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Archive for January, 2009


Posted by pocochina on January 28, 2009

[Okay.  I started this post yesterday, before the vote, so if there are any tense mistakes or predictions, oops, sorry.]

So.  Stimulus package.  No Republicans voted for it, still passed.  Remember this, for the part where Obama and Waxman blatantly sell out women’s health for absolutely no payoff from the Republicans.

Yes, Virginia, reproductive health care is inherent to economic stimulus.  It’s important as a microcosm of the way way that health care reform will be good for the economy – with fewer fixed costs, people can spend more freely.  As lots of others have pointed out, it’s a demand-side industry, and this would improve income for health care workers.  The provision would have simply helped cash-strapped state governments to do what they are already doing, rather than forcing them to reallocate funds from other necessary projects.  Removing the provision is bad policy.  Most importantly, though, allowing women to prevent and terminate pregnancies is critical to women’s economic situation.  It’s what lets us go to school, keep our jobs, and not end up dead in an alley.  I’m disgusted by the presumption that because women need something, it’s got nothing to do with economics.  Women earn money, children cost money, and low-income women are particularly vulnerable  to the fallout from an unwanted pregnancy.  It’s about dignity and human rights, but those things aren’t separate from economics.  This is about the ability the majority of people living in poverty to participate in the economy.

It’s also critically important to see that this isn’t just something that came out of the blue and steamrollered Obama.  He called Waxman and said “pull the funding.”  There’s a lot going on there.  First of all, it’s not exactly accurate to frame that as Republicans doing something wrong.  Yes, the Republicans manipulated and whined, but Obama is a grown goddamn man who made the decision to respond in the way he did.  And really?  Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, anti-woman bigots gotta piss and moan, and there was no way to fail to see Boehner’s pearl-clutching from a mile off.  The bill wasn’t just the place to put the funding because it’s important economically, it was the best way to ensure its passage without allowing an enormous misogyny-fest on a separate funding bill.  What, were that many Republicans really going to vote against an economic stimulus bill during a recess bagel over goddamn condoms?  And if they did,  they’d have to pay the piper in two years, making it that much easier to chip away a few more seats.  That matters not just in terms of raw numbers in Congress, but for women’s health specifically – raising the penalty for being a curmudeonly woman-hater might eventually lead to fewer curmudgeonly woman-haters in positions of power.  Which, for a super-feminist, should be a goal which is actively pursued, not whipped out when it’s convenient.

Remember, there’s a Democratic majority.  By a lot.  That win in November wasn’t just Obama’s big win, it was a huge increase in not one but two legislative Democratic majorities.  The stimulus passed even without all the Republicans and eleven Democrats.  Losing more than that would mean that the problem isn’t actually the contraceptive provisions, they’re just an expendable addition.

No.  The only rational explanation for the behavior here is two-fold that women’s health, livelihoods, and lives are something extra, and less important than having the chance of a show of bipartisanship.  There are 255 Democrats sitting in the House, and 178 Republicans.  That means Obama could have lost sixty Democrats, all the Republicans, and still gotten the stimulus bill through handily.  Just in case I have suddenly contracted acute subtlety:  the choice was not “ditch the family planning bill or lose the stimulus.”  It was  “have the chance for the appearance of bipartisanship, or have family planning for poor women,” and this White House made its choice.

Oooooh, but it’s not that simple, I hear you saying.   No, no it’s certainly not.  It’ s a multi-billion dollar stimulus package, with tons of different provisions.  But I certainly don’t recall any other provisions of the bill receiving this kind of negative attention from Republicans or the media, and I certainly don’t recall the White House publicly bending over backwards to accomodate the Republicans on any other provision of the bill.  Remember that plucky “I won” spirit for all the other important stuff?  Funny, how it vanished  as soon as it was time to lighten the health care burden on poor women.

This is a terrible framework for any real progress on reproductive justice.  Even if there was a real concern that the RH provisions could sink the stimulus bill – which would’ve turned out to be ill-founded  – the immediate and public concession on women’s health continued to show the country and the world that women’s health is always assumed to be negotiable and contentious.  No, it’s not the same as Chris Matthews’ ridiculous statement that somehow allowing people reproductive choice is the same thing as taking reproductive choice away from people, but it does allow that bullshit to pass and continue without comment.  This crap needs to be challenged.  Caving in on it under the slightest pressure isn’t challenging it, it’s legitimizing it.


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Blog for Choice 2009

Posted by pocochina on January 22, 2009

Happy Roe Day, everyone!

This year’s Blog for Choice topic is What is your top pro-choice hope for President Obama and/or the new Congress?

Given my slight interest in politics and my burgeoning interest in government, I’d rather not just rattle off a list of policies.  As Redstar says (in an entirely different contest that you should go read right now), that ends up being status quo-y.  I want the Freedom of Choice act passed.  I want the Global Gag Rule overturned.  I want the HHS granddaddy “conscience clause” gone.  I want Prop 8 overturned, along with adoption restrictions on gay and lesbian couples.  I want emergency contraception affordable and available for all.  I want realistic, fact-based, non-sexist, shame-free sex ed in schools.

Blah, blah, blah.  What I really want from the new Administration and Congress is a spankin’ new framework that will allow all of this to happen, easily, and for us to go above and beyond our sorry history on reproductive justice.  I don’t just want a pro-choice administration.   I want an administration that is pro-choice, with no apologies.  I want pro-choice individuals in government, including President Obama himself, to state clearly and convincingly what I suspect they already know – that we pro-choicers stand on the legal, political, and, yes, moral high ground. 

When I hear the government talk about “families,” I don’t want to hear about them just in terms of how much policing we’re going to do of women’s moral judgments.  I want to hear an explicit affirmation that families come in all types, in all sizes and shapes and colors.  I want to hear about the morality of ensuring the right of all of us to choose our families. 

I want protections for reproductive health care providers.  I want abortion doctors to be as safe as all other doctors, and I want their risk and work to be not just protected, but recognized and rewarded, not just by activists like myself, but by those who decide our health care policy.

While we’re at it, I want the importance of national health care overhaul to be recognized, especially for its importance to women and our health.

I want an open acknowledgement that the changes that reproductive freedom brings to women’s lives will differ in experience and in degree to women of different social, racial, religious, ability, and economic affiliations – and I want an open acknowledgment that the goal is for those freedoms to be available to all of us.  The journey will be different – the end point will be the same.

I don’t want to hear about religion as a justification for any sort of debate over reproductive rights.  If they must, I want to hear about it in pro-active, positive, pro-choice terms – that it is a great and a wonderful thing that in America, my neighbor can believe that ensoulment happens at conception, but I may worship a God, or gods, or no god at all, and have no such demands on my conscience.  Such great acts of faith, the Administration should argue, cannot and should not be made acts of state, for then they are not born of God’s law, but of man’s law.

I want to hear contraception and sex ed talked about not just as a means to prevent abortion – as a qualifier that some kinds of reproductive freedoms are more moral than others.  This is crap.  It appeals to the misogynistic graduated scale of womanhood as more or less deserving of human rights because of how comfortable we are with women’s choices.  Safe, legal pregnancy prevention is a basic human right, as is safe, legal abortion.  Both must be available.  I’m tired of hearing about reducing the need for abortion with even the implication that it’s some kind of alternative to safe, legal abortion.  The only reason I want to hear this line is to point out the utter hypocrisy of the anti-woman, sexphobic hard right which would deny both rights.

This means not backing away from the word “abortion.”  It’s not a dirty word; it’s not a shameful act.  When the goverment talks about abortion, I want them to use the word “abortion.”  I don’t want a clever segue into a less controversial, “divisive” issue.  Reproductive justice advocates are perfectly capable of remembering that we have an interwoven fabric of discrete issues, while still respecting those issues as distinct. 

I don’t just want Prop. 8 and gay adoption restrictions overturned.  I want them vociferously opposed.  I want them treated with contempt, for the toxic triumphs of hate and strife that they are, and I want us to recover from this shame by discovering a new committment to sexual rights.

I don’t just want the HHS regulations gone.  I want new regulations, ones that say if a pharmacist or doctor can’t be bothered to do his or her job, he or she gets to find a new job. 

I don’t want to hear any more nonsense about mental health not legally justifying late term abortion.  In fact, I don’t want to hear any more nonsense about so-called “partial-birth abortion.”  I want my elected leaders not even to entertain that despicable phrase any more, but to shed the light of day on what it really is:  a made-up political dodge phrase that lets the radical right shove its way between a woman and her doctor.

I don’t just want the Global Gag Rule overturned.  I want a new rule for US foreign aid, one that makes clear that American money will never fund the perpetuation of violent and terrible subjugation of women – and I want that to be true at home and abroad.

I want to hear them point out loud and clear that legalized abortion is not in any way an attack on motherhood.  The act of ensuring and recognizing that motherhood is not an obligation or a punishment, but a choice born out of personal autonomy and love.  The anti-choice position – that which assumes women must be forced into birth, come hell or high water – is not just violently hateful towards women, but patronizes those women who choose motherhood by making their deeply personal choice a very act of state.  I want the Obama Administration and the new congress to state this, loud and clear.

This new framework I’m proposing isn’t just about frustration with the constant implication that my morals aren’t moral, that my values aren’t valuable.  It’s about winning the battle and the war.  Treating reproductive like a balancing act, like every act of reproductive justice is somehow toeing a moral line, doesn’t secure anything in the long term.  If the Administration accepts without reflection that choice is morally problematic, it will fail to shift the terms of the public discourse, in which women’s medical and moral choices are, somehow, up for discussion and social judgment.  What I’m talking about is changing public opinion, and moving the goalposts of choice.  The new Congress and Administration aren’t just on the side of right, they’re on the side of most of the American public.  Instead of continuing this terrible, hypocritical dance of accepting shame for our morality, I want to see public leaders commend the American public for its belief in that which is good, and to move us to the left with their praise.

This is an excellent start.  By that, I mean neither to improperly overpraise or damn with faint praise.  It’s just that – an excellent start.  It affirms a committment to Roe, and to women’s equality.  But it’s not what I want to hear in a year, in four years, in seven years.  I’m hoping to hear then about how grateful we are for the foundation of Roe, how we will not just protect the decision itself but build upon it.  And that bit at the end, about contraception and women’s rights?  I want to start hearing that every day.  Hell, I want to hear all of it every day, until it comes true.

That list of policies up top, that’s not a bad list.  They’re not bad things, in and of themselves, in fact, they’re downright desirable.  But they’re damage control.  They’re simply a reversal of the gross human rights violations of the last eight years  My pro-choice hope goes much further than that.  Those goals shouldn’t be undertaken in and of themselves, but as a step towards true reproductive freedom.  They should exist in a framework that right is not just the absence of wrong, but an affirmative declaration of true reproductive justice.

Pro-choice.  No apologies.  That’s what I want from the Obama Administration and the new Congress.

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