A Christmas Gift for America’s Women

From Senator Ben Nelson:

NOW‘s Terry O’Neill on the latest manifestation of the desire to control women’s bodies, particularly their sexuality and reproductivity, in the United States:

The so-called health care reform bill now before the Senate, with the addition of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Manager’s Amendment, amounts to a health insurance bill for half the population and a sweeping anti-abortion law for the rest of us. And by the way, it’s the rest of us who voted the current leadership into both houses of Congress.

Yes.  By the way …

UPPITY-DATE:  From Women’s Rights at change.org —

Take a look at Senate Majority leader Harry Reid’s new manager’s amendment’s proposal to keep innocent federal dollars from being tainted by helping to cover abortion through a separation of private and public funds. (I’d much prefer to see a little separation of church and state.) Of course, insurance companies aren’t known for enjoying added hassle or a positive approach to women’s health, so faced with the administrative nightmare of setting up two bank accounts to deposit two checks from each woman electing abortion coverage — one payment for the abortion pot and one for everything else —  insurance companies likely to chuck that option altogether. Hey, that’s just what anti-choicers wanted in the first place!

More on women’s bodies as bargaining chips – everyone under the bus!

Church Should Be SO Ashamed

A feminist theologian comments on the case of a nine-year old Brazilian girl impregnated by her stepfather.  The Roman Catholic Church publicly excommunicated her family and those involved in procuring and performing an abortion:

It is hard to find words sufficient to convey the moral indignation elicited by the Roman Catholic Church’s actions. As a Catholic feminist theologian who is pro-choice, I have dealt with abortion for decades. I thought I was inured to its callousness. Maybe it’s because I have an 8-year-old daughter that I find the Church’s actions in this case violent beyond defense.

By any measure, the family involved is in big trouble. The father is gone, the mother has at least two children, one of whom is handicapped, and the stepfather is a sexual predator. It is a recipe for a disaster. The pregnancy happened because an adult male assaulted a girl child; an oft-told story, tragic every time. The mother endeavored to do the best she could in a bad situation. Medical personnel handled it according to the law. But the Roman Catholic Church used the tragedy to make a theo-political point. Have they no shame? Are they so heartless as to kick this family while it is down?

Whatever their relationship to the institutional church, the archbishop’s claim that those who help procure an abortion are automatically excommunicated tells this family that the mother is unwelcome, unworthy to receive the sacraments. One churchman had the gall to note that the church in its infinite wisdom does not excommunicate minors, so the nine-year-old is still in full communion. Small comfort. What he failed to mention was that the perpetrator, the stepfather, never even made it to the ecclesial radar screen. I am not suggesting the man be excommunicated; no one should be. But it is sickening and morally repugnant to realize that abortion, in this case the most humane solution to a terrible problem, is the cause of excommunication while sexual abuse is not. Something is seriously wrong with this picture, and it is the Roman Catholic Church.  [more]

Right on.

UPDATEFetus and Pope-ish fetishism

Because Women Are Only Incubators

A Baptist pastor who violated an Oakland, CA ordinance that prohibits anti-abortion protesters from coming within eight feet of women entering an abortion clinic for a legal surgical procedure has been fined $1000. and put on three years’ probation.  His crime could have led to a two-year jail sentence.

The court noted that the pastor didn’t “lay hands” on anyone [um, that would have been assault] and asked him if he would obey an order to stay 100 feet away from the Oakland clinic.  The pastor said “no”.  The judge let him go anyway.  Because this law isn’t serious, the “victims” aren’t real.  They’re only women incubating babies.  It’s pretty clear the law was drafted to prevent disorder around abortion clinics and not to protect its patients. 

The anti-abortionists call this a “free speech” case.  I don’t even think they believe themselves on this one.  These are people who try to exploit whatever “right” or “freedom” suits their overriding wish for control over women’s bodies.  The justice system, in this case, is more sympathetic to them than it is to the women harassed by fundies carrying mendacious posters of baby bits.

The pastor’s lawyer was at pains to point out the “conspicuous absence” of patients at the trial to testify that they felt threatened by him.  Of course, the law doesn’t require the presence of threatened patients.  The fact that the pastor was inside the “protected zone” with his sign is enough.  It doesn’t require a woman who’s visited an abortion clinic and been harassed to show up in court – an obvious invasion of the very privacy, safety and security that’s put at risk by people like the pastor.

Here’s what a women’s health specialist had to say:

When anyone restricts access to reproductive health services, every woman affected is a living example of a colonized body.

I suppose we’re expected to be grateful that there’s any protective law at all, even when it’s taken so lightly that a man standing in a courtroom who says he’s going to break it again is given the “all clear”.

Oh Barack!

From Christina Page’s blog:

News story after news story reports that many Americans suffering through the collapse of the economy (like the 71,000 who were laid off yesterday) are, among other lifestyle changes, postponing having a child. Planning when to have a child based on whether you can support one seems like a pretty common sense approach. It could even be described as “responsible” — which, you will recall, was the overarching theme of our new president’s inaugural speech. One small part of the stimulus package the Democrats presented offered this family planning safety net for Americans who need contraceptive coverage but ordinarily would be ineligible for that assistance. The staged Republican freak-out revealed the degree to which they are out-of-touch with Americans’ lives, as if we needed another reminder. The more disturbing part is how quickly President Obama surrendered to this pressure. Without a single attempt to explain the importance of family planning in the lives of struggling Americans, the White House distanced itself from the provision. After a day of bizarre media misinterpretation of the proposal, Obama spokesman, Bill Burton, told Cybercast News Service that it was not Obama’s idea and that “the principles of what he thought should be in the package–that wasn’t part of that.”

Read all of it

Bush Deception, Manipulation & Subterfuge

From the abstract of a paper by Stephen P. Gordon, John Smyth and Julie Diehl:
The breadth of deception and manipulation of science by the Bush Administration is quite amazing, cutting across policy on endangered species, climate change, reproductive health, stem cell research, dietary science, and environmental pollution. This is a story of  suppressing and tampering with scientific findings, intimidating scientists, manipulating the membership of scientific committees, and allowing representatives of industry and social conservative groups to write Administration policies or legislative proposals.
From the section of the paper on reproductive health:

Despite evidence that abstinence-only sex education programs do not decrease unwanted pregnancies and may actually increase them, the Bush Administration has insisted that abstinence only programs be the only ones supported by the federal government. The Administration forced scientists from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to attend daylong sessions on the ―science of abstinence, conducted by nonscientists and absent of any scientific evidence. The CDC was forced to remove information on five comprehensive sex education programs supported by scientific studies from its website (Rushing, 2004).
To obscure the fact there is no scientific evidence indicating abstinence-only programs work in reducing unwanted pregnancy, the Administration measures the effectiveness of abstinence programs by tracking only participants‘ attendance and attitudes rather than the birth rate of female participants (UCS, 2004a).
The Bush Administration removed information on the effectiveness and proper use of condoms in preventing sexually transmitted diseases from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website, and replaced it with a ―fact sheet that emphasized condom failure rates and the effectiveness of abstinence. Also removed was discussion of scientific evidence that sex education does not lead to increased sexual activity (Waxman, 2003).
Research, including a Danish study of 1.5 million women, has concluded there is no link between abortion and breast cancer. However, in 2002, The National Cancer Institute (NCI) removed from its website a fact sheet that reflected scientific consensus and replaced it with one inferring studies in this area were inconclusive (Rushing, 2004). This action resulted in so much outrage from abortion rights and breast cancer advocates as well as the scientific community that in 2003 the NCI was compelled to bring over 100 experts together to reexamine the issue. The experts concluded, again, that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer (Mooney, 2005).
In 2002, Dr. W. David Hagger, a religious conservative who had lobbied for reconsideration of the Food and Drug Administration‘s (FDA) approval of the drug RU-486 and whose scholarship included medical books with conservative religious themes, was nominated to chair the FDA‘s Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. Previously, eminent reproductive health scientists had been nominated for this position. Following protests by scientists and others, Dr. Hager was not named the chair but he was placed on the committee (Waxman, 2003). In 2003, the acting director of the FDA‘s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research overturned the advice of two scientific panels and his own staff in refusing to approve the emergency contraceptive ―Plan B as an over-the-counter drug.
This action was taken despite the fact that the FDA is required by law to approve drugs found to be safe and effective (UCS, 2004b). In 2006, after considerable protest from the medical community and women‘s groups, the FDA approved over-the-counter nonprescription sales of Plan B by licensed pharmacists to women 18 or older, with a prescription still required for sales to women under 18.

Read the article here [pdf]

Lies About Abortion

From Chinta Puxley at the Globe & Mail:

The new chairman of a secretive Parliamentary caucus opposed to abortion is pledging to rekindle the abortion debate in Canada and bring “more value” to the lives of unborn children.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he’s not interested in reopening the divisive issue, Winnipeg MP Rod Bruinooge told The Canadian Press people need to be better educated about Canada’s abortion stance, which he says puts the country in a “class of its own.”

“Very few Canadians appreciate the fact that essentially until a child takes its first breath, it has less value than a kidney,” says Mr. Bruinooge.

“In Canada you can’t remove your kidney and put it on eBay and auction it off. That is illegal. Whereas you actually can end a beating heart of an unborn child the second before it’s delivered. Most Canadians would agree that is truly a poor bioethical position for our country to be in.”

Pro-choice advocates say Canadian doctors only perform such later-term procedures if there’s a serious threat to the health of the mother or if it’s virtually certain the baby wouldn’t survive past birth.   [more]

Think hard everyone.  Have you ever seen a living or dead fetus auctioned on eBay?  The kidney up for auction alongside the fetus up for auction doesn’t work.  I can’t believe I’m saying that.  You’d think Mr. Bruinooge could figure this out for himself.  Fact is, he doesn’t want to.

The Conservative attempt to recast the “abortion debate” in terms more familiar to Americans is on display here.  He doesn’t point to the fact that very few, if any, late-term abortions are performed in Canada.  He doesn’t point out that any “late-term” abortions that are performed are not elective, but done to save the life of the mother or to end a pregnancy where the fetus is extremely ill.  He plays in to an image, created by the anti-abortion movement, of thousands of dead babies littering the floors of Canadian hospitals and clinics.  The bodies of the women who hosted them are conspicuously absent from this image, much less the true medical and emotional circumstances of abortion.

I’ll not pretend that I don’t have deep problems with the anti-abortion clan.  I most certainly do.  But I could get along with them a little better if they told the truth, if they didn’t try to sway people’s hearts and minds with factoids  and images that are not only distortions, but outright lies.

We don’t have accurate Canadian statistics with respect to late-term abortions.  I think whatever benefits might accrue from having them are offset by the invasion of privacy entailed by gathering them.  I don’t even want to think about the emotional harm that would be visited on women who have had to undergo such procedures if they were then subjected to the harassment that would come from the supposed “pro lifers”.

What we do know is this [pdf]:

The Canadian Medical Association’s policy is to endorse abortions on request only up to 20 weeks. Hospitals and doctors in Canada comply with this policy. Women who need abortions past 20 weeks for compelling maternal health reasons or serious fetal abnormalities can get them in a few hospitals in Canada, but more often, these women are referred to clinics in the United States (Kansas, Washington State, and Colorado). These out-of-country procedures are generally funded by provincial governments, on the grounds that they are medically required and not easily available in Canada. The lack of availability occurs because later-term abortions require a high level of skill, experience, and dedication, and there are few providers willing or able to do them in Canada. Condemning “partial-birth” abortion or the D&X technique in Canada is simply part of a political effort to promote disinformation about abortion, and to undermine all abortion rights.


Also to be taken into consideration, this:

Mid-term abortions result from many factors, including the delaying factors noted above as well as the need for women to figure out their options, save up funds, travel (sometimes to another province), and make arrangements for childcare and time off work. These delaying factors affect young, poor, vulnerable, and non-urban women the most.

Not all late abortions are due to delay along these lines. For some, the reasons arise in the third trimester, such as a grave threat to the health of the pregnant woman or the fetus. Advances in medical science make it possible to discover these conditions earlier. Should the state restrict or evaluate decisions in these circumstances?

Good public policy in this area, therefore, does not require new laws imposing more restrictions and regulation; it requires the removal of existing arbitrary restrictions that make access to abortion unnecessarily difficult, costly, and time-consuming.

Good public policy must also be proactive to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. One might assume widespread support for such an initiative, especially among those who oppose abortion. This is not the case.

Many abortion opponents also oppose sex education and birth control, including emergency birth control, which are proven strategies for reducing unwanted pregnancies. They regard sex education as encouragement for sexual activity outside marriage, and contraception such as the birth-control pill and morning-after pill as abortion-inducing agents.

These views cannot form the basis of public policy, because they do not serve the best interests of vulnerable and young Canadians who need protection against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Any professional offering health-related services to the public must perform that function according to public, not private, principles. Rules require application to particular individuals and circumstances. Study after study has confirmed that decision-makers in this context tend to impose their own personal moral beliefs.

It would be unfortunate if the real need for reform was obscured by proposals that do not take into account the high cost to women’s health and wellbeing under the current arrangements.

If Mr. Bruinooge and his ilk were truly interested in reducing the rate of abortion, they would work to make accurate sex education, access to contraceptives and access to free abortion readily available  as these measures have  just that effect.  Bruinooge doesn’t fool me.  It breaks my heart that he will fool many.

Mothers Make Children “Fat”

I’m just waiting for a new law requiring restaurants to post signs saying “Pregnant Women Will Not Be Served Burgers and Fries”:

Pregnant women who routinely consume fatty foods could be predisposing their children to a lifetime of overeating and obesity, according to a surprising study.

The new research demonstrates that a mother’s diet can influence fetal development, essentially hard-wiring the brain so the child instinctively craves fat.

“Exposure to a high-fat diet in utero produces permanent neurons in the fetal brain that later increase the appetite for fat,” said the senior author of the study, Sarah Leibowitz of Rockefeller University in New York City. [Globe & Mail]

You’re dooming the brain of your child if you’re “fat”.  What next?  Don’t drink the water?  On the other hand, water may well be more dangerous.

Forced Birth Control

ZOMG, an article supporting the notion that “unfit mothers” should be forced to take birth control until they magically get fit – from The Sunday Times:

 Dutch socialist politician, Marjo Van Dijken of the PvDA party (the social democratic Labour party), is putting a draft bill before the Dutch parliament recommending that unfit mothers should be forced by law into two years of contraception. Any babies wilfully conceived in that period should be confiscated at birth. Unfit mothers would mean those who have already been in serious trouble because of their bad parenting.


Dijken’s idea is to try to prevent a new pregnancy in a family whose existing children are already in care until the situation has improved enough for them to be able to come back home. Two years might be a suitable period. If, after the suggested two years of compulsory contraception, the family is still not safe for children, the contraception order could be extended by a judge’s review. “If there’s a better way, a less invasive way, I will never mention my proposals again,” she says.

If hers is not the answer to the problem, the question remains: what should be done about unfit parents? Children are increasingly being damaged by them. At the extremes, chaotic mothers who are prostitutes or addicts or mentally ill or just what my own mother called inadequate are condemning their children to the same miserable and disordered lives. Man hands on misery to man, as Philip Larkin wrote, and so does woman.

Less extremely, many children are also being damaged by parents who are not so obviously unfit, but still bad enough to do serious harm. On Friday questions by Michael Gove, the shadow education secretary, revealed that more than 4,000 children aged five or under were suspended from school in Britain because of their troubled and violent behaviour. Of the 400 suspensions of children aged just two and three, 310 involved physical assault and threatening behaviour. Numbers of exclusion in all groups under 11 are increasing, mostly because of uncontrolled or violent behaviour.


It seems to me unfair to deny people any children at all. But it might be right to reduce the number to two. That would be fairer to taxpayers than expecting them to support families larger than their own and it might persuade genuinely unfit mothers that it is not in their interests to keep producing babies; they will be better off without.

It is time that, like Van Dijken, we started asking these extreme questions.

Hey cool.  Start with forced birth control and work your way up to forced sterilization of the poor and racialized.  Maybe we can eliminate those poor black people altogether.  It’s also convenient to blame the women (mothers) for parental “unfitness”.  Fathers are so terrific, after all.  Hells bells!

To be absolutely fair, the Dutch measure is directed toward families where there are children already in the care of the state and the birth restriction would be lifted when the “family” – mother? – was allowed to have already living children back hom.  I still can’t think that the state should be allowed to force a citizen to take health measures against their will.  But Minette Marrin takes the idea even farther – two children per family?  And which families would that be, pray tell?

ZOMG Fetus!

Surely this represents the zenith of fetus fetishism – a fetus waving an American flag and apparently sitting ontop of a revolver, clearly voting McCain/Palin, because how else would a red-blooded American fetus vote?  And it needs a gun to do it!  Whoa, over the top!  Wonder if the fetus is going trick-or-treating?

via Feminist Law Professors

Regulating Eggs

Why does George W. Bush want us all havin’ babies?  Regulation of the fertilized egg:

A Bush administration proposal aimed at protecting health-care workers who object to abortion, and to birth-control methods they consider tantamount to abortion, has escalated a bitter debate over the balance between religious freedom and patients’ rights.

The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity that does not accommodate employees who want to opt out of participating in care that runs counter to their personal convictions, including providing birth-control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.

Conservative groups, abortion opponents and some members of Congress are welcoming the initiative as necessary to safeguard doctors, nurses and other health workers who, they say, are increasingly facing discrimination because of their beliefs or are being coerced into delivering services they find repugnant.

But the draft proposal has sparked intense criticism by family planning advocates, women’s health activists, and members of Congress who say the regulation would create overwhelming obstacles for women seeking abortions and birth control.

There is also deep concern that the rule could have far-reaching, but less obvious, implications. Because of its wide scope and because it would — apparently for the first time — define abortion in a federal regulation as anything that affects a fertilized egg, the regulation could raise questions about a broad spectrum of scientific research and care, critics say.

“The breadth of this is potentially immense,” said Robyn S. Shapiro, a bioethicist and lawyer at the Medical College of Wisconsin. “Is this going to result in a kind of blessed censorship of a whole host of areas of medical care and research?”

Critics charge that the proposal is the latest example of the administration politicizing science to advance ideological goals.

“They are manipulating the system by manipulating the definition of the word ‘abortion,’ ” said Susan F. Wood, a professor at George Washington University who resigned from the Food and Drug Administration over the delays in approving the nonprescription sale of Plan B. “It’s another example of this administration’s disregard for science and medicine in how agencies make decisions.”

The proposal is outlined in a 39-page draft regulation that has been circulated among several HHS agencies. The FDA has not objected, but several officials at the National Institutes of Health said that the agency had expressed serious concerns.

“This is causing a lot of distress,” said one NIH researcher who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. “It’s a redefinition of abortion that does not match any of the current medical definitions. It’s ideologically based and not based on science and could interfere with the development of many new therapies to treat diseases.”

Since a copy of the document leaked earlier this month, outside advocates and scientists have voiced growing alarm that the regulation could inhibit research in areas including stem cells, infertility and even such unrelated fields as cancer.

Dozens of members of Congress have sent letters of protest to HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, as have scores of major medical and health groups that say their supporters have sent Congress, the White House and HHS thousands of letters protesting the proposal.

Read the rest here

According to this logic, Jehovah’s Witnesses who are medical technicians shouldn’t be forced to assist in giving patients blood transfusions.  If you can’t take the heat, get outta the kitchen.