Archive for July, 2008

Peruvian Women Denied Legal Abortions

July 23, 2008

Therapeutic (to preserve the life and health of the mother) and eugenic (in the even of a non-viable fetus) abortions are legal in Peru, but you wouldn’t know it by living there. Men, women, and doctors alike share ignorance or confusion about the legality of certain types of abortion, and as a result women are suffering and dying needlessly.

Human Rights Watch recently published My Rights, My Right to Know: Lack of Access to Therapeutic Abortion in Peru. The 52-page report examines a system with vague laws and regulations, legislation passed yet ignored by federal government, fear of criminalization and malpractice, lack of public funds for the procedure, lack of protocols on any level, and exceptionally low awareness levels about the criteria for a legal abortion.

It also tells the sad tales of three women who were denied a procedure they desperately needed.

“M.L.” was 31 years old and pregnant with her second child. An ultra-sound at 30 weeks revealed a malformation. Eventually she was told that the fetus had no brain and no bladder and would likely die in utero. Devastated, she asked for a therapeutic abortion, but was told by the hospital that it was illegal. In fact, legislation legalizing abortion “in cases of sexual violence, non-consented artificial insemination, and fetal abnormalities incompatible with life” was passed by Peruvian Congress in 1989, but was never made widely known by the Executive government. Neither the doctors nor M.L. knew it was an option.

She considered an illegal procedure, but she and her husband decided that it was too dangerous. Besides, they had no way of raising the $700 fee. At 38 weeks she returned to the hospital with contractions and was given medication to delay labor. By the time her full term was up, the fetus had died inside her and had to be removed by Cesarean.

After the trauma M.L. suffered severe anxiety and depression. She said

“I wouldn’t want this to happen to any other woman; it’s something horrible that happened to me…. I dropped down to 40 kilos (about 88 pounds). People don’t know how much one suffers [in this situation]; they don’t want to know the truth about that kind of suffering.”

“K.L.” was a 17 year old girl who, at 14 weeks, discovered the fetus she carried was anencephalic. Anencephaly is a birth defect where the brain and spinal cord fail to develop and the child either dies in utero or a few days after birth. It also jeopardizes both the mental and physical health of the mother. Her physician recommended ending the pregnancy. K.L. and her family prepared for this and returned to the hospital, where they were told they needed the consent of the hospital’s director, who then flatly refused the procedure. She carried the child to term and when she gave birth (three weeks late) she was forced her to breast feed for four days before the child died.

K.L. required psychiatric treatment following her ordeal.

The final case is the saddest. “L.C.” was raped repeatedly for several months at age fourteen. She told no one, not even when she discovered she was pregnant. Instead, according to her mother, she threw herself from the roof of her family’s home. The suicide attempt failed, however it did injure her spinal cord and render her a quadriplegic. In the hospital, her mother first learned of the rape.

L.C. and her family requested a legal abortion so that she may undergo an operation on her spinal cord that might restore some mobility. The request was denied on the grounds that it was illegal. When her mother protested and said that a medical committee could review and approve the abortion, they met with resistance and unexplained delays. When the window of opportunity for the spinal surgery had passed, a review came through denying the abortion on the grounds that the fetus didn’t negatively effect L.C.’s health. She later miscarried in the hospital, when there was no longer anything that could be done to restore her mobility.

International human rights groups have criticized Peru for their lack of reproductive rights, but it is unclear how this criticism is being received by Peruvian officials. Ii can understand confusion and fear on the part of medical personnel, but I cannot understand the feet-dragging on the part of the government that allows this to continue.

Abortions are not more rare in Peru. They are simply more deadly. As in all countries, that number of abortions remains constant whether it is legal or not. What rises are simply mortality rates and mental anguish.


Clinton Supporters Who’ve Turned to McCain – Is it Really Racism?

July 23, 2008

They’re real. I’ve met them.

I had dinner with one the other night. Another lives in my apartment. I’ve long understood that people choose a candidate for all sorts of nebulous, emotional, and uninformed reasons. But this goes beyond anything I’d imagined.

At the time of her campaign suspension, I assumed that the flap of disgruntled Clinton supporters who threatened to throw their vote to McCain was simply the bitter ranting of a group yet to accept defeat and who would, come November, have no choice but vote for Obama.

They were angry, disappointed, they felt mistreated. (For all the feminist in me, I definitely recognized some misogynistic attitudes toward Hillary in the media, but not nearly the amount proposed by the ultra-feminist sector of the blogosphere, or even by the Clintons themselves. — And for total disclosure, after being torn for two-thirds of the Democratic primary, I finally decided to support Obama. However, I would have been content had Hillary won instead. The difference seemed to me more temperament than policy.)

To die-hard Clinton supporters, however, it was about much more. It was about gender and respect, it was about achievement after a lifetime of struggling in a male-dominated world. But if left with a choice between two men, wouldn’t you choose the one whose views and policies mirror those of your candidate?

  • Clinton (& Obama) want universal healthcare; McCain wants people to purchase individual policies and not rely on employers.
  • Clinton (& Obama) want economic reform; McCain wants to stick with Bush’s policies.
  • Clinton (& Obama) want to withdraw from Iraq post haste; McCain envisions occupation for 100 years.
  • Clinton (& Obama) are Pro-Choice – McCain wants to overturn Roe v Wade AND THEN take away states’ power to legalize abortion at all.
  • Clinton (& Obama) want to invest in renewable energies; McCain wants to drill for more oil where, 20 years from now, prices may drop as much as $1 per barrel.

When policies are no longer the issue, what is?

It’s become pretty apparent to me, no matter how hard I try to resist, that this answer is racism.

Don’t believe me? Let’s start close to home, and then we’ll venture across the web.

The first conversation I had about this sprung up with my roommate, and at the time I was entirely undecided. It went like this (Obama is on the TV):

Roommate: Oh, I can’t stand that guy!

Me: Obama? Why?

Roommate: I just can’t. He’s…he’s just…he has no experience. I don’t trust him.

Me: But you like Hillary right? They have almost identical beliefs and policies.

Roommate: But Hillary, Hillary has the experience to lead the nation.

Me: (Okay, I’m baiting) Yeah? What kind of experience does she have?

Roommate: Are you serious? You know what her experience is!

Me: I’m just asking.

Roommate: She was MARRIED to the PRESIDENT!

Me: …Do you even know anything about Obama?

Roommate: Of course I do. I watch the news.

Me: ‘Cause there are a lot of rumors flying out there. Some people don’t like that he’s black, people say he’s a Muslim –

Roommate: I don’t care if he’s BLACK or a MUSLIM!


Me: He’s not a Muslim.

Roommate: Well, it wouldn’t matter.

NOTE: I should say that my roommate really is a lovely and generous person. She is caring and fiercely loyal to friends and family and the first to help you out if you’re in lurch. How this kind of thinking exists in people who are otherwise fundamentally good is, in my opinion, one of the great questions of our time.

The second conversation was recent. I was having dinner with a friend where he and I spent a good thirty minutes on everything that is wrong with the current administration and how George W. cannot vacate fast enough. For a moment I actually think this might mean we agree say, on a worldview or something.

Then we talk about Obama and my friend makes a face and says he would never vote for him.


Me: What do you mean? You’re voting for McCain?

He tells me he is. I bring up policies, similarities to Bush, the war, the economy, the environment…

Friend: Oh, he’s just saying that stuff. He’s campaigning.

Me: But echoing Bush isn’t popular! His approval rating is abysmal. The polls indicate the country wants change! He wouldn’t say that for votes. It doesn’t make sense.

Friend: Yeah, but I don’t think he’ll really do those things once he gets in there.

Me: You’re saying that to justify a choice that’s totally emotional and against all the things you just said you believed in.

Friend: We can’t have a black president.


The conversation is turning to perhaps where it ought to have started.

Me: Why not?

Friend: It’d be another Dinkins.

In the early 1990’s, I learn, NYC elected its first and, to date, only African American mayor. Supposedly, once a black came to a position of power, all the blacks in the city rose up (with impunity?) looting, raping, mugging, and generally doing what blacks do when you don’t keep ’em in check.

My friend looked at me like he’d just made his point.

Me: I don’t get it.

More slowly now, he explains.

Friend: Blacks are all the ones who are in jail, right? The blacks and the hispanics. You can’t deny that they’re the ones committing all the crimes.

The conversation continues briefly, and somewhat disastrously, until I am suddenly too angry to speak. I’m trying to be polite. He’s a family friend and he and I are, in fact, discussing a lucrative writing project. And would anything I said make a difference? When racism is so wired that otherwise intelligent, compassionate people ignore all reason and evidence to the contrary, what could I possibly do to change that?

I remained silent while I debated getting up to leave, but then my friend’s face softened. He smiled at me. He knew I completely disagreed with what he was saying, and that was okay by him. We talked of other things after that.

How can race matter so much that it trumps everything else a person is passionate about? Stopping the killing, maiming and emotional scarring of our troops in Iraq? (Iraqis too, but in hindsight I don’t think they were included in his disgust with the war.) Lifesaving healthcare for Americans? The gross expansion of executive privilege?

And is this view isolated? Groping for an answer I wondered if this might be the thinking of only a few people I happened to come across, maybe a small scattering of people across the states.

Both my friend and my roommate had been ardent Clinton supporters before she dropped from the race. So I went to the web sites devoted to Clintonites who have turned to McCain. I was unprepared for what I found.

At Clintons For McCain, you’re greeted with the photo of Obama in traditional Kenyan garb next to a photo of young McCain in his Air Force uniform. The caption beneath them both reads: “Do you even need to think about it?” There’s the controversial New Yorker cover (nevermind that is was drawn as a satire depicting the extreme and ridiculous ignorance of exactly this type of thinking), and of course plenty of Rev. Wright footage.

The site’s mission statement is a barely coherent string of rhetorical questions, in which Obama is referred to as the “selected not elected” candidate – an ironic choice given that this would have applied only if Clinton won in her only way possible, via the super delegates. How is it that winning the popular vote, and winning the majority of delegates, gives you a “selected” candidate, yet intentionally overriding the popular vote and leaving the decision to an elite group of superdelegates, somehow produces a more democratically “elected” choice?

There appears neither the existance of, nor the wish to pursue, actual information. The facts don’t have to add up. The facts aren’t the point.

A page entitled “The Obama File” opens with this passage:

Obamaphiles love playing the “race card” any time they run into someone who supports John McCain. Especially when it’s Hillary Clinton supporters who now do. They insist that since “Hillary and Obama’s policies are nearly the same” there MUST be discrimination and racism involved. They never consider that it’s not the color of the skin — it’s the content of character, of which Barack Hussein Obama has none.

Oh, just call him Osama, already!

What follows are unsubstantiated character attacks like “Remember Rev Wright?” “What about how Obama LIES and STEALS?” “What about how he’s so ENTITLED? Just read his book!” “Was he LYING when he said this?” “Or what about that? Was he LYING even then?”

It pairs a photo of Obama with a photo of Charles Manson and goes on to assert that Obama is both a cult leader and a sociopath, who just happens not to kill people (yet?) It would be laughable if it weren’t so disheartening.

The entire site is the epitome of racism. A page entitled “Faith Crusade” lauds McCain’s pro-life views and the fact that he has two adopted children. Pro-life? These guys wanted Hillary?

Hillary Clinton Supporters For John McCain is even worse. On the home page is plastered the headline: Is Obama a US Citizen? (One day later it says “Obama is an Arab American” with a drawing of Obama dressed like a Sheik. Doesn’t anyone know where Kenya is?)

Visit it for the streaming audio that will greet you. It’s their live “No Obama” radio show. Priceless. Scary, but priceless.

All of these sites are pure propaganda -and it’s propaganda that’s not even trying very hard!

If you want to vote for John McCain, vote for John McCain because you believe the war in Iraq, and aggressive war tactics in general, are needed to keep our country safe. Or that only a military man can really know how to handle the nation’s defense. Or because you are staunchly pro-life. Or you believe in privatized health care. Or that you’re in the oil business. Or he reminds you of your father. Anything that actually has to do with John McCain!

But to use a vote, which we’re privileged enough to have in the first place, to vote against a man based solely on the color of his skin – how can this be done by people outraged at the treatment of a candidate based solely on her gender?

These can’t be real Clinton converts…can they?