"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."
"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
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."
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
In particular, those opposed to abortion
worry Bush may name a close ally, White House Counsel Alberto
``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
``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
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
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
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
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.
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"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, "
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
"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
"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."
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
"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
But Randy Thomassen, executive director
of the anti-abortion Campaign for California Families, is equally
"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
"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
JANELLE CARTER, Associated Press
Sunday, January 19, 2003
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.
Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
A WOMAN'S WORTH
by Kelpie Wilson
Can you imagine what life would be
like if everything werent 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 dont 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, someones
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.
Lysistratas 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
cant learn to stop. Its like eating potato chips.
You cant eat just one and its awfully hard to stop
before youve consumed the whole bag. The Lysistrata strategy
challenges us to stop at just one --one child that is.
What Im 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 womans body
fat percentage must be low. When agricultural grains are substituted
for grubs, leaves and nuts, body fat increases and natural contraception
Intensive, grain-based agriculture had
another effect besides increasing womens 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
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, womens
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 couples 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 everybodys 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 mens denial
of womens 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
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 dont 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 1840s 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
Englands 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 theres 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
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 doesnt even have
the neurological apparatus to register suffering, and people are
shocked. Whats 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 wouldnt 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
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
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
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
7. Militarism silences
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
#1. Joni Seager, "Patriarchal Vandalism: Militaries and the
Jael Silliman and Ynestra King, eds., Dangerous Intersections,
End Press, 1999.
Nancy Lee Peluso and Michael Watts, eds., Violent Environments,
Cornell University Press, 2001.
Military Toxics Project and Environmental Health Coalition, Defend
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.
#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 email@example.com
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