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Justice Ginsburg is right about Roe

It looks like my writer’s block is over.

The NYTimes has an editorial about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s thoughts on Roe v. Wade.  This is prompted by her tepid approach to marriage equality and that a grand sweeping ruling may become the new political football that provokes a backlash.  I’m not sure that’s true in this case because as I wrote in my previous post, the right has some potentially good reasons for trying to steal the gay voting bloc away from Democrats.  They may try to present marriage equality as a fait accompli to their more religious base that is dying out anyway.

At any rate, half of the gay population is already in the privileged class simply because they are men.  As long as they kept their sexual orientation under the radar, there was nothing stopping gay men from partaking of all of the benefits of being male in this society.  In a way, I think the success of marriage equality depends on men standing their ground and refusing to give up those privileges.  The fact that lesbian couples may also benefit is just icing on the cake.  So, maybe Ginsberg’s concerns are less grounded this time around.  Besides, what are the Bible Belt states going to do?  Become more obstinate, belligerent and Republican than they already are towards gay couples?  Is that even possible?

But it’s a different story when it comes to Roe v. Wade.  My theory is that Roe dealt a huge blow to the movement for women’s equality because once it was decided, many women had the mistaken idea that the battle was won.  Instead, Roe became the political football for BOTH political parties.   It’s the primary criteria for which party voters decide they belong.  It’s the fear tactic that Democrats use to corral women to vote against their economic interests as much as it is the tactic that Republicans use to rally their constituents to feel power and control over other people’s lives.

Not only is Roe a political football, it has had major repercussions in setting back women’s equality.  Because abortion has been such a cultural hot potato, we tend to see women as a collection of body parts, primarily reproductive body parts.  We are uteruses and vaginas and breasts and all of our discussion is about who gets to control those body parts.  I am not a man or a male hiring manager but I have to wonder what crosses men’s minds when they see a female colleague.  Do they consider her intelligence, determination, ingenuity and hard work or do they secretly thank god that they weren’t born with ovaries that are subject to religious and governmental regulation?  There are things the state can compel or forbid a woman from doing that men don’t have to worry about.  I cannot believe that this doesn’t have an effect on how women are perceived in all the various aspects of her life.  Maybe if she were a bit smarter, she wouldn’t have to put up with that.

I do not agree with the NYTimes editorial board that women wouldn’t have won their reproductive freedom without Roe.  This is going to sound weird but when I was on the cusp of puberty back in 1970 when New York allowed abortions, feminism was vibrantly alive and kicking, unlike 2013 when it’s barely visible, tepid and calling yourself a feminist is outré and derogatory.  You younguns don’t even know.  You had to be there.  Women were on a roll. I was brought up in a religiously fundamentalist household and yet I was a raging feminist back in the early 70s just like many of my friends.  The world was our oyster and we could do anything. The zeitgeist was definitely and defiantly feminist.  Roe brought that to a screeching halt.  If Roe had failed, there would still have been states where you could have gotten an abortion and the fight would have intensified, not slackened because the effects of abortion restrictions elsewhere would still be vividly real.

So, if Bader-Ginsburg’s concerns are that Roe short circuited the political drive and momentum for women’s full equality, then I totally agree with her.  There were a million reasons why Roe should have been decided as the law of the land but the best one is that women are free and equal persons whose rights should not be abridged simply because they have different genitalia.

Instead, what we have is a hollowed out right to abortion and no equality because we stopped fighting.

Dump Roe.  Revive the ERA.

Friday: Unfinished business

For a long time now, I’ve been thinking that feminists dropped the ball after they won Roe v. Wade.  Everyone took it down a notch and went back to whatever it was they were doing.  The ERA officially died in 1982.  I was at Point Park in Pittsburgh at a rally the day it happened.  It was important and it was no doubt a very bad thing when it died.  But I was young and stupid and I thought at least we have Roe and cheap, plentiful oral contraceptives.

And that’s where we fell into a trap.  The right wing had us just where they wanted us.  Instead of protecting us, Roe has been used as a political hammer by both parties and as a result, its no longer the protection it was assumed it was.  I say assumed because it never was supposed to be a proxy for true equality.

Today, Louise Trubek, one of the plaintiffs in an earlier contraception case in Connecticut pre-Griswold, seems to agree that we lost the plot in her post in the NYTimes:

Why are issues that the courts decided so long ago still unresolved? Maybe it is time to recognize that law alone is not enough to effect social change. It must be linked to social activism on behalf of women’s rights.

[...]

We can celebrate Griswold, Roe and all the cases that stemmed from the Poe litigation. They are important landmarks in American jurisprudence. But as I look back I am dismayed by how few of the issues I was fighting for at the time of Poe are resolved. To be sure, we have important rights and more legal privacy. But we still have not provided all the support women need to combine rewarding careers and healthy families. Planned Parenthood is under siege and poor women who are seeking comprehensive reproductive care are still at risk. Presidential candidates can get away with saying that all contraception should be outlawed. Comprehensive child care services are difficult to locate, and fully financed family and medical leave is still controversial.

In short, we won the legal battle but not the war. Women are still not guaranteed control over their lives, because the necessary social supports were never secure. The initial goal of Griswold was to help women — and even though the precedent has helped with same-sex marriage laws, those initial needs, especially of poor women, have been left largely unmet.

The universal coverage plan outlined in President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a good step forward, and we should do all we can to ensure it. Perhaps if activism had been linked to the lawsuits, the aims I fought for would have been secured, and we would be spared the spectacle of Republican candidates threatening, yet again, a woman’s right to control her own fertility.

She’s right.  After we won Roe, we just assumed that social equality would follow on its own.  But that was never going to happen if the activists stopped being active.  I blame my own generation for this.  We straddled the gap between the end of the baby boom and the Gen Xers.  We were children during the activist days and too busy breaking new ground in college and careers to pay any attention to what was happening to our rights.  It was hard enough to get some professor to notice us or some supervisor to recognize our achievements to go out after work and organize.  But without that activism and organization, our accomplishments were illusory.  There was no permanent change in the culture except these two flimsy supreme court rulings.  That is all we had.  And as the right wing started to chip away at them, we didn’t get alarmed enough.  Now the right has almost got its way even with the rulings in place and our rights and equality looks like a matrix of swiss cheese.

So, it’s back to the trenches for us or our daughters will not have the privileges that we had in the 70s and 80s.  If we’re wondering why we get treated badly at work, it’s because the old boys club knows that there are things society can force women to do that can never be forced on men.  It makes us look weak and easy to run over.

It’s still a man’s world out there and we were stupid to think an abortion ruling was going to change that.

*******************

Craig Crawford has a great post on the fallout over Rush Limbaugh’s “Slut” broadcast.   If you missed this fecal vomit from Rush, here’s an excerpt:

[O]n his radio show today, Limbaugh showed no remorse and instead reveled in the attention. Referring to Fluke, Limbaugh demanded that women post sex tapes online if they use insurance-covered birth control:

LIMBAUGH: So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you post the videos online so we can all watch.

 And here’s Rush’s followup.  He just can’t seem to stop himself.  This man needs help.  Or a stiletto shoe in his face.  I just can’t decide…

Craig has a handy list of sponsors that you can contact and includes this little tidbit:

The Rush-Romney Connection
Limbaugh’s daily radio show is syndicated by Premier Networks, which is owned byClear Channel, which is co-owned by Bain Capital.

Folks, you can’t make this up.

Yesterday, I wrote a response to a post by Sarah Lane on google+.  Sarah Lane is the bubbly tech blogger who’s a mainstay at Twit.tv.  I love Sarah Lane but I don’t like the idea that Carbonite is a sponsor of Twit AND Rush Limbaugh.  So, I wrote to ask her what she thought of that?  No answer yet but I’m hopeful.  I might try Gina Trapani next.  Or Leo Laporte, although Leo can come off as a sexist jerk himself on occasion.  In fact, I might just want to abstain from Twit and remove its app from my iphone and ipad until they have a word with their sponsor.  For sure, I am not using the Twit offer code from Carbonite until Carbonite disassociates itself from Rush.

ProFlowers also sponsors Rush.

Now would be a good time for Barack Obama to overcome his Mike Dukakis impression and stand up for women agains this evil bully.  It could be a twofer because Rush may push the nuclear option with a really vile racist remark and then we’ll see how far gone the American public truly is.  It’s one thing to think uncharitable, ignorant things, things you know are not socially acceptable.  It’s quite another thing to say them to the President of the United States.  Barack Obama might be an unprincipled schmoozer and a lousy president but that has nothing to do with his race (which is only a social construct anyway).

This is an opportunity for him to act like he’s got some backbone.  Someone needs to step in here and level Rush.  Maybe Hillary can lend Obama one of her balls.  Schedule a news conference and condemn him in the harshest terms.  Take a note from Bill Clinton’s evil cowards speech after the Oklahoma City bombing.  It’s the right thing to do and I guarantee that it won’t cost the election.  It’s not censoring Rush to tell him that his remarks are uncalled for, destructive and reflects badly on American values.  Call him out.  Do it now.

*****************

In science, it looks like you can teach stale eggs new tricks.  A new study in the journal Nature shows that human ova can be created from ovarian stem cells:

Previous research had suggested that a woman is born with all the egg cells she will ever have in her lifetime.

But in recent experiments, scientists discovered a new type of stem cell in the ovaries that—when grown in the lab—generates immature egg cells. The same immature cells isolated from adult mouse ovaries can turn into fertile eggs.

Stem cells, found in embryos and certain adult body tissues, have the potential to grow into many different types of cells.

(See “Liposuction Fat Turned Into Stem Cells, Study Says.”)

The finding reinforces the team’s previous experiments in mice, which had identified a new type of ovarian stem cell that renews a female mouse’s source of eggs throughout its fertile years.

That study, published in the journal Nature in 2004, was the “first to reach the conclusion that this long-held belief in our field—that young girls are given a bank account at birth that you can no longer deposit eggs to, just withdraw from—was no longer true,” said study leader Jonathan Tilly.

This is good news because if you can collect your stem cells early in your reproductive years and store them, there won’t be as much pressure to have kids before your expiration date.  You can have a backup plan and can get back to work doing something else, like research or starting your own business or writing books or something that requires your full attention.  Biology isn’t destiny until you’re ready.  It’s a good thing.

*****************

This is just cool.  Or disturbing, depending how you look at the idea of small flying objects:

*****************

Blame the user:

NEW YORK -(MarketWatch)- AT&T Inc. T +0.88% is taking a step closer to doing away with unlimited-mobile data-plans.

Under a new policy, AT&T will slow download speeds for unlimited 3G and 4G smartphone customers who exceed 3 gigabytes and 4G LTE users who exceed 5 gigabytes of data in a given month. AT&T had previously been slowing speeds, or throttling, customers who were in the top 5% of data users in their respective market.

AT&T has been trying to manage capacity on its network in the face of heavy data consumption by Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPhone users and a limited supply of wireless airwaves, or spectrum. The carrier is spending billions to build out a new fourth-generation mobile-broadband network that can handle more data traffic.

A spokesman said the new guidelines were necessary because of confusion among unlimited customers over when their download speeds would be slowed. He declined to say by how much the speeds would be decreased.

If you want to know why you’re losing the unlimited data plan on your iPhone, you can blame deregulation of the phone business years ago.  I guess when they decided to break up the monopolies to encourage competition, they never thought about whether they should require the phone companies to invest some of their ungodly profits into improving their data networks.  So, scarcity, like, you know, works in their favor.  They can make you slow down and use less and still charge you a fortune for crappy service.  I have ATT and I can barely get a signal in parts of central NJ and in NY City?  Fuggeddaboudit.  Covering the Occupy events in Zuccotti park was nearly impossible in real time and just drained the battery as the iphone uselessly pinged the sky looking for a signal.
Wherever Steve Jobs is, I’m betting he’s not amused.

The gender wage gap and “female bodied people”

There was a recent study on the wages of men vs women and surprise, surprise!  The gap is stubbornly stuck at about 85 cents per dollar for women for every dollar men make.  This is after all other factors have been taken into consideration.  From the NYTimes article:

But the study, based on an analysis of Labor Department data, could not determine whether other factors, like previous work experience or other choices made by women in the workplace, were keeping their wages from achieving closer parity, or whether there was still some other discriminatory effect.

Senator Robert P. Casey Jr., chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, which commissioned the G.A.O. report, said that he was surprised that despite higher levels of education, the gap between men’s and women’s pay hadn’t narrowed much more. “I would have said we would have seen more progress,” said Senator Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat.

He said the findings made the need for Congressional action on job creation more acute. “Every week that goes by where you don’t have progress on those measures is obviously going to make the situation worse for everyone,” he said. “But low-wage workers are having some of the most difficult challenges, and those challenges just get more significant.”

Yes, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is scratching his head.  This makes no sense.  No, it doesn’t.  It also doesn’t make sense that men are recovering from this prolonged recession better than women are.  I mean, it makes sense because they are more likely to be able to tap into their Old Boys’ Network to find new jobs.  But why women don’t have the same access to those same jobs?  No, that makes no sense.

But isn’t Senator Casey one of those pro-life Democrats?  Like, what does that have to do with it?  Oh, I don’t know.  But it seems like women have spent the last 40 years battling for equality based on whether or not they can get an abortion.  By the way, there’s no law on earth that will stop women from getting abortions, unless you incarcerate them and put them in straight jackets for being pregnant.  Technically, we may not be equal yet but I don’t think even Mississippi can do that.  So, I think it’s about time that the pro-lifers out there start facing up to the fact that a stupid little measure like making a fertilized egg a person is not going to stop a desperate girl from raking her uterus with a coathanger.  What pro-lifers REALLY want is something that is unattainable.  They want women to be mothers and they want them to *like* it.

That’s where this term “female bodied person” comes in.  I first heard the term “female bodied person” (FBP) on a segment of the Colbert Report the other day when Stephen interviewed an occupier from OWS who called herself “Ketchup”.  I had an “ah-hah!” moment.  That’s the concept that so many feminist have not been promoting.  Instead, they’ve been acting like their whole existence depended on Roe v. Wade.  No, non, nyet.  What we need to get across is that there are people, equal people and minds, encased in female bodies.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like my female body.  I like it very much.  And I don’t really want to change.  But it is just my body.  About a decade ago, my brother, ex, sister-in-law and I took some kind of pop psychology quiz that determined whether our minds were more male or female.  My sister-in-law was solidly female, the ex was male,  But I scored more on the male side of the spectrum than my brother did and he’s a masculine guy.  Pop psych or not, I think it is facet of our personalities that tends to get obscured by the bodies we wear.  What was funny to me was when I finally showed up in Denver for the convention and people met me in person, a lot of them were surprised that I looked like a girl.  They didn’t exactly say it that way but I knew what they meant.  I don’t write like one so maybe I wouldn’t look like one.

Does it matter if you look like a girl when it comes to employment?  It shouldn’t but we have some evidence that it does.  It used to be that orchestras would hire predominantly male musicians.  Women were thought not to possess that certain technical or artistic ability as men.  In the past two decades, more and more orchestras are hiring based on a blind audition.  In this case, the applicants for a seat in an orchestra audition behind a screen and the seat goes to the best musician based on music.  In the year 2000, the number of women in orchestras had jumped from 10% to 35% as a result of blind auditions.

So, if we know that physical appearance can affect one’s career prospects, can we apply the concept of the blind audition to the workforce in general?  An orchestra is probably an easy case.  Most differences in employment opportunities based on gender are not so clearly detectable as they are in an orchestra, or maybe even a restaurant.  Most ways in which employers discriminate against women are very subtle and the managers themselves may not even be aware that they are doing it.  Even a manager who feels himself to value equality may be affecting his female employees’ career prospects and salaries.  We have seen how the Obama administration does it quite openly and unapologetically by supporting an Old Boys’ Club and by cultivating younger men, allowing them to steal projects from women and present more frequently at meetings.  They also socialize more with the powerbrokers.  We can also see this happening in the left blogosphere where the bloggers who have moved on to steady jobs in the media have been guys.  Very few female bloggers have made this transition.

We may not be able to do much about the blogosphere but in the average workplace, there are ways to measure virtually anything from where people sit to how much desk space they have to how much access they have to the power centers to how many times their emails are answered and responded to.  If there are discrepancies in salaries and promotions, quantifying the parameters of the work environment should lead to some answers as to why these discrepancies develop.  Returning to my new favorite country, Finland, we can find a government program that does just this kind of study.  It’s called Gender Glasses.   The goal of a program like gender glasses should be to detect the factors and behaviors that lead to treating people based on the body they’re in and not the persons they are.

Of course, the United States has a long way to go to get to the stage where a program using measurement and statistics can be used to eliminate gender based differences in the work place.  Before we get to that, we have to agree that women are more than just the bodies they inhabit and that biology isn’t destiny.  And getting rid of Roe v. Wade, even for those of us who are pro-choice, is something we need to consider.  We need to take the focus off our bodies and put it back on our minds.  Like I said before, abortion is not going away, no matter what some bible thumping Mississippian thinks or even what some Catholic senator thinks.  All that’s going to happen is more people will be forced to travel or do it themselves.  But once the Roe issue is out of the way, we can get back to the issue of equality.  Equality has been stalled for four decades while the right tried to force us into motherhood based on our body parts.  If Senator Casey is serious about discovering why there is a gender wage gap, maybe he needs to start by examining his own attitudes towards “female bodied people”.

Postscript:  I notice that Digby has written something tangential to this about blogging while female.  And while I understand that women are conditioned to “feel” it when someone insults them, I see no reason why Digby, talented writer that she is, should waste even one nanosecond of sleeptime turning over any mean spirited insult in her head.  Here are my few words of wisdom to female bloggers: People insult you because they know it hurts and they want you to feel badly.  But the truth is that they don’t know you and even if they occasionally hit the mark, so what?  The internet is the great equalizer.  Unlike the real world, when someone says something nasty to you in cyberspace, you have the time to whip up a devastating response.  And you should use it.  Your blog is your own personal space.  No one can chase you from it.  You can say whatever you want and make whatever rules you like and there’s not a damn thing that the rude commenter can do about it.  You can banish people and never have to worry about accusations of censorship.  It’s a big blogosphere out there.

Finally, no matter what they say to you, they are only little black pixels on a screen.  They cannot hurt you.   With a click of a mouse, they are gone forever.

Fairness, Dignity, Respect: Conducting Subversion in Public

She was us. But we're still out here even if she has moved on.

I have read a lot of Woe is Us comments and posts around the web in response to Anglachel’s excellent post, Hillary is not Going to Save Us.

“We are doomed.  We should just accept Obama’s Reign of Error and unopposed primary run in 2012.  We should get used to our batshit crazy Republican overlords.  All is lost!  The hosts of Mordor have won!”

This is bull $#@%.

You are not reading Anglachel’s post correctly if that is what you think she is saying.

What she is saying, and she can correct me if I’m wrong, is that leaders get power from movements, momentum, a bloc of supporters and a set of principles.  Neither Hillary not anyone else can save you if you don’t have a movement to support her or make any attempts to save yourself.

Here’s where I differ with Anglachel: I think Hillary would jump in if she knew there was a tidal wave of people ready to throw their support behind her or some other FDR style Democrat.  Obama is very weak.  His supporters, as Anglachel says, are numerically small but very vocal.  So what?  It doesn’t matter how noisy the Stevensonians are.  The Democratic party still needs to appeal to all of the other regular working class people out there.  And those people aren’t letting themselves be corralled anymore.  Witness the reports on the AmericaSpeaks forums that Corrente is reporting.  We know what kind of game the handlers are playing.  They are trying to present the policy prescriptions as a choice between bad and slightly less bad.  Nowhere are the “acceptable to the average guy” policies allowed.  And people are letting these agents of the wealthy know that they’re not interested in that.  They want to be masters of their own fates, not sheepish pawns in someone else’s fantasy.

But more than that, had Hillary won in 2008, she would be looking at a second term in 2012.  It’s nonsense for her to state that she’s out of politics because, well, I don’t know why she would say that.  She wouldn’t be too tired to run for her re-election in 2012.  So, there’s got to be another reason why she says she’s *planning* to sit it out.  As we have seen with many politicians, Hillary included, it is usual with candidates to reject the addresses of the voters whom they secretly mean to accept, when they first apply for her favour; and that sometimes the refusal is repeated a second or even a third time. We should therefore by no means be discouraged by what she has just said, and shall hope to lead her to the oval office ere long.

But why should she, or any FDR style Democrat, accept the hand of a Mr. Collins when what she/he really desires is a Mr. Darcy?  We’re not in fighting form for  successful courting.  What we need to be is an attractive voting bloc, not just a ragtag, disjointed bunch of discouraged disenfranchised working class schlubs.  And when I say “working class”, masslib, I am talking about all of the people the Democrats left on the table in 2008, whether they are college educated or not.  If you make your income from a paycheck and not investments, YOU ARE WORKING CLASS. Don’t be afraid of the term.  Your strength depends on recognizing what you have in common with the people who you once thought were your intellectual inferiors.  When the top 10% of the county makes 70% of the wealth generated here, you working people of all professions and condition of dirt under the nails are in the same boat. To the top 10%, you all look like a bunch of stupid losers. It’s YOU against that top 10%.

This is why Sarah Palin is so successful.  She has tapped into the anger of the people who have smelled the asphalt.  If you want to beat her, you have to join with the road workers.  Once you have established that you exist and that you share a common cause and a common set of principles based on Fairness, Dignity and Respect, you will start looking pretty hot to the politician who will fight for the right to carry your banner.

Yes, oh best beloveds, there are such people.  The world is ever thus.  There are people who will strive to accumulate power and wealth and who will step on the heads of anyone who gets in their way.  And there are people who will gird their loins for you and step up.  There are good people in the world.  Those people are not perfect.  No human has ever been born upon the planet who did not have flaws.  But there are people who try.  They try and sometimes they fail.  But they do not give up because civilization hangs together by the slimmest of positive efforts that overcome the negative ones.  Without effort to overcome the chaos in favor of establishing a good order for the benefit of all, we as a people would cease to exist.  So, we must all be doing something right every single day to hold ourselves together.

That means showing up at public meetings and not allowing others to shout you down.  That means sticking up for the working people, even if they are public servants who seem to be benefitting from your taxes.  That means rewarding solidarity with your support.  That means giving to others when you don’t have much yourself: feeding the poor, buying a gift for a disadvantaged child at Christmas, donating money to classrooms in need.  That means helping your friends who have become unemployed through no fault of their own.  That means standing up for them when the ignorant and narrow minded call them parasites after all of their years of hard work and taxes for the public good. That means never accepting the fate that others would assign to you.  That means women sticking up for themselves and letting go of Roe that has created a false sense of equality and has been used by your enemies to rally the opposition to tear down your rights.  That means never giving anyone consent to treat you as an inferior.  That means conducting your business in public, transparently, creating your principles and values and inviting others to join you.  That means imposing discipline on yourself and others to stick to the point, not be distracted by identity politics.  That means insisting on equality for all because the country can use all the help it can get from everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, education level or any other criteria that separate us from one another.

Do not let them separate you from your friends.  Hold hands, get together, brainstorm, meet, plan, do, solve and never, never let the bastards grind you down.  Push back forcefully.  You don’t have a choice.  This is your country.  Take it back.  Insist on Fairness, Dignity, Respect.  Demand a New Deal.

If you build it, she may run.  Or someone else will take up the banner.  When she told us at the Convention to “Keep Going!”, I think this is what she meant.

Update: For those of you who asked, here is the proposal I wrote in 2008 for going forward.  It is preliminary and somewhat out of date.  But it’s a starting point for discussion.

ANewOrganizationforDemocratsinExile

 

I support overturning Roe v. Wade and so should you

Yep, your rights are at risk but not the way you think

Nope.  I am not a anti-choice advocate.  I am firmly pro-choice.  I wholeheartedly support a woman’s right to choose.  But when I read “hair-on-fire’ posts like Digby’s complete with a list of anti-choice proposals from Katha “Obamabot feminist” Pollitt, I think it’s time to dump this turkey and adopt a new strategy:

Katha Pollitt draws attention to the startling fact that at least 53 of the new House members and five new Senators are hardcore anti-choice zealots and makes the important observation that all this blather about the GOP keeping the abortion issue roiling for cynical political purposes is just that: blather. The anti-choice zealots will be hard at work whittling away a woman’s right to own her own body at the state level, while the GOP Congress will do its part to roll back whatever they can. And at some point, the movement is going to demand that their efforts to pack the court with wingnuts are rewarded with a reversal of Roe. They will get their case.

[...]

One would like to believe that our nominally Democratic majority in the Senate will not advance any of this legislation and if they do our allegedly pro-choice president will veto it. But I fully expect that abortion will be on the able as a bargaining chip when the Democrats try to fashion compromises on economic matters — women will be asked to give once again so that the Teabaggers can be appeased with something that isn’t vitally important to the people. (Well, except the women, but they hardly qualify.)

Controversial statement: The best thing that could happen to women in this country is for the court to overturn Roe.  Stick a fork in it it’s done.
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Roe-Hopenol

Whither Roe?

Whither Roe?

For many months, we PUMAs heard that the main reason people were voting for Obama was the Supreme Court. NOW and NARAL endorsed him without qualifications, so Obama must be pro-choice, right? Hey, ladies, what’s yer problem? Barack Obama will preserve Roe v. Wade forever, won’t be too mean when you’re periodically down, and will even give you a kiss, sweetie!

Well, now that a majority of women believed this Supreme Court Roe-Hopenol and voted for Obama, let’s see how realistic that whole relentless campaign was, shall we?

For example, who among the four “liberal” justices is planning to retire? Justice Stevens seems to be the most likely, since he is already 88 years old.

Or, maybe not.

GAINESVILLE, Fla., Nov. 18 (UPI) — U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, at 88, isn’t showing any signs he’s considering retiring from the bench, observers say.

Stevens, who leads the high court’s aging liberal wing, remains vigorous, still plays tennis, swims in the ocean and says he doesn’t consider the Supreme Court’s workload to be overly taxing, The Washington Post (NYSE:WPO) reported Tuesday.

A prime motivation for some voters in backing the campaign of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama was to ensure a Democratic president would be in a position to replace Stevens and fellow Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 75, and David Souter, 69, with other liberals. But none of them, especially Stevens, has indicated any plans to retire soon, the newspaper said.

Huh. Stevens, Ginsburg and Souter are not planning to retire anytime soon. Ooooops!

Well, what about Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is not a liberal, but who is often a key swing vote for the liberal wing of the Court? Kennedy is 72, but despite repeated searches on Teh Google, I cannot find any stories that quote him about his intentions to retire before 2012. The most I’ve seen is a lot of wishful thinking from Obama supporters based on his age and health. Oooooops!

Okay, but what about Stevens standing before The Ultimate Judge in the next four years? It’s entirely possible that the 88-year-old (Gawd forbid) could pass away anytime. (Of course, so could any of the Justices, so I’m a bit dubious regarding the wisdom of basing one’s electoral strategy on when the Grim Reaper will strike). Assuming this sad event does in fact occur, who, oh who, will Barack Obama place in his stead?

If you read through the list linked in this Salon article (Salon being an extremely Obama-friendly press outlet), you will see a diverse mixture of men, women, moderates, liberals and nods to various ethnicities. Sounds great at first.

But do you notice anything about the summaries next to the candidates’ names? Not one of them mentions Roe v. Wade.

Oooooops!

Are we now supposed to pretend that Obama has no responsibility to live up to the expectations of his female voters? Are we women, and the men who support us, supposed to forget that his campaign scared us for months about McCain and Palin and their extreme anti-choice views leading to the overturn of Roe v. Wade? Now, we don’t even merit a mention, as if Obama does not even have to consider Roe v. Wade in his possible judicial appointments?

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Women’s Bodies Held Hostage = Election Year

http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/zygote.jpg

2-day-old human embryo (zygote)

It’s election time, so once again, just like the swallows coming home to Capistrano and geese flying South for the Winter, women’s bodies are being held hostage. It’s predictable.

One of the first signs this election cycle was when word came that Obama voted to not give life-saving measures to babies who survive late-term abortions. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Obviously, this was a vote to assuage his potential evangelical voter base. However, after Sarah Palin entered the race, those voters, knowing they now had the real deal, swung back to McCain, whom they were hesitant to support previously. Obama’s vote “No” was meant as a protest against late term abortion. So, then if life prevailed, kill it anyway? This makes no sense whatsoever.

A more recent sign of the “election-year women’s-bodies-as-hostage cycle” is the news that Rep. Nancy Pelosi would be given some schoolin’ on Catholic Cathechism by the San Francisco Archdiocese. It seems that the House Speaker made some controversial statements about abortion following Sarah Palin’s VP nom. Nancy was trying to show that although she’s Catholic, she’s pro-choice, so as to distinguish herself from the smarmy pro-life Palin who would have us revert to back room abortions. To Nancy, her choice about choice was as plain as day, but the Catholic Church thought otherwise: her views approached heresy. It was even suggested that perhaps Pelosi should not be offered Holy Communion if she was going to be that way. The uproar is due to Pelosi’s statement that she didn’t know when life begins, and that no one, even the Catholic Church, can know for certain.

The Church has replied: oh no you dit-’nt. The Church has stated unequivocally that life begins at conception.

Now, I’m going to state something very, very controversial for a pro-choicer: I agree in part with the Catholic Church — life begins at conception. You know those carriers of life, the swimming little sperm and the big egg? Ever see them under a microscope, magnified, like on film? They pulse, they move, they form a zygote whose cells multiply and divide. The zygote beats with the mother’s heart, and grows into an embryo as it receives nutrients. What the heck else do you call it? Any woman who’s carried a fetus, whether it’s been born or aborted, feels the life within her. Way beyond religion, to call it anything but life defies scientific definition.

I’ve done a lot, I mean a lot, of transformational work in the process of becoming a body-centered therapist. I’ve literally experienced my parents’ emotional and psychological states leading up to my conception. Let’s just say they weren’t happy and knew as soon as they got married that they didn’t want to be together. They were among those post-war couples who “stayed together for the kids.” So my personal work, which has taken a long time, years, has been to unburden myself from that first cause of being a burden, somebody’s fault for being stuck together. Please, don’t worry. I’m fine.

So why am I delving into my past in this oh-so-revealing way? Yes, this is anecdotal, but I’ve seen it over and over again in my clients — the affect of one or both parents being unhappy during pregnancy and perinatally. Any psychologist can tell many of these stories. Although science has barely caught up, our memory, our life experience lives in our bodies. I am saying that our cells, the zygote, the fetus, are conscious.

Here comes the really controversial part: anyone who’s ever had an abortion knows that she is terminating the life of a baby. Otherwise, it would just be like having a period. Bloop and that’s it. There wouldn’t be the severe emotionally distraught feelings of fear, guilt, sadness, and trauma. Although we are determined to have that choice, who has ever had an abortion and felt happy about it? The fact of the matter is: a woman knows she is choosing to end a life AND that it is her choice.

Have you ever heard this point? No. Instead a woman is forced to either deny that she is ending a life when she has an abortion, or if she admits to herself, God, and Country that she is ending a life, then abortion must cease to be available. Isn’t that what the entire debate has been about — forever? So, Nancy Pelosi, by gosh, you did do something while in Congress! You made me come out about this topic. I say that both are true, and I stand by my right to choose, over and above all.

Of course, as we all know, if men had babies, it wouldn’t even be a discussion. Birth control and every other thing about reproduction, pregnancy, birth, and abortion would be highly studied, bought and paid for, and designed for his maximum empowerment, comfort, and control. And life would begin at birth, including for the Catholic Church, although I guess women would be running it.

Women I know, who lived on my same long-time hippy commune, where our policy was “don’t have an abortion,” are now staunchly pro-choice like me. Our solution back then was: instead, carry the baby to full-term, and if upon giving birth you still don’t want it, a family will take care of it for you. If you ever decide you want the baby or child back, you can have it. Of course, this policy created its own set of problems, but it tried to solve the “life vs. abortion, preggers but don’t want the child” conundrum.

So, yes, it’s election year, and women’s bodies are once again being held hostage. And so are our brains. We have to pretend that a sperm, egg, zygote, and fetus are dead, so we can do what we want to do with our bodies and the life we create that grows within us. Running for top office, basically, we have four pro-lifers, who say they won’t impose their views on their governance. Their churches would have them do otherwise. (Disclaimer: as a Jew, I don’t claim to know a thing about the Catholic Church or any other.)

As could be expected, during the campaign Obama once again voted present with his statement that determining when life begins “is above [his] paygrade.” Well, he was caught in a woman’s situation, because he was speaking at evangelical, Rick Warren’s forum, and didn’t want to alienate either side of his lady voter base. He actually was right: it is above his paygrade, but that doesn’t excuse his choosing ambiguity for expediency’s sake. As a Democrat, he was expected to come down on the side of pro-choice, but then how could he in that venue and not be cast out?

Pro-choice leaders, orgs, and Democrats are threatening that we run for our lives, because a woman’s right to choose will be removed from the table if the Repubs win, what with SCOTUS conservative appointees and all. Pro-life women are happy, because a woman of their own beliefs may come to national power, and life at conception might be recognized. Either way, women have to fake it once again. If we admit that we’re harboring life and abort, we’re baby-killers, murderers, plain and simple. This would make repeal of Roe v. Wade a foregone conclusion. If we divorce our brains from our bodies so as to simulate a dead zone, well then, I guess we’re alright. I don’t know about you, but doesn’t making judgments and taking control of women’s bodies remind you of how it was for us during those Salem witch-huntin’ days?

Not pretty, but in the end, who bears the responsibility, the shame, the guilt? Whose bodies and lives are at stake and held hostage because of it? You guessed it. This is a messy deal, this living thing and all.

Although a bit of a jog off the path, a few more things about the judgmental attitudes that other people make about bodies and lives not their own: We exist on living things — whether a plant or an animal. Anyone who’s ever raised an animal, or had a pet for that matter, knows they’re conscious. Many gardeners speak to their plants, and research studies show that plants respond to music and human emotion. Gardeners would agree. Whatever we eat has to die so that we may live. If we rid ourselves of pesky pests like bugs, rodents, or wildlife, we are killing. If we go to war or order others to go, we may end up taking a life or helping others to do so. Buddhists would have us not kill at all. In choosing what we eat and how we live, we are also choosing whether something or someone will live or will die.

In other words, to judge women as reckless for a choice about their own bodies denies the fact that in each moment we make life and death decisions.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

[cross-posted from Lady Boomer NYC]

Wednesday: The Roe Ruse

From Jeffrey Toobin’s book, The Nine, in the chapter on the Casey decision (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Gov. Robert P. Casey) we learn about the melodramatic stylings of Justice Anthony Kennedy and an omen about the pragmatic Sandra Day O’Connor’s replacement on the court, Sam Alito.  But first, there was Webster:

…even as O’Connor criticized Roe, she never called for its outright rejection.  In 1989, the court came close to overturning Roe when it approved a Missouri law prohibiting abortions in public hospitals.  In Webster v Reproductive Health Services, Rehnquist, joined by White, Scalia, and for the most part, Kennedy, all but called for the end of Roe.  But O’Connor characteristically held back writing, “When the constitutional validity of a State’s abortion statute actually turns upon the constitutional validity of Roe, there will be time to reexamine Roe, and do so carefully.”…

Then came Casey:

Something else was bothering O’Connor too.  She was appalled by the provision in the Pennsylvania law that required married women who were seeking an abortion to inform their husbands.  The court of appeals had struck down this provision but Rehnquist proposed to uphold the view of the dissenting judge from the lower court.  But that opinion- the one by Judge Samuel Alito- outraged O’Connor.  She saw this provision as paternalism at best and sexism at worst.  O’Connor had a finely tuned radar for discrimination against women (something she sometimes lacked for bias against, say, African Americans), and she couldn’t abide the notion that the court would uphold such a law.

So Souter and O’Connor were aligned on the idea that the Court should uphold what they came to call the “essence” of Roe and they agreed that they should try to strike down the spousal notification provision.  But they only had four votes- their own, plus those of Blackmun and Stevens, who were ready to reject the whole Pennsylvania law.  They knew there was only one place to go for a possible fifth vote- the chambers of Tony Kennedy.

Kennedy’s peculiar combination of traits- his earnestness and his ambition, his naivete and his grandiosity his reverence for the law and his regard for his own talents- made him receptive to Souter’s appeal.  Kennedy thought there was nobility in judging; saving Roe would show the world that the justices were something more than mere pols.  A statesmanlike compromise suited both Kennedy’s politics and his conception of the role of the judge.

So, Kennedy signed on with Sourter and O’Connor.  His was the most dramatic switch of the three because it had been only three years since he voted with Rehnquist in Webster, an opinion that advocated overturning Roe.  Even more dramatically, Kennedy had clearly supported Rehnquist at the conference in Casey.  No vote is ever final on the Court until the opinion is announced, but changes from conference votes are still unusual, especially when, as in Casey, it was Kennedy’s vote that allowed Rehnquist to start drafting his majority opinion.

Now, fast forward to 2007. From a NYTimes article on the incorrectly named Partial Birth Abortion Ruling (it’s actually Intact Dilation and Extraction), we find the following passage lifted directly from Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion:

“While we find no reliable data to measure the phenomenon, it seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained,” Justice Kennedy wrote, alluding to the brief. “Severe depression and loss of esteem can follow.”

Given those stakes, the justice argued, “The state has an interest in ensuring so grave a choice is well informed.”

Thank you, Justice Kennedy for that nostalgic piece of paternalistic Americana.  That will be quite enough.  If O’connor were dead, she’d be rolling in her grave right now.  It must be *killing* her to see this pompous ass making statements like this while her worst nightmare of Sam Alito is now occupying her spot on the bench.

Friends, this nonsense that the Obama camp is spewing about abortion rights is moot.  If the court wanted to outlaw Roe tomorrow, they already have the votes to do it.  Kennedy just needs to have his ego flattered into believing he is doing the noble, just and protective thing for American women and their psyches and, poof!, it’s over.  He already came close to overturning it in Webster, he was just barely persuaded to join the majority in Casey and he’s on record now in the Partial Birth Ruling (actually, Intact Dliation and Extraction) in 2007.  If the court is going to do it, it can do it.  The death or resignation of a more moderate or liberal justice can not change the balance.  You’d have to be able to replace Thomas, Alito, Scalia or Roberts as well,  And they’re still pretty young by SCOTUS standards.  Until one of them leaves, Roe is not safe and no Democratic president is going to be able to change that.

But the Republican dominance of SCOTUS appointees never really was about Roe.  Roe was a way for the GOP to get candidates elected.  It was all about triggering an emotional response in the older generation of voters who romanticized the fetus and heaped guilt and shame on young women.  It was remarkably effective but it will lose it’s charm if Roe is ever overturned.  The strict moralists will be satisfied when abortion becomes the dirty, illegal, dangerous procedure it used to be and young ladies learn to keep their legs together. Their job will be done and their impetus to turn out in droves for the anti-abortion candidate will diminish.  Well, there’s always gay marriage but it’s a state by state issue and there’s no Roe to get all incensed over.

No, the GOP has used Roe as a red herring. The anti-abortion justice is also an anti New Deal justice.  It’s really all about overturning all of the laws that FDR and earlier progressives managed to slip through.  Oh, and segregation.  Musn’t forget that.  With the uptick of towns incorporating themselves and being run by managers, there is a real danger that the poorer African- American sections of a township will be left without a tax base and money to fund schools in their neighborhoods but we can cover that issue at another time.

And now we have a presumptuous nominee who we can’t quite pin down when it comes to policy on much of anything.  But we know who is championing him: libertarian Democrats, former moderate Republicans, young college aged students from affluent backgrounds and a bunch of academic liberals wo don’t like to get their hands dirty.  The part of the party that is being purged consists of working class, elderly, latino, women, GLBT.  Just the kind of people who benefit from New Deal programs and the Great Society.

Now, I don’t know about you guys but the candidate that just got to where he is by capitalizing on the overt sexism of the media and the hidden currents of the culture at large, has a lot of nerve trying to capitalize on the fears of young women regarding their reproductive rights, especially when he is actively courting the evangelical constituency.  It’s cynical at best and I sure as hell am not falling for it.  No, I am looking behind the curtain at what he might be planning regarding overturning the law that allowed for Social Security.  That’s not a stretch at all to me and in this regard, he may be indistinguishable from John McCain when it comes to SCOTUS.

Monday: Roe, Roe, Roe your own damn boat

I’ve heard rumors that the Obama campaign plans to roll out a new offensive (in more ways than one) on the rest of us threatening doom on Roe if we don’t all get into line with Barry, as if the battle is between just him and McCain now.

Yeah, like that’s going to work. Call me a skeptic. I mean, aren’t we the Grandma half? Forget about the fact that most of Hillary’s supporters aren’t grandma’s but we’ve been called old women for so long and everyone knows that old women don’t worry about unplanned pregnancies that much. It’s funny that Barry actually thinks we care about Roe.

How stoopid does Barry think we are? If the SCOTUS wanted to overturn Roe right now, what’s to stop it? Kennedy was only a marginal force for Roe anyway and without Sandra Day-O’Connor flattering his ego on the subject, he’s just as likely to pat the women on the country on the head and tell them it’s for their own good. After 12 kids, they’ll thank him for encouraging them to fulfill themselves as mothers. Roe is already in danger. All it needs is some lunatic state legislature to pass some batshit crazy bill intended to test it and the whole thing is over. We don’t need no stinkin’ second Alito.

The REAL problem on the SCOTUS is not the anti-Roe forces. It’s the Federalist Society members. And there were *two* of these charming individuals appointed under Bush. Roe isn’t the focus of the Federalist Society crew. No, they are more interested in returning the constitution to its original intent, whatever that means. As I interpret it, the federal government has been getting way too interested in protecting people. Not really its business. Oh, and business? We should let it flourish without so many federal regulations. We should just trust it. For example, here is a description on an upcoming Federalist Society event concerning the credit industry:

The recent consumer credit issues have generated a great deal of media coverage and spurred calls for additional government regulation. Please join us at the National Press Club on May 20 for a conference that will examine the subprime lending industry and credit card regulation. The two panels will address questions such as: What will be the likely impact of proposed new regulations if adopted? Can the issues in the credit industries resolve themselves without government intervention? Will proposed regulations benefit consumers?

You know, they may have a point there. Credit issues *should* resolve themselves. So all of the banks and brokers who used sub-prime mortgage speculative “instruments” to make and put at risk billions of dollars, should maybe just suck it up instead of running to the Fed for a taxpayer bailout. I’m sure the “issues” will “resolve themselves” even if the banks fail and the whole financial industry is put at risk. It’s not like anyone on Wall Street is going to lose their house. I’m pretty sure the last Bankruptcy bill protected rich people’s houses. Yes, I think I read about this somewhere. Ah, yes, here it is:

the bill would preserve loopholes that enable wealthy individuals who file for bankruptcy to shield unlimited amounts of money in complex trusts and in multimillion-dollar homes in states including Texas and Florida.

But we can depend on Barry to never put people like Federalist Society members on the Supreme Court, right? Who knows. With all of the promises of squishy goo-goos and post-partisan wonderfulishisness, it’s very hard to tell exactly where Barry will draw the line.

There is one thing for sure though. If the twenty somethings are truly concerned that McCain would nail the lid on the coffin of their abortion rights, they still have a choice. They could encourage the superdelegates to vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m pretty certain that she’s not going to tut-tut them on their morality. It’s a matter of responsibility.

And anyway, the way Barry has taken advantage of sexism to get ahead this primary season does not guarantee that he wouldn’t throw women under a bus- again- if the pressure were great enough. Voting present or being conspicuously absent for controversial votes is an Obama specialty. He has strategically covered his ass on many occasions instead of taking a stand.

The Senate is still not filibuster proof from the Republicans. They are always going to be a thorn in our sides. But we still don’t know enough about Obama’s political philosophy. He’s keeping a lot of it under wraps. We just know he is on record as saying he’s willing to toss his partisanship aside to work with Republicans to an unprecedented level. And when it comes to Roe, if it is really that important, it will be too late to choose the sure thing in Hillary after Barry is nominated. Why take a chance?

Note to Barry:  You havent’ won yet.  It ain’t over until the balloons drop in Denver.  There’s plenty of time for superdelegates to figure out you can’t possibly win it.

One more thing: Commenter Chevalier was in WV over the weekend and filed this report. It sounds like Obamaphiles are getting a bit testy. They don’t sound at all like Kid Oakland’s “casual poetics”

One more thing, the sequel: Anglachel starts to gel all of the pieces together in the puzzling power struggle in the Democratic party in Democratic Blind Spots. Hint: Jim Webb has the key.

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