Jesurgislac’s Journal

June 27, 2010

Why is abortion like setting fire to kittens?

As many of you may know, I am a fervent and committed believer in a woman’s right to choose: I support all six demands of the women’s liberation movement: equal pay, equal employment opportunity, free contraceptive services, abortion on demand. (The last demand, free 24-hour childcare, I think is brilliantly utopian, world turned upside down, but the first five are all achievable in our present political state….)

Setting fire to kittens, on the other hand: inarguably wrong. Even if you hate cats, and as many of you may know, I am a fervent and committed cat worshipper whisperer.

Pro-lifers generally run blogs that do not accept dissenting viewpoints. (They’re like gay marriage opponents in that way.) But for pro-lifers, the “dissenting viewpoint” can be anything like “Contraception is a good way of preventing abortions” or scientific facts about how methods of contraception work, to assertions that women have abortions for all sorts of reasons, including the purely economic fear of losing your job, and these reasons are none of them outrageous or wicked. If you don’t want a woman who works for a Catholic school to have an abortion because she can’t afford to lose her job, then – as the ACLU did – you fight the case of a woman fired for getting pregnant, so that Catholic schools in future will refrain from encouraging their employees from having abortions. If you think a high abortion rate is a bad thing, you fund free access to contraception, you put in place sex education in schools that encourages children to think about sex positively as a source of pleasure for themselves and each other and using contraception whenever they have sex unless they intend to engender a child, you provide maternity care and paid maternity leave and rights for working parents to have time to care for their children and earn a living. We know that pro-lifers are not interested in reducing the number of abortions because, as a political movement, and, mostly, as individuals, they support none of these things.

What are pro-lifers interested in?

They hate abortion. And they want you to know they hate abortion.

Part of this goes right along with hating abortion because it means women can have, in the pro-life euphemism, “sex without consequences” – why pro-lifers also oppose free access to contraception. Women, in this view of things, ought not to be allowed to have sex joyfully, for her own pleasure, without fear: the fear of becoming pregnant is something that ought always to be looming over a woman’s mind when she thinks about having sex. Especially an unmarried women: hence pro-life support for firing an unmarried woman who decided not to have an abortion. This hatred of women having sex for pleasure is very strong in the pro-life movement, and for many years I’ve assumed it to be the key motivator. There’s considerable evidence for this in the policies/campaigning of the pro-life movement, as this post by Ampersand outlines:

In contrast, the leaders of the abortion criminalization movement have consistently put their political weight behind policies which make little or no sense if they genuinely think that abortion is identical to child murder. And those same leaders routinely endorse policies that make a lot of sense if their goal is to penalize women who have sex – to, as I’ve heard many of them put it, make sure women “face the consequences” of having sex. And they’ve done so with the apparent backing and blessing of the vast majority of the rank and file. [Further analysis at Alas a Blog.]

This belief – that denying access to abortion is an effective means of turning pregnancy into punishment and babies into “consequences” – is why many pro-lifers say they think abortion ought to be allowed for rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life.

But for some pro-lifers, that’s still not acceptable. For them, the key is hating abortion, and hating people who support the right to have an abortion. They don’t care about women dying: they don’t care about fetuses dying, or babies dying: they certainly don’t care about preventing abortions, because where would their source of hate be then?

I read this post on Slacktivist about false witness some time ago; Fred illustrated his point with reference to an awful incident the paper he worked for had reported on, a “group of disturbed and disturbing children doused a kitten with lighter fluid and set it on fire” and other incidents in which disturbed and disturbing people had done this awful thing. Fred noted that people were universally and unsurprisingly against kitten-burning:

But one also came away from reading that thread with the sense that people seemed to think this ultra-minimal moral stance made them exceptional and exceptionally righteous. Like the earlier editorial writers, they seemed to think they were exhibiting courage by taking a bold position on a matter of great controversy. Whatever comfort might be gleaned from the reaffirmation that most people were right about this non-issue issue was overshadowed by the discomfiting realization that so many people also seemed to want or need most others to be wrong.

The kitten-burners seem to fulfill some urgent need. They give us someone we can clearly and correctly say we’re better than. Their extravagant cruelty makes us feel better about ourselves because we know that we would never do what they have done. They thus function as signposts of depravity, reassuring the rest of us that we’re Not As Bad As them, and thus letting us tell ourselves that this is the same thing as us being good.

Hating abortion is a political tool to get people to vote against their own economic self-interests: as Avedon at the Sideshow summarises succinctly: “the lie that the anti-abortion movement was an organic reaction to Roe v Wade, but of course that’s not true – like everything else, it was orchestrated by rich right-wingers as part of their ongoing program to polarize society.”

In the US in the 1970s, racism was becoming less and less acceptable as a means by which right-wing politicians could convince working-class white Americans to vote and even campaign against their own economic interests. (As an example: By the end of that decade,even the Mormon Church had had to receive a revelation from God that it was unacceptable to ban black men from the priesthood. But in the 21st century, the Mormon Church actively campaigns for discrimination against lesbians and gays.) In 2002, the then-Senate Majority leader, Trent Lott, had to apologize for saying that the United States would have avoided all these problems if the racist Strom Thurmond had been elected President in 1948: in 2004, George W. Bush could endorse a national campaign for homophobic bigotry and inequality.

But if you can’t, any more, use racism as a trigger to get people to vote against their own economic self-interest, what can you use to drum up hatred? In the 1970s, the LGBT equality movement wasn’t widespread enough for gay-hating to work as a national trigger – too many parts of the US where LGBT people just kept their heads down and tried to be invisible and inaudible – but women, everywhere, need access to abortion and contraception. Turn this natural human need into a hate campaign and you’re off to a winner.

Abortion is like setting fire to kittens not because human fetuses are like kittens (there is no lolfetuses website) but because pro-lifers get their buzz out of believing themselves to be better than others. The opposition of pro-lifers to intact dilation and extraction, and their invention of the non-medical term “partial birth abortion”, is otherwise inexplicable: IDX is an abortion technique, one which can be safer for a woman who needs an abortion in late pregnancy, but banning IDX will not prevent any abortions: it merely ensures that a method which may be less safe for the woman must be used. Many pro-lifers have reacted with anger and rejection when asked if their opposition to IDX is because they want women to be hurt or permanently damaged: apparently what they want is a return to the pre-IDX days when the only way to remove a dead or dying fetus from the uterus was piecemeal. This belief that IDX in particular is bad makes no sense to many people, but if what pro-lifers want is the reassurance that they’re better than people who support a woman’s right to choose, thus letting them tell themselves that this is the same thing as “being good”, then it makes sense that they want abortion to appear “extravagantly cruel“. Performing IDX means the fetus can be removed intact, allowing the parents to hold the body as they mourn their loss: to pro-lifers this is as unacceptable as legislation for social justice is to Trotskyites who believe in a worker’s revolution.

I was 27 weeks by this point. I was terrified. The moment I met the doctor, all of that ended. He was a wonderful and loving man. I came in on Monday and gave birth to our baby girl on Friday. We were able to hold her after, and say our goodbyes. That doctor will always be in my heart. (From A Heartbreaking Choice, the website set up to commemorate Doctor George Tiller’s work.)

Pro-lifers are the movement for setting fire to kittens. They are not interested in preventing abortions: they are not interested in protecting women from harm. They are not interested in saving fetal lives. What they want is to compare access to abortion with the holocaust, with slavery, with torture – they want abortion to be performed as dangerously as possible: they want to claim that abortion is dangerous and performed by uncaring people; they want to campaign against evil like brave, brave, brave Sir Robin without actually running any risks because the evil empire they tourney against is entirely of their own invention.

Unfortunately, the women condemned to suffer and die from their tourneying are not.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!

January 24, 2009

Global Gag Rule: GONE

From IPAS:

First implemented in 1984 during the Reagan administration, the policy bans any organization receiving U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds from using their own, non-U.S. funds to provide any abortion services or to lobby their own governments to make abortion laws less restrictive. (The Helms Amendment, passed in 1974, made it illegal to use USAID funds for any abortion activities.)

President Clinton repealed this: President George W. Bush reinstated it. When Bush’s staffers complain that Bush didn’t get the “credit” for financing work against AIDS in Africa, they prefer not to consider that in November 2005, the Bush Administration formally expanded the Global Gag Rule to U.S. global AIDS funding under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), according to the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). The restrictions appeared as part of a five-year, $193 million request for applications (RFA) for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in Kenya: the RFA, entitled, “HIV/AIDS & Tuberculosis, treatment, care and support” referenced the gag rule twice in stating eligibility criteria, stating that all consortium partners must “agree, to abide by the Mexico City Policy [the official name of the global gag rule], the Tiahrt Amendment, and all USAID policies and regulations.” cite

From How a US policy restricting family planning funding is hampering efforts to fight HIV and AIDS by Kathambi Kinoti (Resource Net Friday File Issue 254, December 2005):

The global gag rule has disrupted the crucial HIV/AIDS intervention role of FPAK, Marie Stopes and numerous other organizations. Just as it is impossible to separate family planning services from efforts to fight HIV and AIDS, it is impossible to separate family planning services from abortion-related issues. When an anti-abortion muzzle is put on reproductive health providers, all the other beneficial seivices that they provide are eroded. Without adequate access to contraception and reproductive health care and education, the rate of both safe and unsafe abortions will increase. Most family planning centres also have to deal
with the after-effects of underground, unsafe abortions.

Pretending that the war against HIV/AIDS will be won when sex takes place within the confines of marriage is counterproductive, and restricting funding solely to organizations that promote the myth is lethal. It will result in a waste of money and the victory of HIV and AIDS.

There’ll be a lot of pro-lifers angrily protesting the repeal of the global gag rule across the right-wing blogosphere. Today, tomorrow, all year. They’ll call Obama the “pro-abortion President”. What these complaints about this repeal reveal is: these are people who do not give a damn about the lives of some of the poorest women in the world. They do not care if women in Ethiopia, Nepal and Nigeria lost access to family planning clinics. They do not care about the sixty thousand or more women each year who die from illegal abortions.

All they want is to sit in their safe little houses rubbing themselves up with their sense of superior morality that, by God, their taxes don’t go to pay for clinics that also provide abortions! They are, in the classic sense, Pharisees: indifferent to anything but their own feelings of moral superiority.

Dr Gill Greer, the director general of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, estimated the gag rule had cost the group more than $100m for family planning and sexual and reproductive health programmes during the eight years of the Bush administration, which she said amounted to 36 million unplanned pregnancies and 15 million induced abortions. These pro-lifers will try to claim they support the global gag rule because they oppose abortion… proving them either liars, or stupid.

“The gag rule has done immense harm and caused untold suffering to millions around the world. It has undermined health systems and endangered the lives and health of the poorest and most vulnerable women on the planet by denying access to life saving family planning, sexual and reproductive health and HIV services and exposing them to the dangers of unsafe abortion.”cite

The global gag rule is gone. Nothing can undo the damage Bush did by reinstating it and enforcing it, especially in Africa where his extension took so much money away from useful anti-AIDS programs – how many people became infected with HIV because Bush wanted to pander to the Christian right? – but it’s gone, and the world is better for it.

January 23, 2009

Transition Tells Tales

Apparently, as Bush and his crew left for Texas as the inauguration crowds booed (it has to be the first time in 8 years that Bush had been at an event where the “crowd” wasn’t either/or US military, reporters, or checked/confirmed Bush supporters), there were some complaints on the plane about how Obama’s inaugural speech had criticised the Bush administration.

And now, as far as some of them were concerned, the new president had used his inaugural lectern to give the back of the hand to a predecessor who had been nothing but gracious to him.

Karen Hughes: “There were a few sharp elbows that really rankled and I felt were not as magnanimous as the occasion called for. He really missed an opportunity to be as big as the occasion was and, frankly, as gracious as President Bush was as he left office.”
Dan Bartlett: “It was a missed opportunity to bring some of the president’s loyal supporters into the fold.”
Marc A. Thiessen: “It was an ungracious inaugural. It was pretty clear he was taking shots.”

Karen, Dan, Marc: I want to tell you a story, kids. About a really ungracious transition.

A new President came in, with a new staff. Damaging rumours were spread in Washington that the White House had been left trashed. Computers had been filled with pr0n downloads. Pr0n had been pasted on walls. Cables and wires had been slashed. The new White House press secretary told reporters that the damage included the removal of the letter “W” from 100 computer keyboards, five missing brass nameplates with the presidential seal on them, 75 telephones with cover plates missing or apparently intentionally plugged into the wrong wall outlets, six fax machines relocated in the same way, ten cut phone lines, two historic door knobs missing, overturned desks and furniture in about 20 percent of the offices, obscene graffiti in six offices, and eight 14-foot loads of usable office supplies recovered from the trash, and a photocopy machine that had copies of naked people hidden in the paper tray so they would come out from time to time with other copies. The new President wouldn’t confirm or deny the reports, saying he just wanted to “move on”.

Eighteen months later, after an official investigation, the Government Accounting Office published a report: it had all been lies. There had been no campaign of wilful damage, no pr0n pasteups, graffiti, slashed cables: the condition the White House and associated offices had been left in had been usual and expected.

This was the Bush administration’s “gracious” transition, Karen, Dan, Marc: your team began, in January 2001, by trashing your precedessors. Your President, whom you were touting as an example of “graciousness”, sat back as lies ran about Bill Clinton’s administration, and smirked a “let’s just move on”. You complain that Obama’s inaugural speech was “sharp-elbowed”? You’ve got nothing.

January 8, 2009

What will Bush do when he retires?

His daddy’s rich friends will buy him a company for him to be the Decider of. He will be a non-voting shareholder with a token post on the board, who sits in his office all day and drinks.

After early-onset Alzheimers (alcoholism is reckoned to be a contributory factor) sets in, he will believe he is still the President, and will be upset when he no longer has Secret Service agents guarding him.

He will choke to death on his own vomit some time in the 2020s, and receive a magnificent state funeral. Assuming that the Republicans are still a viable party then, all sorts of them will say how he was the best President since Lincoln. Everything that’s gone wrong in Iraq since 2003 will be blamed on the Iraqis or on President Obama.

Since the Secret Service will continue to defend him till 2019, none of this should be taken as so much as a wish that he will come to any harm. “Congress changed the law in the 1990s so that any president elected after Jan. 1, 1997, and his or her spouse will receive the federal protection for only 10 years.” cite (There should be a comma after spouse.)

Apparently, Bush intends to spend at least the first 4 years of his retirement fundraising for a planned $300 million “structure” at Southern Methodist University, to be named after him, which will include a library, museum and policy institute. Once he’s raised enough in private funds to pay for the construction, the National Archives and Records Administration will take over the operation of the library and museum at federal expense. It’s supposed to be finished by 2013.

At least that’s when Bush probably plans to spread a “Mission Accomplished” banner over the building site, declare that “major contruction is finished”, and go back to the office space acquired for him by the General Services Administration, which, under the Former Presidents Act, will pay for the office suite and staff to assist him for the rest of his life.

Nice.

…but I have a tiny wish that he ends his days in a cell at the Hague trying to convince the judge that he’s mentally unfit to stand trial.

Oliver, what are you thinking?

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No.

October 29, 2008

The Next Rove Presidency: “Keep him at least three paces distant”

“Keep him at least three paces distant who hates bread, music, and the laugh of a child.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater, Aphorisms on Man, 1788

Here’s Bill Clinton versus George W. Bush/Karl Rove, from the perspective of one of Bill Clinton’s worst enemies:

“For all the years he was president,” Armey told me, “Bill Clinton and I had a little thing we’d do where every time I went to the White House, I would take the little name tag they give you and pass it to the president, who, without saying a word, would sign and date it. Bill Clinton and I didn’t like each other. He said I was his least-favorite member of Congress. But he knew that when I left his office, the first schoolkid I came across would be given that card, and some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president’s autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it.” Armey said that when he went to his first meeting in the White House with President Bush, he explained the tradition with Clinton and asked the president if he would care to continue it. “Bush refused to sign the card. Rove, who was sitting across the table, said, ‘It would probably wind up on eBay,’” Armey continued. “Do I give a damn? No. But can you imagine refusing a simple request like that with an insult? It’s stupid. From the point of view of your own self-interest, it’s stupid. I was from Texas, and I was the majority leader. If my expectations of civility and collegiality were disappointed, what do you think it was like for the rest of the congressmen they dealt with? The Bush White House was tone-deaf to the normal courtesies of the office.”

That story was published in The Atlantic in September 2007, in an article on The Rove Presidency. I’ve remembered it quite a few times since, because Dick Armey was not someone I liked or respected or would have thought I shared any values with at all. But it turned out that we did share just one value, a tiny one: because I liked him for doing this, and I liked Clinton for giving him the means to do it – and if I could have disrespected Karl Rove and George W. Bush any more than I already did, I would have, for refusing a colleague something that would have meant much to him and cost them nothing at all.

I have no idea how John McCain would behave, with Karl Rove at his elbow, if requested to do something like this. (And if McCain’s in the White House, Karl Rove will be at his elbow.)

But if Barack Obama’s in the Oval Office next year, and his least-favourite member of Congress asks him to autograph and date a name badge so he can give it to the next kid he sees… I’m absolutely certain that President Obama would grin, sign, and hand the badge over.

from Yes We Can (Hold Babies)

from Yes We Can (Hold Babies)

I was reminded of this story again by Elle’s post on What the Election Means to her son. Check out the photos there… and even more on Yes We Can (Hold Babies).

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