Monthly Archives: April 2010

Why Giving a Child Up for Adoption Would Be Wrong for Me

When I write about abortion, frequently that comment comes, “If you don’t want a baby, why not just choose adoption?” With the “Don’t Be Fooled by Fake Clinics” campaign we have going on, I’ve seen some version of this question many times over the course of the month.

For the record, no woman is obligated to serve as an incubator against her will. But we should also recognize that there’s lots of reasons behind each woman’s personal decision of what is right for her. For instance, keeping an unwanted pregnancy and giving a baby up for adoption would be the wrong decision for me.

I don’t believe life begins at conception, so if I were facing an unwanted pregnancy, abortion would be the obvious decision; I’d have no reason to remain pregnant. But there’s actually more to it than simply the desire not to be pregnant. If I carried the pregnancy to term, creating a new life, I would feel inextricably responsible for the baby. I find it difficult to imagine giving that child up for adoption; I couldn’t be sure that he or she would be provided a good life; I’d feel constantly anxious and guilty. The morally right thing for me to do, given my beliefs, would be to have an abortion and not allow that zygote to develop into a life.

This stance isn’t informed by a belief that adoption is bad; props to you if you’ve welcomed an adopted child into your family. If I ever determined I wanted a kid, I would most likely adopt (probably an older child, since they have more trouble finding homes). Yet I wouldn’t try to get pregnant just so I could have a baby and give it up to the system for a hopefully happy adoption, and for me, not having an abortion would amount to the same thing. I feel that it would be wrong for me to allow a life to be created with no plan to take care of it when I have access and no objection to abortion.

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Florida Democrats Shut Down the House Over Anti-Choice Amendment

In the Sunshine State, Democrats hold only 44 House seats compared to Republicans’ 76. So since they lack a majority of votes, they’ve decided to shut down business altogether to block an 11th hour attempt to restrict women’s reproductive rights.

Senate Republicans slipped a couple of anti-choice amendments into a health care bill on Wednesday. One bans the use of state or federal funds from being used on abortion, except for rape/incest and health exceptions; the other insists women pay for mandatory ultrasounds before having an abortion. Oh, and ultrasounds can cost anywhere from $200-$1000 — talk about adding insult to injury.

But under Florida procedural rules, a minority of representatives can block bills originating in the state senate that skipping passing through committee and a public debate. So the House Democrats have decided that this is just the last straw, and are planning to stop movement on any legislation through tomorrow, which happens to be the last day of the legislative session. That’s right: Republicans thought they could sneak the anti-choice measures in at the last minute, when the legislature needs to get everything wrapped up. If the Democrats get a promise that the anti-choice bill will be tabled for the session, however, they’ll unlock the floor.

I’ll try not harp on the fact that Democrats in Florida are taking a stand for women’s reproductive rights, even though they’re in the minority, whereas a majority of Democrats in the U.S. Congress couldn’t manage to pretend to have a collective spine. But it’s nice to see Democrats somewhere showing a bit of spunk.

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Is That a Poem in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

With “Keep a Poem in Your Pocket,” children’s writer Beatrice Schenk de Regniers inspired an annual event in which people are encouraged to carry one of their favorite poems around in their pocket for a day.

April is National Poetry Month, and today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Women’s ability to break into and be respected in the arts is a key aspect of equality, and female poets have made some amazing contributions to the development of the genre.  So who are your favorite women poets?

One of my personal favorites, Edna St. Vincent Millay, shocked the early 19th century with her poetry on female sexuality, as well as her personal Bohemian lifestyle and out bisexuality. When she married (an open marriage), her self-proclaimed feminist husband put aside his pursuits to manage her growing literary career. That’s right: in the early 19th century, a husband put his wife’s career first.

Then there’s Maya Angelou, a civil rights activist who worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., and a famous memoirist, who broke ground with works such as “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by presenting herself, an African-American woman, as the main character. Angelou also wrote many volumes of poetry, and delivered the inaugural poem at President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.

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If You Don’t Have the Right to My Liver, You Don’t Have a Right to My Womb

If someone needs a liver transplant, or bone marrow, or a blood transfusion, do they have a right to just take it from your body?

Of course not. Donating a liver, bone marrow, or blood is a voluntary action. Refusing isn’t a crime, and it won’t land you in jail.

What if the person will die if not allowed to use your body? Still no.

Yet when it comes to pregnancy, anti-choicers believe that this is different. In this case, a woman’s body is not her own. Even if we accept the premise that life does begin at conception (which I don’t), legislation banning abortion doesn’t fly. A fetus has no more a right to a woman’s womb than a person already born has to her organs or blood.

If the body of a person is necessary for the life of another person, that is deeply unfortunate, but even if all a dying individual requires to survive is a pint of your blood, they don’t have the right to force it from you. You can be reproached for refusing to help, but your body is your own, and we do not legislate against a man or woman’s bodily integrity, their flesh and blood. You don’t even have to check that box on your driver’s license to be an organ donor after your death (I do), although it is estimated that through this simple act a person could save or help as many as 50 people, so it seems a very pro-life stance.

For risky operations, such as giving up a piece of your liver or your bone marrow, most would applaud such a donation as a selfless act, but wouldn’t condemn a person who was unwilling to undergo that ordeal — yet women who receive abortions are denounced and called “baby killers” by some. A woman’s risk of death or health problems from childbirth is significantly higher than that from a (safe, legal) abortion, and if she does not want to take that risk, it’s her choice. If she doesn’t want the strain on her body of carrying a fetus or the burden of nourishing it for nine months, it is her body. And if she has additional complications that put her health in even greater jeopardy, she can take the path of self-defense.

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Arizona Takes Up Stupak Mantle, Restricts Abortion Coverage

Lost in the outcry over Gov. Jan Brewer signing Arizona’s racial profiling bill, another anti-woman measure received the governor’s stamp of approval over the weekend.

Arizona now also has the dubious distinction of being the first state in the nation to impose abortion restrictions up the back alley of the Stupak amendment that didn’t make it into the final health care bill. So what do women in Arizona have to look forward to? Even if only private money is being used, insurers are prohibited from covering abortion services except in a few extreme circumstances.

Instead, abortion coverage can only be accessed through impractical special “riders,” which require women to anticipate beforehand that they might need this procedure, and decide to specially insure against something that they hope won’t happen. Not only are women unlikely to opt to purchase a rider, most insurance companies won’t offer it.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D – Mich.) may not be seeking reelection, but he’s already done his damage and left a lasting legacy. The rhetoric that his agenda was to simply keep federal funding from being used for abortion was never anything more than a red herring; instead, his goal was to do away with this form of reproductive health coverage altogether. This new Arizona law, and prospects for future laws of the same sort in other states, puts an undue burden on women, especially low-income women, who are trying to do nothing more than exercise their legal medical rights.

Photo credit: DaveFayram

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“I Can Microchip My Dog … Why Can’t I Microchip an Illegal?”

Pat Bertroche, a Republican primary candidate for Congress in Iowa, has illustrated perfectly why you don’t refer to human beings as “illegals”: it’s dehumanizing. And once you’ve lost sight of someone’s humanity, you feel comfortable saying and doing pretty much whatever you want to them.

At a Republican forum, where candidates vied to outdo one another with disturbing anti-immigrant rhetoric, Bertroche rose to a new high — or low —  and beat his competition hands down. The Congressional hopeful said, referring to undocumented immigrants who are detained and deported, “I actually support microchipping them. I can microchip my dog so I can find it. Why can’t I microchip an illegal?”

What ironclad logic. After all when you think of a person as “an illegal,” as sub-human, it makes sense that you could treat them like a dog, right? Only citizens are human beings; they’re just animals to be bagged and tagged. They certainly don’t deserve any rights, or to object to having a chip embedded into their flesh; they’re lucky we don’t put them on leashes, just like Bertroche would his dog. Hey, why don’t we start buying and selling them, too? Just ignore those cries that they’re free persons with inherent human dignity and cannot be treated as slaves. And when it comes to the women, those bitches can be raped and sold for sex at will, am I right?

Human beings are not pets. They are not property. And the dehumanizing rhetoric that leads people to forget this needs to stop.

Demand that Pat Bertroche apologize for his degrading statements by signing the petition here.

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Oklahoma Defends Doctors’ Right to Lie

Oklahoma, where the anti-choice laws come sweeping down the plain …

Earlier today, the Oklahoma state legislature voted to override Governor Brad Henry’s veto of two (probably unconstitutional) anti-choice bills. What’s in this fun new legislation?

Oklahoma women seeking an abortion are already required to undergo an ultrasound, but now they will be forced to submit to a vaginal probe stuck inside them, while a doctor describes the embryo/fetus in detail. Why? Because, well, a typical ultrasound just doesn’t show enough detail when you’re trying to manipulate a pregnant woman into feeling guilty about her choice. Forcing a medical procedure upon an unwilling person “amounts to an unconstitutional invasion of privacy,” stated Gov. Henry, when he rejected the bill. It could also be a trigger for a rape survivor, and submitting to this unwanted invasion could feel like a second assault.

The other bill protects doctor’s “right to lie,” essentially. Under the new law, pregnant women will be barred from suing their doctor for intentionally or negligently providing inaccurate information to pregnant women. I guess I should really refer to this as the “right to lie or be totally incompetent” law. The legalization of providing women with false information is astounding; why bother opposing misinformation by Crisis Pregnancy Centers if lawmakers are just going to let any anti-choicer lie about a person’s medical situation? And while the goal is to infringe further on abortion rights, giving doctors free reign to be liars and idiots at their job when dealing with pregnant women is dangerous.

In addition to these two anti-choice wonders, Gov. Henry signed into law a measure requiring comprehensive reproductive health clinics to post signs saying that women cannot be coerced into having an abortion, that she needs to voluntarily consent, and that it is illegal to have an abortion due to the sex of the fetus (this last bit stems from another law passed earlier this month). Unfortunately, no sign that they’re eager to pass a law requiring limited pregnancy centers to be truthful and reveal that they don’t provide comprehensive services.

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Women Who Miscarry Denied Welfare Benefits

Today in the bureaucratic incompetence file: women in Minnesota who miscarry are nonetheless deemed to have “one child” and denied access to family welfare benefits later on.

As Josie Raymond reported on Poverty in America last week, here’s the rundown: Under the Minnesota Family Investment Program, a “family cap” allows low-income women to receive cash assistance for only however many children they had upon first applying for the program. If an expectant first-time mother applies for the program, then miscarries, she has to drop out and seek support as an adult sans dependents. But if she becomes pregnant again, she cannot reapply, because on paper, she’s considered to already have one child, and cannot request benefits for a second child.

So, essentially, the expectant mother is not receiving benefits for having a child, but is nonetheless considered by the program bureaucrats to have one child, while prohibits her from accessing benefits when she actually does have a child. Genius.

It’s ludicrous and harmful for the program to penalize women for suffering a miscarriage, and deny them benefits for the child the paperwork claims already existed anyway. Please sign this petition asking Minnesota state legislators to close the miscarriage loophole.

In addition, I’m not a fan of the family cap itself, which penalizes the children and seems to operate under the assumption that low-income women will breed like rabbits if you don’t punish them extra for it. Most women in an unsteady financial situation don’t want another child at that time, but sometimes it happens anyway. So when I talk about opportunities for pro-lifers to work with pro-choicers to decrease the financial need for abortion, this is one of the situations I’m talking about. When you know that having another child will mean that all your children receive less of the assistance they need to survive, is it a wonder that many women will see abortion as a necessity?

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Woman Who Joined U.S. Army After 9/11 at Risk of Deportation

“It was a calling,” said Ekaterine Bautista of her decision to join the military days after the 9/11 attacks. “I felt the need to join because it was the right thing to do, and also because of my daughter. I had to protect my daughter.”

But Bautista had a problem. An undocumented immigrant brought to the United States by her mother as a minor, she was rejected by the Army recruiter. But her love of country and feeling of duty was so strong, she couldn’t give up the calling. So Bautista’s aunt, an American citizen, gave her permission to enlist under her identity.

Bautista went on to distinguish herself in 6 years of combat duty, 13 months of which she served in the Iraq War, receiving a number of commendations and certificates and the Combat Action Badge along the way, and getting promoted to sergeant after a few years. She put her life on the line where many others would not have, and wanted to continue serving, but when her real identity came out, she was honorably discharged. Even now, she longs to return to the military and the companions she left behind.

Though Bautista did not know when she signed up that the military could provide a pathway to citizenship, when she later learned this she applied to remain in the country she had served so well. But the process was put on hold due to her lack of legal status. Immigration officials do have discretion, so if there is any justice, Bautista will be given the respect she deserves; her superiors and fellow soldiers have written on her behalf.

Right now, there is no way for undocumented immigrants to legally join the military and serve this country, even if they’ve lived here since childhood and consider it their only home. Yet Bautista is hardly the only patriotic undocumented immigrant to feel the need to serve her country is worth assuming someone else’s identity. We need this kind of dedicated soldier; we need to provide a legal way for them to enlist. The DREAM Act would address this for youth brought to the United States as minors by giving them the chance to receive a temporary visa and become legal permanent residents by serving two years in the military. Bautista would have met that requirement three times over.

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To Pro-Choice Pro-Lifers, With Love

I’ve explained before why we use the term “anti-choice” so often on the blog: What we generally object to is not the “pro-life” belief that “life” begins at conception and abortion is wrong, but rather the anti-choice stance that this means women should be legally deprived of control over their own bodies. The anti-choice, rather than pro-life, stance also supports lying to women, depriving them of accurate information, or obstructing their access to a safe abortion. But since we don’t get to use the term “pro-life” enough, I wanted to send some love to pro-choice pro-lifers.

When it comes to reproductive rights, abortion is an easy issue for me. I don’t believe that life begins at conception, so in the case of an unwanted pregnancy, supporting the decision to have an abortion is a simple matter. I understand that for somebody who is pro-life, abortion is much more than a medical procedure, and I would expect that for this reason they would try to lower the rate of abortion as much as possible. I respect this. I further respect it when pro-lifers tell me it’s not their place to judge or legislate what happens to another woman’s body, that this is not the way to support their personal beliefs. Thank you for understanding.

There are so many ways pro-lifers can (and do) take action to decrease the rate of abortion  — and they don’t even have to focus their efforts on reducing the rate of unplanned pregnancies through contraception, if that’s also something they have religious qualms about. Three-quarters of women who decide to have an abortion cite not being able to “afford” a child as a factor, and when the economy goes down, abortions go up. Of women who get an abortion, 60% already have children. That’s why my favorite pro-lifers work with pro-choicers to pass equal pay legislation so mothers will no longer make 73 cents on the dollar; make subsidized child care available to working mothers; extend unemployment benefits during recession; and improve social services, amongst other positive actions.

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