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More on Hillary’s Message about Choice

Last night, I caught the tail end of Digby’s episode on Virtually Speaking.  Now, I like Digby.  I can be critical, and I will be in a moment, but I have to say that there are very few writers on the left that write with the clarity and precision of Digby.  Most of the time, she is spot on when it comes to analyzing issues.  During the last four years, I have dumped a lot of blogs from my reading list for their shameless selling out to the Obama dudes.  Taylor Marsh, DailyKos and TalkLeft come immediately to mind.  But I’ve always read Digby because she’s just that good.

But I think she’s wrong about Hillary’s “Safe, legal and rare” approach to abortion.  I am firmly convinced, after watching and reading Hillary Clinton’s opinions and speeches over the last 20 years, that she focuses almost all of her efforts on prevention so that abortions are unnecessary.  And why should she care to make them unnecessary?  It’s because they are inconvenient, difficult to obtain, sometimes dangerous and expensive in many parts of the world, including this country.  I don’t think that is a comment on how icky abortion is.  It’s more a comment on reality.   We technically have abortion on demand in this country but compared to even the most progressive nations in the world, and I do not count the US among those nations, abortion on demand throughout all nine months is unheard of.  That’s because women in the most progressive nations have access to good contraception, education about family planning and sexuality and social support systems for women who decide to carry their pregnancies to term.  If you put your emphasis on prevention up front, you have less to worry about afterwards and this leads to *more* power for women, not less.

I don’t know why this concept is so difficult to understand.  The prevention first position represents a significant amount of thought on the issue of reproductive rights from an empowerment and a societal point of view.  The abortion on demand, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead position represents, in my mind at least, a lack of planning, foresight and attention to detail.  It turns women into beggars because if societal sentiment ever changes through the efforts of a very vocal minority, there is no multiple backup system firmly embedded in the rest of society to pick up the slack. Finally, “safe, legal and rare” is proactive about sexuality while “abortion on demand at any time” is reactive.  The latter is what you get when everyone accepts the purity ring mentality.

But here’s the reason why I think the left missed a crucial opportunity for women when they took a pass on Hillary.  Watch her comments from the Women in the World event from a few days ago again:

There are two points she makes that illustrate that she gets it and has a mastery of this issue that Obama can’t touch.

The first is Choice.  The one thing that fundamentalists do not like for themselves or others is choice.  They see the world in binary.  You are either good or bad, a slut or a mother, saved or damned.  There is no room in their world for choice.  Choice makes them uncomfortable.  Nauseous even.  They want a world where their choices are made for them.  They want to be able to consult a book and have the answers written out.  If you’re a man, you conduct your life one way, if you’re a woman, you conduct your life another.  There are no choices.  Stick to the rules and no one gets hurt.  Your personal opinions, talents and goals are not important.  It’s a very Taliban mentality.  But that’s the way they want our country to operate.  To restrict choices to those strictly defined for each gender as written in the bible relieves their anxiety.  Whether this anxiety is natural or induced doesn’t matter.  Choice is to be avoided at all cost.

The second is Extremism.  She is saying that Extremists have it in for women.  She is not singling out any religion in particular and in fact, she says she values the right of each woman to make a choice about how she wants to worship.  But Hillary is saying that Extremists use religion to advance their goals.  Extremists are enemies of democracy.  She also says that the measure of a democracy is determined by how we treat women.  The logical conclusion is that you can’t have a democracy if you allow extremists to restrict the choices of a sizeable segment of your population.  We have seen that this is true in many countries around the world and are witnessing it in Israel and here in the US right now.

These are the points that Obama fails to acknowledge when it comes to addressing the contraception issue.  He fails to associate the word “choice” with freedom and “extremism” with an assault on democracy.

You Democratic party loyalists can talk amongst yourselves about why Obama fails to do this.  To me, his rationale is not important.  All that is important is that he fails to do it. But it is this precision of thought and analysis, which Digby herself should admire, that has always defined Hillary’s approach from Obama’s to me and why we “Hillary Holdouts” miss her voice on the domestic stage so sorely. It makes all of the difference.

It’s about who decides

This has been brought on by a comment thread at Reclusive Leftist. The post was about feminism, but the thread kept veering off into abortion. Could you be a feminist and be antiabortion?

Folks, that is the wrong question. And asking the wrong question can never lead to the right answer, any more than looking for your socks in the bedroom when you lost them in the dryer is going to help you find the things.

So let’s start by asking the right question.

Maybe the first thing to do is figure out whether abortion really does kill babies. (I’m using “babies” as shorthand for “legal person with the same right not to be murdered as everyone else.”) If it does, even that’s not the end of the matter, as we’ll see in a bit, but first let’s figure that out. It’s a sticking point for many people.
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Women’s Bodies Held Hostage = Election Year


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]

How Power Works

I’ve noticed quite a few commenters in the last post expressing the opinion that, “Yes, the Obamaphiles and the DNC have really crossed the line but when it comes right down to it, I don’t want another Republican in the WH, so I’ll bite the bullet and vote for Obama if I have no other choice.”

And that’s just where Obama and the DNC want you. They want you to think you have nowhere else to go. You’ll come crawling back to them, despite all of the abuse and them taking you for granted. So, they will continue to dish it out against Clinton because they think they have you. You will never leave them.

That is not how personal power works, guys. At least not for you. You gain nothing if you allow them to bully you into voting for Obama instead of McCain. What will YOU, the stupid old bitch, “typical white person” get out of an Obama presidency? If he can ignore you now and treat you like $#$%, what makes you think he’s going to change after you’re married to him?

The power you have is in your choice NOW. The nomination hasn’t been cast in stone yet. You haven’t signed any legal papers. The Superdelegates are still watching the game play out. And here is your opportunity to make your point and exercise your power. All you have to do is say to the Superdelegates, “If you do not rein in the forces working for the Obama campaign and if you do not get the DNC’s thumb off the scales, you can not count on my support this fall. Period” The power is in the uncertainty. Don’t rule it out, just leave them hanging. Then the Superdelgates can watch the rest of this race with a more critical eye. Is Obama going too far? Have they let the media get away with too much misogyny? How angry is the base and can we afford to lose even a small percent of them? All things being equal, whose supporters can we least afford to lose?

If you do not lay down the gauntlet now, you *will* be forced to make an unthinkable decision in the fall. Now is the time to say you will not be forced to accept such a decision and that the Superdelegates are playing with fire if they pick the worng person.

No more of those comments please. You’ve been warned. This is your choice, right now.

Here is the list of Superdelegates who have not endorsed yet.

Update: Tucsonlynn went online and changed her registration to “No Party Preference”. That’s a good first strike. I recommend that TL send a letter to her superdelegates in her state and the DNC explaining why she did it and tell them that they still have a choice before the nomination. After the nomination, they can’t count on her.