Rachel Maddow – An Exercise in Fertility

(Having difficulty with the video embed today, please click the link for video)

Currently all four Republican presidential candidates have taken an extreme stance on birth control. Birth control? Are we really arguing about women’s ability to plan their families in 2012? Yes. As Rachel Maddow points out in the spot on segment above, they are taking a stance on this issue that is even too extreme for the electorate in Mississippi.

Why has birth control become such an issue all of a sudden? I think Rachel hits the nail on the head that the beltway pundits are really missing the point on this one.

I realize that a lot of 60-something male pundits look at this and think it’s bad politics for the Democrats on the Catholic side. There is another way to look it.

That other way to look at it is as a woman. Novel concept! Except that it shouldn’t be, considering women have elected every president since JFK. Or another way to look at it could be as a Catholic woman, 98% of whom have used birth control.

In this economy, Rachel breaks it down to the bottom line.

Hey, women of America! Under a democratic president your birth control pills will be covered by health insurance, and if you don’t have health insurance you can go to a clinic and get subsidized birth control there. If a republican is elected your insurance won’t cover birth control, and if your insurance doesn’t cover it there are no clinics to go to any more to get birth control pills. Planned Parenthood defunded. Title 10 gone altogether. So you can’t get it from insurance, and you can’t get it from a clinic. You are paying cash, out of pocket, retail cost for birth control…$600 to $1200 a year. That’s if you’re lucky. Because if you’re not lucky, you live in a state where birth control has just been declared illegal. Do you want a democratic or republican president women of America?

It’s the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Blog for Choice Day 2010!

This year’s Blog for Choice Day question asks us “What does (the late Dr. Tiller’s simply put) ‘Trust Women‘ mean to you?”

To me, trusting women is about believing women. It’s about listening to women. It’s about acknowledging and appreciating women.

Trusting women means you do not presume to know what’s best for them. When you trust someone, you acknowledge that their choices are made with thoughtfulness and care.

A lack of trust is being told by someone you’ve never met what to do with your body. A lack of trust is the assumption that you cannot make rational decisions about your own reproductive health. A lack of trust imposes your religious beliefs on my medical decisions.

Trusting women promotes choice, but it must also promote justice. Because many women do not have a choice.

Miriam at Radical Doula notes:

As Ive talked about before, choice isnt enough.

Choice doesnt recognize that we dont all have a choice. That often times our choices are impacted by what others want, by what we can afford, by what we will allow ourselves to do.

Our choices are mediated by politicians, religious figures, our paycheck this month. Our choices are limited by our family members, our lovers, what we see on TV and who is close to us when we have to make a decision.

Our choices are determined by the color of our skin, the language that rolls off our tongues, the restrictions of our bodies, the gender we identify with and the people we love.


With that in mind, trusting women is viewing us as more than our ability to reproduce. Our health is a much more complex issue than the issue of abortion. Trusting women acknowledges the whole woman, one who is capable of making a whole host of decisions.


Scary times:

Psalms 109:8, An Ugly Prayer for President Obama

Any time the citizens of a state, particularly a democracy, invoke their faith to pray for the demise of those they oppose politically, we should be concerned. When the call for such prayers becomes one of the most popular Google searches in the country, we should shake, especially those of us who believe in God, prayer and the Bible. Psalm 109, verse 8, went viral this morning in just that way.

Among the world’s top Google searches today are phrases that contain the words “Psalms 109 8″, and “Psalm 109 8 prayer for Obama”. For those of you who may not know that particular verse, it reads “May his days be few, may another take over his position.” And before anyone excuses this toxic use of scripture as nothing more than the wish that President Obama not be re-elected to a second term of office, the next verse in the psalm reads, “May his children be orphans and his wife a widow”.

In fact, the entire chapter is about the prayed for death of an evil person. Not to mention that anyone who knows enough Bible to have thought about this verse in particular, surely knows the entire chapter and appreciates its message. Pretty scary stuff.

All this is especially upsetting in light of the last weeks’ events at Fort Hood. Exactly how long is it going to take us to figure out the danger of linking faith claims and violent fantasies? How is it that the very same people who would have wanted to curtail access, and rightly so, to the hate-filled, violence-inducing, sermons to which Major Hasan listened, do not cry out against these prayers and those praying them?

The issue is not the scripture quoted or the name by which God is called by those doing the praying. The issue is invoking the God in whom any of us believe, to act as executioner of those with whom we disagree.

From Yigal Amir, who murdered Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, to Major Hassan who murdered 13 and wounded 30 more, to whomever might step in on behalf of a “Christian nation” to make the words of the Psalm 109 a reality, each was inspired by prayers and scriptural readings not unlike those of the millions who made verse 8 a top Google search this morning. There is no place for such prayers in any of our faiths and until we all stand up and say so, at least a little blood will be on all of our hands.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield

h/t watertiger

Oklahoma, you’re seriously NOT O.K.:

On Nov. 1, a law in Oklahoma will go into effect that will collect personal details about every single abortion performed in the state and post them on a public website. Implementing the measure will cost $281,285 the first year and $256,285 each subsequent year.

Under H.B. 1595, the state of Oklahoma is going to spend over a quarter of a million of its taxpayers’ dollars annually to try to shame women into foregoing abortions. Isn’t that special? It’s almost enough to make one long for the martini-clouded days before Roe v. Wade, when women only had to deal with the life-threatening dangers of back alley abortions, without the additional stigma of government-sponsored Internet shunning.

The following is the posted information that the Gilead Oklahoma legislators believe will be generic enough to avoid that irksome HIPAA:

1. Date of abortion
2. County in which abortion performed
3. Age of mother
4. Marital status of mother
(married, divorced, separated, widowed, or never married)
5. Race of mother
6. Years of education of mother
(specify highest year completed)
7. State or foreign country of residence of mother
8. Total number of previous pregnancies of the mother

That’s a whole lotta information about the mother, that, while it doesn’t identify her by name, certainly narrows her identity down, especially in the small towns that dot the Oklahoma landscape.

And another thing: Notice anything missing? Go ahead, re-read the list — I’ll wait.

[whistles, files nails, looks up]

Figure it out yet? Bingo! The father, whom we assume had something to do with the pregnancy in the first place, doesn’t have to account for his actions at all. Way to put women in their place, Oklahoma!

Thank goodness this law is being challenged.

Former state Representative Wanda Jo Stapleton, D-Oklahoma City, and Shawnee resident Lora Joyce Davis have decided to fight against these new restrictions in the form of a lawsuit. ” The lawsuit alleges that House Bill 1595 by Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, and Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, covers more than one subject and thus violates the Oklahoma Constitution ( Tulsa World News) Ranging in areas from abortions based on gender, to the re-defining of several abortion related terms, to creating an entire new job for the OK Department of Health to deal with, this law, is simply doing too much. The bill is set to go into effect on November 1st of this year. However, Davis and Stapleton hope that their lawsuit can delay this law from going into effect until they are able to present their appeal to the Oklahoma courts. This lawsuit comes after the most recent Oklahoma overturn of a 2008 law that would have required women to submit to an ultrasound and description by their doctor of the baby before scheduling an abortion.

It turns my stomach to think that I have had to work  nearly four months this year to equal my husband’s wages from last year. We have the same education and qualifications, but our work is not valued the same.

Why April 28? The typical woman worker had to toil all of 2008 and through April 28, 2009 to earn the equivalent of her male counterpart’s earnings in 2008 alone. (Center for American Progress)

Check out several great posts from the National Women’s Law Center’s Blog for Fair Pay Day 2009 here.  For a great Equal Pay primer, check out “Why Arent’ We There Yet?

As RobinNWLC points out, women often have no way of knowing if we are being paid fairly. That’s why we need the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The Act would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the EPA and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. The bill also allows women to receive the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subject to discrimination based on race and national origin. (NWLC)

Click here to urge your senators to support the Paycheck Fairness Act!

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responds passionately and eloquently to Rep. Smith’s concern that the Obama administration supports women’s reproductive freedom abroad. Michelle Goldberg calls it thrillingly unequivocal. You can read a transcript of the exchange here, via Shakesville.

On a side note, why is Hillary Clinton referred to as “the gentleman” on several occasions?

Salon reports that secret recordings have been released in which one Army psychologist admits that he is under a lot of pressure not to diagnose returning service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can listen to the recording and read the details here.

But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor’s appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn’t accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected — that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments. And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation — and cleared itself of any wrongdoing. (emphasis mine)

Just days ago, Ann Jones asked “How can we stop the epidemic of killing women and children by returning soldiers?” She notes that the young men we send to war are not the same ones returning home. She doesn’t blame them (several excerpts below, but read the entire post here).

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Men sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for two, three, or four tours of duty return to wives who find them “changed” and children they barely know. Tens of thousands return to inadequate, underfunded veterans’ services with appalling physical injuries, crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suck-it-up sergeants who hold to the belief that no good soldier seeks help. That, by the way, is a mighty convenient belief for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which have been notoriously slow to offer much of that help.

All too often, the war wounds turn into violence against the servicemen’s family members.

Even in the best of times, the incidence of violence against women is much higher in the military than among civilians. After war, it’s naturally worse — as with those combat team members at Fort Carson. In 2005, one of them, Pfc. Stephen Sherwood, returned from Iraq and fatally shot his wife, then himself. In September 2008, Pvt. John Needham, who received a medical discharge after a failed suicide attempt, beat his girlfriend to death. In October 2008, Spc. Robert H. Marko raped and murdered Judilianna Lawrence, a developmentally disabled teenager he met online.

When a New York Times reporter asked a master sergeant in the Special Forces to comment on these events, he responded: “S.F.’s [Special Forces members] don’t like to talk about emotional stuff. We are Type A people who just blow things like that off…”

As it turns out, the military is not only creating the problem but covering it up.

What the task force discovered was that soldiers rarely faced any consequences for beating or raping their wives. (Girlfriends didn’t even count.) In fact, soldiers were regularly sheltered on military bases from civilian orders of protection and criminal arrest warrants. The military, in short, did a much better job of protecting servicemen from punishment than protecting their wives from harm.

It is perhaps the same flawed medical evaluation process described above that prevents the cycle of violence from being addressed.

The military does evaluate the mental health of soldiers. Three times it evaluated the mental health of Robert H. Marko (the Fort Carson infantryman who raped and murdered a girl), and each time declared him fit for combat, even though his record noted his belief that, on his twenty-first birthday, he would be transformed into the “Black Raptor,” half-man, half-dinosaur.

As the current administration talks of military escalation in Afghanistan in this time of recession, the conversation must address the military personnel coming home. Will they have jobs? Will they be given psychological support and the necessary medical attention to transition home? Or will they be left alone, brain injuries and all, to make sense of their new lives?

No society that sends its men abroad to do violence can expect them to come home and be at peace. To let world peace begin at home, you have to stop making war. (Europe has largely done it.) Short of that, you have to take better care of your soldiers and the people they once knew how to love. (Ann Jones)

When I check the stats on my blog I can see what search terms brought people here. More often than not those searches include “boobs.” Really. “Fake boobs,” “animated boobs,” “beautiful boobs,” and of course, a celebrity’s name with the word “boobs.”

It’s not news that our society is obsessed with women’s breasts. Recently I shared this great article by Samara Ginsburg with friends and family and the responses I got were incredible. Many people had similar experiences to the author or knew someone who had. It made me wish we had more of a dialogue through which women could talk about how they are measured.

Women’s complex relationships with their bodies, especially their breasts, become even more complex when illness is involved. As if it were not enough to deal with the health implications of breast cancer, women often face aesthetic questions about their breasts that have nothing to do with health. As Amy DePaul describes in her article Replacing Things Lost, it is often assumed that women will want to increase their breast size after a masectomy. Check out this excerpt:

So it was off to the plastic surgeons officenot a place I had ever envisioned myself, to be honest. My husband accompanied me for moral support, and we idled in the waiting room and then the exam room; he was reading Breast Cancer Husband while I flipped through a magazine. The doctor walked in, introduced himself and sat down on a stool with wheels that allowed him to scoot around the office at lightning speeds to snatch papers and files as needed. A chatty and energetic sort, he explained early on that no one has to undergo reconstruction, which I appreciated, but that if I wanted to, he would help me determine my options. I told him I was certain I wanted to reconstruct.

He pulled out his pen and opened his file and began asking questions, looking over my medical information: Do you smoke? No. Did they find cancer when you had your cervical cone biopsy? No. Good, he said. And then: What is your current bra and cup size, and what would you like to move up to?

Huh?

No, I thought. No, he didnt just imply that I am an obvious candidate for breast augmentation, though some might argue that I was. I looked at my doctor and then my husband, both of whom studiously avoided eye contact with me. In the awkward silence, it occurred to me that my husband might be tempted to weigh in favorably on the augmentation, a move I would have found highly uncool. After all, its one thing for a plastic surgeon to point out your supposed anatomical shortcomings, but its quite another to hear it from the guy whose laundry you fold and put away.

Similarly, the breast cancer awareness movement has turned into an emphasis on “Saving the Boobs” rather than “Saving the Women.” What if we valued women as much as we valued their breasts? And what if we valued women’s health as much as we valued them as decorations? Several examples of advertising that sexes up breast cancer are here, here, and here.

Sexualizing breast cancer will only discourage young women from becoming familiar with their bodies, what is healthy, and what is natural. It trains women to think of their breasts as something for men to look at, or as Ginsburg mentions, objects that don’t even belong to them. Our dialogue surrounding breast cancer should be person-centered not breast-centered, as we are not hosts for our breasts, but rather they are a part of us.

Why is it that when it’s time to find places to tighten our belts, the first programs to go are those that benefit women and children? Who decided that education, health care and the Violence Against Women Act were pork? ThinkProgress notes that the proposed cuts to make the bill more “stimulative” (which of course leave tax cuts untouched, contrary to Economics 101), disproportionately affect women and children.

These cuts would include:

$150 million cut to the Violence Against Women Act

$50 million to the Victims of Crime Act

$25 million to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces

$1.1 billion to Head Start

$50 million to Teacher Quality Partnership Grants

$5.2 billion for Prevention And Wellness (including diabetes screening and HIV testing)

$13.9 billion for Pell Grants

$2 billion for Child Care Development Block Grants (ThinkProgress)

Basically, the conservatives have decided that anything that isn’t tax cuts is “pork.” So, like President Obama, when you hear their criticisms just ask yourself, “Are these folks serious?” What I want to know is, how are they planning to face their constituents after voting against programs like Headstart and Pell Grants in these tough times?

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