Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

by Pete Talbot

Abortion, birth control, women’s health care and religious freedom have all been in the news lately, often in the same story.

As a man, I’m not even sure I get to comment on this but since knotheaded dudes write letters to the editor all the time decrying a woman’s right to choose and a couple of Montana Catholic Bishops, neither whom are women, have made pronouncements, here goes.

Let’s start with Congressman Rehberg’s response to the Obama administration’s rule that birth control should be provided in insurance plans for Catholic schools and hospitals:

“This order is government intrusion into the private lives of Americans under the guise of health care reform and infringes on the religious liberty of women and men of faith in direct opposition to the religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution,” says Rehberg.

So, some non-Catholic woman working in St. Patrick Hospital’s cafeteria will not have access to affordable birth control because of some archaic religious belief.  Talk about infringing on the “religious liberty of women” as “enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution,” right Denny?

To the uber-Catholic women who happen to work at St. Pats and are opposed to birth control: just don’t use it (you can always use the rhythm method.  That works, sometimes).

Closer to home, the Ravalli County Commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, are accepting Title X family planning funding.  This would seem like a no-brainer — around $40K for birth control, annual exams, pregnancy and pap tests, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, nutrition education and counseling, on a sliding scale.

But of course these commissioners have issues that deal with a lack of parental notification for minors.  They’re willing to sacrifice low-cost women’s health programs for their narrow ideology.

Granted, I’d want my kids to talk to me about their sexual concerns.  I’d rather they have access to an STD or pregnancy test, birth control, or sexual education and counseling, if they choose not to confide in me .

Again, I’m always amazed by the less-government intrusion crowd dictating their moral imperatives to the rest of us, via government programs.  The overused but accurate “hypocrite” comes to mind.

All this news comes on the heels of the Susan G. Komen controversy.  If you believe that attacks by the right on women’s health care issues aren’t still in play, often under the misnomer of “religious freedom,” you’d be wrong.

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by jhwygirl

In a post titled “Profiting from Hypocrisy“, blogger montanafesto exposes the troubled hypocrisy of Rep. James Knox and his pro-repeal medical marijuana stance. First the video:

Read montanafesto’s post. Rep. James Knox offered his services to a medical marijuana business, at a greatly discounted price because his business “was slow.”

There’s more – montanafesto takes Knox on in Facebook…and now, apparently, an email has been removed from the website because Knox was threatening his lawyers.

Neither here nor there, now…the Billings Gazette has picked up the story.

Wonder if Knox has threatened to sue them, too?

~~~~~~~
So all this insane personal intrusion schizophrenic state-rights/anti-state rights Montana Republican party-led legislating has me now more than just barely pondering: What is it these guys and gals are doing up there? Rep. Warburton is obsessed with making my vagina a crime scene….Rep. Kristin Hansen wants to treat LGBTQ human beings as something less than such, and now we have Knox falling all over himself to provide discounted services to the medical marijuana community.

What is it they say? People in glass houses should not be throwing rocks?

What else is there to explain this regressive hate-filled legislation? There’s a ton of it out there.

Kuddos to you, montanafesto!

By CFS

The Montana GOP loves them some freedom, but only when its smothered in their own special GOP brand of Freedom Sauce. While they push issues such as setting up local militias, giving sheriffs ultimate local law enforcement authority, giving healthcare providers freedom to deny services to patients because of differing morals, and expanding individual gun rights including no longer needing a permit to carry a concealed weapon; on many other issues currently up for debate in Helena the GOP is proving that they want to curtail local decision-making and even the role that individual citizens play in politics and policy making.

Perhaps the biggest GOP attack on individual freedoms in Montana is the GOP’s push to override voter initiates and weaken the voter initiative process in the future. If Montana voters had passed initiatives banning abortion or abolishing the state’s DEQ I’m sure conservatives would be praising the Montana citizenry’s grounded and well thought out votes. But as it stands our current crop of Tea Party clowns are trying to circumvent our rights as Montana citizens. Numerous proposed bills target our ability to have a say in our own state.

  • HB 161 aims to reverse the voter’s will in legalizing medical marijuana
  • SB 204 would double the number of signatures required for a voter initiative to make it onto the ballot
  • HB 292 aims to modify our state constitution, taking away our right to a “clean and healthful environment.”
  • HB 280 and SB 176 both restrict in some way a women’s right to choose
  • HB 392 aims to redefine Montana citizenship, excluding many that are currently citizens
  • They killed a proposal to switch to a mail in ballot system which would have greatly increased voter turnout
  • SB 116 aims to take away a person’s right to decide how to end their own life.
  • HB 198 expands eminent domain powers to the benefit of large corporations over Montana landowners
  • SB 209 takes away a city/county’s discretion in deciding what factors should be considered when approving a subdivision
  • SB 228 would prohibit the state from setting up insurance exchanges
  • HB 431 would remove the day of state general elections from the list of recognized state holidays, making it more difficult for people to vote.

So the GOP loves individual freedom and choice and advocates for legal authority to be vested in institutions that are closest to the citizenry… except when people or local governments make the wrong choices… in that case it seems the GOPers don’t want us to have the freedom to choose our own path.

by jhwygirl

Whatever happen to the Republican/Lieberman ideal of not wanting government to come between the patient and the doctor?

Ugh.

By now you’ve heard of the passage of the House’s Affordable Health Care for America Act. Before that vote could hit the floor, conservative Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak put forth an amendment pro-choice people are accurately calling The Stupak Coathanger Amendment. It prohibits the health insurance plans in any government health insurance exchange from covering abortions.

64 Democrats and all but one Republican (Shadegg, of Arizona, who won’t vote for any reform) voted for the bill, and there you have it – the end result being that those most in need of health care – those that have the least – will be left to fend for themselves as those with private coverage move to the front of the line.

For abortions.

Don’t kid yourself, either, into thinking it was anything less.

That amendment didn’t need to occur. Reform was going to pass, and Stupak was bluffing, and many were calling Dems on that bluff up to the vote.

Women’s rights are that expendable for that many? For what? For a show?

Shakesville’s quixote summarizes it well:

But women are just, as always, the expendable canaries in the coal mine. Their rights are toast, which means so are everyone else’s.

I’m going to shout that: WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE TOAST WHICH MEANS SO ARE EVERYONE ELSE’S.

Rights are for all. When only some people have them, they’re just privileges. And privileges can be taken away.

When only some people have them, they’re just privileges. And privileges can be taken away. Think about that.

The most superior Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (of Florida) is over this bill already, saying it will be stripped in conference, after which there is no chance to offer amendments – it becomes an up-or-down vote only.

I trust in Wasserman-Schultz. She’s the type of person you don’t want to get in front of – she’ll run ya’ down if you aren’t going top speed.

40 lawmakers have signed on to a letter saying that they will not support reform if Stupak’s amendment remains.

There are some things you don’t budge on. Pro-choice and preservation of that choice are building block components of the Democratic Party platform. There is no wiggle there.

No wiggle there with my vote either, btw.

Not one vote Not one dime Not one moment of time. Period.

by Rebecca Schmitz

It looks like there’s not enough wingnuts in Montana after all. According to NARAL Pro-Choice Montana, Rick Jore couldn’t find enough people with an overwhelming interest in controlling the genitalia of others; the “Montana Personhood Amendment”, aka CI-100, won’t appear on the ballot this November. I can’t say that I’m surprised, but still. It feels good to know Montanans rejected Jore’s far-right extremism.

by Pete Talbot

It takes a professional writer with some personal experience with Bill Nooney to really do justice to the representative from H.D. 100.

Bill Vaughn over at Dark Acres gives an excellent synopsis of Nooney’s infamous first term in the Montana House of Representatives.

My only complaint with the piece is this line: “Although I haven’t been in a voting booth in years, I’m going to enjoy casting a ballot again,” Vaughn writes. Sometimes it takes a horrendously bad candidate to get someone active in politics but still, shame on you Mr. Vaughn.

(Incidentally, on June 3, there will be a Democratic primary in House District 100 between Gary G. Brown and E. Willis Curdy. I couldn’t find a website for either candidate but 4&20 will keep you posted.)

by Jay Stevens

Nothing:

SCENE: a box factory

NARRATOR: If you thought there was a small chance that a baby was hidden in a box, wouldn’t you treat the box as if it held a baby, just in case?

SCENE: an ultrasound image

NARRATOR: So even if you think there’s just a small chance that an unborn child is a baby, shouldn’t you treat it as if it were, just in case? Something to think about.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Hey, I know. Look at what I typed up there. That’s an incendiary title for a post. But I’m not going to pretend otherwise; I’m not calm, cool and rational about my access, or that of any other woman, to safe abortion and birth control. You and I know, reader, that both strike at the very heart of what it means to be a woman in the 21st Century. Thanks to the pill and legalized abortion, we’ve been liberated from the idea of biology as destiny for nearly fifty years. I don’t care what your politics are–nearly every single one of us uses birth control, knows someone who’s had an abortion, or has faced an unplanned pregnancy thankfully knowing there are medically safe options out there for us. No, instead I’d like to win you over, Republican, Independent, Libertarian or Democrat, female or male, to what I’m about to say.

I think Rick Jore’s initiative should be allowed to make it to the ballot next year. Yes, that’s right. I’m rabidly pro-choice and yet I think he should be allowed to gather signatures and try to make it to Montana’s 2008 ballot without our lawsuits or other rigmarole. I’ll admit, normally the very idea that my body, my genitalia, my civil rights should be up for a vote incenses me in a way I imagine Booker T. Washington or W.E.B. DuBois felt when they saw the outcome of Plessy vs. Ferguson and the encroachment of Jim Crow on American culture and politics over 100 years ago. They were not defined by the color of their skin and I am not the sum total of my uterus, vagina and fallopian tubes. The idea that people out there still want to control all three disgusts me to my very bones. But you and I are able to fight back in this case, thanks to the very person who’s bringing this initiative forward. That’s why we should let Representative Jore gather signatures and that’s why we should be there every time someone thinks about signing one of his petitions.

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

NARAL Pro-Choice Montana is collecting signatures for a full-page ad it plans to place in the Great Falls Tribune.

There’s great coverage of this story over at Left in the West (from Allyson, and another from Planned Parenthood of Montana) and MontanaNetroots (from Shane, who has apparently raised the ire of the anti-birth control, pro barefoot-and-pregnant-is-best crowd), in case you need more info. No need for me to rehash what has already been done well.

If you have a moment, go here to add your name to the list.

by Jay Stevens 

It looks like Rick Jore’s proposed constitutional amendment giving embryos “certain inalienable rights” at conception looks like it will fail in the legislature:

…a preliminary House vote on Monday showed that only 46 of the 100 House members support House Bill 40.

Changes to the constitution ultimately need support from 100 of the Legislature’s 150 House and Senate members before being sent to the voters.

If somehow four representatives change votes and send the bill to the state Senate, all 50 Senators would have to support the bill in order for it to be added to the constitution. In other words, there’s not a chance in hell this thing will pass.

(Politically, it’s a gift to the pro-life legislators. They can vote for a pro-life bill they know won’t pass. That is, they can support the criminalization of abortion without actually having to live with the consequences.)

To be frank, the bill sounds like a stunt, plain and simple. It’s so ill considered and full of blustery rhetorical hyperbole – and its implementation so obviously would be a disaster for our courts, legal systems, and families – that it seems written specifically to fail.

In short, this bill would hand pregnancy over to the state. Miscarriages become potential murders; a fetus become potential wards of state; every possible sign of abortion would require forced examinations of women’s vaginas. (In fact, I went at length the likely results of the type of criminalization Jore is proposing.)

I don’t think anyone wants that.

Oh, and criminalizing abortion doesn’t reduce the number of abortions:

The abortion rates are highest in Chile and Peru (where one woman in 20 has an induced abortion). In Brazil, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, it’s about one woman in 30, and in Mexico approximately one in 40. (In the United States, the rate is 21.3 per 1,000 women.)

The abortion rate in Chile and Peru is 50 per 1,000 women; 33 per 1,000 in Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic; and 25 per 1,000 women in Mexico. All of these countries have outlawed abortion and – in some cases – substantially higher abortion rates than the US.

Oh, and thousands of women die from illegal abortions each year, and hundreds of thousands end up hospitalized. Most of those that are arrested, injured, or killed as a result of illegal abortions are the poor. In other words, an abortion ban targets the weakest women among us.

It’s pretty clear that most of us want to reduce abortions. It’s not a pleasant experience, physically or emotionally. It’s also pretty clear that the criminalization of abortion isn’t going to reduce abortions – and it’s going to cause a lot of extremely unpleasant, unrelated, and unintended side effects.

If you want to reduce abortion, you’ve got to create fewer unwanted pregnancies and a society that encourages more women to carry to term. That means better health care, more information and availability of contraceptives, better and cheaper day care providers, and liberal maternity laws. Those things work. Criminalization doesn’t.

If you believe a fetus is a living human and abortion is murder, you should jump off the abortion ban bandwagon and work for humane health care conditions for all.

Or you can keep fighting to ban abortions, and help keep the abortion rate where it is.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, banning abortion and contraceptives isn’t a solution, it’s a judgment.

What Are We Waiting For?

According to CNN.com, we’re still waiting for the following precincts:

  • Cascade (39%)
  • Fergus (75%)
  • Gallatin (78%)
  • Glacier (50%)
  • Lake (9%)
  • Lewis & Clark (2%)
  • Lincoln (57%)
  • Meagher (100%)
  • Mineral (50%)
  • Phillips (77%)
  • Yellowstone (100%)

I think that Yellowstone one is good for us. We won it. That’s a few thousand more net votes. I think what will come out of Cascade, Glacier, and Lake will be good. Mineral might be OK. Gallatin could be about even. The rest is probably less than idea, but the truly bad numbers are in and we’re still up by 4,000.

Looks like it’ll be close. I’m going to be.

Guestpost by Lady Penelope of Fat Jerry.

My apologies to Touchstone and everyone; I was supposed to fill in on Thursday, but on Wednesday night when I would have been writing that post I was at a veterinary hospital, discovering that my cat has a tumor, talking about things like cell extraction and metastasis and biopsy and other unwelcome words. And then I just forgot. The world spinning around my cat fell out of focus for awhile. And this morning I thought, suddenly, “Thursday!”

So I’m late.

I won’t go on about my cat, quite, because I already did, extensively, but something that has occurred to me over the past three days is that, while the duty of protecting a pet’s life has always seemed to me an awesomely large responsibility, it’s a raindrop next to the charge of managing her death. The value of life is not lost on me right now. I get it.

I won’t be the first to say that we treat dying pets better than dying humans, I know. But there it is. To value life as an absolute though, as an abstract, as good in and of itself, as once and always equal, is to lose sight entirely of what it is. “I think, therefore I am.” To be alive is to be an individual. The essence of life is what separates us from automatons: not the variations in appearance but the capability of making choices, following different paths. Otherwise, we might just as well be widgets. Emotionally, we evaluate the worth of other species’ lives based on their capability of making choices as well: dogs appear at least to be capable of more nuanced choices than fish.

And so when we speak of a Culture of Life, one ought to take into account that one size can not fit all in this debate. Culture of Life enthusiasts–some anyway–already do this: lives would be saved if teens received HPV vaccines, but what of the resulting promiscuity? Lives would be saved if stem cell research were encouraged, but what of the aborted, unusable ova? Lives would be, well, saved in a way if homosexuals could adopt, but then we’d raise more democrats.

Even Culture of Life enthusiasts occasionally choose death.

I think we should take a closer look at the words “Culture of Life.” I think we should usurp them. We should advocate a culture in which individual lives are nurtured and valued, in which our biological variations are not suppressed, in which dignity is granted from start to finish. Kevorkian might be the showiest euthanasist, but he is hardly the only one.

We should really start taking the moral high ground.

The easiest thing to do is to value life unquestioningly. The hardest thing to do is approach life with compassion, mercy. It is an awfully hard thing to let go, to say this life, this individual life, this life that is so unique and unlike any other life before or after it, completely irreplaceable, this one cannot continue. This cannot be healed. My cat is at this very moment receiving her first chemotherapy treatment. I am not entirely sure I am doing the right thing.

This is a favorite topic of mine, how Americans can divide the gulf that separates us on abortion. Because when you think about it for awhile, most of us want the same thing: fewer abortions and more stable families.

In my previous post, I advocated using government to help reduce unwanted pregnancies and ease the financial and time burdens of raising a child to discourage abortion. Seems only logical. Unfortunately a lot of conservatives feel that the way to prevent abortion is to take away contraceptives and criminalize out-of-wedlock sex, scaring people into abstinence. Me:

Here’s the problem. Denying women access to contraceptives only increases the number of unwanted pregnancies. Forcing women to carry their unwanted pregnancies to term only increases the numbers of out-of-wedlock births. Eliminating assistance for those women and their children only ensures that those families will not succeed.

A poll recently released (pdf) by NARAL shows that the majority of Americans agree with me. Most of us are tired of the bitter fighting over this issue and are concerned about how to prevent abortion without criminalizing women for having them.

Feministing has a great summary of the numbers:

77 percent of likely voters agree that the government and politicians should stay out of a woman’s personal and private decision whether or not to have an abortion.61 percent of voters disapprove when they hear Congress has voted 145 times in the last 10 years to restrict reproductive-health services, including abortion and birth control.

Two-thirds of voters disapprove of the laws, such as the one passed in South Dakota and Louisiana that would ban abortion in nearly all circumstances, even for victims of rape and incest or women whose health is at risk.

65 percent of voters feel less favorable toward candidates who support allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill birth-control prescriptions.

61 percent of voters feel more negative toward a candidate who opposes making emergency contraception available in emergency rooms for rape and incest victims.

Probably the biggest news from this poll is that voters prefer candidates who state “that politicians and government should not interfere in a decision best made by a woman, her family, her doctor, and her God…”

Got that? It’s time stop avoiding the issue of abortion and embrace it. Like many other positions that Democrats have been tip-toeing around – health care reform and opposition to the Iraq war, just to name two – these are the center. A bold candidate who supports these issues will have an advantage in an election.

Update: On Charlie Rose last night, Pastor Greg Boyd — who’s a fierce pro-lifer — agreed with the general gist of this post, saying (I’m paraphrasing) that our polarization has actually prevented us from approaching a solution to the problem. Basically he said we should put aside our differences — the pro-lifer’s insistence on the inviolability of the fetus, and the pro-choicer’s insistence on the inviolability of the woman’s right to choose — and work together to reduce abortions…

I just hate it when some loudmouth makes a sweeping claim that this group or that group “hates democracy”! That’s my tag line! So imagine my outrage when I saw Billings’ resident Steve Holle’s letter to the Gazette: “Democrats undermine democratic process”:

It is disgraceful that after the Child Protection Custody Act has passed in both the House and Senate by wide margins that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) would block passage of this bill by blocking appointments of Democrats to the committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions. This is just another clear demonstration of the Democratic leadership in the Senate undermining the democratic process.

Are Democrats in the Senate sheep or are they going to show some backbone and see that a bill they helped pass becomes law?

What is it you ninteenth-century-ists are always telling me? This is a republic, not a democracy, and our duly elected representatives will do what they d*mn want, as long as it’s within committee, Senate rules, etc! (And it’s amusing that the letter’s author attacks Dems for cowardice when they’re fighting for what they believe in…)

Seriously, what Mr. Holle neglects to mention is that the bill refers to the parental consent law about crossing state lines to have an abortion, and that the reason it’s being held up is that the Democrats want to make sure that there’s an “incest” clause. That is, they want to make sure those that help a girl isn’t aren’t going to be prosecuted if she crosses state lines to have her own father’s fetus aborted. [Thanks to DB for corrections.]

See, this bill on the surface looks pretty uncontroversial, as do consent laws in general. What’s wrong with ensuring that the parents are involved in the girl’s decision to abort her fetus? I’d want to participate in my own underage daughter’s serious life decisions, why shouldn’t all parents have that right?

As the incest clause shows, there are often serious reasons why a child doesn’t approach her parents about an abortion in the first place. It could be because she was raped or sexually abused by her father. It could be that her parents physically abuse her. It could be that her parents are especially strict. She might be crossing state lines for an abortion because she’s afraid for her life or well-being.

Is it wrong for Democratic Senators to hold up a bill for closer examination when lives are possibly at stake? It’s not like parental consent actually has a noticeable effect; why the hurry?

Oh, because Republicans are in a h*lluva lot of trouble and need to do some showboating for their social conservative base to preserve the illusion that they care about things other than the insanely rich.

Hm…why did Mr. Holle escape the “creep” tag, you wonder? Well…I don’t know, really. I do usually call folks creeps when they willfully misrepresent others’ positions out of malice or prejudice in a deliberate attempt to stir hate or divisiveness. This just felt like plain ol’ frustration from some social conservative who’s had his heart pinned on a federal parental consent law for years.

Reducing abortion

A while back, Dave Budge drilled into a post I wrote about a recent proposal by Sens. Clinton and Reid to reduce the number of abortions Americans have by providing more access to family-planning services, thus reducing unwanted pregnancies. The eloquent title of Budge’s work sums up his message: “Getting off at the public trough.”

In my recent posts on abortion, I warned against the dangers of imposing a comprehensive ban on abortion: every miscarriage will be a potential murder, every woman a suspect during her gynecological examinations. While many of us don’t have a problem with abortion, there is a rising movement in the States that does. So the question is, how can we compromise? How can we reduce abortions without imposing draconian measures that treats women’s bodies as property of the state?

I suggested increasing public funding for contraceptives and education to decrease the numbers of unwanted pregnancies, and increased availability of day care and maternity leave, etc., to ease the challenge for women to bear unplanned children.

For some reason, Budge assumes that these measures will only encourage more irresponsible f*cking.

In his post, he crunches some Guttmacher numbers about contraceptives funding and abortions and comes up with the following conclusion:

In other words, it doesn’t seem that public funding is the issue and in fact, if we are to draw any correlation, it would seem that the less we fund contraception the less abortions we have. In economic terms that kind of makes sense – the less the f_cking subsidy the less f_cking we get. Seems like an appropriate thought for government in general. No?

As is typical of the “free-market” proponents, Budge boils everything down to a simple cause-and-effect relationship between government funding and outcome, as if the people in the country were living in a vacuum-sealed laboratory pressing buttons for pellets.

Budge’s conclusion is based on his analysis that more contraceptive funding equates to higher abortions. What he fails to contemplate is a whole slew of other information provided in the Guttmacher report, like availability of clinics, number of women living under poverty levels, the changes in abortion rate over time, and the availability of health care.

One example of the fallibility of Budge’s number crunching is the state of Utah. Utah has the lowest abortion rate in the US – 7 per 1,000 women – but placed 34th (out of 51) for its public funding rate for contraceptives and family planning. What Budge doesn’t mention is that Utah women ranked among the highest for being insured (thus probably more likely to have non-state-funded family planning services), finished 48th for percentage of women in need being serviced by public clinics, ranked 48th for laws and policies regulating abortions and contraceptives, and ranked 44th for availability of clinical service.

Despite the low abortion rate, Utah does have an extremely high pregnancy rate – 114 per 1,000 women – how many are unwanted, but carried to term because of lack of clinics and societal pressure? And never mind that Nevada, which abuts Utah, ranks 14th in clinic availability and has an astoundingly high abortion rate – 31 per 1,000 women. You think Utah women seeking abortion don’t slip across the border to avoid the legislated road blocks to reproductive freedom in their home state?

Budge also fails to account for culture. For example, California’s high abortion rate may be due to the ready availability of abortion services, its proximity to Mexico (which has outlawed abortion), and its left-leaning population who may be less likely to carry a pregnancy to term because of religion or societal pressure. Its high rate of contraceptive availability may actually be reducing unwanted pregnancies.

To further discredit Budge’s findings, The Christian Science Monitor did a story on the same Guttmacher report. Somehow the paper came to the opposite conclusion as Budge:

States that showed stronger efforts to improve access to birth control, by Guttmacher's ranking, have also shown higher drops in teen pregnancy: In California and Alaska, the rates declined by 39 and 34 percent, respectively, between 1992 and 2000. In Nebraska, the lowest-ranking state in the Guttmacher report, teen pregnancy declined by 17 percent during that same period.

In the end, there is no evidence to support Budge’s claim that public funding of contraceptives and family planning leads to more unwanted pregnancies and abortions. In fact, the evidence says the opposite.

If we are to take Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1960’s study The Negro Family: The Case for National Action seriously, as Budge would have us do, public assistance only encourages out-of-wedlock births. But according to the report, our obligation is not to abandon families, but encourage them:

What then is that problem? We feel the answer is clear enough. Three centuries of injustice have brought about deep-seated structural distortions in the life of the Negro American. At this point, the present tangle of pathology is capable of perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world. The cycle can be broken only if these distortions are set right.

In a word, a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure. The object should be to strengthen the Negro family so as to enable it to raise and support its members as do other families. After that, how this group of Americans chooses to run its affairs, take advantage of its opportunities, or fail to do so, is none of the nation's business.

The report actually calls for public assistance directed at encouraging two-parent families in the African American community, not booting everyone off the public rolls, as Budge would have us believe. (And let us acknowledge, that this report is highly controversial, has been called racist and sexist. Here’s an article that discusses – and refutes – those claims, but it’s still something to be wary of.)

The main premise of the report is that public assistance encouraged the endemic occurrence of “broken homes” in the African-American community, and that these single-parent families perpetuated poverty. But we’ve seen from a recent discussion on this blog, that this isn’t necessarily true, that single parents often can and do raise children successfully on their own. Of course most of these accounts were from white, middle class Montanans – and in this particular culture, single-parent families are hardly the norm.

So is it a culture thing? Moynihan’s report implies as much. According to the report, while an upturn in public funding seemed to correlate with an increase in out-of-wedlock childbirths and stable poverty rates despite lower unemployment rates for African-Americans, no such similar correlation exists for whites on public funding. Moynihan attributes the difference to the “centuries of injustice” and goes into quite a bit of detail in his report on studies done on slavery and prisoners and the effects those institutions might have had on the African American community as a whole.

Bottom line: Budge attributes to simple economic forces what Moynihan and his report attributes to social and cultural forces.

Here’s the problem. Denying women access to contraceptives only increases the number of unwanted pregnancies. Forcing women to carry their unwanted pregnancies to term only increases the numbers of out-of-wedlock births. Eliminating assistance for those women and their children only ensures that those families will not succeed.

What more do you need to know?

Here's an interesting editorial co-authored by Democratic Senators Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton that is definitely a step in the right direction towards bridging the gap between the opposing sides in the debate.

Basically they realize that both sides want to decrease abortion.

We believe that it is necessary for all Americans to join together and embrace policies that will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, decrease abortions and improve access to women's health care.

There is no question that the rate of unintended pregnancy is too high in the United States.

Half of the 6 million pregnancies each year in this country are unintended, and nearly half of these unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. It doesn't have to be this way.

Most of these unintended pregnancies — and the resulting abortions — can be prevented if we eliminate the barriers that prevent women from having access to affordable and effective contraception.

The bill they're suggesting would make contraceptives easily accessible and cheap and covered by health insurance. They would also fully fund programs that assist low-income women with carrying their children to term, programs that were gutted by Bush.

This proposal is definitely a step in the right direction. As I've written before an abortion ban would lead to excessive governmental intrusion into our private lives and likely to prove damaging to millions of young women across the country. And an abortion ban wouldn't stop abortions, it would just criminalize them and those who have them.

Still, I don't think these proposals go far enough. What about day care services? What about increased support for single moms? What about drug treatment programs? What about job training programs and living wage initiatives?

Basically I think it's important to do two things to prevent abortions: (1) Decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies. (2) Fight the economic and social conditions that make women want to get abortions.

Banning abortion and making contraceptives difficult to acquire really isn't a solution: it's a judgement. An abortion/contraceptives ban creates from an outdated moral dichtomy (sexuality = bad; asexuality = good) an oppressive law harmful to the poor. (That the anti-abortion movement is based on "Christian" values also makes it ironic.) Why impose draconian measures when, by eliminating the need for abortions, we're actually bettering our communities doing so?

Some time ago, I vowed to do a series of posts about abortion. And I started it. First, I theorized that the pro-life movement was fueled, not by the desire to preserve life, but by the urge to reign in women’s sexuality. Then I wrote about how the anti-abortion movement depicts women. Then I wrote an update with more information about the first two posts.

And now the important post, what effect an abortion ban may have. We have no idea how an abortion ban would affect the country until it happens. Until then, we can only guess. And we can look to other countries as examples.

In Mexico, where abortions are outlawed, an exception is made for women who have been raped. How’s that working out? Not so well, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

Police, public prosecutors, and health officials treat many rape victims dismissively and disrespectfully, regularly accusing girls and women of fabricating the rape. Specialized public prosecutor’s offices on sexual violence, where they exist, are often in practice the only place to report sexual violence, further impeding access to justice for rape victims in more remote locations. Many victims of violence fear retribution from the perpetrator, especially if he is a family member. As a consequence, the vast majority of rape victims do not file a report at all. Generous estimates suggest 10 percent of rape victims file an official complaint. The real proportion is likely even less.

For rape victims who become pregnant but do not report the rape, legal abortion is ruled out….

[snip]

The full horror of what rape victims go through in their attempt to obtain a legal abortion—often including humiliation, degradation, and physical suffering—is in essence a second assault by the justice and health systems.

Think about it. Even if an abortion ban is “moderate” and allows for the exception of an abortion in the case of rape or incest, the raped woman seeking an abortion must prove that her pregnancy was the result of a crime.

While the Mexican example seems extreme, consider a woman who was date-raped, or raped while unconscious. Not only do plenty of people believe a woman “deserves” what she gets for allowing herself to put into that situation, there’s likely to be little or no traumatic physical evidence that the sex was not consensual.

Even if rape would be easily proved or in the case of incest where a blood test could be done to determine that the father is…well…the father…it’s likely that the trauma of going through a bureaucratic procedure would discourage many women from even applying for an abortion.

In a related story, this week’s upcoming New York Times Magazine is going to run a full feature called “Pro-Life Nation,” a description of the full criminalization of abortions in El Salvador. (You can hear an interview with the article’s author, Jack Hitt, about the topic.)

Frankly, it sounds gruesome.

First, since there are no exceptions to the criminalization of abortion in El Salvador, women who were raped or whose pregnancy endangers their lives may not get an abortion. It’s all illegal.

In the interview, Hitt cited what happens in the case of an ectopic pregnancy – one where the fertilized egg does not drop into the uterus, but is instead caught in the fallopian tube. In all cases of such a pregnancy, the fetus dies. If the fetus isn’t removed, it will continue to grow until it ruptures the woman’s fallopian tube and causes massive internal bleeding, which could lead to the woman’s death.

In El Salvador, doctors can only monitor an ectopic pregnancy until either the fetus dies or until the rupture of the fallopian tube occurs. Otherwise an abortion is illegal.

Furthermore, if a doctor performs an examination of woman and finds evidence of an abortion, he must report her to the authorities, who procure a search warrant for the woman’s vagina. A state-hired “forensic vagina specialist” then examines the woman for proof of her crime. (Yes, this is an actual job title.)

And everyone involved in an illegal abortion can be prosecuted, including the abortionist, woman, and anyone who knew about the procedure – a boyfriend, say, or mother – but didn’t turn the woman in.

Again, El Salvador is an extreme example. But it brings to light the necessary bureaucratic measures needed to police an abortion ban. Every woman’s vagina under an abortion ban is a potential crime scene.

Budge and I duke it out over just about everything, but every now and then he says something smart. Here’s the latest:

I see [government's] pernicious unintended consequences of action that, more often than not, are worse than the ill government hopes to cure and I hold that the individual is sovereign over the state within the bounds of respecting everyone’s liberty.

Most folks agree that abortions are unfortunate and should be avoided. But I think Mexico and El Salvador show us that a comprehensive abortion ban as a solution to reducing abortions would only create a bigger problem, a government intruding, literally, into its citizens' private lives.

I've had a lot of interesting reactions to my views on how the Democrats should use abortion in the upcoming midterm elections. Those who follow my blog posts know I prefer bold moves over timid avoidance of major issues.

For a candidate seeking office, though, I can understand why abortion seems like a risky issue. After all, the debate on abortion divides communities and creates a lot of emotion. Most candidates prefer risk-free wins, especially on the local level where candidates spend a lot of their own money on campaigns.

However, I think bringing up abortion is a winning maneuver.

First, Digby on the failure of the national Democrats to back up Sen. Feingold’s resolution to censor the president:

I said this yesterday and I'll repeat it. This image of "powerlessness" at a time when the Republicans are on the ropes is the biggest problem we face for the fall elections. If Democratic pols don't understand that they are flirting with terrible grassroots defeatism, then they are going to lose. They must take action (and I don't mean boring press conferences and 10 point plans) or it won't matter a damn if the Republicans are on the ropes — demoralized Democrats are not going to bother with them. Come on. Speak for us. If not now, when?

This is the danger the Democrats face by ignoring abortion. They will lose their base.

Does this mean I advocate “rabid” or “extreme” pro-choice statements – abortion on demand, strong language about body politics, etc – from my candidates? Even though I might personally agree with an “extreme” pro-choice philosophy (although I call my position “common sense”), I recognize that abortion is a difficult subject and that voters are spread out over the spectrum on the issue.

Here’s what I would recommend:

Propose that, when elected, you will enact legislation (and promote a state constitutional amendment) that guarantees a woman’s right to abortion in the case of incest or rape.

Think about it for a moment.

First, it wouldn’t exclude those that favor choice. You could remind them that abortion is still legal in Montana and according to the SCOTUS. You could say that this constitutional amendment is the first step towards a comprehensive amendment guaranteeing choice.

Second, it wouldn’t exclude moderate pro-lifers. The language of the proposition still leaves room for a general abortion ban should Roe v Wade be overturned by the SCOTUS when considering South Dakota’s abortion ban.

Third, it puts the GOP in a helluva bind. If the Republicans go against the bill, they can easily be depicted as cruel uncaring moralists and religious extremists and lose mainstream votes. If they support the bill, they’ll lose their religious extremist anti-abortion base. It could split the party.

This is the kind of action I’m talking about when I say be bold. Take the initiative. Strike when the opportunity arises. Be merciless.

Since my initial three posts about abortion (Intro, “It’s all about the sex,” and “The woman thing”) I found a number of breaking news items and links that only underscore the tendencies and philosophy of the radical religious fundamentalism that drives the issue.

In this week's New Yorker, Michael Specter has written an article about the Bush administration’s hostility towards science. In this Q&A, Specter notes that Bush’s religious views conflict with scientific findings. There’s nothing really new or surprising in the interview, but it does bear reminding how hostile to science Bush is, especially when scientific findings cross religious belief. Here are a few nuggets:

The Administration simply doesn’t seem to rely on the advice of scientists on a wide range of issues: climate change, pollution, and biomedical research, for example. Previous Administrations have taken science as an area that is above the political fray—this one does not seem to operate that way.

[snip]

…the Administration—and many of its allies among conservatives and the religious right—places far more emphasis on abstinence than on teaching children other methods of birth control and protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

[snip]

It’s not so easy to disentangle the Administration and the Christian right. The President is an evangelical Christian and so are many people in his Administration.

In another note, many conservatives frame feminism in terms different than what it actually means (via Dictionary.com): “belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.” Feminism has come to mean different things to the right: a movement to undermine family, neuter men, and impose a rigid dictatorial thought on debate. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Women simply want to be treated seriously and have as much control over their lives as men.

But now the biggest threat to women’s rights is a belief on the extreme right that feminists seek to “degrade” women by allowing them sexual freedom. Sexual freedom is necessarily part of women's liberation because traditional female roles center on the sexual dichotomy of slut/mother. To break that dichotomy, women need to redefine sex as it relates to gender.

And that's exactly what radical conservatives dislike. Take Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield in a 2005 speech:

According to Mansfield, this change in traditional society has grown out of women’s desire to achieve success in the workplace and at home. In his lecture, entitled, “Feminism and The Autonomy of Women”, the professor identified this problem as one arising from “radical feminism” which sought to “lower women to the level of men” in terms of sexual behavior.

Regarding that behavior, Mansfield wondered if “hook ups,” which he initially referred to as “polymorphous promiscuity” are good for women.

[snip]

“By the age of 30, you see men,” he cautioned, “who are used to getting free samples” and will not enter into loyal, reliable relationships. Citing evolutionary biology research, Mansfield said that “men are interested in quantity, and women are interested in quality.”

“Women play the men’s game, which they are bound to lose. Without modesty, there is no romance—it isn’t so attractive or so erotic,” said the professor.

Tracing the roots of “radical feminism” to the writings of the 20th-century French writer Simon De Beauvoir, Mansfield argued that the questions and confusion facing feminists arise from their attempt at achieving “autonomy” and asserting that “men and women have no distinct nature.”

Of course, what’s really happening is that self-reliant and sexually liberated women defy Mansfield’s fantasies where women are passive vessels of a man’s aggressive sexuality. Sexual women refuse to be the passive, controlled sexual objects of men. Mansfield underscored this in a recent interview with the New York Times Magazine:

We need roles. Roles give us mutual expectations of what is either correct or good behavior. Women are neater than men, they make nests, and all these other stereotypes are mostly true. Wives and mothers correct you; they hold you to a standard; they want to make you better.

This statement so startled the interviewer, Deborah Solomon, she replied, “I am beginning to wonder if you have ever spoken to a woman. Your ideas are so Victorian.” Quite.

The final bit comes via the Missouri legislature, where conservative lawmakers are planning on “a wide range of social legislation designed to rein in sex and unshackle the Bible.”

From new limits on sex education classes to penalties for living in sin, the proposed laws would remake Missouri’s public life in myriad ways. They would sanction prayer in public schools, subsidize religious schools and allow the Bible to be taught in school.

One bill purports to help women make “the transition from work to home.” Another wants the legislature to recognize “a Christian God” as the deity for most Missourians.
Rep. Cynthia Davis, an O’Fallon Republican and sponsor of several bills, said conservatives are tired of an overly permissive society in which high school students are taught how to use condoms.

[snip]

Other bills would:

■ Deny alimony to ex-spouses who live with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
■ Ban all abortions.

■ Provide tax credits for contributions that help kids in lousy school districts to attend private schools.

■ Propose a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to pray in schools and on other public property.

■ Allow pharmacists, insurance companies, doctors and hospitals to deny treatment if the procedure or medication offends their moral values.

■ Propose a constitutional amendment to allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed on public property.

Missouri jackass does a much better job of trashing the bill than I ever could, but it’s important to note that the punishments doled out by the bill affect women disproportionately. The bills seek to push women back into the home, re-establish their role as homemaker and mother, and punish them for engaging in sexual activity or divorce.

In my last post, I urged the Montana Democratic party to be bold. (Actually I shouted it: “think BOLD.”) Wulfgar responded:

…if Montana Democrats were thinking bold, then Morrison wouldn't be favored over Tester…

He may be right. But I think there’s even stronger signs that the Democratic party is going to fumble this election: where’s all the hubbub about South Dakota’s abortion ban?

Let’s face it, the cretins in the South Dakota legislature (yes, I mean you, Bill Napoli) who passed the anti-abortion legislation have gone way over the top. The vile “pro-life” rhetoric coming out of the state is embarrassing the GOP. It’s a potential disaster for the Republicans in a country where a clear majority of voters are pro-choice.

So, what is the Democratic party doing?

Nothing.

What about Montana? Why aren’t the Montana Democrats staging pro-choice rallies in Helena, Missoula, Billings, Bozeman, and Great Falls? Why hasn’t state chair, Dennis McDonald, condemned the South Dakota law? Where is the strong pro-choice statements from Morrison and Tester?

This is the state party’s big chance to scare the bejeezus out of the electorate – and rightfully so. They should be hammering the message to Montanans that a handful of extremists are planning to hijack their reproductive and sexual rights, they should show clips of Bill Napoli’s interview on McLehrer’s News Hour, paste his mug on wanted posters across the state. Make abortion rights a litmus test for candidates!

Ooo, a timid Democrat might say, we don’t want to risk the election on that issue. Isn’t it controversial? Aren’t the majority of Montanans pro-life? Not according to this survey: 53% of Montanans support choice. And consider that even among a number of pro-lifers, the South Dakota legislation goes too far.

This is the kind of action the Montana Democratic party should be doing. They should be ruthlessly exploiting the chinks in the Republican armor. Continue hammering at corruption even after Burns is retired into a minimum security facility. Hammer at the failure of the prescription drug plan, Bush’s inability to fix security, the incompetence of Iraq, the illegal wiretapping and the Congressional Republican sycophantic rollover in response.

But, no. The Democrats are tip-toeing around these hot-button issues because they’re afraid of alienating moderates.

But these aren’t extremist positions. It’s not “radical” to advocate preserving the Constitution. It’s not “radical” to say women should have all the rights of a full citizen. It’s not “radical” to expect that our borders should be safe and our emergency response teams competent. It’s not “radical” to expect that our lawmakers act in their constituents’ interest and not sell their services to high-powered lobbyists.

It’s not “radical” to work towards life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Unless you’re a Republican, that is.

Update: While I'm ranting, let's talk about Russ Feingold's attempt to censure the president over domestic spying. That's bold. And the correct thing to do. Only He's not getting any support. Look, Digby, as always, is right. The Democrats shouldn't try to participate in governing. It's fruitless, the GOP won't allow them to. Instead they should be constantly attacking the incompetence and corruption of their across-the-aisle adversaries and on issues that are popular with their own base: choice, security, health care.

This is an election about throwing the bums out and Democrats need to make a clear statement of fundamental values, not policy differences. Some strategists insist that Democrats must adopt the religious code words that Republicans use to signal character and values to evangelical voters. I would suggest that all Americans, religious and secular alike, share a language that is full of words that describe character and values. How about we start using some plain English words like unethical, dishonest, unfair, untrustworthy, dishonorable and lies. I think everybody can understand what those mean.

The woman thing

(This is the second part of my abortion series. See the intro and the first part, “It’s all about the sex.”)

In the intro to this multi-post rant on abortion, I said, “Instead of arguing the immediate issue of abortion, the issue of body control…etc – which other people who have more vested in those questions do much better than I ever could – I want to explore the larger issues…”

Which was a dumb thing to say. Because the more I researched “pro-life” positions and groups and legislation, the more I realized that the movement was primarily concerned with bodies.

Women’s bodies.

Take this heart-felt editorial written by a man who regrets his girlfriend had an abortion back in 1978:

I, like many in the late 1970s, experienced some of the liberal viewpoints of the era. During college, I had been with a woman and she became pregnant.

My family didn't have any other male progeny. I was the sole male Schultz remaining on the family tree – as my father was in poor health and would soon pass away, never being a grandpa. The ability to father a son meant a great deal to him, and to me. However, the action of the young lady aborting our son has left an indelible scar on my soul to this day.

As a young man who impregnated her, I offered to marry. However she feared the reaction of her family. We were both Catholic.

As the father, I never had the chance to prevent her action as it was "her body." Was this fair to the father who wanted a son, and offered to marry her?

As a result of this, I have become ever more adamant that abortion leaves permanent scars on those in my position; scars I have now. There was no danger to the mother. There was no impediment to her obtaining the abortion. And, I had no way to influence the outcome for a son who now would be about 28 years old and bear my name.

This emotional scar has altered my perception on both sides of the abortion issue.

Yes, the woman can claim it is her body and she can do anything with it. But what about the potential father? What right does he have? What option does he have but to live with the fact that he will know for the rest of his life that he lost a son, and potential heir, in a family where out of five males on my father's side all were unable to sire any children? Even my birth to my parents as they reached their 39th birthday was quite a surprise, as they were told they could not have children.

I wonder what my son would have been like. But with legalized abortion, I'll never know the joy. I have to live with the permanent scar for an action I did not want.

To this day I wonder about my son. What would he be like? However, I was deprived this due to perceived familial pressure.

In the meantime, I love the boy and girl I conceived in marriage. I contend that the rights of the father who wants to be a dad need to be debated.

This is just a letter from one Utah man, not the entire anti-abortion movement, but there’s a not-so-subtle subtext to his words that seems be common to many opposing abortion.

Basically, the “lost child” was the valuable “heir” to his family, the boy that would carry on his family’s name, the child to compensate for the family men’s inability to “sire.”

For all we know, he could be talking about horses.

And that’s the deal. The boy is a valuable commodity in the family name. The mother of the boy a precious vessel to carry his son to term.

In other words, the fetus is his right, his property as male “sire.”

The mother? A baby machine.

A central idea running through the anti-abortion movement is that a woman is not in full control. She needs guidance to find her “true calling”: motherhood. If introduced to the pleasures of sex without the influence of a paternal, benevolent male guide, she will trod the path of licentiousness and lust. If introduced to dangerous feminist ideas, she might prefer to pursue a career, become a lesbian, or, worse still, both. If left to decide the fate of her fetus, she might make a mistake and abandon a sire’s heir.

Or, as Amanda says, women are like sheep.

Most [abortion protestors] are absolutely floored at the very idea that women’s decisions should be examined at all – to them, only the doctor who performed [the abortion] is morally accountable because he had the job to direct the amoral sheep-like woman towards the “correct” decision of not aborting and he fell down on his job of providing guidance.

Consider Ellen Goodman’s words in a recent editorial about the South Dakota abortion ban:

Even this week, with superb irony, Governor Rounds promised tender care for the women he would force to continue their pregnancies. Representative Hunt explained that women themselves would not be prosecuted under the law because any woman choosing abortion was ''not thinking clearly." (Tell that to the US soldier who made a 700-mile round trip to the clinic that January day.)

Unfortunately, women are not sheep. Identical to males in genetic makeup, with the exception of a single chromosome, women are able to reason, have individual consciousness, desire, enjoy sex, and contain the multitude of hopes, envies, aspirations, and ambitions equal to even the most complex of men.

Any given woman may be equal to, or even superior to, her male counterpart when considering a thorny problem. Such as pregnancy.

Lately there’s a lot of rhetoric circling the ‘Net, like the letter I posted today. What about a man’s right to “choice” in the debate? Can’t he have power over the ultimate decision?

There is a point. Men are strangely absent from the content in this debate.

Not that they should have an equal say (or superior say, if the abortion ban stands) in deciding the fate of a fetus – after all it is the mother who bears the child, whose body is ravaged by the trauma of pregnancy and birth, who is expected to do all the difficult work, the feeding, clothing, and raising of any children.

Not that men should have the right to duck any financial obligation to a child if the mother opts to bear it. (Trust me, as a father of two toddlers, paying half your salary is ridiculously painless compared to the hands-on work of raising kids.)

No, men belong in the debate because they must participate in conceiving a child. Where’s all the hubbub and furor surrounding the easy virtue of men? Why aren’t pro-lifers working to curtail male sexuality? If we sequester boys into heartland monasteries, keep them buckled into elaborate male chastity belts, we wouldn’t have to worry about abortion rights, would we?

Men don’t think they have the power of choice?

Of course they do! A man’s choice is simple. He can choose with his c*ck.

Don’t like abortions? Don’t f*ck.

Update: Here's a related post that popped onto Feminist Blogs during my rant:

But no matter. It's no coincidence that this case is being taken seriously now. The anti-choice, reactionary, theocratic wingnuts want to put women in their place, like the good old days, when men were told that "boys will be boys" and women were either virgins or whores, and children were bastards. Back then there was a lot of hostility about how women tried to trap helpless men into marriage, while putting women on pedestals and waxing poetic about nice girls and good wives, and the power behind the throne. All the while, the cast-off women and girls had these dubious choices: a) a back-alley abortion, b) going through forty weeks of pregnancy with all of its risks and complications only to give the resulting child up for adoption, or c) going through forty weeks of pregnancy with all of its risks and complications to be a single mother with no support. Either option also got you branded a slut, moral panics about womens' behavior, and a lecture about keeping your legs closed. Much like now, in fact.

“Pro-lifers” aren’t pro-life. They’re anti-sex.

The basic rhetorical assumption that drives the pro-life movement is that a fetus is a person and should have the rights of an individual. Yet the most common stance for anti-abortionists is that abortion should be outlawed except in the case of incest or rape.

Is it now legal to kill a two-year-old child if that child were the product of incest or rape? Of course not.

Even advocates of South Dakota’s recent anti-abortion legislation, which outlaws abortion even in the case of rape or abortion, give some wiggle room: the now infamous raped-and-sodomized-Christian-virgin execption:

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls "convenience." He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother's life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

Napoli is saying that a certain moral standard should be applied to the circumstance surrounding conception, and if the pregnant woman is sufficiently religious, asexual, and was clearly forced to sex through violence, well, then, an abortion is okay. (What’s not said is that, if a woman is sexual or has had sex, isn’t religious, and her rape wasn’t brutal enough, then she deserved what she got and should bear the child.)

Again, would this exception stand for a two-year-old child? Of course not.

At best, then, pro-lifers think the fetus is quasi-human, sort of alive, but not really, and certainly not really deserving the rights of a born U.S. citizen. After all, could you imagine the legal confusion surrounding a fetus if it was given the rights of a born citizen? Imagine these scenarios:

–“Back alley” abortion. Would the mother be accused of murder?

–Miscarriage. Would the expulsion of the fetus from the womb go before an inquest to determine if the act were malicious on the part of the mother (murder), deliberate on the part of the fetus (suicide), or a result of natural conditions (accidental)?

–Age. Should we start calculating a person’s age based on their date of conception? And should we change the laws where age is a factor (e.g., voting, driving) to account for the extra time? Should an ovulating woman undergo daily exams to determine if she’s conceived?

The scenarios are, of course, completely ridiculous. The real purpose of abortion laws is social control.

Fundamentalist Christians and their hangers-on, like many of us, see the problems that divorce, domestic abuse, drugs, STDs, and teenage pregnancy cause in society. These are real problems that rip apart families, destroy peoples’ lives, and cause related problems that affect everybody, like crime.

But these people see the solution not in, say, eradicating poverty or correcting social imbalances that lie at the heart of these problems, but in creating an idealistic moral society based on strict Christian principles. The solution to the problem is the nuclear family (preferably white and suburban) and the problem is “easy” morals. Sex.

You see it in the language of anti-abortionists. They call abortions a “convenience” and accuse women using abortion as a contraceptive. (Never mind the psychological distress caused by getting an abortion, the guilt associated with it, and the pain of the actual procedure.) In this worldview, abortion is a form of last-minute contraceptive. That is, abortion removes the disincentive not to have sex.

More from Jim Lehrer’s News Hour interview with South Dakota representatives:

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Democratic Representative Elaine Roberts is one of South Dakota's few pro-choice legislators. What's next, she fears, is a host of measures that regulate women's private lives.

ELAINE ROBERTS: We already have a law that says that pharmacists by conscience could refuse to fill my prescription for contraceptives. There is already a move from some groups who have worked on this to say that there should be no contraceptives, that sexual intercourse is for the purpose of reproduction

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Much of what she fears as an assault on basic rights Senator Napoli sees as a return to traditional values.

BILL NAPOLI: When I was growing up here in the wild west, if a young man got a girl pregnant out of wedlock, they got married, and the whole darned neighborhood was involved in that wedding. I mean, you just didn't allow that sort of thing to happen, you know? I mean, they wanted that child to be brought up in a home with two parents, you know, that whole story. And so I happen to believe that can happen again.

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: You really do?

BILL NAPOLI: Yes, I do. I don't think we're so far beyond that, that we can't go back to that.

Napoli wants to progress from outlawing abortions to outlawing contraceptives. For a guy that wants to save the “lives” of the “unborn,” that seems to be…well…stupid. (Studies show that in states where family planning and easy access to contraceptives is readily available, the number of unwanted pregnancies goes down.) But you might not think Napoli’s position is idiotic if you think removing all safeguards to having sex will discourage people from actually having sex – that is, if you think the more chance you have of getting pregnant, the less likely you are to have sex. (That’s the theory; I know it’s ridiculous.)

In fact, by making sex “dangerous” (i.e., likely to result in a pregnancy), you’ll actually use people’s sex drives to compel them into marriage, thus dotting the landscape with happy nuclear families and halting our nation’s descent into immorality.

The real effects of such a policy will be disastrous. Stay tuned.

Abortion

I guess it’s time to talk about abortion. It’s topical. It’s important. Plus Wulfgar wants me to. I’ve delayed. It’s a complex issue.

Usually when someone asks me how I stand on abortion, I say “it’s none of my d*mn business.”

That’s the bottom line. I don’t know what constitutes life. I’m not about to legislate it. The issue really doesn’t have anything to do with me. I can’t get pregnant. I could cop out and use the “I’m pro-choice, but anti-abortion” line, you know, to give me the moral high ground both in the life/death dichotomy and in yearning for less government authority over my daily life. But I won’t do that. Supporting choice means supporting abortion.

Instead of arguing the immediate issue of abortion, the issue of body control, defining life, etc – which other people who have more vested in those questions do much better than I ever could – I want to explore the larger issues behind the abortion debate, issues that affect me as a man and a citizen of the United States.

So thus starts a series on abortion here at “4&20 blackbirds.” I’m a little sad to do this. It’s an issue that has been beaten to death. It’s an issue that seems so obvious to me. And it’s an issue that’s been forced on me by a handful of religious extremists. But I think it’s necessary as we search for the rhetorical tools and motivation to begin the fight to roll back an authoritarian movement exploiting religion and fear of change.

So. Keep an eye peeled. I don’ know how many posts will appear. At least four. More if more information and ideas crop up.




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