Blog for Choice 2011

I’ve been thinking about how to tackle the issue of abortion on the blog for a while, but not sure how to do it. And, to be honest, I’ve also been very apprehensive about even touching the issue at all, for a number of reasons. But, being as it’s Blog for Choice Day, now seems as good a time as any to do it.

The short story is that I used to be very very strongly against abortion rights, and I’m now pro-choice.  I know some folks who follow this blog vehemently disagree with my position, and may even be disappointed in me for taking it, or offended by my discussing it.  Believe me, I understand that.  I really, really do.  I’m not sure, but I imagine for a lot people raised differently than I was being pro-choice seems kind of . . . obvious.  Of course women shouldn’t be forced to carry pregnancies they don’t want! And yes, I believe that. But getting to that place took a lot of time, and questioning, and working through really conflicted emotions. Trying to reexamine the morality of an act you’ve been raised to believe is murder, that you’ve believed for your entire life to be murder, is difficult.

I’m working on a companion post to this one, which I hope to finish and publish by the end of the day, on how I changed my mind about abortion.  I think it’s important for the pro-choice movement to understand understand where others are coming from in order to better reach people from backgrounds like mine – especially now that young adults seem to increasingly oppose reproductive freedom.  And I also hope it’ll be helpful to people reading who are staunchly pro-life, or people who were raised pro-life but are confused or conflicted about what they think about it now, to see the steps one person worked through in moving from a pro-life* position to a pro-choice one.

*I use this term not because I agree that the beliefs I was raised with are actually representative of a consistent pro-life ethic (anti-death penalty, anti-war, pro universal health care, etc.), but because it’s how I self-identified. I understand people’s objections to that phrase, but personally am no more comfortable with labeling all self-identified pro-life people as anti-choice than I am with pro-lifers’ tendency to label all pro-choicers as pro-abortion.

Alright, The question for Blog for Choice this year: Given the anti-choice gains in the states and Congress, are you concerned about choice in 2011?

Short answer again: Yes.

I’m concerned that GOP efforts to blackmail insurance companies into not covering abortions and force women to pay out of pocket for them will entrench and worsen already serious racial and disparities in access to safe, legal abortions, making poor and minority women even more likely to seek out back alley abortions, and even more vulnerable to exploitation by dangerous and unscrupulous people like Kermit Gosnell. I’m concerned that if these and other anti-abortion measures pass, we’re effectively saying as a nation that rich women have a right to choose abortions, and poor women do not.

I’m concerned that a number of states have passed mandatory ultrasound laws before abortions, as though a woman who has decided to terminate a pregnancy can’t comprehend the implications of her choice without one. I’m concerned that it’s increasingly difficult to obtain first-trimester abortions, which are safer, less invasive,  make up the vast majority of abortions, and in most cases are the preferred choice of women seeking abortions (if you want to end your pregnancy, you generally don’t want to stay pregnant for more time rather than less), at the same time that conservatives are launching an all-out attack on the legality of second and third trimester abortions, and on the handful of medical professionals who provide them. I’m concerned that conservatives are chipping away at abortion rights piece by piece until there will be virtually nothing left. I’m concerned because a world without safe, legal abortion would be a complete disaster for tens of millions of women, children, and families.


“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everyone!

These days, MLK Jr. is popularly seen as a romanticized, everyman’s hero. His message is presented as a call for “colorblindness,” and appropriated by the likes of Glenn Beck and other extreme conservatives in support of their arguments against the so called “reverse racism” of affirmative action and other institutionalized attempts to address racial disparities. His activism has been sanitized and romanticized in the public consciousness, stripped of any real controversy or challenge to the status quo. As a result, a lot of people buy into the argument that Dr. King would have championed a radically individualistic understanding of issues of social justice – including the “if everyone just stopped noticing race, racism would go away” argument, a pretense that everyone has equal rights and opportunities, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Dr. King’s work was much more radical and complex than the simplistic, trite sentiment about everyone getting along we’ve reduced it to. We’ve forgotten – chosen to forget – that at the time of his death Dr. King wasn’t a nationally admired visionary, but rather a deeply divisive and, for some, very threatening figure. This was a man who was spied on and threatened by his own government, because he was seen as dangerous. And he was, in fact, a danger to a society in which white supremacy and other forms of injustice were enshrined in law and endorsed by the government.

He was not only an activist for racial justice, but also for economic justice, and against the Vietnam War, nuclear proliferation, and American militarism and imperialism. He didn’t see these issues as a distraction from the struggle for black civil rights, but rather as interconnected parts of the same larger struggle to create a more just world. And he made quite a lot of enemies as he spoke out against all forms of oppression. Edited to add: Socialist Worker has an excellent article on the Martin Luther King we don’t celebrate.

Martin Luther King, Jr. passionately believed in the common responsibility of all of us to fight all forms of injustice and suffering, and to be in solidarity with all who are denied their rights and their dignity. We can’t know for certain what he would say today about trans liberation, about gay liberation, about ethical consumerism, environmentalism, or any number of social justice issues that continue to face fierce opposition and oppression today. But what we can say for certain is that if we take up his clarion call to see all humans as our family, if we take seriously the call to stand against any injustice or suffering, we’ll care about trans rights, and LGB rights. We’ll care about the poor, and those without access to basic health care. We’ll care about literacy and the rights of all people to a decent education. Because injustice and inequality anywhere are a threat to justice and equality everywhere.

“I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice… But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ … I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”

“We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny… I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be,” she said, quoting from her husband.

Coretta Scott King

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here . . . I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly . . .

Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Sunday roundup

Some of this week’s religion, gender, and sexuality news, starting with some international news:

Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to be executed for allegedly committing adultery, has “confessed” to being an accomplice in her late husband’s death.  The likely coerced confession has led Human Rights Watch to sound the alarm that Iran may be planning to execute her shortly.  An interview with Ashtiani’s former lawyer, now seeking asylum in Norway, is here.  A petition to free Ashtiani can be found here. (Via Elizabeth Esther.)

Mexico’s Supreme Court has upheld Mexico City laws allowing gay marriages and adoptions by gay and lesbian couples.  Gay marriages and adoptions are legal only in Mexico City, but must be recognized throughout the country.  Mexico mayor Marcelo Ebrard has filed a lawsuit claiming defamation against Guadalajara Cardinal Juan Sandoval refused to retract accusations that Mexican Supreme court took bribes to make these rulings.  Sandoval is also under fire for using the Spanish equivalent of “fa**ot” in decrying the Court’s decision to uphold the adoption law.  Meanwhile, an archdiocesan spokesman claims the mayor has caused harm to Mexico City than the drug cartels and has compared him to Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet in being a “fascist . . . [with] an undeniable desire to persecute the church.”  Unsurprisingly, he is also being sued for defamation by the mayor.  Good heavens.  Stay classy, Mexican Catholic officials!

Closer to home, 10 year old Will Phillips is putting marriage equality opponents on notice.  This kid must scare the pants off the NOM crowd.

Laura at The Redheaded Skeptic has a great four-post series on how Focus on the Family ruins families, starting with a post on Dobson’s book The Strong Willed Child.

Vyckie at No Longer Quivering on how women get lured into and stuck in the patriarchy trap: Husbands love your wives: the peanut butter in the patriarchy trap.

Excellent post by Rita Nakashima Brock on marriage in the Bible that carefully picks apart marriage equality opponents’ claims that the Bible unanimously supports their definition of “traditional marriage”:

The Bible presents multiple views of marriage, and most actual marriages it depicts are terrible by modern standards. “Traditional marriages” in ancient biblical times were arranged as transfers of the ownership of daughters. The tenth commandment lists wives among properties like houses and slaves: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17, also found in Deuteronomy 5:21). Marriages occurred via deception, kidnapping, adulterous seductions, theft, rape, and murder, and were often in multiples so that the pater familias could amass land, flocks, and progeny and cement political alliances. Abraham, David, and Solomon had marriages that would be illegal today. The book of Hosea likens the mercy of God to a husband who has the right to beat or kill his adulterous wife, but spares her — for this, she was supposed to be grateful. When women seek marriages, such as Naomi arranged for Ruth, it was to avoid an even worse fate such as destitution.

GLAAD also has a great weekly LGBT religion news roundup.