Woman's Womb

"Women will continue to be oppressed, socially and politically, until we recognize the roles traditionally associated with women as being among the most important in our society."
   
                                                                                                       --Marianne Williamson

"Feeling our worth regardless of how others respond is the equivalent to being independently wealthy. When the knowledge of our worth is de-coupled from the behavior of others, we are untouchable. That is the threat that women’s leisure time has presented to a patriarchal society and partly the reason child-less women are still viewed with suspicion."
                                                                                                          --Bethany Webster

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Voices of Choice: Physicians Who Provided Abortions Before Roe v. Wade

The FRAGILE PROMISE of CHOICE: Abortion in the U.S. Today (full length documentary)

How Sex Became a Civil Liberty
Leigh Ann Wheeler

Sex, Time & Power - How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution
Leonard Shlain

 

 

KPFA Women's Mag
~ Blog

 

 

Videos, audios, teleseminars...

"A Sea Change": With 100 Women in Congress, Lawmakers Go on Offensive with Landmark Pro-Choice Bill 070915

With House Passage of Extreme 20-Week Abortion Ban, GOP Continues Assault on Reproductive Rights 051915

Part 2: Film "Vessel" Follows Doctor Who Took Safe Abortion
to the Seas & the Internet
011615

Women on Waves: Meet the Dutch Physician Who Defied Abortion Bans by Bringing Her Clinic to the Sea 011515

Child Marriage

Abortion as a Social Good: Author Katha Pollitt Pens New Vision for Pro-Choice Movement 101614

KPFA Women's Magazine - 1) Troy Davis and a family's fight against the death penalty; 2) Criminalizing miscarriage; 3) Fabulosa festival coming up 091514

Kathy Kneer, Prez & CEO of Planned Parentood Affiliates of Calif., & Beth Parker, chief legal counsel of PP, on Hobby Lobby decision and elimination of 30' patient protection zone 2nd hour @ 01:05:00

Audio from KPFA Sunday Show w/Philip Maldari 072714

PPAC leader Kathy Kneer speaks out at Supreme Court rally 032514

 

!!!!!!!!!!!!

Take the San Francisco Pledge!

 

 

Bethany Webster
Womb of Light

 

"For those espousing the viewpoints of patriarchy, nothing is more enraging
than a woman who doesn’t feel indebted or self-deprecating…
Nothing is more offensive than the woman whose presence unapologetically states:

I don’t owe you a child.  I don’t owe you a fuck.  I don’t owe you my approval.
I don’t owe you ego-stroking.  I don’t owe you explanations.  I don’t owe you my attention.
I don’t owe you anything.  I am enough as I am
."
                                                                                                               --Bethany Webster

 

 

Bill Moyers

NOW

NARAL

NOW / Abortion

34 Million Friends
of UNFPA

Planned Parenthood

Religious Coalition for
Reproductive Choice

 

 

Videos, audios, teleseminars...

Woman BLASTS Anti-Choice, Anti-Science Lawmakers in Texas 071013 - Sarah Slamen, you go girl!!!
Sarah Slamen: The Testimony TX Lawmakers Wouldn't Let Her Give

From North Carolina to Texas: Grassroots Movement Grows To Resist Anti-Abortion Bills 071213

In Challenge to Roe v. Wade, North Dakota Enacts Law Banning Nearly All Abortions 032713

Leigh Ann Wheeler - How Sex Became a Civil Liberty 032613

Roe v Wade: 40 Years On... The Legal History & Future of Reproductive Rights 022513

Voices of Choice: Physicians Who Provided Abortions Before
Roe v. Wade
012513

After Tiller: 40 Years After Roe v. Wade, Abortion Providers Continue Work of Slain Kansas Doctor 012413

Criminalizing Pregnancy: As Roe v. Wade Turns 40, Study Finds Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women 011813

Eve Ensler on “The State of Female America,” Her Play "Emotional Creature" & Women Violence in Congo 112712

Ina May Gaskin on Rising U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate, Midwifery and Home Births 031912

After Right-Wing Campaign, Leading Breast Cancer Charity Komen Drops Funding for Planned Parenthood 020212

Mississippi Rejects Bill to Grant Pre-Embryonic "Personhood," Outlaw Fertility Aid, Birth Control 110911

Get the Facts! Carly Fiorina wants to overturn Roe v. Wade 101510

A Look at Roe v. Wade 32 Years Later 012105

March For Women's Lives: Up to a Million Descend on DC in One of the Largest Protests in U.S. History 052604

 

 

Articles

NBC/WSJ poll: Majority, for first time, want abortion to be legal 012113

5 Anti-Abortion States to Watch in 2013 010813

Reproductive rights of women still an issue 082612

After two record years of attacks on reproductive rights, state legislatures still on a roll 050712

 

  "U.S. out of my uterus!"
                                                              --Sign at a peace march

 

 

 

JONG AT HEART - Feminist icon, more outspoken than ever over reproductive rights, draws heat 052304
Ruth Rosen: The politics of contraception 051304
Ruth Rosen: Bush mobilizes women 051304
Carol Norris: Hope Amidst a Backslide in Women's Rights 041904
Ectogenesis - Articial Wombs - Technology's threat to abortion rights 082403
Medical, not congressional, decision 031303
All eyes on the Supreme Court and abortion 012103
When abortion was a crime 012003
Reproductive Rights: Stealth Attack Is Coming 011903
Beleaguered Roe vs. Wade ~ High court change could overturn ruling 011903
Roe vs. Wade ~ Battle lines hardened over the years 011903
Activists marking Roe v. Wade anniversary predict legislative limitations
  on abortion rights this year 011903
Marianne Williamson: A Golden Cord
The Lysistrata Strategy

 

 

 

2002
Women's rights can't be taken for granted

Ten Reasons Why Militarism is Bad for Reproductive Freedom


 

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
             -- Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All articles reprinted
under the Fair Use
doctrine of
international

copyright law
(
http://www4.law.
cornell.edu/uscode/
17/107.html
). All
copyrights belong to
original publisher.

 

 

 

Medical, not congressional, decision

Joan Ryan
Friday, March 14, 2003


I MUST BE a masochist for writing this, given the deluge of hate mail it will unleash. But the ban on "partial-birth abortion," which was passed easily by the Senate on Thursday, is a terrible piece of legislation. It is disingenuous, manipulative and dangerous.

No one will disagree that an intact dilation-and-extraction abortion, the proper name for the procedure, is gruesome. It entails pulling the fetus out of the uterus feet first, then puncturing the base of the skull to collapse the head so it fits through the cervix.

The more common abortion procedure for late-term pregnancies, besides inducing labor, is called dilation and evacuation. It requires the doctor to remove the fetus in pieces, partly by suction, partly by forceps. I am not clear why our representatives in Congress consider one procedure more horrendous than the other and thus worthy of a ban. My guess is they do, in fact, consider D&E just as repugnant as intact D&X.

Therefore, reasonable people can surmise that once Congress bans intact D&X,

D&E is next on the hit list. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what all this is about.

It is not about one particular procedure; if you believe abortion is murder, all procedures are inhumane. This is about closing off options so that, eventually, getting an abortion after the first trimester will be impossible.

Choosing a late-term abortion is a wrenching decision for any woman. Maybe the fetus has no brain or its heart has developed outside its body. Perhaps the mother has contracted an illness that has irreversibly damaged the fetus. For whatever the reason the decision is made, the doctor and patient must choose the procedure most appropriate in her circumstances. In a minority of cases -- 0.17 percent, according a survey of abortion providers -- the most appropriate choice is an intact D&X.

Particularly galling are the claims that this bill's primary concern is "advancing the health interests of women." The bill's authors claim that intact D&E is "never necessary to preserve the health of the woman" and "lies outside the standard of medical care." They know these are lies. The American College of Gynecology and Obstetrics -- the main professional association for obstetricians and gynecologists -- says intact D&X is the safest method in certain circumstances because it reduces the risk of puncturing the uterine wall, as can happen in D&Es.

The OB/GYN group, therefore, adamantly opposes the ban. Any time you remove from a doctor's array of options a safe medical procedure -- as this one is, contrary to claims by the bill's authors -- you weaken the doctor's ability to provide the best care for his patients.

This bill is motivated not by health concerns but moral ones. I respect the views of those speak out against abortion. Indeed, if one believes abortion is murder, that person has not only the right but the obligation to persuade women that abortion is the wrong choice.

But morality cannot be the basis for legislation on abortion. The Supreme Court made that clear 30 years ago in Roe vs. Wade. Under the law -- if not in society -- abortion is a medical, not an ethical, issue. As such, Congress has no place interfering in medical decisions between a patient and her doctor.

For lawmakers who forgot the tenants of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court delivered one just two years ago in Stenberg vs. Carhart, when it struck down Nebraska's "partial-birth abortion" ban. It said that "a statute that altogether forbids D&X creates a significant health risk."

The Senate's bill is, from a reasonable reading of court decisions, unconstitutional. It is an underhanded swipe at the long-established right of every woman to choose how and whether to end her pregnancy. Even among those who oppose abortion, this bill sets a frightening precedent: It allows the likes of Trent Lott and Tom Delay to make medical decisions that belong to us and our doctors.

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Eyes on Supreme Court and Abortion

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
January 21, 2003, Filed at 1:38 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court ruling allowing legal abortions turns 30 years this week, an anniversary heavily shadowed by speculation that a high court retirement could shift the balance of power in abortion politics.

For abortion rights supporters, the departure of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor would be most troublesome. For anti-abortion forces, the wild card could be the exit of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

The court is split 5-4 in favor of abortion rights. O'Connor is considered a cautious supporter and the swing vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case providing for legal abortions.

Should she retire, President Bush's more conservative supporters will certainly press for him to pick a strong anti-abortion nominee.

``It's in the greatest danger it's ever been in,'' Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said of the Roe decision. ``You're one vote away.''

Smeal cited what she called a White House track record of picking only presumed abortion foes for federal appeals courts slots and Bush's campaign pledge to choose Supreme Court nominees in the mold of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Both have voted to place restrictions on abortion.

Rehnquist is considered a vote to overturn Roe, or at least to allow its continued erosion. A like-minded conservative in his place would preserve the status quo, but anti-abortion activists fear the consequences if Bush picked a more moderate replacement.

In particular, those opposed to abortion worry Bush may name a close ally, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales.

``For all the pro-life groups Judge Gonzales is probably a nonstarter as a nominee,'' said Richard Lessner, spokesman for the Family Research Council. He pointed to Gonzales' vote while a Texas Supreme Court justice to allow a teenager to get an abortion without parental consent.

American Life League President Judie Brown went further.

``It would be absolutely a tragedy if he were nominated,'' she said.

Others said to be on Bush's short list are presumed to be more conservative and more likely to side against abortion rights.

Top candidates may be J. Harvie Wilkinson, the conservative chief judge of the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, or another federal appeals court judge, Samuel A. Alito of the Philadelphia-based 3rd Circuit. Also said to be on the list is Theodore Olson, a top lawyer on the legal team that won the Supreme Court case that ended Florida ballot recounts in the disputed 2000 presidential election and now the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer.

Neither O'Connor nor Rehnquist has hinted at retirement this year, but a variety of factors could persuade either to leave, lawyers and activists on both sides of the abortion debate said.

O'Connor is 72 and has served 21 years. Rehnquist is 78 and has just passed his 31st anniversary on the court. He missed all the December arguments at the court after undergoing knee surgery following a fall.

O'Connor and Rehnquist were named to the court by Republican presidents -- Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, respectively -- and both are savvy students of national politics. Each would want a Republican to pick his or her successor, and might feel more free to leave now that Republicans regained control of the Senate in November.

Each would also know that Senate confirmation for a Supreme Court justice would be difficult if not impossible in the din of the presidential race in 2004.

Abortion will be among the central issues of debate during what is sure to be a very partisan Senate confirmation process, both sides agreed.

``I think any vacancy with the prospect of a Bush nominee jeopardizes Roe v. Wade,'' said Nan Aron, president of the pro-abortion rights Alliance for Justice. Her organization was prominent in the nomination battles over Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, and is girding for a new fight.

Should O'Connor retire, Bush would be under some pressure to nominate another woman, and the White House has vetted conservative women judges who might fill that role.

Should Rehnquist go first, Bush might name O'Connor to succeed him. If Bush then named Gonzales to fill O'Connor's current slot, he would have an attractive political two-fer, Smeal and other court watchers said.

Senators might have a hard time voting against the first woman chief justice and the first Hispanic on the court, and the combination might also quiet some of the loudest outside critics.

Meanwhile, Roe's longevity will be marked this week by those who herald it and those who revile it. There is no current Supreme Court case that could overturn the ruling, but both sides say that day may be close.

With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, legislation limiting or banning abortion has a good chance of passing.

Anti-abortion activists say Congress will probably move quickly to ban certain late-term abortions that opponents call ``partial-birth'' abortions. A legal challenge to the ban could come to the Supreme Court within a year or two. The challenge could also come from the states. Abortion rights supporters counted 34 state laws limiting abortion last year.

A majority of Americans support abortion rights, but that support is highest when a woman's life or health is in danger or there is evidence that the baby will be physically or mentally impaired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When abortion was a crime

Ruth Rosen
Monday, January 20, 2003


"BONNIE SWAIN," now age 61, got pregnant in her second year of college.

She came home, told her parents, who begged their family physician to perform an illegal abortion. He agreed. Five years later, she married and had two sons.

Today, she is the proud grandmother of six grandchildren and says she has never regretted what she did.

That's not the kind of story the anti-abortion movement wants you to hear. Nor do they want us to remember how many children's lives were ruined when women bore babies they couldn't take care of or how many women died as the result of botched abortions.

We forget what life was like before 1973, when one Supreme Court decision -- Roe vs. Wade -- suddenly made abortion legal. Women lived with the constant fear of pregnancy. All it took was a single mistake, the failure of a condom or a diaphragm, an inadequate monitoring of the ovulation cycle, and life was irrevocably changed.

Some women hastily married, leaving behind the dream of an education. Other women, including those who were married, sought to keep those dreams alive by having an abortion.

"Iris Manning," a college student in the 1960s, went through a horrible ordeal. Estranged from her parents, she raised enough money to pay a "back alley" abortionist. After she handed over the money, the "doctor" told her to strip and lie down on a dirty kitchen table. A friend held her hand. Without anesthesia, she screamed in pain as a leering sadist shoved a rubber hose inside her womb. A decade later, she married, raised a daughter and son, and now has three grandchildren. She, too, had no regrets, but has never forgotten the desperation, the humiliation or the pain.

She was, in fact, one of the lucky ones. In the 1960s, advocates of abortion reform estimated that 1 million American women had illegal abortions annually and they attributed some 5,000 deaths directly to illegal abortions. The most common kind of illegal abortion was self-induced. All too often, an infection spread, the woman began to bleed profusely, landed in an emergency room, and found herself interrogated by hospital personnel shortly before she died.

To prevent such deaths, an underground network made up of abortion reformers, 1,000 ministers and rabbis, and feminist activists began helping frightened young women find competent and courageous doctors willing to perform illegal abortions.

In San Francisco, Patricia McGinnis, a longtime advocate of legal abortion, founded one of those groups, the Society for Humane Abortion. "Phyllis Sanders" became pregnant in 1968, her second year in graduate school at UC Berkeley. A friend took her to a SHA clandestine meeting. McGinnis, who had referred thousands of women for abortions, asked each woman to write an evaluation of the medical treatment she's received. As a result, she had a long list of competent doctors. That night, she gave Sanders the name of the doctor who performed abortions on the girlfriends of the chief of police in Mexico City. Sanders received competent medical treatment, returned to her studies, became a professor, married and raised three children.

None of the women I've interviewed is willing to use her real name. Some never told their parents, who are still alive. They also don't want to admit they committed a crime. Still others fear the "lunatic fringe" of the anti- abortion movement who have murdered abortion providers.

Thirty years after the Supreme Court gave women the right to choose whether and when to bear children, that choice is in serious jeopardy. When abortion was a crime, many women died. Now is the perfect time for us to recall those deaths when we hear that abortion is about destroying life.

 

 

 

 

 

Reproductive Rights: Stealth Attack Is Coming

Undermining the law: The assault on Roe vs. Wade

Jeff Stryker
Sunday, January 19, 2003

On the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, abortion rights are under furious assault. Wednesday will mark three contentious decades since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional right of privacy protects a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy.

Roe vs. Wade galvanized conservatives, who immediately vowed to overturn it. They are still trying.

Some of the assaults on Roe are head on. Consider the legislative proposal Georgia Assembly members are designating with the honorific House Bill 1 for 2003. Prefiled last month, Georgia's HB 1 defines abortion as an execution, requiring any woman seeking an abortion to appear in court to obtain a death warrant. The court would appoint a guardian for the fetus and a jury trial would be held within 30 days to weigh the rights of the fetus against the "rights of the person seeking to have the execution performed."

The Georgia bill is a patently unconstitutional stunt, as long as Roe remains in force. And the decision has withstood 30 years of attacks. A woman's right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term still stands, even if it may sometimes be hemmed in by notification, parental consent, mandated counseling or waiting period requirements -- the topics which have provided the battleground for abortion foes over the years.

Congress' hostility to abortion has been reflected in measures to deny federal funding of abortions to poor women.

Despite surviving three decades of attacks, slim majorities have characterized the Supreme Court opinions on abortion in the wake of Roe vs. Wade. Not surprisingly, much of the coming abortion fight will focus on candidates for the federal bench, reaching a crescendo if, as likely, President Bush has a chance to make his own Supreme Court appointments.

But the real news on Roe's 30th anniversary is the peril women's reproductive rights face, even without a wholesale reversal of Roe. Today's threat to reproductive freedom comes not from blunderbuss, head-on assaults like Georgia's HB 1, but from a more cleverly orchestrated host of stealth attacks.

The fate of women's reproductive rights in the Bush administration conjures up the image of Gulliver among the Lilliputians. With Roe too venerable to slay, given the current make-up of the Supreme Court, the Bush administration seeks instead to incapacitate. The entanglements come in the guise of gag orders, executive directives, regulatory restrictions, judicial nominations, political appointments to scientific advisory boards and linguistic and definitional shenanigans. Viewed as a whole, they pose the most serious threat to reproductive freedom in decades.

The attempt to redefine the fetus as a person is the hallmark of a number of these covert attacks. Efforts to undermine abortion rights by redefining the fetus as a person are nothing new. For a decade after the 1973 Roe decision, attempts were made in Congress to pass a "human life amendment," establishing personhood from the moment of conception. (The Supreme Court had ruled in Roe that it did not need to answer the philosophical question of when life begins to determine that the fetus did not qualify as a person under the 14th Amendment.)

The bills were defeated. As congressional critic Barney Frank, D-Mass., memorably observed, the efforts underscored how the Reagan administration's concern for human life began with conception and ended with birth.

Today's fetal personhood initiatives are, if anything, even more disingenuous. They come wrapped up in benign, sometimes even laudable, packages -- efforts to extend health care, to protect research subjects and to avenge victims of violent crime. In each of these areas, Bush administration measures are aimed less at achieving their stated aims than to advance ideological views of when life begins.

It may seem like so much wordplay to redefine fetuses, embryos, zygotes (fertilized eggs) -- anything short of the glint in your father's eye -- as persons. But sometimes wordplay is what the abortion debate is all about. Words have meanings. Definitions drive policy, even in an administration preferring the approach to words favored by Humpty Dumpty ("When I choose a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.")

In November, the Bush administration implemented a federal regulation allowing states to redefine fetuses as unborn children, making them eligible for benefits in the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a program for low-income children from birth to age 19 that is a shared responsibility of the federal government and the states. Under the new regulations, eligibility begins at conception.

This regulatory change of definition is remarkable; no previous federal law or regulation had conferred rights or benefits on fetuses as individuals. In announcing the change, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson told reporters, "This is not an abortion debate. How anybody can now turn this into a pro-choice or pro-life argument, I can't understand."

Secretary Thompson's puzzlement is difficult to square with the HHS news release heralding the new regulation. Written in the argot of abortion opponents, the release says the regulatory change provides coverage for "unborn children" and, at one point, "babies."

The regulation's provocative redefinition is a legal novelty item and a superfluous one at that. Clearly, prenatal care could be extended to pregnant women without this redefinition and the inevitable complications it brings.

The complications of recognizing the fetus as an independent insured person are worth considering. Is the patient the woman or the fetus? What if the woman needs treatment, such as cancer chemotherapy, that stands a chance of harming her fetus? Could a guardian for the fetus try to stop the treatment?

Although CHIP benefits may now be extended to zygotes, it makes little practical sense to call a fertilized egg a person for the purposes of receiving federal benefits. A zygote does not have a Social Security number. A zygote will not be counted by census takers or earn its mother an exemption on her income taxes.

One can only begin to imagine the ways in which redefining the fetus as a person might challenge the legal system.

One pregnant woman asserted her right to drive in the high-occupancy vehicle lane during rush hour, reasoning she should be allowed to count her fetus as the necessary additional passenger. It would be hard to make this stuff up.

The Alice in Wonderland approach is also evident in the administration's efforts to protect human medical research subjects. Last fall, the Bush administration allowed a Clinton-era advisory board to expire, replacing it with a revamped HHS group, the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections. The new committee is charged with giving advice on a broad range of issues about the use of human subjects in medical research, "with a particular emphasis on . . . pregnant women, embryos and fetuses."

Arthur Lawrence, HHS deputy assistant secretary for health policy, explained that "embryos" was added to the research charter because of the threat medical research may pose to developing fetuses. And, "some people use the same word (fetus and embryo) interchangeably," he explained to Rick Weiss of the Washington Post.

Stated thus, this definitional expansion seems an innocuous sop to the president's conservative base. But if the view that embryos deserve to be treated the same as full-fledged human persons were truly upheld, it would render unethical any medical experiment not promising a direct benefit to the embryo itself. This would stop many kinds of medical research in its tracks, not to mention derailing promising stem cell research and the work of infertility clinics.

On Jan. 3, HHS officials announced a roster of appointments to the new advisory committee. Appointee Jonathan Moreno, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Virginia and a former member of a government advisory committee on radiation experiments, declined the honor (his replacement was named last Monday).

As Professor Moreno explained in an e-mail, "I think (the charter) is part of a long-term strategy to build as much regulatory language around embryos and fetuses as possible, then cite it in some future challenge to Roe. These people have a lot of patience and tenacity."

Another initiative in sheep's clothing is the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Passed by a vote of 252-172 in the House in April, it has the lofty goal of enhancing punishment for violence to a pregnant woman that results in a miscarriage, over and above any sanction for harming the woman herself.

Two dozen states have legislation recognizing the fetus in varying stages of development as a separate person and crime victim.

As proposed, the federal bill potentially undermines the right to have an abortion by granting rights to the fetus separate from and possibly equal to those of the woman. Although the bill contains exceptions for women who choose to have an abortion, the inherent illogic shines through.

As Heather Boonstra of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank, writes, "The bill's framers know that the law cannot simultaneously hold that the fetus is truly a 'person' and subject to being aborted. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act is a clear break from American legal and constitutional tradition designed to set up a conceptual collision course with abortion rights."

The collision course is coming into focus as a true picture emerges of the anti-sex, anti-science Bush administration. The picture is a frightening mosaic of policy initiatives. Beyond the fetal personhood measures are the efforts to criminalize late-term abortions, global attacks on family planning, and attempts to block condom use in the United States and abroad. The success of these initiatives will be measured by women's deaths resulting from delays and denial of essential reproductive health services.

Jeff Stryker is a San Francisco writer specializing in medical ethics. He is working on a book about sperm banking.

 

 

 

 

 

Beleaguered Roe vs. Wade turns 30

High court changes could overturn ruling

Harriet Chiang, Chronicle Legal Affairs Writer
Sunday, January 19, 2003


More than a generation after the U.S. Supreme Court declared abortion a fundamental right of every woman, the nation's highest court remains at the center of one of America's most divisive controversies.

In marking the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade on Wednesday, abortion rights advocates warn that the 1973 landmark ruling rests on precarious legal ground.

Speculation is building that one or more of the justices on the nine-member court will retire after the current term, upsetting the delicate majority upholding abortion rights.

"This is the most hostile political environment since Roe vs. Wade for women's rights and women's reproductive rights in particular," said Kate Michelman, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation.

President Bush, she said, is determined to use his presidency to end legal abortion. "The greatest power he will possibly have is with the Supreme Court, " she said.

Abortion rights proponents say that only five of the nine justices clearly support Roe vs. Wade. With Republicans controlling both the White House and Congress, that could easily change, they say.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 78, and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, 72, are expected to retire soon. Rehnquist has voted to overturn abortion rights, but O'Connor has been a key swing vote to keep Roe vs. Wade alive.

Abortion rights advocates also are concerned about the status of Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both of whom have voted to uphold abortion rights.

There are no signs that Stevens plans to retire, but at age 82 he is the oldest member of the court. At 69, Ginsburg's health has been a concern since she underwent chemotherapy for colon cancer a few years ago.

For their part, abortion foes are guardedly optimistic that the addition of one or two conservative justices could be enough to prompt the court to say after 30 years that the decision was wrong and overturn Roe vs. Wade.

"The court is fairly evenly divided," said Jan Carroll, legislative analyst for the California Pro-Life Council, the state affiliate for the National Right to Life Committee. With the right appointment to the court and the right case before it, she said, "the most positive outcome is to say it's not a constitutional right."

But legal scholars are skeptical that Roe vs. Wade is on the brink of being overturned. Some say there are at least six votes now on the court to uphold the decision.

Moreover, they predict, even if conservative judges who may not agree with the 1973 decision are appointed to the court, they are not likely to take the dramatic step of overturning a law that has been on the books for so long. Some speculate that even Rehnquist may be reluctant to overturn the law.

"I think the chief would see it as harming the court," said Arthur Hellman, a constitutional law professor at the University of Pennsylvania. "I just don't think any Supreme Court in the foreseeable future is going to try to turn back the clock," he said.

While the court has stopped short of overturning Roe vs. Wade over the years, it has allowed states to pass numerous restrictions, including mandatory waiting period laws and teenage consent requirements.

"The right has already suffered from years and years of battering," said Louise Melling, director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.

Nonetheless, abortion foes as well as some proponents see the latest dire predictions as an attempt by abortion rights advocates to build momentum for a flagging movement.

"I think it's an attempted rallying point," said David J. Garrow, a legal historian at Emory University's School of Law in Atlanta and author of "Liberty and Sexuality," which chronicles the events that led up to Roe vs. Wade.

"I don't think the sky is falling or anywhere close to falling," he said.

Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Pro Life Issues, Kathy Cleaver said, "I do think the pro-choice movement is having a problem motivating people and getting people to join." Their side, she added, has never had that problem.

Abortion rights advocates acknowledge that there has been an overconfidence -- some say complacency -- among the American public, which believes that abortion rights are secure. "It's up to us to convince men and women who care about this deeply that their confidence is misplaced," said Kim Gandy, president of NOW.

Legal scholars say the last serious threat to Roe vs. Wade was in 1992. A divided Supreme Court reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy, but it shifted the issue to the states, allowing them to impose restrictions as long as they do not impose an "undue burden" on abortion rights.

The only major ruling from the court since then was in June 2000. In a setback for abortion foes, the court overturned Nebraska's ban on so-called partial birth abortions, ruling that it imposed an "undue burden" on a woman's right to end a pregnancy.

But abortion opponents were encouraged by the close 5-4 vote, and the fact that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had voted in the past to uphold Roe vs. Wade, had switched sides in the Nebraska case.

Abortion rights proponents warn that what was once a 6-3 majority in favor of Roe vs. Wade is now hanging on the thread of a 5-4 vote.

But law professors doubt that Kennedy's vote with the dissenters in the Nebraska case means that he is ready to throw out Roe vs. Wade.

In any event, they say it could be years -- even decades -- before the court considers another abortion case that goes to the heart of Roe vs. Wade.

Vikram Amar, a constitutional law professor at UC's Hastings College of the Law and a former law clerk for the late Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote Roe vs. Wade, noted that the court waited 25 years after the Bakke decision to take up another affirmative action case.

"The Supreme Court is an institution that moves slowly," he said. "A decade here and there is not that glacial for them."

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

Roe vs. Wade

Battle lines hardened over the years

Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
Sunday, January 19, 2003

It's been 30 years since a ninth-grade dropout named Norma McCorvey -- married at 16, pregnant with her third child -- became the unlikely eye of a storm that would reshape the political landscape of America.

"Choice has never been in more danger than it is today," says Susan Kennedy, a former CARAL director and adviser to Davis. "If they can't overturn Roe vs. Wade, they will gut it."

In the three decades since McCorvey became "Jane Roe," and the Supreme Court handed down its 5-4 Roe vs. Wade decision guaranteeing women the right to legal abortion, the hurricane has only intensified.

As the nation prepares this week to mark the 30th anniversary of the landmark ruling, both Republicans and Democrats have redrawn battle lines over an issue certain to play a strategic role in the 2004 presidential election.

On the GOP side, President Bush has declared today a National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

Three days later, Democrats will counter, marking Jan. 22 with a first-ever joint appearance by all major Democratic presidential candidates at a fund- raising dinner for NARAL Pro-Choice America, the country's leading reproductive rights advocacy group.

"President Bush has valued politics over women's health by putting fetal rights at a higher priority than women's access (to health care)," says Tracy Salkowitz, executive director of CARAL, the California Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. "He's using this to further divide the country."

But Randy Thomassen, executive director of the anti-abortion Campaign for California Families, is equally as passionate.

"Through life-saving medical advances and next-generation ultrasound imagery, more people are seeing the truth -- that it's really a baby in the womb, a living miracle," Thomassen said. He says the Roe anniversary marks "the shame of 30 years of unlimited abortion through all nine months of pregnancy -- and with blatant disregard for the rights of parents and the conscience of taxpayers."

The fired-up emotions -- and steely political resolve -- on both sides underscore the widening political gulf and the profound political impacts of the case brought before the Supreme Court in 1973.

In the years since, McCorvey became a Christian and an advocate for anti- abortion forces -- but the issues she raised regarding reproductive rights have been woven into the fabric of political contests from the lowliest town council race to the presidency itself.

"The issue has become a political issue, not a personal issue," says attorney Jim Lazarus, an adviser to CARAL in its drive to raise awareness of the reproductive rights agenda in coming elections. He notes that it "was not divisive when (then California Gov.) Ronald Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act," a 1967 law that allowed for legal abortion in California in cases of danger to the health of the mother, rape or incest.

By 2002, Gov. Gray Davis had signed a host of bills on reproductive rights, including laws that protected access to abortion clinics, allowed pharmacists to provide emergency contraception, and cemented women's rights to abortion in California regardless of the fate of Roe.

But with the Republican takeover of Congress last year and a popular Republican president seeking re-election, pro-choice advocates argue that the stakes have never been higher.

"Choice has never been in more danger than it is today," says Susan Kennedy, a former CARAL director and adviser to Davis. "If they can't overturn Roe vs. Wade, they will gut it."

Cathy Kneer, executive director of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, says Bush administration moves to establish legal rights of the fetus are particularly threatening to Roe. "If they have a long-term political strategy to have the fetus recognized as a distinct human being . . . we are not protected in California."

Democrats argue that the party's presidential hopefuls in 2004 should waste no time in pressing the issue.

"I don't see how Democrats can lose on this issue," says Democratic strategist Garry South. "Opposition to abortion is as much an underpinning of the Republican base as is opposition for gun control, and the mania for tax cuts," he says. "With an anti-choice Republican in the White House, and Supreme Court nominations to make, we need to raise the salience of this issue now."

But GOP strategist Sean Walsh -- who was the spokesman for pro-choice former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson -- argues that Democrats are guilty of "gender- baiting" on the volatile issue.

"Women have nothing to fear from the White House -- or the Congress. It's a tempest in a teapot. It's been the law of the land now for 30 years, and I don't expect that law to change," says Walsh.

"If by some chance it would, it would revert back to a state's rights issue, and the law would not change in California. It's a scare tactic being used by Democrats for fund-raising purposes."

Deputy White House press secretary Ken Lisaius says the president, with his proclamation this week, was "very clear" in his mission to unite Americans on the issue -- not divide them.

"The president believes we need to welcome a culture into America that respects life and honors life," Lisaius said. "He talks about the sanctity of human life . . . respecting the life and dignity of every human being."

But Elmy Bermejo, who chairs the California Commission on the Status of Women, says that the anniversary of Roe reminds both sides that the issue has never been more important.

"Whether you're pro-choice, or anti-abortion, people and candidates for office can no longer say, 'I'm not going to talk about it,' " she says. "They're forced to talk about it . . . because one way or another, they will vote on it."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activists marking Roe v. Wade anniversary predict legislative limitations on abortion rights this year

JANELLE CARTER, Associated Press Writer
Sunday, January 19, 2003

Anti-abortion activists marking this week's 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision say they have their first chance in years to put a dent in abortion rights now that Republicans control the House, Senate and the White House.

"We will pass the first significant pro-life legislation actually limiting abortions in 30 years," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. and a leading abortion foe. He predicted Congress will move quickly to pass a measure banning a late-term abortion procedure called partial birth abortion by opponents.

Congress passed a measure twice, in 1996 and 1997, banning the procedure, in which the fetus is partially delivered before its skull is punctured. President Clinton vetoed it each time. The House passed the measure again last year, but the then-Democratic-controlled Senate never took up the measure.

"We will pass a partial birth abortion ban," Brownback said. "That's going to hearten people. It's been a long fight. We're finally turning some of the battle."

President Bush has said he would sign the bill, one of several abortion-related measures Republicans will push this legislative session. Their optimism is expected to be apparent Wednesday when thousands of marchers converge on Washington to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision three decades ago legalizing abortion.

"I think we'll hear a great deal of hyperbole about Roe being at risk from the abortion side. I hope they're right," said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. "From our side, we're going to assert even more, with compassion but with earnestness, that the Holocaust of the unborn has to stop."

But Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said passing anti-abortion bills will continue to be difficult in the 100-member Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome parliamentary tactics for blocking action on most bills. The Senate has 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent.

"This is not a Senate that's going to be approving sweeping legislation to challenge Roe," Johnson said. "It is a Congress now in which we have a chance for a fair debate on these sorts of reforms that are supported by most Americans."

Abortion-rights supporters, who also have a series of events planned for the anniversary, acknowledge that the advantage in Congress has switched to abortion foes. "The Republicans are controlling every branch of government, and we have now entered the anti-choice trifecta," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

Maloney and others pointed to a series of actions Bush has taken administratively, including an executive order that bars U.S. aid to international groups that support abortion and withholding $34 million from international family planning programs overseas.

The administration announced last year it would begin classifying developing fetuses as unborn children as a way of extending prenatal care to low-income pregnant women. Abortion rights activists denounced the move as a backdoor way of undercutting their rights. And two weeks ago Bush declared Sunday as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

"This administration and the anti-choice members of Congress are weaving a pernicious web of anti-choice attacks," said Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

--------------------------------------
On the Net:
National Right to Life Committee: www.nrlc.org

Planned Parenthood Federation of America: www.ppfa.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women's rights can't be taken for granted

Jane Ganahl
November 3, 2002

Do you know the metaphor about the frog in a kettle of water? If you try to put a frog into boiling water, he'll jump out. But if you turn up the heat while he's in the cool water, he will boil to death -- unaware that his environment is gradually becoming deadly.

That metaphor, which I learned about by watching "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," a superb pro-choice educational film by local filmmakers Xandra Castleton, Tiffany Shlain and Maya Draisin, unfortunately applies to women of this generation who take their sexual freedoms for granted.

From Marilyn Monroe to the four tartlets of "Sex and the City," modern women have had the luxury of being able to decide for themselves their sexual modus operandi (whom to do it with and how to do it) without interference from anything but their own consciences.

We women of the 1960s, particularly, sailed through the sexual revolution without the fear of AIDS that put Gen Xers on notice that there is sometimes a price to pay for a lack of sexual responsibility.

But in general, those lucky enough to have been born in the United States in recent decades have enjoyed unparalleled sexual freedom -- especially compared with the dark days of back-alley abortions. Now signs are popping up that we need to stop taking these freedoms for granted.

In other words, ladies, the water is starting to simmer. A number of developments in Washington -- done quietly under the radar -- warrant our attention.

The latest: the Bush administration's choice of an anti-choice, Bible- thumping conservative to chair the Food and Drug Administration's important Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. Consider the metaphor of the fox in the henhouse: This one could be gliding quietly in through the back door.

Dr. W. David Hager, whom Time magazine has labeled a "scantily credentialed" candidate for the post, is an OB/GYN whose writings include the book "As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now" and another book emphasizing the "restorative power of Jesus Christ in one's life." He has been known to recommend Scripture readings and prayers for headaches and premenstrual syndrome. He has refused to prescribe birth control for unmarried women.

And he has extremely strong ties to the Christian Medical Association and to the anti-choice group Focus on the Family. He carried the cross for the medical group when it lobbied the FDA to revoke its approval of mifepristone, the drug used for safe, early abortions.

It is assumed that if Hager secures the chairman's post on this important committee, one of his main goals would be to overturn the use of mifepristone and halt studies of the drug's impact on many medical conditions that affect women: breast cancer, uterine cancer, uterine fibroid tumors, psychotic depression and bipolar depression.

Unfortunately, this is not an appointment that is up for public debate. Across the country, organizations like Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women have raised their voices to make sure the Bush administration hears the complaint that church and state are separated for a reason.

There have been other backdoor dealings in Washington that evidence the turning of the tide against women. The Bush administration also quietly denied the $34 million in funding approved by both houses of Congress for the U.N. Fund for Population Activities -- a fund that provides family planning services and fights HIV and female genital mutilation in impoverished countries throughout the world.

That relatively paltry $34 million, says Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, director of UNFPA, would have helped prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths.

The Bush administration claims we can't afford that. What we can, apparently, afford, is $135 million to preach abstinence as sex education in this country. Good luck with that one, Dubya. Perhaps you should check with your daughters on how well the "just say no" technique works.

And all year, anti-choice lawmakers have been pushing through bills in various states that allow their Departments of Motor Vehicles to sell license plate holders that read: "Choose life." Money collected from the sale of those holders fund anti-choice groups. So far, 13 states are considering this legislation, while the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy fights it in court.

I suspect this was just the kind of thing the Founding Fathers were interested in preventing when they separated church and state hundreds of years ago. Funding religious beliefs through our license plate holders? Who'da thunk it?

But it's happening. And those of us who care would be wise to stay informed.

Good Web sites with good info: www.lifeliberty.net www.responsiblechoices.org;  www.crlp.org; www.naral.orgwww.prochoice.orgwww.plannedparenthood.org.

Speak out if you're moved to, and vote. Or that poor frog will soon boil to death.

San Francisco Chronicle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Golden Cord

Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
~Paul Simon~

What happens around a dinner table when a family gathers at early evening? What does a holiday meal mean? What feelings stay with a child forever when he or she is tucked into a sweet bed and read a bedtime story? The answer to all the above is "More than you know."

Human development is an invisible unfolding of energies and feelings that cannot be charted or boxed or reduced to formulas. It is sacred ground, the Goddess's territory. It has been trampled on and must be replanted. The fabric of our lives has been rent and must be rewoven. We must re-create the experience of home. This is a feminine function in both men and women. It does not have to be a woman who takes care of the home; a man can do the jobas well. But we must all recognize how important it is that the work get done. "Out in the world" is not inherently a more important place for someone to be than inside the home. Inside the home, we become the people we are outside.

Too many people in our culture, rich and poor alike, do not have family or friends to come home to at night, do not have a home environment that is gentle, do not have someone who cares where they are or cares how they are feeling. We are falling apart inside, and that is why we are falling apart outside.

One of my favorite things in life is having picnics on my bed. Not necessarily picnics with food, but picnics with fun and talk and feelings and friends. I have a king-size bed, which I find requisite for family life. And by family, I don't mean just my daughter and me. I mean a group experience of love and support.

Four people are on my bed as I write this. There's me, propped up on pillows with my laptop computer; Norma, sixty-five, who has worked with me since I started lecturing years ago; my daughter, two; Lisa, twenty-two, a student in fashion design who is helping me take care of her this weekend. Norma and Lisa are reading out loud from a giant copy of The Three Little Pigs.

We have just spent half an hour discussing whether or not we should be more forceful in getting the baby off her bottle. My mother thinks she's too old to still suck on a bottle, but then again that's from the woman who brought
up at least one oral compulsive that I know of. A friend of mine, who is a teacher and knows about these things, told me to calm down. "Are you worried that she's going to walk up the aisle with a bottle in her mouth?" On another day, my sister, Jane, had suggested that we have abottle-throwing-away ceremony, where my daughter would acknowledge thatshe's a big girl now, and we would ritualistically throw away all thebottles. I think she's too young for that. I decide to leave her alone andlet her drop it when she drops it. I ask her if she would like to take abath with Mommy, and she responds, "Maybe." I've never heard her use thatword before, much less express such ambivalence about bathing with her mother.

I keep thinking that this scene is like a three-dimensional Mary Cassatt. What I love most about it is the communion of women and particularly our generational span. I'm sitting here thinking this is a beautiful, beautiful life I have, when I make the ridiculous decision to pick up the Los Angeles Times.

So this is what happened yesterday: A four-year-old black boy was sleeping in his bed when bullets started ripping through the walls from the apartment next door. Walls in tenement houses are as thin as paper. We have no way of knowing, of course, whether little Germaine had moments of terror before the bullets hit him, whether he sat up, whether he cried out. That's something neither we nor his mother will ever know. All we know is that bullets penetrated the wall, and in a matter of minutes this baby lay dead.

How does his mother live with this? How do I live with this? How do any of us live with this? I am in grief, confusion, despair, frustration, and total outrage. I blame drug dealers, Mafia bosses, bigoted politicians, gun
manufacturers, NRA lobbyists, and Hollywood types who've pushed violence down our throats like syrup laced with strychnine for the last thirty years. And what I want to know is this: Why was that beautiful little white girl
who fell down a well in Texas a few years ago so much more important than Germaine Johnson from East L.A.? Why is his life not more valuable to us? And why does Kuwait matter to us more than our own children?

What are we going to do about this? Simply work individually, within our own families, with our own children, to spread peace and love as deeply as we can? I'm not sure we can afford to be too slow about this. As Dante wrote in the Inferno, "The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who, in times of crisis, preferred to remain neutral." But what is the most empowered, the most spiritually perfect position to take? I don't know, but I utter a prayer.

I ask God for help. Let this darkness be cast away from earth. Show us how to make miracles happen. Deliver these children. Deliver us all. Do for us, God, what we can't do for ourselves. Heal our minds of violent thoughts,
that violence might disappear from earth. Help us recover. Help us rise. We open our hearts to receive your guidance. We're ready to change. Amen.

I pick up my daughter and hold her in my arms. Thank you, God, for letting her be born into so much love and abundance. Let every baby be blessed and protected, not just my own, but every one. There are so many babies in this world who are sick, and no one cares for them; who are dirty, and no one changes their diapers; who are hungry, and no one feeds them. Shame on us all for doing so little. And God help us all, on the day when the shit finally hits the fan.

Children remind us of what's important. They help return us to a too-often lost perspective, where we stand in relation to generations before and after us. A woman I once met, herself a mother of four, told me that having
children "gives us all the things we pray for, like respect and patience and understanding." I was impressed by the nature of her prayers.

We don't have to give birth to children to know we're the mothers of the world. We are the wombs of the generations that follow, not only physically but emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Our bodies are the space that prepares and sustains our children's physical life, and our personalities the space that prepares and sustains their emotional life. For better or for worse, within our being they form into who they are. We are all mothers to all children. Every woman everywhere, whether she works in an advertising agency, politics, or the entertainment industry; whether she teaches, sells, waits on tables, answers phones, or just wakes up in the
morning, is part of our motherhood. We cannot protect our children from the collective mass of female vibrations, nor should we want to. The world is meant to be a safe and nurturing environment for children. The fact that it isn't is a sacred call to action for every conscious woman. In this way, we will heal our children and the children still living physically within us.

ABORTION CAN BE an overwhelming loss. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be legal---I think it should---but that still doesn't mean it's not a terrible emotional pain. We have never come to terms with the fact that for the first time in our social history millions of women turned away their children. And we did do that. There is no pretending that we didn't. There are certain times when we think maybe we shouldn't have, times when we wish with anguish that we hadn't, and times when we have seen, and still see, no other way of proceeding. However we see it, guilt is not helpful. It is not part of God's vision. No one is guilty, but lots of us are sad.

Don't get waylaid by politics or swayed by false religion. Stay close to your heart, where your feelings are honest and authentic and raw. Abortion is a bitch. Scream and yell at all you have lost, cry and mourn over what
you are doing, but never pretend it's a casual thing. It is not. It is a mother saying good-bye to her child and a woman declining a miracle. Talk to God. Talk only to God. Mourn your lost children. Pray for an easier world.

I HAVE FOUNDED charitable organizations, run them, and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support them. I have lectured around the world to many thousands of people, and I have written a number-one bestselling book. Raising a child is harder.

It takes more energy, more focus, more sensitivity, and if done well, at least as much intelligence. And if we raised happy children, we wouldn't need so many charities, lectures, and books on how to have a happier, more
balanced life. The idea that a woman is somehow doing more with her life if she has a job out in the world is insane. There is no such thing as a nonworking mother. Having waited so long to have children, the baby boom
generation can be blind to the incredible burden --however joyous it is-- of bringing up children. This will change now as more and more people begin to realize there is no job in the world that, when done well, requires more
work and intelligence than raising our sons and daughters.

Women will continue to be oppressed, socially and politically, until we recognize the roles traditionally associated with women as being among the most important in our society. Someone's got to take care of the house and
raise the kids. The I Ching says that if the family unit is healthy, then society is healthy; and when the family falls apart, society falls apart. How dare we make a woman feel that her life is less important if it is lived in service to
family, children, and home? And how dare we make a man feel that his life is more important if it is not?

We are all here to serve each other, and the choice to do that is no less valid when the people we serve are the ones in our own family. During the recent presidential election, Hillary Clinton was attacked for having the
audacity to be a strong woman with a mind of her own. I understand her predicament very well. But there's another side to the Hillary question. It's great that she takes an active role politically, but one of her most
important functions as First Lady is to help Bill Clinton emotionally, to provide him and their daughter with the feminine, intimate, personal support that every person needs in order to live most powerfully in the world. Every
prospective First Lady is now asked what she would do if she got the job. Jacqueline Kennedy had said that her greatest service to the nation while she lived in the White House would be to take care of John Kennedy. There
was a time when I would have found that an unliberated answer. Today, I find it sublime, sane, and feminist.

It is feminist because it honors the role of the feminine---nurturing, care giving, compassionate, loving---whether it is performed by a man or a woman.

How do we quantify, for others to see, the energy it takes---emotionally, intuitively, spiritually, intellectually, physically---to love well? And no one is more important to love than the members of our own families. The fact we have forgotten this over the past twenty-five years or so has left a trail of psychic blood in our culture that is no small wound, no small tragedy.

WHEN I MENTIONED to a friend that child raising is such hard work, she responded, "Exactly. That's why so many women are opting not to have children. They figure they can't do it and also have successful careers outside the house." To which I said, "Well, men don't have to make that choice. No one ever says about a man, 'I wonder whether he'll go for the career or have kids instead."

Neither should women have to think in terms of that choice. As society heals, children are invited into our lives in new and more wholesome ways. Big businesses now include gyms in their buildings; a few years ago, this would have seemed ridiculous. So too, hopefully just ahead, businesses will include child care and even educational programs for children among their facilties. Not just for mothers, but for fathers as well. We don't just need mothers and all good women around our children; we also need fathers and all good men around them too.

Computers have revolutionized professional life, and more and more people now work out of their homes. I write books with my child playing on the bed next to me. What enables me to do this is excellent child care. Child care should be recognized for its tremendous importance. Were we to apply our dollars intelligently to the people who take care of children, we would spend millions of dollars less on the damage done to our society by wounded adults. Wounded children become wounded adults, and wounded adults can destroy the world.

A key to mothering is to visualize our children as the adults we would love them to become: strong, happy, serious, loving. Now imagine what kind of mother they must have had to grow into such fabulous grown-ups. And whatever that is, becoming it is the task that lies before us.

Most people are not great parents because they don't want to take the time to do the job well. It takes time to explain to a child the truthful, conscious answers to all his or her questions. It takes intuition and skill to track his or her thoughts and feelings. It takes more than most of us are willing to give to protect a child from the meaningless stimulus of the world around him or her. Yet there is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation of the way we raise our children. They must grow up to be adults with only a fraction of our neuroses, or the world is in serious trouble. This is not the time to mimic our parents. It is a time to reverse the trend.

We can do it. I know we can. For we have had the time to think --and many of us have-- about what we were not given and were not shown when we were children. And now with our own kids, we have the chance to rewrite history,to parent them as we wish we had been parented. And thus does our own reparenting occur. We release the past as we release the future.

Children are not children. They are just younger people. We have the same soul at sixty that we had at forty, and the same soul at twenty-five that we had when we were five. If anything, children are wiser. They know more than we do, and have at least as much to teach us as we have to teach them. How dare we try to fit them into our boxes and make them play by our rules, which are so very, very stupid? How dare we tell them anything when we live in a world so obviously backward? And how ungrateful and irreverent we are to listen so little and watch so casually when angels themselves have moved into the house.

I have never seen such honest demonstrations of enlightenment as in happy children. They laugh a lot, yet they are very serious. They understand everything without letting on that they understand much. They are old and
young, innocent and loving. What are we doing pretending to know more than they do? And why are we putting the things of this world before their well-being? We tend to treat children as we treat God. Not always well.

Having a child has shown me, and continues to show me each passing day, the importance of listening. When we listen deeply to another person, we gain the power that comes from joining. Trying to put across our own idea or wish without first finding common emotional ground with the child or other adult will only bring out resistance, whether acted out now or later.

The most important thing I have learned about children is the need to show them respect and patience. We hear so much talk about children respecting their elders, and yet we see so many instances where they obviously don't. But how would they learn respect if they are not shown respect? Many people ttreat children as if they're not as smart as grown-ups. But there is a big difference between not being as smart and just not knowing the language yet.

Although great strides have been made in the fields of child psychology and development, every woman should remember that we have the intuitive radar to know exactly how to listen to our children, what to say to our children, and how to love our children. Parenting classes and books can be helpful, but their main purpose should be to serve as tools by which we are put in touch with our natural wisdom, not directed away from it. Good parenting is not intellectual as much as emotional and intuitive. There is a golden cord that ties a mother to her child. It is God's knowingness that is placed within us. There is no one who knows as well as we do what our children want and need. We learn what they want, we learn what they need, by listening to them and watching them. They know, and they will tell us.

Several years ago, I held a weekly gathering for mothers and small children, our conversation based on the spiritual principles I taught in my lectures on A Course in Miracles. Before our first meeting, I meditated and asked what I should say to the assembled mothers. What I felt in my meditation was this: it was not my job to teach these women about mothering but, rather, to remind them that the mother is the first and primary spiritual teacher. Women know what to do. The problem is our having been dissociated from our own essential knowledge. My only purpose was to remind the women that motherly wisdom flows through them as naturally as mother's milk. Our love is a form of mother's milk.

Mothers are spiritual teachers. We teach love to our children by showing them respect and patience and tenderness. They will learn to give love in the ways they receive it from us and see us give it to others. It is not enough for us to know that we love our children. We must ask ourselves very seriously what this means.

Part of loving is helping people find their own strength. Dorothy Canfield Fisher said, "A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary." Our children are not extensions of ourselves. We did
not create them; God did. We are here to supervise their development, not dictate their reality. They are their own beings. We must not seek to impose our own rhythms on them, but, rather, help them find and maintain their own. We can be the space in which a child's way of being is so respected that he or she finds a greater inner ease. That is the priestly function of motherhood.

I can see on my daughter's face when she is being denied her right to express who she is. There are times when her desires would deny those of others, of course, and it is my job to teach her that other people are as
important as she is. But children can be taught that. I tell my child, "You can have whatever you want, darling, unless it is dangerous or it lacks integrity or it would make you a spoiled brat." Of course, she doesn't yet
know what all those words mean, but I'm telling you, she gets the gist. I don't understand why people talk to their kids as if they were idiots and then plan to spring deeper truths on them at some later date. And who is
then going to talk to them about things that matter? Teachers at school? Can we count on that? It is our job.

A friend once said to me that it's important to say yes to a child whenever possible, instead of no. Instead of pointing out what they can't do, we can point out all the things they can do. We want to teach children about
ever-increasing possibilities, not ever-decreasing ones. All of these things become, after all, the mental habits they will carry with them all their lives.

Look at what we've been doing to our children. Starting with parents and then our educational system, we have taught children repeatedly that they are not the power centers of their own lives. We train them into a kind of
slavery, by teaching them the ways of those who let other people determine what their lives will be, what their options will be, and how they can serve a system outside themselves. We live in a society where a small percentage of people call the shots: A vast majority serve a social or business structure centered outside themselves that cares not one bit for their hearts or their souls. Our educational system promotes this, training
children to be perfect cogs in the wheel that keeps our system rolling. Although we enjoy extensive political freedom in this country, most of us have severely limited emotional and psychological freedom. They have been
all but capped by the time we are five years old, by so many voices telling us what we can and cannot do. What good is having freedom when we don't know how to access it, how to give ourselves permission to use it?

Respect for authority does matter. But as important as it is to defer to the boss, it is equally important to make the boss the boss and no one else. Our government, for instance, is not our boss. We are its boss. Big distinction, and one too easily forgotten by disempowered people.

Some parents teach children, "The world is yours. Go out there and get it. Enjoy yourselves!" Other children are taught that the world is a tough place where it's hard to find abundance. Children soak up these messages like dry sponges, and they stand in line, with everyone else who has been told by their parents what reality is, to live the lives prescribed for them at a young and tender age.

The economic problems in this country do not stem from financial breakdown but from a breakdown of hope and enthusiasm. How can you be enthusiastic when you don't believe there is anything out there for you, when it seems that others have all the power and get all the breaks? We must teach our children that the abundance in the world is infinite and available to everyone because it comes from within us. As we teach our kids to bless the world, celebrate the world, and embrace the world, we hand them the keys to success.

As mothers and fathers, we must teach children not only to think for themselves but also to make decisions for themselves. Otherwise, they will grow up to be adults with little or no capability to make intelligent decisions for their own lives much less for their society and their planet. And whether we like it or not, we are living at a momentous time on earth when our capacity to find the best within ourselves and live from that place and change the world accordingly may possibly determine whether or not we survive.

What could be more important for the future of our world than that we raise happy and well-adjusted, empowered and empowering children? They are the caretakers of tomorrow's world, and they will be ready for the job or not. This is not just a woman's issue; it is the issue most central to our society's healing and growth. Every woman and every man too, must take responsibility in their hearts for all children. As the parental generation, every child is our child. To ignore the state of our children is to ignore the state of our world.

OUR RELATIONSHIPS ARE POISONED by the failure of both men and women to realize that in each of us a lion roars. We do not yet recognize that the fierceness of the lioness is as right and beautiful as the roar of the lion. Humans are the only species in which the female is made wrong for showing she is pissed.

The mother of any species is loving and tender toward her young but fiercely protective whenever they are threatened. What has happened to the female of our species? Do we not see the dangers that hover? Are we under the impression that our children and our children's children can survive the ecological and social and spiritual breakdown stalking our planet? Our young are threatened. Children are dying. This is not the time to spend all day primping.

Keep a vigil. Stay awake in the garden. Hold to the light. Revere goodness and integrity and truth. And most of all, let us teach these things to our children. We must counter the horrors of a world that doesn't care: a system
that spews darkness, media that spews violence, governments that spew apathy, and industries that spew poison.

If the relationship between mothers and children is returned once again to the relationship God intends it to be---between a soul new to earth and its primary spiritual teacher here---then children will grow up to know that
neither money nor fame nor prestige nor power is nearly as important as a life lived for noble purpose. And there is no greater nobility than to live with compassion for all living things and to eschew, with every ounce of our
being, the forces of fear that run goodness into the ground at every possible turn.

Fear is hard-heartedness in all its forms. Sometimes it is disguised in quasi-religious clothes, seeking to judge whom God would have us love. Sometimes it hides behind our right to free expression, smugly justifying
the violence that bombards us in movies and television. But although it hides, it cannot be hidden. It is always knowable by its absence of heart. It does not promote life. It does not protect children. It does not love.

Women must remember the sacred nature of our Goddess self, the call to glory inherent in human incarnation. We are daughters of history and mothers to a new world. This is not the time to throw away our power. It is time to claim it, in the name of love.

~Marianne Williamson~
A WOMAN'S WORTH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lysistrata Strategy

by Kelpie Wilson


Can you imagine what life would be like if everything weren’t always getting more crowded, dirtier and poorer every day with the threat of war and ecological collapse hanging over our heads? The root cause of our global impoverishment is growth. Growth both the economic kind and the population kind, makes every ecological and social problem worse and more unmanageable. Growth may bring vast wealth to a few, for a limited amount of time, but the legacy of growth is topsoil loss, over-fished oceans, deforestation, global warming, species extinction, pollution, disease, starvation and war. The world needs a strategy to stop growing and start living sustainably. We now have 6 billion people and may grow to twice that number in the next few generations if we don’t do something. Growth not only needs to be stopped, it needs to be reversed, for a time at least. Some ecologists think that two billion is a reasonable number for the Earth to support in perpetuity.

The good news is that we could humanely reach an optimum global population of two billion in only three generations. Looking back, when my parents were born, there were only two billion people in the world. If every woman on earth today had no more than one child, the number of people of reproductive age would halve in the next generation. In another two generations, we could achieve our goal of two billion. Think of what a bright new day it would be for those two billion people and the other species they share the planet with. There would be enough of everything, including clean air, clean water and wilderness. War would become a thing of the past and the human war against nature would end.

If we had the will, we women could put the brakes on growth by simply stopping up our wombs for a while. With the planet headed toward ecological collapse, someone’s got to take charge. Could women do it? The only precedent I can think of is a literary one: the classical Greek comedy Lysistrata, by Aristophanes. Lysistrata whose name means “she who disbands armies” organizes Athenian and Spartan women in a sex strike in order to force their men to abandon the war between the two city-states. The women are tired of losing sons and husbands. Lysistrata’s bold plan works because the men, befuddled by horniness and tripping over erections, give in and decide they prefer to make love, not war. The play ends in a celebration of pan-Hellenism with Athenians and Spartans singing of their common battles against the Persians who are “numberless as the sand on the shores.”

By 300 BC, when Lysistrata was written, Greece had supported a civilization with an intensive agriculture and high population density for more than a thousand years. Greek soils were thin and eroded easily. The land was not as productive as it once was, and the cities were overcrowded. Athens and Sparta made peace several times during the Classical period, but war always broke out again because the underlying causes were never addressed. Lysistrata may have been based on an actual revolt by Athenian women against these debilitating Peloponnesian wars.

If Lysistrata had been a real person, what would she have had to do, to end war permanently? First, she would have had to convince Greek women to continue their reproductive strike long enough to reduce population pressure on the crowded and ecologically depleted peninsula. Then a new era of plenty might have encouraged Athens and Sparta to live in peace. Ultimately, to really end war, a Lysistrata would have needed to organize the enemy Persian women in a sex strike as well.

The Lysistrata strategy then, requires women to take control of the means of reproduction in order to reduce population to ecologically sustainable levels. Surprisingly, the Lysistrata strategy is not a new idea. We know that hunter-gatherers practiced population limitation as an important part of their overall survival strategy for thousands of years. It was only when agriculture opened up the possibility of food storage during lean times that populations could afford to grow.

Once we learned how to grow, it seems we can’t learn to stop. It’s like eating potato chips. You can’t eat just one and it’s awfully hard to stop before you’ve consumed the whole bag. The Lysistrata strategy challenges us to stop at just one --one child that is.

What I’m calling “the potato chip factor,” really is related to food. Studies of modern hunter gatherers like the !Kung people of the Kalahari, show that the average woman bears four children. Only two survive to reproduce, keeping numbers stable. A long period of nursing serves to suppress ovulation so that pregnancies are spaced by four to five years. Called lactational amenorrhea, this is the critical factor in keeping birth rates down, but it exists only under certain conditions: nursing must be constant and regular, and a woman’s body fat percentage must be low. When agricultural grains are substituted for grubs, leaves and nuts, body fat increases and natural contraception is destroyed.

Intensive, grain-based agriculture had another effect besides increasing women’s body fat; it also gave an incentive to produce large families. More hands to thresh and sow meant more grain produced and the ability to feed more mouths.

As populations grew, unavoidably there was more conflict between tribes. Metallurgy and the horse provided formidable war machinery. Military technology combined with large-scale food production, storage, and redistribution systems allowed the first expansionist empires of the Near East to form. With agriculture as sower and war as reaper, humanity was now locked into the patriarchal large family system.

Civilizations formalized their new survival strategy in the first written codes of law. Gerda Lerner, in her book, The Creation of Patriarchy (1986) has analyzed four of these codes: the Codex Hammurabi, Middle Assyrian law, Hittite laws and biblical law. She found that up to fifty percent of these laws concerned the reproductive and sexual behavior of women. Under Middle Assyrian Law, for example, abortion was a capital crime punished by a stake through the heart of the offending woman. So much for reproductive choice.

Everywhere in the pre-modern world, women’s reproductive function was the foundation of politics because a man was powerful in proportion to the number of kin he could rally to his cause. But outside the empires, in small-scale, tribal societies, this political power took a completely different shape. Maximizing the number of offspring was not the always the best strategy, because as a couple’s progeny increased, the balance of power in the community could shift and kinsmen would begin to feel threatened.

Because population limitation in tribal societies was so critical, there was also a lack of privacy in family life: sex and babies were everybody’s business. With the coming of big agriculture and the military state, inhibitions on family size were loosened. Family life became a private affair, under the control of the father who was the only family member answerable to the state as a citizen.

Conflict between the private and public spheres was a prominent subject in Greek drama of the classical period. One of the themes of Lysistrata is the men’s denial of women’s right to an opinion on political matters like war. Lysistrata must point out to them that women make a contribution to war --their sons-- and so have the right to a say in the matter. Aristophanes used the device of inverting the established order (putting women in charge) to dip into the domestic sphere for feminine values to apply to the problem of war. In the end though, the spheres remain separate and the problem of war in real life remains unsolved.

The Greeks, like every other civilization of the time, were locked into the large family system. Not to produce cannon fodder would lead to their downfall. Through their literature, though, we know that they valued the egalitarianism of a small-scale society. Aristotle was among the first to advocate limiting population. He advised abortion for parents with too many children, writing in Politics that "... neglect of an effective birth control policy is a never failing source of poverty which in turn is the parent of revolution and crime." Democracy itself is a holdover from small-scale, tribal society, not a hallmark of civilization at all. Ultimately, Greek democracy was devoured by internal warfare that weakened its ability to fight off conquerors from outside. Within 200 years of Aristophanes, the Greeks were nothing but a backwater Roman colony.

Our modern form of civilization has been advanced by people who lift their ideals from Greek rationalism and democracy and who hope for an end to war and injustice. These hopes have been based on a projected end to scarcity brought about by technology. Modern progressives often take the position that overpopulation will end only after development is brought to the world and poverty is ended.

What most progressives don’t seem to realize is that overpopulation among the poor is strategically beneficial to the wealthy classes. The French term, proletariat, literally means “breeders.” Marvin Harris and Eric B. Ross provide enlightenment on this issue in their important history of population regulation: Death, Sex and Fertility, Population Regulation in Preindustrial and Developing Societies (1987). They use the fabled Irish potato famine to illustrate the impact of economic exploitation on population growth. Contrary to myth, the potato was an established food crop in Ireland long before the famine of the 1840’s and did not by itself cause the Irish population boom.

Landlords who wanted to switch from cattle grazing to grain production, which required a larger work force, brought about the Irish population boom. Landlords manipulated population growth through the tax structure. They encouraged peasants to marry earlier by allowing them to grow potatoes tax-free in order to feed their large families. But after only a few decades, landlords switched back to grazing to cash in on the market for meat to supply English colonial armies. At the very height of the famine, shiploads of Irish grain and meat were delivered to England’s shores while English politicians and men of letters blamed the profligacy of the starving Irish.

Modernity has seen the final shift of political power from kinship relations to the bureaucratic control of large populations of workers. The corporate state profits from a surplus of people and has every reason to encourage breeding among the masses. Otherwise how will wages be kept so low? Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was an American labor radical and an early proponent of family planning who articulated this relationship back before 1920: “The large family system rivets the chains of slavery upon labor more securely. It crushes the parents, starves the children, and provides cheap fodder for machines and cannons.”

In our day, capitalism finds its cheap labor among the masses of the third world, so there’s no immediate threat to the system by stabilizing population in the so-called first world. But as women step out of enforced motherhood and into other societal roles, the backlash against reproductive choice is coming from a different segment of the patriarchal power structure. As Susan Faludi pointed out in Backlash (1991), the leaders of the anti-abortion movement are often working class white men whose relatively privileged place in society has recently evaporated. Without the little woman under their thumb, they have no basis for self esteem.

In the United States, fundamentalist terrorists have robbed women of their choices. Abortion and family planning services are ever more scarce. The US is the fastest growing industrialized nation in the world and only one-third of that growth comes from immigration. We also have one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the world. Here in my rural Oregon community, where the problem is particularly acute, almost 30% of the female high school students are pregnant or already mothers. Teenagers are less likely to use contraceptives effectively, but for a teenager in my community to obtain an abortion she would have to travel between 75 and 200 miles, depending on which clinics were open. And the fundamentalist right has managed to stigmatize abortion to the extent that most of these teens would not even consider it. Conception happens, and even for responsible adults, abortion will always be a necessary option.

Ginette Paris, in her provocative book, The Sacrament of Abortion (1992), gets to the heart of the matter: “Men have the right to kill and destroy, and when the massacre is called a war they are paid to do it and honored for their actions. War is sanctified, even blessed by our religious leaders. But let a woman decide to abort a fetus that doesn’t even have the neurological apparatus to register suffering, and people are shocked. What’s really shocking is that a woman has the power to make a moral judgment that involves a choice of life or death. That power has been reserved for men.”

In the less developed world, women need more than just attitude changes to give them choices. The 1994 UN Population Conference in Cairo reached a consensus on what is required: Women need basics such as food, clean water, health care and access to contraceptives and abortion. The Cairo Conference concluded that providing better reproductive care worldwide would cost $17 billion annually, which is less than the world currently spends each week on armaments. Again, we must follow the example of Lysistrata who knew that a sex strike alone wouldn’t be enough --she had her women seize the treasury of Athens as well.

But if the stakes in these matters of sex and war were high before, they are even higher now. In 1970, Stephanie Mills, in her speech as college valedictorian, declared that she would refrain from bringing any children into the world since overpopulation was threatening global ecological collapse. Since 1970, a few more women have made such public declarations, and an unknown number have privately decided to forego or limit childbearing out of ecological considerations. But, there has been no large-scale, public “procreation strike.” The reasons for this, I believe, are partly found in the public/private dichotomy that is an integral part of patriarchy. It is not socially acceptable to interfere in the reproductive decisions of families, even by verbal persuasion. Even the pro-choice movement defends abortion by using the right to privacy. But given the threat to biodiversity and ecological integrity that is posed by our increasing population, a truly pro-life movement is desperately needed to beat the drum for voluntary limits on reproduction.

We must imagine a world without runaway growth, where war cannot exist because there is enough for all. We must seize the treasury and make full reproductive health services available to every woman in the world. We as women must think globally and act as locally as our own bodies, recognizing that we own the means of reproduction and that we must choose small families in this time of resource shrinkage. That is the message that the postmodern Lysistrata needs to take to the women of the polity.

Kelpie Wilson
Development Director
Siskiyou Project
www.siskiyou.org
www.siskiyourivers.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Reasons Why Militarism is Bad
for Reproductive Freedom

 

Prepared by the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College.

Lately, it seems whenever we need a reminder about why it is the U.S. should budget more national funds for the military, or take aggressive action in another small poverty-stricken country, the battle cry of equal rights for women is sounded by the most unlikely people. When U.S. soldiers invaded Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 and unseated the Taliban, they were hailed as the liberators of Afghani women. Bush has repeatedly referred to women's rights in Afghanistan and Palestine as a positive outcome of U.S. intervention in those areas as well as in Iraq. If we are to believe what we hear, militarism is the true herald of feminism. But don't let the talking heads fool you. Upon closer examination it is clear that tanks and guns are doing more damage to women than liberating them. Here are ten reasons why:

1. Military toxins damage the environment and reproductive health.

Militaries are among the worst polluters on the planet. Not only does war degrade or destroy local environments, but military bases and weapons facilities contaminate the air, soil, and water with deadly toxins. According to geographer Joni Seager, "Anywhere in the world, a military presence is virtually the single most reliable predictor of environmental damage."
Military pollution has many harmful and long-lasting effects on reproductive health. In Vietnam, the herbicide Agent Orange sprayed by the U.S. military is responsible for ongoing high rates of birth defects, miscarriages and reproductive cancers. In both the U.S. and Russia, releases of radioactive materials from nuclear weapons production and testing are associated with sterility, cancer and genetic abnormalities. Military pollution is usually shrouded in secrecy. In Memphis, TN, a military depot dumped chemical weapons in the midst of a black
residential community without informing people of the health dangers. Today, women there report a high incidence of miscarriage, birth defects, kidney diseases and cancer.

2. Army bases increase prostitution.

Military bases are notorious for their contribution to prostitution, child prostitution, and the spread of HIV/AIDS. In countries where prostitution is illegal, women are counted as "special job workers" and are categorically denied protection against abuse both by their customer and their boss. At the U.S. Udon Air Force Base in Thailand, the number of "special job workers"
increased from 1246 in 1966 to 6234 in 1972 during the Vietnam War. In 1991, a U.S. Navy convoy returning from the Gulf War with seven thousand soldiers made a stop at the Thai beach resort town of Pattaya. The men aboard were prepped on how to use a condom and the convoy was greeted with banners that proclaimed, "Welcome U.S. navy to the Red Parrot Sexy Life Show." Military base prostitution has led to the devastating spread of HIV among prostitutes. Today, sex workers are still blamed for the spread of HIV/AIDS and sexually
transmitted infections while little or no attention is given to the military's role.

3. Militarism increases violence against women.

In times of war, military-sponsored rape becomes commonplace. Rape is frequently used as a tool to further 'ethnic cleansing.' In Bosnia-Herzegovina, an estimated 20,000 women and girls were raped by the Serbian military in the early 1990's. The rapes were committed to terrorize the population and eliminate Muslims from the region by impregnating women and forcing them to bear Serbian children. The climate of militarism also easily gives way to domestic violence. In the summer of 2002, four wives of U.S. military officers, all stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were killed by their husbands. Three of the four officers had recently returned to the country after being deployed to Afghanistan as special operations soldiers. It is
suspected that these women were victims of domestic violence long before their murder, but could not or did not choose to obtain help. This is not surprising given Cynthia Enloe's observation that, during times of war, "Soldiers' girlfriends and wives...[have] been persuaded that they are 'good citizens' if they keep silent about problems in their relationships."

4. Militarism cuts funding from social services.

War is expensive and must be funded at the cost of health care, education, and social security. In February 2002, President Bush proposed a national budget for FY 2003 that would raise defense spending by nearly 13%, the greatest increase since the Reagan Administration's Cold War era budget. Bush's proposed defense budget would reach $451 billion by 2007, while funding to social services would be sacrificed in order to support this increase in military spending. The Bush budget relies heavily on savings from Medicaid and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program), as well as cuts in Social Security. Budget cuts such as these put safe and accessible healthcare for low income women and older women in severe danger.

5. Militarism and military occupation restrict freedom of movement.

Restrictions on freedom of movement during wartime include curfews, roadblocks, checkpoints, and closure of geographical areas. These restrictions are enforced by the military, often with the use of force. They have a devastating effect on women, barring their access to food, work, and medical attention. The right to move freely is particularly critical for sick, injured, and pregnant women. The Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem, has documented 35 cases of death since 2000 due to restriction of movement imposed by the Israeli military. Eighteen of those have been women and girls. Eight have been infants that died
because their mothers were detained at checkpoints while in labor.

6. Militarism increases racism and anti-immigrant activity.

It is no secret that militarism fosters racial prejudice in the name of national security. From Japanese-American internment camps during World War II to the current INS detention of Middle Eastern men, war reinforces racial stereotypes and discrimination. Today, racial profiling of Arab-American, Muslim, and South Asian people is defended as necessary for homeland security. In the wake of September 11, national anti-immigrant groups strengthened
their activism to severely restrict immigration into the United States. Organizations such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform,
Negative Population Growth, and the Carrying Capacity Network blamed immigration for the attacks on the World Trade Center, using fear-based tactics to play upon the national panic. The sentiments of these organizations have helped lead to programs, public policy, or legislation that target women of color and immigrant women for population control. Population control has often taken the form of involuntary sterilizations, welfare family caps, and/or risky long-term contraceptives. Anti-immigration attitudes associated with militarism pose huge threats and challenges to immigrant women, particularly those seeking asylum or those fleeing domestic violence. According to Amnesty International, women seeking asylum in the U.S. (some of whom are pregnant) have reported being detained without adequate food or medical care and undergoing strip searches, as well as physical, verbal, and sexual assault.

7. Militarism silences women.

During war, the first voices to be eliminated from the public sphere are those belonging to women. According to a study conducted by Fairness and Accuracy in Media, in the month following September 11, women were outnumbered by 10 to 1 on op-ed pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today. Similarly, while Bush's 90% approval rate was consistently hailed, a poll finding that 48% of women supported limited or no military action was severely under-reported.

8. The military restricts soldiers' right to abortion.

Women in the U.S. military are unconstitutionally denied their right to choose abortion if they are faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Women serving in the armed forces are barred from obtaining an abortion on a military base, even if they are able to pay for the procedure with their own money. In June 2002, the Senate voted 52-40 to lift this ban. However, the House of Representatives opposes this measure, and prevented it from being included in the FY 2003 National Defense Authorization Act. As a result, women who are stationed in countries where abortion is illegal or inaccessible are still forced to carry their pregnancy to term whether or not they want to do so.

9. Militarism encourages a climate hostile to choice.

Militarism shifts the nation's priorities toward increased support for military and defense programs. This undercuts issues like gender equity and reproductive choice, thus discouraging citizens from considering such social concerns when voting. Candidates with the staunchest support for war are usually the most adamantly opposed to reproductive freedom; hence,
anti-choice politicians win wartime elections and continually draft and introduce anti-
choice legislation. Under the Bush Administration and the Republican-controlled House, several anti-choice, anti-child initiatives have passed in the House including the Child Custody Protection Act, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act, and the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (for more information on this legislation visit www.crlp.org.) President Bush has also consistently supported judges who are opposed to reproductive freedom.

10. War kills people.

It is impossible to deny that war kills innocent people. Civilian casualties occur, no matter how "smart" the bombs or how much peanut butter is dropped from the sky. In Afghanistan, among other things, the U.S. bombed a Red Cross building, a U.N. building, and a wedding. The Gulf War, though hailed as a war with so few casualties that the first Bush Administration described it as "surgical," resulted in the destruction of all Iraqi irrigation systems, 52 health centers, 28 hospitals, 56 mosques, and over 600 schools. Due to the extensive damage to water and sewer systems, more than 250,000 people (most of them children under the age of five) died within a few months. Even after the Gulf War, the U.S. led the United Nations in imposing sanctions on Iraq. The International Action Center estimates that, as a result, 1.5 million Iraqi people have died, over half of them children under the age of five. Why, one
might ask, is this amount of death and destruction considered "very clean" and continually justified? Furthermore, why are these atrocities committed by U.S. leaders who claim to be "pro-life"?


References
#1. Joni Seager, "Patriarchal Vandalism: Militaries and the Environment," in
Jael Silliman and Ynestra King, eds., Dangerous Intersections, Boston: South
End Press, 1999.
Nancy Lee Peluso and Michael Watts, eds., Violent Environments, Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 2001.
Military Toxics Project and Environmental Health Coalition, Defend Our Health:
A People's Report to Congress, 2001, accessed at
http://www.miltoxproj.org/magnacarta/DefendOurHealthReport.html.

#2. Cynthia Enloe. Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing
Women's Lives. Berkeley: CA: University of California Press, 2000.

#3. Angela Robson, "Rape: Weapon of War." New Internationalist.
Issue 244 (1993).
Associated Press, "Military Murders: Series of Slayings Shakes Fort Bragg
Community." Crime and Justice,
http://pub86.ezboard.com/fcrimeandjustice13552frm51.showMessage?
topicID=75.topic

Cynthia Enloe, "Sneak Attack: The militarization of U.S. culture." Ms.,
December 2001/January 2002: 15.

#4. "Bush Unveils 'War' Budget." BBC News. 4 February 2002. Accessed at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/1798732.stm.

#5. B'Tselem. www.btselem.org

#6. Azi Shariatmadar, "Anti-Immigrant Alert!" Political Environments. Issue 9
(2002): 8-9.Amnesty International. www.amnesty.org

#7. Jennifer Pozner. "Casualty of War: The U.S. Press Corps wimps out."
Ms., December 2001/January 2002: 33-34.

#8. National Organization for Women, www.now.org/news/goodnews.html#abortion
Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, www.crlp.org/hill_military.html

#9. Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. www.crlp.org

#10. Barbara Kingsolver "Jabberwocky." High Tide in Tucson. New York:
Harper Collins Publishers, 1995.
International Action Center. www.iac.org/iraq.htm

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
For more information please contact the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College: 413.559.5506 or rgluckman@hampshire.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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