Friday, October 26, 2007

If Brownback is comfortable, I'm not


Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy

Friday, October 26, 2007

Election 2008
Brownback Says He Is 'More Comfortable' With Giuliani's Stance on Abortion
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) on Thursday said he is "much more comfortable" with former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R) position on abortion after meeting with him in Washington, D.C., the AP/CBS News reports. Giuliani is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Brownback withdrew from the race last week, and the Republican candidates have been "seeking his endorsement," according to the AP/CBS News.

Giuliani and Brownback spoke with reporters following their meeting. "Justices are key," Brownback said, adding, [Giuliani has] stated publicly many times about his support for strict constructionists like" Chief Justice John Roberts. Brownback said he believes that if elected president, Giuliani would appoint Supreme Court justices who take a limited and conservative view on abortion, like Roberts. Asked whether he would endorse an abortion-rights candidate like Giuliani, Brownback said, "I don't know that he would ... describe himself as a pro-choice mayor or a pro-choice candidate."

Giuliani, when asked how he would describe his position on abortion, said, "You know what I am," adding, "I've described it in the past. I've opposed abortion. I'd like to see a society in which there is no abortion. I think you have to get there by changing people's minds and hearts. I'm not in favor of changing the law and the right that presently exists."

However, Giuliani added that he is in "favor of everything else that would limit the number of abortions, that would increase the number of adoptions and that would move us in the direction of many fewer abortions. And if we could get to no abortions based on people's decision-making, I'd be in favor of that" (AP/CBS News, 10/25).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

When Sex and Politics Collide

Posted October 23, 2007 | 10:57 AM (EST) on Huffington Post Their title was "Something Wrong with This Picture?" and I'd originally titled it "Let's Keroack Orr", but Women's Voices for Change reposted it and gave it a better title. I didn't have time to insert all the links here so goo read it on HuffPo if you want to see them--and by all means, please leave a comment.

My goodness, I go away for a week and miss all sorts of happenings in the world where sex and politics collide.

I returned from my high school reunion, then a week with family in Arizona without my computer or New York Times subscription, and found messages asking for comment on the Portland, ME, middle school that has added prescription contraceptives to its health clinic services. You can imagine the twitter from the self-righteous right who believe no one would ever think about sex if we pro-sex education and pro-contraception people didn't call it to their attention. They have apparently forgotten their own adolescence (I suggest they attend their high school reunions to revive those repressed memories).

Fortunately, many parents spoke up with exactly what needed to be said: while they rightly prefer that their kids abstain from sexual activity at such a tender age, they want even more for the school to help them keep their kids safe from disease and pregnancy if and when they do become sexually active. The school board voted to keep its policy of providing the full range of contraceptives in its health care formulary.

Meanwhile, there was related national news I was mercifully oblivious to last week as well. It seems that as surely as young people discover their sexuality no matter how ardently adults may wish to the contrary, George W. Bush just as surely and ardently continues his pattern of filling the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs (DASPA) -- the person in charge of administering Title X, our nation's major family planning program for low income uninsured individuals -- with a person -- Dr. Susan Orr, who fundamentally opposes birth control.

Read that last sentence again slowly to fully savor the irony.

With W of course, up is down and down is sideways. We've grown inured to the duplicity, the sleight of hand, the wink while Halliburton profits as our sons and daughters die in Iraq, the ruthlessness with which the one percent get richer while the rest of us get a burgeoning national debt and fewer of us get health insurance.

So it's no surprise that the man talks piously about creating a culture of life while taking funding from lifesaving prevention programs like family planning and giving it to abstinence only preachers. This makes the U. S. the laughingstock of the world's public health organizations and in the end paradoxically increases disease, unintended pregnancies, abortions, and deaths.

Usually, though, this administration and its right wing buddies at least try to obfuscate their Orwellian redefinitions. Not so, however when it comes to overseeing a program founded by his father, and for decades enjoying bipartisan support because it provides contraceptive services to over five million American women each year through some 4,500 public health facilities, preventing 1.3 million unintended pregnancies and hundreds of thousands of abortions, and saving taxpayers $3 on Medicaid pregnancy and newborn-related care for every dollar spent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists family planning as one of "Ten Greatest Public Health Achievements of the 20th Century" for good reason.

Last year, Dr. Eric Keroack was appointed to the position of DASPA. Among other wacky ideas, Keroack alleged that pre-marital sex changes the brain chemistry so that bonding to another person becomes difficult. A non board-certified ob/gyn, Keroack not only opposed birth control, he was also medical director of A Woman's Concern, one of many chains of so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers, whose purpose is to dissuade women from choosing abortion under any circumstances. But family planning prevents abortion, right? Yes, but these organizations support sexual abstinence until marriage, oppose contraception, and do not distribute information promoting birth control.

Fortunately for women who depend on Title-X for their most basic health care including annual gyn exams, breast and cervical cancer screening, and birth control methods, Keroack soon fell like Humpty Dumpty from the weight of his own corruption. It turned out he was under investigation for Medicaid fraud in his private practice.

The appointment of Susan Orr -- who is not a medical doctor -- while also clearly in the down is up category, seems less like Humpty Dumpty and more like those Bozo Bop Bags that were popular with kids in the 1960s. You know, the clown punching bags with weights in the bottom so that you could punch and punch till you wore yourself out but never knock it down or out.

Orr, formerly senior director for marriage and families at the Family Research Council, supported Bush's move to strip federal employees' health insurance of contraceptive coverage and told the Washington Post, "We're quite pleased because fertility is not a disease. It's not a medical necessity that you have [contraception]." And she is on record as supporting the gag rule that denies funding to family planning programs that give women accurate information or counseling about abortion.

It's no surprise that the ideological right, exemplified and led by groups such as the Family Research Council, opposes abortion, but now it should be abundantly clear they also oppose birth control. It's not that they don't understand birth control prevents abortion; it's that they don't want women to have birth control in the first place. Or the sexual and reproductive self-determination that goes with the ability to plan and space one's own childbearing.

It also shouldn't surprise anyone that a president who values blind fealty above all tows the line of the far right that he believes elected him, and sees that his administrative appointees do so as well. But he might have instructed Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt to be rather more careful this time in selecting a person who actually supports the program she or he is appointed to administer.

If you agree there is something wrong with this picture, then write and tell Secretary Leavitt. Rep. Louise Slaughter tells you how. While you're at it, copy all your members of Congress and 10 friends, urging them to do the same. Orr can be Keroacked if the public outcry is loud enough.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gloria Steinem to Speak on 21st Century Feminism

In my family where there are three Glorias. I am known as Gloria #1. But in the world of feminism and activism for women, we all know who Gloria # 1 is. Alex and I are pleased as punch to invite you to our annual Women of the World lecture at Arizona State University. Gloria Steinem will honor us as our very special guest lecturer on October 17 at 7pm in the Memorial Union. It'll be a happening, honey! Click the image at left to enlarge it for more information.

Check this out: Working Mothers--Who's opting Out?

Here's a very timely program starring some of my great friends and colleagues who'll set the record straight about women, work, and family--who's opting out or not, who's staying in and why, and what the media has got right and wrong.

Tuesday, October 16, 7 p.m., $8 admission
The New School, New York City
Wollman Hall, 65 West 11th Street, 5th floor (enter at 66 West 12th Street)

You've read the articles--and gotten angry at the debate. Are vast numbers of working mothers bolting the career track--or dreaming of doing so? Are elite women betraying feminism by staying home with their children? Or do the Opt-Out stories rely too heavily on anecdotal evidence--while shoving aside actual labor statistics and working families' needs?

JOIN US as some of the KEY THINKERS and CRITICS of the "opt-out" storyline DISCUSS & DEBATE the real state of working motherhood in America today.

Moderated by E.J. Graff, senior researcher, Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, Brandeis University, collaborator on Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men and What to Do About It. The panel includes Joan Williams, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and author of Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It; Linda Hirshman, lawyer, professor emeritus Brandeis University and author of Get to Work; Heather Boushey, senior economist, Center for Economic and Policy Research, and co-author of Hardships in America and The Real Story of Working Families; and Ellen Bravo, author of Taking On the Big Boys: Why Feminism Is Good for Families and Business and the Nation.

Here's all the information.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Buggers Can’t Be Choosers

Posted on HuffPo 10/5/07

Oh how I wish I’d said that first. But though the quip’s origin is often attributed to Winston Churchill --as are most great lines--it was apparently British writer and academic Cecil Maurice Bowra
who said it first, to explain his engagement to a “plain girl” named Audrey Beecham.

Sexism be damned, I sincerely doubt I will be the last to cite this clever turn of phrase each time poor beleaguered Sen. Larry Craig (R-Wide Stance, to quote another great phrasemeister, former Rep. Sam Coppersmith, D-AZ) flashes onto our news screen. Craig’s seems to be the story that just won’t die, much to the chagrin of his Republican leadership. Kind of like those groundhogs, headlines just keep popping up all over, their incessantly high-pitched chatter mocking the holier-than-thou’s who have a headlock on the party of their choice.

That’s the same party that wants to deny reproductive choice to others, by the way.

The rest of us like to act as though we really don’t care that much about Craig’s sexual proclivities. But his little toe-tap wouldn’t have become such a big story unless we cared about it-- a lot.

So when Craig announced today that he will stay in Congress despite the Minnesota distroct court’s ruling that he can’t withdraw the guilty plea he entered after being “stung” in the now-enshrined Minneapolis airport men’s restroom-cum-tourist destination, the groundhogs immediately reared their little heads and began chattering away again.

I suspect Larry Craig will come out of this just fine eventually, as did Bowra. In fact, Bowra became the head of Wadham College and in 1992 a building was even named for him there. Meanwhile, he continued to supply us with a steady stream of quotables. On hearing of the marriage of a well-known literary pair, for example, he snipped, “Splendid couple – [I] slept with both of them".

But then though the British love their sex scandals as much as we do, they tend to regard them as entertainment rather than political morality lessons. Until we in the USA come to terms with the fact that sexuality is part of every human being’s life and develop a healthier relationship with sex, we will continue to spend way too much of the GNP on hiring plainclothes cops to track down gay men, even if they have to lure them into action in order to establish their sexual orientation.

Perhaps buggers can’t be choosers. But as a body politic, Americans can choose to spend our time and resources making sure everyone has healthcare, bringing an unworthy war to an end, and transforming abstinence-only sex education classes into medically accurate and comprehensive ones, rather than allowing our political agenda to be led by those who have an obsession with Larry Craig’s—and everyone else’s--sex life.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Appeasement is Lethal

The Huffington Post
Gloria Feldt and Maria Luisa Sanchez Fuentes| BIO | I'M A FAN OF THIS BLOGGER
Appeasement is LethalPosted October 3, 2007 | 02:20 PM (EST)
(The HuffPo link takes you directly to this post where you can comment.)

Rosaura "Rosie" Jiménez died bleeding and doubled over in excruciating pain from infection caused by the botched illegal abortion she sought in desperation. She was 27, a scholarship student in McAllen, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border, six months shy of getting her teaching credential and struggling to make a better life for herself and her 5-year-old daughter when she was caught in a vise called the Hyde Amendment [PDF]. This law denied her, as it has denied millions of low income women who depend on Medicaid for their health care, financial access to a safe abortion.

Rosie's life was sacrificed on the altar of politically expedient appeasement.

Pro-choice members of Congress, it seems, hadn't fought the bill, so sure were they that the courts would find such discrimination unconstitutional.

Once the Hyde amendment of 1977 put the anti-woman camel's nose under the tent, and pro-choice forces were in part unwilling and in part unable to wrestle the beast to the ground, increasingly draconian restrictions became the norm. Abortion opponents learned that while they were unsuccessful in making abortion illegal, they could lull the public to inaction by switching to a slow, incremental strategy of making abortion inaccessible, one restriction at a time. So barriers to access are increasing for all U.S. women, but especially the young, the poor, and those living in the 87 percent of counties without an abortion provider.

Rosie's Sisters in the U.S. and Mexico

We speak together as Rosie's sisters. For women are all sisters in the slow march toward full equality and simple justice. And no where are we more connected in that march than across the U.S.-Mexico border.

In Mexico, where abortion has been largely illegal for many years, unsafe abortion is the third to fourth highest cause of maternal mortality, and has caused many thousands of women's deaths through the years. Approximately 1,000 women die and over 100,000 have been hospitalized every year from the ravages of illegal abortion.

In the U.S. today, where abortion has been legal since the Roe v Wade decision in 1973, such deaths are exceedingly rare. That Rosie's death -- the first known to be a consequence of Hyde -- is unusual is evidence that safe, legal, and accessible abortion care is truly a blessing for the lives and health of women everywhere.

On April 24 of this year, a woman-made miracle occurred in Mexico City. The capital city decriminalized abortion to the twelfth week of pregnancy -- an enormous victory for women's health, rights, and dignity, and one that has set a precedent not only for Mexico, but for all of Latin America. Since then, more than 2,500 women have received safe abortion care with zero complications.

In Mexico, unlike the U.S., the right to health is protected by the constitution. So, the law's constitutionality will almost certainly be upheld by the federal Supreme Court. In turn pro-choice activists are working to guarantee that these new freedoms will soon be expanded to other Mexican states.

The Mexico City Ministry of Health has also put forward clear guidelines to ensure access to legal abortion services, while reinforcing access to sexuality education (that actually talks about sex) and contraception. They understand that the way to make abortion rare is not to deny access but to make unintended pregnancy rare by making access to reliable contraception and medically accurate sex education universal, and trusting women to use their minds and moral frameworks.

Without access, rights mean nothing
Yet, while Mexico and many other countries from Colombia to Portugal to Ethiopia move forward toward respecting women's legal and moral autonomy to make decisions about their own lives, shamefully, the U.S. is sliding backward.

The U.S. Supreme Court's recent Gonzales v Carhart decision overturning almost 35 years of precedent that made women's health the primary value in the law must be itself overturned by new laws such as the Freedom of Choice Act [PDF] that guarantee women the human and civil right to make their own childbearing decisions.

To start the long road back to full access, biased counseling mandates, required delays, denial of insurance coverage, forced involvement by parents, violence and harassment of providers and patients, and travel burdens -- all part of the U.S. landscape -- must be replaced with laws and services that respect women's desire for motherhood and freedom.

No, appeasing is not the middle ground that allows restrictions on women's consciences; the middle ground is prevention [PDF].

Rosie Jiménez was everyone's sister -- or daughter, mother, aunt, wife, cousin, friend.

In her memory, October is designated Abortion Access Month in the U.S. The reproductive health crime perpetrated against Rosie is symbolic of the 68,000 women and girls who die every year globally as a result of oppressive laws and lack of access to safe abortions. But these deaths are a miniscule part of the story of illness, misery, and suffering that can be averted by guaranteeing that abortion is safe, legal and accessible.

Appeasement is lethal to women and the pro-choice movement!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings Go Both ways

The Huffington Post

Border Crossings, Both Ways

Posted October 2, 2007 09:42 AM (EST)
Mention the U.S.-Mexico border and you set off political hot buttons. Everyone knows the two countries share complex historical, economic, and cultural relationships. But one relationship is seldom acknowledged: the movement of women across the border in both directions to obtain abortions over the years.

Sarah was a 22-year-old law school student at the University of Texas when she became pregnant in 1964. Her future husband was planning to attend law school after she graduated and got a job. They agreed they didn't want to have a child before marriage and felt they both deserved the chance to finish school. Together, they went to Piedras Negras across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, where she had an illegal, but thankfully safe, abortion.

Jane was a young housewife with three preschool children in a southern Arizona ranching community in pre-pill 1958. The thought of caring for four children on a budget that strained hard to feed three had stressed her relationship with her husband almost to the breaking point. As much as she loved her children, Jane cried for days and thought she would either go insane or kill herself if she had to have another child. Three women friends who had made the journey previously accompanied Jane across the border to Nogales, Mexico, where abortions were illegal, as they were then in Arizona and every other state in the U.S, While the women had heard of doctors in Phoenix who would terminate pregnancies for $1,000 or more, Jane couldn't begin to afford that. So for the U. S. equivalent of $100, Jane had an abortion. She bled profusely and was treated for infection after she returned -- but she regained her emotional balance, and was able to hold the family together. She later volunteered for the local NARAL affiliate determined that American women should not suffer the humiliation, indignities, and sheer terror she experienced.

Jane is a composite of women who have told me their stories over the years. Sarah is Sarah Weddington, a Methodist minister's daughter who at age 26 became the youngest woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court. Her winning case was the 1973 Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S and has since saved the lives, health, and dignity of millions of women. She later served in the Texas legislature and the Carter administration; she remains a leading advocate for women.

Since Roe, and until very recently, Mexican women of means have routinely traveled to the U.S. for safe, legal abortions, much as Sarah and Jane traveled to Mexico in a previous generation for illegal ones.

A seismic shift occurred last April when Mexico City decriminalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. While they wait for what they predict will be a favorable ruling by the Federal Supreme Court, reproductive rights activists are consolidating their gains by training medical and social workers in counseling women respectfully about all their pregnancy options.

According to Maria Luisa Sanchez Fuentes, executive director of GIRE, Grupo de Informacion en Reproduccion Eligida/Information Group on Reproductive Choice, they are also working to ensure that public hospitals meet the law's requirements to provide abortion services free of charge as part of routine healthcare, and that the law's provisions for universal access to birth control methods and sexuality education to prevent unintended pregnancy from occurring in the first place are fully in force.

Abortion remains illegal in most of Mexico, except for cases of rape, incest, and in some states certain other reasons. Activists like Sanchez Fuentes are working to change that, heartened by public support in Mexico City, where the slogan is "Women decide, society respects, and the state guarantees."

Abortion, legal or not, exists in all societies because women the world over want a few simple things: to make a decent life for the children they have -- in the U.S., over 60 percent are mothers with one or more children when they choose abortion --and the right to their own lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. And because unintended pregnancies inevitably occur for a variety of reasons.

The difference is that when abortion is clandestine, women die or suffer debilitating illness such as infection or infertility. And in a profound sense, the psychological stigma of going to the back alley instead of the front door of a medical facility is harder to bear than the risk of infection, for it signals complete disregard for women's moral capacity to think and make responsible decisions.

Will women's rights activists in Mexico learn the lessons from U.S. that "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance" as Thomas Jefferson famously cautioned, so that the organized backlash against reproductive self-determination for women does not bring political setbacks like those in the U.S.?

Will we in the U.S. learn the lessons from Mexico, and make sure women have not just legal affirmation of the human right to make their own childbearing decisions, but also access to preventive services that reduce the need for abortion and full access to abortion services regardless of ability to pay? Or will we reach a point that American women must resort once more to crossing the border to Mexico for essential health care and respect they can't get at home?

Next: Safe, Legal, (accessible) and Rare

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malcolmfriedberg (See profile I'm a fan of malcolmfriedberg)
Sending women to Mexico to get the vital health-related services they need sounds criminal.
Log in posted 10:39 am on 10/02/2007
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