Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Happy 40th Roe v Wade

January 23, 2013

Some interesting bits from around the web…

Kate Manning on the history of abortion and what happens when desperate women are forced to take matters into their own hands.

PPFA has launched a new effort to move away from labels  and emphasize that every woman’s circumstance differs: Not in her shoes.

Pro-life has moved away from working to reverse Roe v. Wade, because restrictions at the state-level have been much more effective.

135 provisions to restrict access to abortion were enacted since 2011.

Katie J. M. Baker at Jezebel covers the stories of abortion providers who risk their lives every day.

5 things you don’t know about abortion – Interesting piece by Irin Carmon at Salon.

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Victory for CA Families – Prop 8 Overturned (for now)

February 7, 2012

This afternoon, a federal appeals court found that Proposition 8 – the 2002 voter-approved ban on same sex marriage in California – is in violation of the U.S. Constitution.  The 2-1 ruling will have  little bearing on the struggle for same-sex equality in other states, however, because the ruling was based on the fact the freedom to marry a same-sex partner was – at one time – granted to Californians. The decision states:

“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.”

And further:

Proposition 8 served no purpose, and had no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.” [Em. mine]

It’s been a long road for California on this issue, and no one believes that this ruling is the end of the line. In fact, yet another “stay” is expected to be placed on the ruling – preventing same-sex marriage while a third such ruling is appealed.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) condemns the ruling and doggedly vows to take the matter to the Supreme Court. Interestingly, NOM’s The Threat to Marriage page conatins absolutely no explanation of how same-sex marriage threatens marriage. Go figure.

Op-ed columnist Frank Bruni had a piece in the NY Times yesterday that gives a good perspecitive on this. He points to the policies of forward-thinking companies as an augur of times to come:

…same-sex marriage, enacted in New York last June and now under serious consideration in Maryland, Maine and New Jersey. It’s the future. And the response of corporate behemoths based in the state of Washington reflects that.

In addition to Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon spoke up for same-sex marriage. All have surely taken note of several polls over the last year suggesting — for the first time — that a slight majority of Americans supports it. All have no doubt taken even greater note of a generational divide. In a Gallup poll, 70 percent of people in the 18-to-34 age range favored same-sex marriage…

More so than politicians, corporations play the long game, trying to engender loyalty for decades to come, and they’re famously fixated on consumers in their 20s and 30s.

Further info:

Prop 8 Trial Tracker – a project of the Courage Campaign Institute

Prop 8: The Musical – The 2009 classic. Still funny & compelling.

Lying for the “Cure” – Eskow Points Out Komen’s Hypocrisy

February 4, 2012

Komen’s “this is not politically motivated” assertion was hard to swallow from the start. Especially considering:

  • Its newly appointed anti-abortion VP of Community Relations
  • Its ultra-quiet, but simultaneous decision to sever relationships with any organization funding stem cell research (despite the fact that this research has advanced our knowledge of, provides treatment for and shows promise of providing a CURE for many diseases including CANCER)
  • The oddly stuffy way it handled both the announcement and its backlash. (Mary Elizabeth Williams has an insightful piece on Salon about how a truly non-political decision would have been handled in contrast with the shocked, “why is everyone being mean?” response exhibited by Komen founder Nancy Brinker.)

But, in the inevitable digging that has followed, any ounce of Komen’s remaining credibility on this issue has been entirely shredded. It’s the one question that – at least initially – no one thought to ask:

Of all the organizations that Komen gives money to, the only one under any local, state or federal investigation is Planned Parenthood?

As Richard Eskow reveals, the answer is of course not, not remotely.

A cursory look at Komen’s grantees reveals several under federal investigation, including Harvard, Yale, the University of Texas, Penn State, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

And, although Komen stated no new policies surrounding the legal behavior of its donors, it’s curious to see – when examining even just the super donors of its Million Dollar Council Elite, how many are under federal investigation for such transgressions as faulty auto parts, pension fraud, and mortgage fraud.

So now that that we know we’ve been lied to – and that Komen puts political agenda above saving the lives of cancer victims, what’s next?

Eskow writes:

…I plan to give more money to both Planned Parenthood and another cancer research organization as a result of this incident. I hope others will do the same. This could all turn out for the best, especially if the fall of one organization raises breast cancer awareness and increases support for treatment and research.

Something to think about…

Power to the People! Komen Reverses Planned Parenthood Decision.

February 3, 2012

After a clamorous uproar, Susan G. Komen Foundation today announced the reversal of its abrupt, two-day-old decision to stop providing grants to Planned Parenthood – grants for breast cancer screening and other breast-related health issues. It continues to insist that neither the initial decision nor the one to revoke it was politically motivated.  Komen founder Nancy Brinker released a statement today that said, in part:

We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.

The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.

While it’s an understandable thing to assert, it’s tough to buy, especially considering the dissent from Komen’s own ranks including:

  • All Komen affiliates in California issuing a statement against the move.
  • Mollie Williams, one of Komen’s top officials, quitting over the decision and – when asked about it yesterday explained she couldn’t give a reason, and then went ahead and gave one:

“However, anyone who knows me personally would tell you that I am an advocate for women’s health,” the statement said. “I have dedicated my career to fighting for the rights of the marginalized and underserved. And I believe it would be a mistake for any organization to bow to political pressure and compromise its mission.”

Williams was more direct with the Huffington Post:

“Eliminating this funding will mean there’s no place for these women to go. Where are these women to go to have a mammography? Do they not deserve to have mammography?”

  • Dr. Kathy Plesser, one of Komen’s scientific advisors,vowed to resign if the decision wasn’t reversed, stating:

“I strongly believe women need access to care, particularly underserved women. My understanding is that by eliminating this funding, it will jeopardize the women served by Planned Parenthood in terms of breast care.”

  • And, Komen boardmember John D. Raffaelli who flat out told the Times:

 Komen made the changes to its grant-making process specifically to end its relationship with Planned Parenthood.

It’s important to point out that Brinker’s statement, although apologetic, makes no promise to fund future grants to PPFA. It says that Komen will fulfill current grants (which was the plan anyway), and make PPFA “eligible” for grants in the future.

PPFA President Cecile Richards, whose response to this never once directed supporters to withdraw financial support from Komen, (unlike those who wanted the grants stopped), released a response statement:

The outpouring of support for women in need of lifesaving breast cancer screening this week has been astonishing and is a testament to our nation’s compassion and sincerity.

During the last week, millions spontaneously joined a national conversation about lifesaving breast cancer prevention care and reinforced shared values about access to health care for all. This compassionate outcry in support of those most in need rose above political, ideological, and cultural divides, and will surely be recognized as one of our nation’s better moments during a contentious political time.

[…]

With Komen Foundation grants, over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals. With the outpouring of support over the past week, even more women in need will receive lifesaving breast cancer care.

This actually has been a postive thing for Planned Parenthood and for awareness in general of health issues for low-income women. PPFA has reportedly raised $1 million over the last two days, including $200,000 from New York Mayor Bloomburg. 48-hours…not bad.

Susan G. Komen & Planned Parenthood: Some thoughts on the backlash

February 1, 2012

As promised, I found a petition site in response Susan G. Komen For The Cure’s announcement yesterday that they will no long provide grants to Planned Parenthood. The petition is managed by Credo Mobile, who, according to the site, is “proud to be the largest corporate sponsor of Planned Parenthood”.

More information has come to light about the new ultra-conservative V.P of Public Policy. Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon writes:

Komen says the move is just about “newly adopted criteria barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities.” You know what else is pretty “new” around Komen? Its senior vice president of public policy, Karen Handel. During the Sarah Palin-endorsed, Tea Party favorite’s 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia, Handel declared, “I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,” making clear that she “strongly supports” laws prohibiting “the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion-related services.” She did, however, emphasize that she “strongly support(s) the noble work of crisis-pregnancy centers.”

There has been an incredible blast of fervor over the past 24 hours. Some of it, in my opinion, unhelpful. (A post on feminsiting takes time to poke fun at the tackiness of some of Komen’s fund raising products, as does – to a lesser degree – the article I quoted above. But Williams does shed light on some head-scratching tid-bits about the charity. Most strikingly,

according to Komen’s own financial records, it spends almost “a million dollars a year in donor funds” aggressively going after other organizations that dare to use the phrase “for the cure” – including small charities like Kites for a Cure, Par for the Cure, Surfing for a Cure, Cupcakes for a Cure, and even a dog-sledding event called Mush for the Cure. Let me just give you that number again. 

This seems childish and rather uncharitable for a charitable for a non-profit, no? Especially considering that only 24% of funds go to research for a cure. It actually pigeon-holes them since awareness and early detection are as much a part of what they accomplish.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about the backlash. Especially the huge numbers of people who have vowed to give more money to PPFA (yay!) and to stop any support of Komen (huh?). I understand the practicality of it. Hitting any organization in the wallet is the swiftest way to provoke change. But the principal of it is completely backward.

If we find fault in the politicization of women’s health – how can we punish an organization that seeks to improve and save women’s lives for political reasons?

It’s the same with anti-abortioners, who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge a single positive thing that Planned Parenthood provides for low-income women. Not even all that they do to prevent unwanted pregnancies in their communities. When they regard PPFA, they need to see only abortion, to the point that they will outright lie to make sensational and baseless claims.

I don’t agree with Komen’s decision. It makes me angry and I’ll raise as much awareness as I can to try to reverse it – or (as seems to be happening) help rile enough economic support from the public that PPFA will not feel a loss of funds at all. But I won’t turn my back on everything Komen does because I don’t like this one thing. If they were misappropriating funds, if donations went to huge salaries and not to research or awareness – I’d cut all support because my money wouldn’t be doing any good.

If I get a chance to do a race for Komen, I’ll take it. If someone tells me about an event, I’ll go. To do anything different would be to walk in the footsteps of pro-lifers who previously pulled the plug on Komen (and any org that gave a dime to PPFA).

Maybe I’m impractical. But if Komen’s ability to effect women’s lives are impacted by this decision the way Planned Parenthood’s may now be – who wins?

The Politics of Cancer: Komen Pulls Grants to Planned Parenthood

January 31, 2012

An AP story today announced that Susan G. Komen will no longer provide what has historically been upwards of half a million dollars in annual grant money to Planned Parenthood for the use of breast cancer screenings and other breast-related health issues.  Komen says that the decision was based on Planned Parenthood’s recent investigation by Congress – which was spear-headed by Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., in what is largely seen as a politically-motivated move. The investigation calls for twelve years of documents in exhaustive detail, ostensibly to dig up billing issues and cases where federal money was, in fact, used to fund abortions.

Sen. Henry Waxman, D-CA and Rep. Dianna DeGette, D-CO, of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations wrote a pointed letter to Stearns in which they state:

We question the basis for the investigation and question whether Planned Parenthood is being singled out as part of Republican vendetta against an organization that provides family planning and other medical care to low-income women and men.

[…]

We are aware of no predicate that would justify this sweeping and invasive request of Planned Parenthood. The HHS Inspector General and state Medicaid programs regularly audit Planned Parenthood and report publicly on their findings. These audits have not identified any pattern of misuse of federal funds, illegal activity, or other abuse that would justify a broad and invasive congressional investigation.

Planned Parenthood believes Komen’s decision was simply a cave to pressure from pro-life groups who reveal their belief – in yet another un-surprising instance – that life in the womb trumps all other life/death/health issues. Period.

Patrick Hurd, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia, whose wife is currently battling breast cancer, commented:

“It sounds almost trite, going through this with Betsi, but cancer doesn’t care if you’re pro-choice, anti-choice, progressive, conservative. Victims of cancer could care less about people’s politics.”

Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood has performed nearly 170,000 breast exams that were funded by Komen grants. How many low-income women will be turned away in the next five?

I haven’t yet found a site that organizes petitions, but I’ll post when I do. The Planned Parenthood Action Center might be a good place to start (at the time of this posting both PPFA and Komen sites have no information.)

In the meantime, you can always donate.

Update: New Hampshire Drops One of its Domestic Violence Bills

January 28, 2012

HB 1608, legislation that would have weakened the power of law enforcement to detain or arrest violators of protective orders, was dropped in the House  after the bill’s sponsor, Representative Skip Reilly (R, Grafton 8), first bowed out of the hearing at the eleventh hour because he was out of town. Then, when the hearing was rescheduled to accommodate him, he simply failed to show up, forcing the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee to apologize to the  dozens who had traveled to testify against the bill on both occasions.

When asked why he failed to show up, he told WMUR’s Amy Coveno that he “wasn’t prepared to testify about the legislation.” That’s a legitimate reason to be a two-time no-show? If you did that in any other job, you’d be fired.

The intent of the bill remains a mystery, however. When asked about it, Reilly gamely passes the buck and explains he sponsored the bill at the request of Plymouth prosecutor Gabriel Nizetick. Nizetick quickly returns the buck by saying that his original intent was completely lost in the wording of the bill. He explains that

he was trying to bring regulations currently on the books in compliance with state law, saying recent amendments lumped civil disputes in with criminal infractions.

Civil disputes? Mistaken for domestic violence?

Although opponents are relieved that the bill was dropped, Amanda Grady of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, expresses concern about other domestic violence bills proposed this session, including HB 1581 – sponsored by Rep. Daniel Itse (R), and Rep. George Lambert (R) – which prevents officers from arresting anyone on domestic violence charges unless they witness the assault directly.

Packaging vs. Motive: Greewald examines recent human rights “successes”

January 26, 2012

Glen Greewald has an insightful piece on Salon today. He examines the pruported human rights motives behind military action, against actual improvements in the lives of civilians impacted by the violence. Specifically, he cites human rights violations of officials in post-Gaddaffi Libya. Doctors without Borders recently stopped work there in protest of ongoing, and apparantly santioned abuse, lawless detentions, torture, and medical neglect.  A doctor with the french Medecins Sans Frontieres explains:

“Patients were brought to us for medical care between interrogation sessions, so that they would be fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions.”

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations have expressed similar concerns. Greenwald compares this to our human rights “victory” following the fall of Saddam Hussein. He notes:

Obviously, the Gadaffi and Saddam regimes were horrible human rights abusers. But[…]one cannot celebrate a human rights success based merely on the invasion and overthrow of a bad regime; it is necessary to know what one has replaced them with.

Ironically, those who are the loudest advocates for these wars and then prematurely celebrate the outcome (and themselves) bear significant responsibility for these subsequent abuses: by telling the world that the invasion was a success, it causes the aftermath — the most important part — to be neglected. There is nothing noble about invading and bombing a country into regime change if what one ushers in is mass instability along with tyranny and abuse by a different regime. [Em. mine. Links, Greenwald]

He notes that although human rights abuses are often the loudly-tauted reasons for entering into military conflict, they are rarely the actual motive for doing so. He concludes:

The fact that it is not the goal means more than just another war sold deceitfully based on pretexts: it means that human rights concerns will not drive what happens after the invasion is completed. The material interests of the invaders are highly likely to be served, but not the human rights of the people of the invaded country.

[…] those who supported the war in Libya — which (like the war in Iraq) included numerous people who did so out of a genuine, well-intentioned desire to see a vile tyrant vanquished — have a particular responsibility to ensure that the same tyranny is not replicated by the forces supported by the invading armies. [Em. mine]

Well worth the read.

NH Proposes Legislation that Endangers Women’s Health

January 25, 2012

Part 1: Restricting Access to Affordable Reproductive Health Services

New Hampshire set the stage back in June 2011 when – through a five-person “exectutive panel” – it’s declined federal funding for the state’s Planned Parenthood clinics. As a result, it could no longer offer affordable birth control and considered doing away with pelvic exams as well. Raymond Wieczorek, a member of the panel who voted to nix the funding, voiced an all-too-common viewpoint from the anti-choice camp.

“I am opposed to abortion,” said , a council member who voted against the contract. “I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party but don’t ask me to pay for it.”

And here we are – well past saving babies and far into the waters of SEX! People having sex! Because of course, the Hyde Amendment is alive and well and no federal money is used to fund abortions. And how can anyone pretend to believe a an embryo, fetus, or fertilized egg, is an innocent life in need of rescue while at the same time restricting access to birth control? They can’t.

Fast forward seven months and the NH house pulled all state funding as well. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is keeping a running tally of women denied services. As of today, it’s 2459.

Part 2: Making it harder to protect victims of domestic violence

HB 1581 would prevent a police officer from making an arrest in a domestic violence case unless he directly witnesses the violence. An article in NH’s Concord Monitor illustrates an apt scenario:

An officer is called to a home where she sees clear evidence that an assault has occurred. The furniture is overturned, the children are sobbing, and the face of the woman of the house is bruised and bleeding. It’s obvious who the assailant was, but the officer arrived after the assault occurred. It’s a small department, and no one else on the force is available to keep the peace until the officer finds a judge or justice of the peace to issue a warrant. The officer leaves, and the abuser renews his attack with even more ferocity, punishing his victim for having called for help.

It’s hard to understand the justification for this kind of change. And as much as I’ve dug, I haven’t found any proponents speaking out on the web. Reasonable suspicion is good enough for most arrests – but not when the victim is a partner or spouse? It’s reminiscent of criminal investigation being paid by the state, except in cases of rape.

On top of that, we have HB 1608, severely limits when someone can be arrested for violating a restraining order to two things:

  • Committing an act of abuse or an offense against the person named in the protective order
  • Engaging in prohibited contact

Critics worry that this language takes away a judges right to rule on a case by case basis. Additionally, NH law enforcement believes the bill would

remove a judge’s ability to order a defendant in a domestic violence case to relinquish weapons or prevent him or her from purchasing a gun. It would also eliminate law enforcement’s ability to arrest a defendant who threatens to use physical force against a victim or her children.

New Hampshire residents can petition here.

 

“Saving Grace” – Mueller on One Catholic Family’s Late-Term Abortion

December 6, 2009

Amanda Mueller, at Truthout, has an interesting piece about a family coming to grips with a late-term abortion and their strong Catholic faith. Gail and Robert Andersons have deep ties to their families and to their Catholic community. They were both raised with strong faith and never questioned their beliefs. Yet, when they discover a severe birth defect 27 weeks into Gail’s first pregnancy, they question everything. After intense soul-searching and long discussions with their doctors, they decide on a late-term abortion.

“We are Catholic. We are supposed to be against abortion, but the church teaches mercy as well. The church examines quality of life. It isn’t a black and white issue as so many like to make it,” Robert says, looking away while fondling with his fingers the golden crucifix he wears around his neck.

The Andersons sought the help of Dr. George Tiller, the doctor who was shot and killed by “pro-life” activist Scott Roeder last May. Tiller operated one of only three clinics in the country willing to perform late-term abortions. As such, he was particularly vilified by the anti-abortion community. However, Gail Anderson didn’t find the root of evil she had once envisioned.

“Dr. Tiller was a very gentle man to my husband and me. He wasn’t the villain that people, me included, had often painted him. He was soft-spoken. He held our hands while we mourned our loss. He even prayed with us.”

[…]

“The staff was respectful and allowed me to have a little bit of dignity where I didn’t think I had any left. It made me sad that I didn’t get that from my friends or my religious community, but from strangers in a hospital setting. To this day, I am bitter about that,” Gail confessed.

The Andersons managed to mourn their lost child, Grace, and come through with their faith in tact. However, they worry that the church is becoming “dangerously involved in politics and losing sight that the world simply is not black and white.” [Em.mine]

They continue forward, despite for some calling for their removal from the church, because they know that they are not alone. They move forward because it is their hope that other Catholics faced with similar situations will realize that they are not alone.

It’s worth a read – along with the voices of these men and women who share the heart-wrenching tales of their own late term abortions.

Family Planning Reduces Abortions AND Helps the Economy

January 31, 2009

There was quite an uproar with the short-lived inclusion of a family planning initiative in the proposed national economic stimulus package. Conservatives scratched their heads at how contraception had anything to do with economy. On Hardball last Monday Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey, equating family planning services to contraception alone, quipped “Now, indeed, that may stimulate something, but I don‘t think it‘s going to stimulate the economy!” Sex, sex, its encouraging more SEX!

Rush Limbaugh drew the erroneous conclusion that the initiative (and family planning itself) is akin to “abortion all over the world”, its economic aim was to reduce the country’s birth rate and that a better method to do so would be to “… put pictures of Pelosi in every cheap motel room in America today, that will keep birth rates down because that picture will keep a lot of things down.”

Normally quoting Limbaugh serves little purpose, and I’m going to ignore a large part of why this comment is offensive, but I wanted to mention it because it demonstrates a conservative belief about the purpose of family planning clinics. “In every cheap motel room in America…” Seedy, sordid, illicit sex. The kind in sleezy motels across the land. Irresponsible, immoral behavior. That’s what contraception is for. That’s what clinics serve. If you want to engage in THAT kind of behavior, and dodge its logical consequences, why should the government help you out?

This kind of thinking, whether vocalized or not, is pervasive, damaging, and just plain inaccurate. It belies a person who knows very little about what clinics such as Planned Parenthood are all about, and a willful ignorance of what was in the stimulus package regarding family planning.

First, let’s look at what the nation’s largest family planning organization actually does on a daily basis. In 2007  a breakdown of Planned Parenthood services looked like this:

  • 36% Contraception
  • 31% STD testing and treatment
  • 17% Cancer screening and prevention
  • 11% Pregnancy tests, pre-natal care, menopause, and infertility.
  • 3% Abortion (*No federal money can be used for this – see below)
  • 2% Primary care and adoption referral

If you’re a low-income man, woman, or couple with no health insurance, who do you go to? Where do you go?

Now let’s look at what the inclusion of this legislation actually would have accomplished. Currently low-income women of child-bearing age cannot access Medicaid until they become pregnant. If a woman wants federal help for family planning before this time, she has to petition for a waiver, providing her state allows for this. 27 states offer a waiver, which can take as long as two years to acquire. Obama proposed eliminating the federal waiver thereby allowing states to directly access Medicaid funds for family planning services if they so choose. States that never offered the waiver remain completely unchanged.

This money would fund mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, medically relevant sex education, contraception, STD testing and treatment, pre-natal care, and infertility treatment –  but not a penny would go toward abortion! *Remember the Hyde Amendment? Since 1976 no federal dollars may be spent to fund abortion. In fact, Medicare and Medicaid explicitly state that under no circumstance may abortion “be claimed as a family-planning service.”

Family planning. Essentially ensuring low-income women’s gynecological health and empowering them with the means to control when they become pregnant. How can a multitude of  pregnant teens, women who drop out of college for a menial job to raise an unexpected child, and couples who can’t afford more children nevertheless finding themselves pregnant again NOT be a drain on the economy? AIDS or other STD’s being contracted, untreated, and exponentially spread. Women who seek emergency room help for cancer only after it had advanced to the point that her physical symptoms impair her daily life. Low-income, mostly uninsured women. Again, NOT a drain on the economy? On the health care system? This isn’t complicated, it’s common sense!

Even if we were dealing solely with contraception – is that so wrong? Deciding where and when to have a child is a basic fundamental right. Again, we’re not even talking about abortion. We’re talking about PLANNING! The most responsible thing a person can do. Why is there such a backlash?

Is it sex, again? Are we back to sex? Pro-creation only sex? Because as great as it sounds I don’t see a whole lot of neo-cons with 15 kids. Even outspoken Huckabee only has three. I suppose he abstains.

The fact is that people have sex. Teenagers do it, college kids, singles, couples, married people. How can being healthy along the way and in control of your life be a negative thing?

Dr. Pete Klasky has a great piece on Huffington where he points to evidence that family planning significantly reduces the number of abortions and saves the government money.

To understand how this works, it is helpful to look at California’s experience with a state-funded contraception and family planning initiative for women with incomes between 100% and 200% of the poverty level:

Four years after implementing the program, California saved an estimated $500 million in public health care spending, net of what they spent on the program itself. In fact, for every dollar invested in the program, the state of California saved an estimated $5.33, over a period of five years. These are conservative estimates that do not include money saved through increased productivity and cost savings from reductions in paid medical leave and sick days that result from unplanned pregnancies. Few other public spending plans can boast such a positive return on investment. [Em mine]

He also points out that sex education and access to contraception do NOT lead to an increased amount of pre-marital sex. Another myth opponents assert time and again.

In 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services (under Republican Secretary Tommy Thompson), released a report documenting an increase in contraceptive use with a decrease in sexual activity between 1995 and 2002. Supplying contraceptives and educating adolescents about sex during the late 1990s did not increase their likelihood to engage in sexual activities; it did keep them from getting pregnant. Even supplying emergency contraception to adolescents, prior to sexual activity, has been proven not to affect sexual behaviors.

Of course, we all know that abstinence-onlyeducation” has the exact opposite effect (doesn’t delay onset or frequency of sexual activity, but rather increases the likelihood of unprotected sex because it purports – among other things – that condoms are ultimately ineffective), and yet the Bush Administration spent more than $1.75 billion on it – not in an effort to boost the economy, but an attempt to spread good Christian virtue to those who would otherwise find themselves sullied and impure.

So what is the reasoning behind indignantly rejecting an initiative that would reduce the number of abortions and save the government money? What is it? Politics? Ignorance? The misplaced notion of seedy hotel room sex?

I do understand the argument that the economic stimulus package simply wasn’t the appropriate vehicle for this initiative and, in fact, its inclusion simply lofted a softball for opposition to self-righteously whack over the fence – that it was a tactical error on Obama’s part. Its ability to instantly appall conservatives and consequent swift removal from the package bears this out.

But family planning will be back. How will the debate go when we don’t have to show that that it’s good for the economy, but simply that it’s good for the country? The very fact that we’re beginning to have these conversations on a national level is a start and I am hopeful that over the next few years we will see signifiant changes in both policity and cultural attitudes about women’s health and reproductive freedom – that dicussion of sexual issues won’t revolve around fear and shame, but will instead focus on  self and mutual respect, healthy relationships, education, safety, emotional and physical health, autonomous control, and responsibility. Am I too optimistic?

Prop 8 & Gay Marriage – A Point by Point

December 18, 2008

I have a hard time understanding the current fervid “defense of traditional marriage” position. How is marriage being attacked, again? As Jason Linkins pointed out recently on Huffingtonpost:

…it’s a lot like saying that my preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla threatens the sanctity of dessert. Must we have these conversations over harms that are entirely imaginary?

But way too many Americans voted for Prop-8 or similar legislation, so what did they tell themselves to make that okay? I’m trying to understand. I am. Which is why when Jon Stewart managed to have a civilized discussion about gay marriage with Mike Huckabee this week, I sat up and paid attention. Huckabee speaks for the core of social conservatives, right? What did he have to say when Stewart questioned him?

…um, that’s all he’s got? Sadly, I was expecting more. If you look closely at what he asserts, you find merely age-old rhetoric without an ounce of logic or demonstrable fact.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look:

  • Marriage between a man and a woman should be the only marriage because “it’s always been that way.”

Since when has this been a vaild reason for anything? Earlier in this country it had “always been” that a woman had no right to enter into a contract of any kind and she legally held no possessions. First she was a dependent of her father and then a dependant of her husband and held no legal rights to make life choices that might go against their wishes. (See Debran Rowland’s awesome book,  The Boundaries of her Body.)

In 9th century Europe, and for centuries before, it had “always been” that a woman who learned to read was sinful, dangerous and very likely possessed.

Things that had “always been” but were eventually changed for the betterment of society are so numerous you could dedicate a book to the topic.

And besides that, it HASN’T always been that way. Far from it. Although Huckabee boldly asserts that it was one man one woman for “the past 5000 years of recorded history,” it’s just not true. In a 2006 article historian Stephanie Coontz writes:

Pundits and politicians love to pontificate about strengthening traditional marriage. But as someone who has studied marriage forms and family life for more than three decades, I wonder how many of them have the faintest idea of what they’re talking about.

I suppose they mean the “traditional” marriage of one man and one woman.

But through most of human history and in most cultures the most widely accepted tradition of marriage has been polygamy — one man and multiple women. We’re not just talking about exotic island cultures or lost tribes in the African jungle. Polygamy is the family form most often mentioned in the first five books of the Old Testament.

In some societies, traditional marriage meant one woman wedded to several men. In others, a woman could take another woman as a “female husband.” In China and the Sudan, when two sets of parents wanted to forge closer family ties and no live spouse was available, one set sometimes married off a child to the “ghost” of a dead son or daughter of the other family. Among the Bella Coola and Kwakiutl native societies of the Pacific Northwest, two families who wished to become in-laws but didn’t have two sets of marriageable children available for a match might even draw up a marriage contract between a son or daughter and a dog belonging to the desired in-laws. Most traditional marriages were concerned with property and wealth, not love or sex.

But what about the sanctity of marriage in the Christian tradition? It is true that Jesus, contradicting Moses, forbade his followers to divorce. But Jesus was not very keen on having them marry in the first place, holding that it was better to abandon worldly ties and dedicate oneself to building the faith. “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke, 14). The Apostle Paul thought that getting married was better than burning in hell for unmarried fornication, but that the truly good thing was to remain a virgin and devote oneself to spreading God’s word. [Em. mine]

  • Marriage is all about making babies and hey, they just ain’t got the plumbing for it…

We’re talking about the law here. What part does procreation play in the law of marriage? Barren couples can marry. A couple can marry who has no intention of ever having children. A couple can marry and then proceed to adopt the offspring of others. All perfectly up and up. So the feeling is basically “As long as you’re having sex the way we expect you to, your marriage doesn’t have to be about procreation at all!”

And seriously, what does he mean by

“But even anatomically- let’s face it, the only way that we can create the next generation is through a male female relationship.”

So… gay marriage would replace heterosexual marriage and therefore lead to our eventual extinction?

  • If you “open up” the definition of marriage to include same sex couples, then you “have” to open it up to include everything else – (with multiple spouses, children, and animals ostensibly the first in line.)

Really? Why? Because you need to equate two men falling in love, getting married and spending their lives together with the profound abuse of children and animals? (assuming the animal marriages were, uh…consummated.) Sadly the equating of “grave sins” with whatever he disagrees with is not new territory for Huckabee.

Let’s look at other groundbreaking moments of  “redefinition” over the past 60 or so years.

* When “free man” in the US was redefined to include all races, were children suddenly emancipated from parents? Live stock emancipated from owners? Pets roaming the streets? Zoos emptied?

* When the definition of a legal voter changed to include women, did the floodgates open so that children, animals, and immigrants suddenly lined up at the polls?

* When an interracial couple could legally marry – did that immediately pave the way for marriage between homosexuals, children, animals, and next of kin?

Then why? Why would gay marriage lead to everything else you propose? Never once has anyone elaborated on this. Why.

  • It says so in the bible.

This one is so flawed that even Huckabee didn’t touch it during his Daily Show chat. First of all, contrary to the opinions of some, the bible does not inform our laws. Cheating on your spouse, disrespecting your parents, shouting “Goddamnit, Jesus Christ!” and lusting after another dude’s wife are all perfectly legal. Rather, our laws are explicitly informed by the US Constitution and the Separation of Church and State is in its oldest amendment.

That really is all that needs to be said to on the topic. Separation of Church and State. Yet, it’s only the beginning of why this “reasoning” is flawed. So although I don’t have to go here, it’s so much fun, why the heck not?

Yes, the bible says a man shall layeth with a woman, etc… The bible, in fact, says a lot of things. Deuteronomy Books 21 and 22, for example, have an awful lot to say…

  • You must stone to death a disobedient child. Deuteronomy 21:18-21
  • “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment; for whomever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 22:5
  • Any man whose bride has not shown sufficient evidence of virginity upon the wedding night must publically stone her to death upon her father’s doorstep. You know, to “purge the evil from the midst of [him].” Deuteronomy 22:13-21
  • If a married man cheats with another woman “both of them shall die.” Deuteronomy 22:22

(The previous culled from the wonderful Michael Shermer in his book Science Friction.)

Sure, there are lots of positive “do unto other” sentiments in the bible, especially once God has a son and everyone mellows out. But if you proclaim that what is written in the bible is the word of God, how can you dismiss some points while emphasizing others as absolute truth?

As Shermer says:

The problem here is consistency, and selecting ethical guidelines that support our particular or social prejudices. If you are going to claim the Bible as your primary (or only) code of ethics, and proclaim […] that homosexuality is sinful and wrong because the Bible says so, then you’ve got to kill rebellious youth and nonvirginal premarried woman.

Instead, the social conservative culture chooses to target homosexuals (no marriage!) while going easy on equally offending sexually active single women (please marry!…Oh, and have babies as soon as possible…)

Prop 8 proponents also spew another attack line, which again Huckabee was smart enough to avoid in his tete a tete with Stewart – Gay marriage defiles children. How?

The official Prop 8 site has this cute video (I’ve linked to it before, I know…) where a couple fears for the well being of their child because a teacher spoke about same-sex marriage in class. How the child would be harmed is never delineated.

This woman, gets more specific with

If you look at homes where one parent abuses the other parent, especially if the child is a girl, she will grow up to pursue guys who abuse her. My prediction is that if two lesbians raise a little girl/boy, the child will have a very high chance of either committing suicide or turning homosexual himself. Especially if one of the parents has been artificially inseminated.

She also happens to believe

…homosexual lifestyle leads to high rates of suicide, depression, HIV, drug abuse, STDs, and other pathogens.

What kind of koolaid has she been drinking? I don’t even feel the need to rebut this, as it’s a sentiment that has never been substantiated in any way – not even in theory.

Random House defines homophobia as “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.” Now, explain to me how actively supporting Prop 8 (or similar legislation) doesn’t make you homophobic.

Go on , Huckabee. I’m listening…