rape, she may seek an exception to this rule so that her welfare benefits aren’t slashed, but only if she can provide proof that she reported her sexual assault and her abuser’s identity to the police

In other words, this bill would make it so that if a poor woman gets pregnant, she has to decide whether to have an abortion or whether to carry to term, have the baby, and see her welfare benefits slashed, taking food out of the mouths of the children she is already struggling to feed. I want to say I’m surprised, but I’m really not, because I’m remembering rumblings underneath the polished surface of the things I was taught. This idea that women shouldn’t “spread their legs” if they’re not ready to raise the results of their promiscuity, that the government shouldn’t be expected to pick up the tab for some slut’s inability to say no. As a teen and a young adult, I never thought about how inconsistent these ideas were with the “saving unborn babies” pro-life rhetoric I so strongly believed in. But they are. If it’s all about “saving unborn babies,” it shouldn’t matter how those unborn babies are conceived, or whether their mothers are rich or poor, married or not.

If those who oppose abortion really believes that abortion is murder, they should be supporting programs that would make it easier for poor women to afford to carry pregnancies to term. Instead, they’re doing the opposite. Overwhelmingly, those who oppose abortion also want to cut welfare and medicaid. Without these programs, the number of women who choose abortion because they cannot afford to carry a given pregnancy to term will rise. Further, they are working against things like paid maternity leave, subsidized daycare, and universal health insurance for children, programs which would likely decrease the number of women who choose abortion because they cannot afford to carry a pregnancy to term. And in this specific case, conservatives want to penalize a poor woman who chooses to carry a pregnancy to term by making it harder for her to make ends meet.

This makes utterly no sense if the goal is to save babies.

Conclusion

After reading that last article just a couple days ago, I realized something. I am done making excuses for the pro-life movement. I am done trying to explain that the movement is not anti-woman. I am done trying to insist that the movement really is simply trying to “save unborn babies.” I’m done because it’s not true. The pro-life movement supports the exact policies that will keep abortion rates high. It is those who believe in choice who support policies that will bring the abortion rates down.

I was a dupe. I’m ready to admit it now.

The reality is that so-called pro-life movement is not about saving babies. It’s about regulating sex. That’s why they oppose birth control. That’s why they want to ban abortion even though doing so will simply drive women to have dangerous back alley abortions. That’s why they want to penalize women who take public assistance and then dare to have sex, leaving an exemption for those who become pregnant from rape. It’s not about babies. If it were about babies, they would be making access to birth control widespread and free and creating a comprehensive social safety net so that no woman finds herself with a pregnancy she can’t afford. They would be raising money for research on why half of all zygotes fail to implant and working to prevent miscarriages. It’s not about babies. It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure they have consequences for having unapproved sex.

But I am very sure that there are other dupes out there. If you’re sitting there reading this thinking “but I really am in it to save unborn babies,” I am sure you’re not alone. After all, I was one of you.

If you are one who has been a part of the pro-life movement because you really do believe in “saving unborn babies,” it’s time to cut your ties with the movement. You may be an honest and kind-hearted person, but you’ve been had. You’ve been taken in. It’s time to let go. It’s time to support Obamacare’s birth control mandate, it’s time to call off opposition to birth control, and it’s time to get behind progressive programs that help provide for poor women and their children. It’s time to make your actions consistent with your motives. While I am myself no longer morally opposed to abortion, I and others like me share your desire to decrease the number of unplanned pregnancies and to ensure that every woman can afford the option of keeping her pregnancy.

We’d love to have you join us.

September 6th, 2012

I was at Planned Parenthood today.

That’s right. Planned Parenthood.

Why?

Well, not because I am not terminating a pregnancy, looking for prophylactics, treating an STI or anything else like that. (All those “dirty whore” things that people love to hate on.) Actually, I am sick and I can’t get well. Down there. Not that it really matters why. (TMI?)

You know they do that at Planned Parenthood, right? They help women who are sick. Who need help down there.

And sometimes “down there help” does include terminating a pregnancy, getting prophylactics, or treating an STI. Sometimes it’s cancer screening, diagnosing ovarian cysts, treating irregular periods, investigating pain that won’t go away. Down there gets complicated.

I don’t have medical insurance. Not because I am reckless, stupid, “dependent on the state” or anything even close to that. And not because I like to gamble.

I am a freelancer with no “employer provided plan.” I am member of 3 unions who can barely afford to cover their members, so they just keep putting more and more restrictions on that coverage. I cannot afford “independent insurance” as the New York state premiums are so high that it would cripple my household to pay the monthly rate. Oh, and Healthy New York? Well, I’m too rich to qualify. Too freakin’ rich. (Come over and hang out on my yacht sometime.)

I am white, middle class, educated, married, and employed. Double income, no kids. (I have all the safety nets, right?) I pay my bills and taxes. I have held up every end of the bargain that is the American dream and I am nobody’s charity case. I am paying for my visit. Because I can and because, if I can, I should. And because my money will help the next woman who can’t.

I am sick and I can’t get well. Sick enough that I can’t wait for another program to approve me for a doctors visit. I can’t wait until I can afford insured healthcare. I can’t even wait for the “promised land” of “Obamacare.”

I’m sick right now.

And I’m lucky to be sitting here in a safe facility, surrounded by a compassionate and professional staff that is insuring that I will get help today. They are so funny, helpful, and positive.

I am also surrounded by a multitude of diverse women, old and young, well-heeled and Payless, black, Latina, Asian, Arab and yes, white-as-bleached-towels like me. Some of them are chatty, some of them are pensive, some of them are downright terrified. But, whatever the reason they are here, none of them are “dirty whores.” They are just women who need help with a medical problem. Right now. And this might be their only resource.

And (thank the good lord above) that Planned Parenthood is here to provide help to them. And help to me. Your friend, Jenny Wren [waving at the camera].

When I arrived today, I had to go through a full security screening like what you see at an airport and I thought, “Seriously? why would someone bring a gun to the gynecologist?”

And then, “Oh… Oh my god. I forgot.”

I actually forgot for a moment that there are people who hate Planned Parenthood. Who want to stop Planned Parenthood. And that there are people who would not simply use legislation or bullying to accomplish that.

Once I enter this building I am not safe. Because there are people who WANT TO KILL the doctors for providing care “down there.” There are people who WANT TO KILL me for coming here. That think I’m a “whore.”” A not just a woman who needs to see a doctor for a reason that is nobody’s business.

I stand with Planned Parenthood. I stand for a women’s choice, privacy, and access to medical care.

I stand with Julia who treated me, LaVinna who ran my lab tests and Stan the guard who told me to have nice day. (You too, Stan.)

I stand with all the other women I encountered in the clinic: alone, with friends, wearing hospital gowns, reading magazines, getting tests.

This November, stand with me.

ETA Permalink: http://standwithpp.blogspot.com/[1]

September 3rd, 2012

Growing up, lots of girls get the message that the phrase “angry woman” is an oxymoron. A little like boys might get the message that “sad man" is. Girls are taught that overtly expressing anger threatenstheir relationships. Depression, on the other hand, does not.

New data from a national survey conducted between 2008 and 2010 reveals that between the ages of 12-15, the number of girls experiencing depression triples. This happens at a rate of three times that of boys. Girls attempt suicide in greater numbers but boys, who tend to use guns more, succeed more often. As last week’s Huffington Post article about the study explained, before puberty, boys and girls typically experience depression at the same frequency. “Social pressures” appear to be greater for girls and, of course, we’ve all been schooled on the impact of “hormones and emotions.” Doctors believe it is vital that we teach teenage girls coping skills and social support systems so that they can better avoid depression. But girls aren’t just depressed when they are teens. Remember that2009 study ”Why are Women Increasingly Unhappy?” They grow up to be more depressed in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and beyond.

Depression is a complicated business. As is the case with many things, there are genetic factors, hormonal issues and environmental circumstances. But do you know what clinicians think a large component of depression is? Anger.

The first thing is that this type of anger is caused by a perceived or actual loss or rejection, as described by Dr. Fredric N. Busch in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment:

Patients struggle with the experience and expression of angry feelings. Anger in people with depression often stems from narcissistic vulnerability, a sensitivity to perceived or actual loss or rejection. These angry reactions cause intrapsychic conflicts through the onset of guilt and the fear that angry feelings will disrupt relationships. These conflicts lead to anger being directed inwards, further lowering self-esteem, creating a vicious cycle.” The second thing about it is that the most common aspect of female anger is powerlessness.

I keep hearing and reading that there is something inherent in girls and women (biology, hormones) that predisposes them to depression and that as a result, their interactions with the world are more likely to lead to depression because they can’t cope. They are dating and having sex too early, they are the children of divorce, they watch too much TV. Generally, they are incapable of dealing with the world as it comes to them as young girls and women. They need better self-awareness and coping mechanisms to deal with the pressure. What pressure? The pressure of being.

To become a woman, especially a woman of color, in our culture is cognitively dissonant, and girls respond differently to that experience. Girls, like boys, feel fully human, but culture tells them that they are not. Even the most privileged girls, those that can afford doctors, psychologists, good schools excellent teams, etc. etc. get this message. Sometimes they rebel, sometimes they compartmentalize, sometimes they agitate for change, sometimes they bury their heads in the sand, sometimes they conform, sometimes they get angry. Sometimes their anger is pathologized instead of given free expression because we’d rather call it anything but anger. When girls get older and are, as women, also inclined to be unhappier then men, feminism’s threats to the traditional male head of household apparently do them in. If we just shame them early, maybe they’d grow up to be happier women. In any case, we need to fix them, right? If we fix them they will get better.

Being a girl under constant pressure can lead to anger, and, according to Carol Tavris, Ph.D., author of Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion, “Anger externalized can turn into violence and aggression; anger internalized can cause depression, health problems and communication difficulties.” Perhaps turning the anger inward is an attempt to retain some semblance of power and control.

I’m not sure why more people aren’t talking about anger and power and teenage girls in the news we read about skyrocketing rates of depression. Girls have the right to be angry. We need to allow them to be angry, powerful, physical and popular in “nonsexual and nonmaterialistic" ways. Not acknowledging anger and powerlessness or trivializing it only makes things worse. I’d suggest we’d have a lot less girls to "fix" if we started looking at how anger can impact depression in youth, acknowledged that anger and sought its causes.

You know what else happens in the buildup to puberty besides the “hormonal problems" that beset girls? Girls have to come to terms with a broad assault on their sense of self. They face a daily virtual avalanche of micro-aggressions whose messages would anger and sadden any thoughtful, sane adult. Think about what girls experience as young children and they enter puberty:

    • Repeatedly processing the information that our culture thinks being you or like you 
      (a) Is the ultimate insult
      . What girl hasn’t heard “cry like a girl,” “throw like a girl” or “scream like a girl?” 
      and
      (b) Means you’re untrustworthy, catfighting and backstabbing (ie. Pretty Little LiarsGossip GirlDon’t Trust the Bitchall of reality TV)
    • Watching females disappear in public culture in jarring comparison to private life. Children grow up in domestic spheres where women have authority and are granted moral competence, power and authentic legitimacy. But what they learn in lower school and into high school is that those attributes are reserved for men alone in government, religion, media and entertainment . It’s not a gender gap, it’s a chasm on which girls stand on the precipice. It confounds them.
    • Coming to terms with rape and physical vulnerability. How does it feel to realize, after years of “girl power,” that you are about to go out into a world where you or one of the five friends sleeping over tonight will be raped before you turn 18? Girls don’t know these statistics, but they realize that their physical safety is constantly at risk, that they need to restrict themselves and that, should something happen, it will more likely than not be construed as their own fault. Especially if they slip and make a mistake a boy might make, like drink too much.
    • Knowing that you will never be perfect or good enough if you don’t try. Hearing that charities are paying for girls to change how they look in order to conform to the desires of others doesn’t help.
  • Watching adult women adapt and trade for power in a system that oppresses them. Seeing them compromise themselves and their bodies and act against their and your long-term self interest because they are adapting in ways that seem to make no sense but are necessary.

Girls have to filter their existences through these messages of powerlessness and literal cultural worthlessness. Is this depressing YOU? Girls might be more inclined to depression because coming to terms with your own cultural marginalization and irrelevance is depressing. Boys have their own woes, I know. For those readers and commenters that feel obliged to turn every discussion about girls into one about the plight of boys — please look elsewhere today. I know, girls are doing SO well in school, will “soon” be the richer sex and men are coming to a crashing end! I will write another post when that happens admitting my error.

What happens when an alert, thoughtful young girl looks around and sees invisibility in her future? What happens when she feels a loss of relevance? A cultural disenfranchisement? What happens when her bodily integrity comes to be an issue on many fronts? Consider how obsessed we are with bullying in this conversation about depression and explode that idea to consider how sexism in culture is just bullying writ large. It’s an existential dilemma to be alive and realize you are not important and that your body, the one you believe belongs to YOU, in fact may not. It may belong to your father, your mother, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, a stranger, your state. It makes some people angry. But good girls don’t get angry, do they? It’s so unattractive. But depression, that’s a different thing.

Honestly, it’s small wonder that more girls aren’t depressed. I have three teenage daughters. So far, none has tried to hurt herself in any of the infinite ways available. This is not an accident of fate necessarily, and we are still in the early days. I am hopeful it is at least partially the result of very hard work undertaken by our family and hundreds of people working diligently and with passion to change the culture that sends these messages (see below).

What I hear when I learn about depression in a young girl is a quiet plea to be considered whole and legitimate, central and valued as an individual. To grow up knowing that your society respects you and recognizes your sense of your own worth and moral agency. After we’ve done that, then we can come back to biological determinism. Until then it has zero legitimacy.

Girls need to know that they are sufficient as they are. That their bodies belong to them. That they are moral agents in their own lives. That they are not sick or defective or deviant from a long-established but entirely unnatural male norm. They need to know that they are powerful, but that their powerfulness in the world as adults is not yet recognized. We have a chicken and an egg problem.

There are hundreds of great organizations, started by parents, teachers, coaches and girls themselves that are finding ways to give girls the confidence they need to counter corrosive cultural messages. The key is not to wait until your daughters are depressed. Here are some great organizations (there are many more, and these are in no particular order):

Spark Movement
Girls on the Run
Girls Inc. (good resource guide, too)
She Heroes
7 Wonderlicious 
Black Girl Project
Adios Barbie
Princess Free Zone
Powered by Girls
Black Girls Rock!
Miss Representation
BrainCake
Pigtail Pals
Girls’ Leadership Institute 
Healthy is the New Skinny
The Body Project
Feminist.com
Rachel Simmons Leadership For Life
Keep Her In the Game

Also, check out the many organizations with similar goals internationally that you can find here atAmazing Women Rock.

August 23rd, 2012

Silly me. I dared to feel a moment of hope this week, after the idiotic Missouri congressman and senatorial candidate Todd Akin, while discussing abortion rights and why nobody should have them,insisted that “legitimate rape”, as he put it, rarely leads to pregnancy.

His fellow Republicans remarkably hastened to distance themselves from the ignoramus, and urged him to drop out of the senate race. The Republican National Committeewent so far as to pull fundingfrom his campaign. I dared hope Akin would prove the darkness before the dawn, the moment America’s right wing would collectively snap out of it and cry: “What happened? We’ve hit rock bottom! Republicans are supposed to be the party of small government, personal liberty and fiscal responsibility, remember? Not the haven for theocrats, science deniers and constant smouldering outrage at the thought of consenting adults engaging in non-procreative sexual activity!”

Nope. Turns out Republicans don’t disagree with Akin’s abortion views so much as deplore his discussing them in public. The first rule of the Medieval-Flavored Misogyny Club is don’t talk about the Medieval-Flavored Misogyny Club, especially not a couple of days before GOP conventioneers announce their extremist anti-abortion plank in this year’s campaign platform.

As James Hohmannreportedfor Politico:

"Even as Mitt Romney sought to quash the furor surrounding Todd Akin’s ‘legitimate’ rape comments, the Republican platform committee [in Tampa, Florida] approved an abortion plank that includes no exemptions for rape, incest or even to save the life of the mother.
"The platform committee instead approved draft language Tuesday, calling for a ‘Human Life Amendment’ that gives legal protection to the unborn."

Even to save the life of the mother. The anti-abortion brigades need to quit calling themselves “pro-life” when they’re clearly “pro-forced gestation”, because there’s nothing remotely pro-life about telling a pregnant woman, “better you die in childbirth than live childfree”. Don’t mistake me for some bleeding-heart liberal, here. I’ve no inherent objection to the death penalty; I concur that certain actions are so evil that whoever commits them deserves death by command of the state. I just don’t think being a woman with an ectopic pregnancy qualifies.

Forced-gestation supporters never explicitly say, “I want to control women’s sexuality”. Their justification for urging pregnant rape victims to give birth, or ordering women with life-threatening pregnancies to literally drop dead, is that once the sperm hits the ovum, the resulting zygote is equal to you and me and has a right not to be aborted identical to our right not to be murdered.

And suppose the forced gestationists are correct, and a microscopic zygote really does deserve the same legal rights as us. Would that justify banning abortions for pregnancies that can be carried to term without killing the mother? No. Even if embryos have rights identical to yours and mine, we don’t have the right to demand another person’s body or biological functions be used to sustain our own. Imagine you need a bone marrow or liver transplant and only one person is a compatible donor for you. Have you the right to force her to donate against her will? Can you compel another to suffer pain for your benefit? Demand a woman submit to invasive procedures on her body, if necessary to keep yours alive? Commandeer the use of all her biological systems for the greater part of a year? Of course not. You can’t even force your own mother to do this. But the GOP thinks you should – at least until the umbilical cord is cut.

Do Republicans really think this will win them the election? I’m only half-joking when I wonder if the GOP’s been commandeered by secret-agent Democrats aiming to make Obama the lesser of two evils, no matter how terrible a president he is. Many Americans like me, who voted for Obama in 2008, were soon dismayed to see that on multiple civil liberties issues (TSA, government transparency, whistleblower punishment, drug war, drone wars, warrantless surveillance et al), he’s measurably worse than Bush. Obama makes me yearn for the freedom I enjoyed under vice president Cheney and before 2009, I figured only powerful hallucinogens could ever do that. Had the GOP nominated some sane, moderate, pro-liberty candidates –Jon HuntsmanorGary Johnson, perhaps – they might’ve had a real chance of overcoming Obama’s incumbent’s advantage and retaking the White House this November.

Instead, they gave us candidates identical to Obama on every major civil liberty issue, save the two issues where they’re even worse: "You know what’s really wrong with America? Too many gay people getting married, and too many straight women having sex. Vote Republican. We’ll fixthem.


I don’t actually agree with her views on Obama, but otherwise, her points on abortion and “pro-lifer” people “hit the nail on the head”.

August 22nd, 2012

These days it’s getting harder and harder for those who want to deny rape. Gone are the good ol’ days when rape within marriage was legal. Or when we thought that all rapes were conducted by men jumping out of bushes dressed in a macintosh. But now, largely thanks to the tireless campaigning of anti-rape organisations and survivors themselves, we’re all a bit more educated. Instead now, rape apologists have to do such intellectual acrobatics, such feats of biological nonsense and such breath-taking disregard for due process and the rule of law that it’s a wonder they can still stand up straight.

The most recent was Terry Jones taking to Twitter to claim that “Not wearing a condom is not a crime in this country” in reference to the new global hit - Julian Assange: The Soap Opera. Yesterday, US Representative Todd Akin reinvented female biology by telling us that we can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape”. But there is a rich history of rape being redefined to suit the occasion; whether it is former Presidential candidate Ron Paul’s concession that victims of “honest rape” can get an abortion or the Roman Polanski rape of a 13 year-old which wasn’t “rape-rape”.   

All of these manoeuvres have an ulterior motive - either to outlaw abortion in all circumstances or to exonerate an accused celebrity. What they can all draw on and feed is the belief that there is “bad rape” and “excusable-under-the-circumstances-well-not-really-very-rapey rape”. While we roll our collective eyes on the issue of abortion and say “Well that’s the Christian Right in America for you”, the defence of some Grand Men uses the same intellectual dishonesty.

It is dishonest because it is 50 years since the sexual revolution and yet some still relegate women’s rights at the first sign of trouble.

The attack on sexual and reproductive rights is continuous and sustained despite all the medical and scientific evidence which proves how fundamental to men and women’s lives they are. Women, and therefore society, are healthier and more prosperous when women and men can access contraception, sexual health information, safe and legal abortion, and are able to refuse sex and insist on condoms. We know this. We know that myths propagated globally about condoms which in turn contribute to high HIV/AIDs rates. We know that women not being able to insist on condom use leads to higher STI infections and unwanted pregnancies. We know that women and men should be able to insist on when and how they have sex without coercion. And yet when a woman alleges that a request to use a condom was refused in Sweden then, well, it’s not treated as a credible rape allegation.

Assange supporters need to deploy mind-bending feats to dismiss these allegations. They need to forget everything they know about sexual rights, about sexual equality, about due process, about the rule of law and about justice. When this becomes uncomfortable, they have to rely on the great “USA Narrative”; that this is all a plot to get Assange to the USA to stand trial. This Narrative means that these women’s justice is just not that important when global politics is involved. It means that we must presume an extradition where no extradition has been requested because of this narrative.

Julian Assange may well be at risk of an unfair trial in the US, but this doesn’t trump the investigation of rape accusations. Roman Polanski has made some fantastic films, but this doesn’t trump him serving time for raping a 13 year-old. Dominique Strauss-Kahn may be a darling of the French Left, but this doesn’t trump the repeated accusations of sexual violence against him.

Similarly, if you are against abortion in all circumstances then rape is a bit tricky for you. The emotional appeal to the “unborn child” and denigration of “callous, wanton women” who have abortions is somewhat undermined when the pregnancy has been caused through sexual violence. When you want to compound a violation against a woman by continuing to undermine her bodily autonomy. But you can often spot a hard-line fundamentalist position when you see someone having to resort to mind-boggling often surreal justifications. Todd Akin, a Republican senatorial candidate in the US, claimed that women rarely get pregnant from rape but instead: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Firstly, I worry for the state of biology education when a current Member of the House of Representatives thinks that human female anatomy is more akin to a mallard duck. But the important word in the Representative’s comment was “legitimate rape”, implying that if you get pregnant from rape then you clearly wanted it. Good rape victims don’t get pregnant, see?

Both the idolisation of accused celebrities and attacks on sexual and reproductive rights drive and deepen the undermining of what rape is and the undermining of its victims. This is as dangerous for male victims of rape as female as it makes any survivor less likely to go to the police when they see how the subject of rape is treated in public discourse. Who would blame a victim from refusing to come forward when they see others subjected to internet witch-hunts, the posting of their names and personal information, and the constant insinuation that they are liars and sluts?

If you find yourself needing to do intellectual somersaults to justify a rape or semantic back-flips to refine rape, then you might want to consider whether all your principles are so flexible.

August 14th, 2012

Lynn Beisner explains the difference between the two phrases “The best choice for both my mother and me would have been abortion” and “I wish I had never been born.”

If there is one thing that anti-choice activists do that makes me see red, it is when they parade out their poster children: men, women, and children who were “targeted for abortion.” They tell us “these people would not be alive today if abortion had been legal or if their mothers had made a different choice.”

In the past couple of months, I have read two of these abortion deliverance stories that have been particularly offensive. The first story is one propagated by Rebecca Kiessling, the poster child for the no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. On her website Kiessling says that every time we say that abortion should be allowed at least in the case of rape or incest we are saying to her: “If I had my way, you’d be dead right now.” She goes onto say, “I absolutely would have been aborted if it had been legal in Michigan when I was an unborn child, and I can tell you that it hurts [when people say that abortion should be legal.]“

The second story was on the Good Men Project this week. In an article entitled, “Delivered From Abortion: Healing A Forgotten Memory,” Gordon Dalbey tells a highly unlikely story about his mother’s decision to abort him and her eventual change of heart. I say that the story is highly unlikely because the type of abortion he says his mother was about to have was not available until 50 years later. However, Dalbey claims to have recovered a memory of being “delivered” from the abortion because as a fetus he cried out to God. He claims that the near-abortion experience had caused him psychological suffering throughout his life. Since recovering the memory, he has experienced survivor’s guilt because he was saved when so many other fetuses have been aborted. In explaining how he overcame this guilt, he quotes a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust who says that the purpose of surviving is to testify to the experience.  

What makes these stories so infuriating to me is that they are emotional blackmail. As readers or listeners, we are almost forced by these anti-choice versions of A Wonderful Life to say, “Oh, I am so glad you were born.” And then by extension, we are soon forced into saying, “Yes, of course, every blastula of cells should be allowed to develop into a human being.” 

Stories like Mr. Dalbey’s are probably effective because they follow the same model. First there is a woman facing the unplanned pregnancy that poses severe problems. In Dalbey’s case, his family is suffering from extreme poverty, and in the case of Kiessling, her mother is dealing with the aftermath of rape. The story shifts so that the mother has a divine or moral enlightenment and knows that she must carry the baby to term. We are left with an adult praising the bravery of their mothers and testifying that their lives were saved for some higher purpose. But the story goes on to tell us how even the contemplation of abortion was horribly scarring for the person. The moral of these stories is clear: Considering abortion is like considering genocide. 

Here is why it is so effective: People freak out when you tell an opposing story. I make even my most ardent pro-choice friends and colleagues very uncomfortable when I explain why my mother should have aborted me. Somehow they confuse the well-considered and rational: “The best choice for both my mother and me would have been abortion” with the infamous expression of depression and angst: “I wish I had never been born.” The two are really very different things, and we must draw that distinction clearly.

The narrative that anti-choice crusaders are telling is powerful, moving, and best of all, it has a happy ending. It makes the woman who carries to term a hero, and for narrative purposes, it hides her maternal failing. We cannot argue against heroic, redemptive happy-ending fairy tales using cold statistics. If we want to keep our reproductive rights, we must be willing to tell our stories, to be willing and able to say, “I love my life, but I wish my mother had aborted me.”

An abortion would have absolutely been better for my mother. An abortion made it more likely that she would finish high school and get a college education. At college in the late 1960s, it seems likely that she would have found feminism or psychology or something that would have helped her overcome her childhood trauma and pick better partners. She would have been better prepared when she had children. If nothing else, getting an abortion would have saved her from plunging into poverty. She likely would have stayed in the same socioeconomic strata as her parents and grandparents who were professors. I wish she had aborted me because I love her and want what is best for her.

Abortion would have been a better option for me. If you believe what reproductive scientists tell us, that I was nothing more than a conglomeration of cells, then there was nothing lost. I could have experienced no consciousness or pain. But even if you discount science and believe that I had consciousness and could experience pain at six gestational weeks, I would chose the brief pain or fear of an abortion over the decades of suffering I endured.

An abortion would have been best for me because there is no way that my love-starved trauma-addled mother could have ever put me up for adoption. It was either abortion or raising me herself, and she was in no position to raise a child. She had suffered a traumatic brain injury, witnessed and experienced severe domestic violence, and while she was in grade school she was raped by a stranger and her mother committed suicide. She was severely depressed and suicidal, had an extremely poor support system, was experiencing an unplanned pregnancy that resulted from coercive sex, and she was so young that her brain was still undeveloped.

With that constellation of factors, there was a very high statistical probability that my mother would be an abusive parent, that we would spend the rest of our lives in crushing poverty, and that we would both be highly vulnerable to predatory organizations and men. And that is exactly what happened. She abused me, beating me viciously and often. We lived in bone-crushing poverty, and our little family became a magnet for predatory men and organizations. My mother found minimal support in a small church, and became involved with the pastor who was undeniably schizophrenic, narcissistic, and sadistic. The abuse I endured was compounded by deprivation. Before the age of 14, I had never been to a sleep-over, been allowed to talk to a friend on the phone, eaten in a restaurant, watched a television show, listened to the radio, read a non-Christian book, or even worn a pair of jeans.

If this were an anti-choice story, this is the part where I would tell you how I overcame great odds and my life now has special meaning. I would ask you to affirm that, of course, you are happy I was born, and that the world would be a darker, poorer place without me.

It is true that in the past 12 years, I have been able to rise above the circumstances of my birth and build a life that I truly love. But no one should have to make such a Herculean struggle for simple normalcy. Even given the happiness and success I now enjoy, if I could go back in time and make the choice for my mother, it would be abortion.

The world would not be a darker or poorer place without me. Actually, in terms of contributions to the world, I am a net loss. Everything that I have done—including parenting, teaching, researching, and being a loving partner—could have been done as well if not better by other people. Any positive contributions that I have made are completely offset by what it has cost society to help me overcome the disadvantages and injuries of my childhood to become a functional and contributing member of society.

It is not easy to say, “I wish my mother had aborted me.” The Right would have us see abortion as women acting out of cowardice, selfishness, or convenience. But for many women, like my mother, abortion would be an inconvenient act of courage and selflessness. I am sad for both of us that she could not find the courage and selflessness. But my attitude is that as long as I am already here, I might as well do all I can to make the world a better place, to ease the suffering of others, and to experience love and life to its fullest.

August 7th, 2012

The Republican war on women an interesting turn earlier today when a male Democratic Senator had the unmitigated gall to use a scientific term with respects to the birth control debate. During a lively discussion of the Affordable Care Act’s Women’s Health package, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), echoed a fairly well-known and obvious fact that birth control can aid some women suffering from difficulties with menstruation.

In his defense of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance plans cover preventative care, including birth control pills, Harkin said the following:

"There are many women who take birth control pills, for example, because they have terrible menstrual cramps once a month, some of them almost incapacitated, can’t work. I know of young women myself who, because of this, aren’t able to work and be productive, and it’s prescribed by their doctor, said the longtime Democratic Senator(Jezebel)

Ew, menstration! Not to be gauche, but perhaps Harkin should’ve said freedom female gravy? As if uttering the scientific phrase in the presence of other men will cause the male penis to come off.

Pretend human being and Anne-Coulter-in-training, Dana Loesch, whose only credentials appear to be an active Twitter account and the ability to say things equally as fallacious as they are horrific on cue, was apparently horrified at Harkin’s suggestion. In her routine temper tantrum, Loesch failed to acknowledge the fact that Harkin never stated all women could benefit from birth control during menstration.

"It’s asinine to suggest that birth control is the only way women can control menstrual cramps. Speaking from experience with endometriosis, there are a number of other remedies available to women that assist with this issue, not just birth control pills. If it was about women’s health, the "birth control" aspect wouldn’t be at the spear of the left’s push," said Loesch(Jezebel)

It’s safe to say that she’s a better pretend journalist than she is a pretend doctor.

In her “what crap can I say to get more ignorant Twitter followers” statement, Loesch also blatantly overlooked the fact that the Affordable Healthcare Act also covers other preventive health coverage unrelated to birth control. But once again, Dana: kudos on being a female and denouncing  a dude who’s more concerned with women’s health than Twitter followers. If anything, this should prompt a debate on insurers covering pills that help people suffering from nausea related to things Dana Loesch says.

Jesus fucking Christ.

July 6th, 2012

Short answer: Nothing in and of itself. The problem occurs when conversations about women can’t happen on unmoderated blogs without someone showing up and saying, “but [x] happens to men, too!” (also known as a “Patriarchy Hurts Men, Too” or PHMT argument, or a “What About The Mens?” or WATM argument). When this happens, it becomes disruptive of the discussion that’s trying to happen, and has the effect (intended or otherwise) of silencing women’s voices on important issues such as rape and reproductive rights.

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