Tag Archives: abortion

Population boom: teen and unmarried mothers

Population: n. : the whole number of people or inhabitants in a country or region

More babies were born (4.3 million) in the US in 2007 than any other year in our history. Two particular statistics fly in the face of rhetoric from the religious right:

1. The teen birth rate is up again, for a second year in a row. So much for “abstinence only”.

Even at the low point in 2005, the United States had the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, birth and abortion of any industrialized country. Because teenage births carry higher risks of medical problems and poverty for mother and child, state health agencies, schools and private groups have mounted educational campaigns to deter teenage pregnancy.

2. Forty percent (40%!) of last year’s births – to mothers of all ages – were to single women.  Which leads me to believe that heterosexuals don’t much care about the institution of marriage …  and it has nothing to do with gays marrying (or not).

Along with the boom in birth (less contraceptive use?), we’re seeing a decrease in abortions.

What I want to know is how many of these new babies were really wanted by their mothers? And if many were not wanted, what problems with troubled children are we going to see in a few years?

Another worrisome trend is the continuing increase in C-section use:

In yet another record high, the share of deliveries by Caesarean section reached 32 percent in 2007, up 2 percent from 2006. Experts have repeatedly said some C-sections are not medically necessary and impose excess costs, but the rate has steadily climbed, from 21 percent in 1996.

Not only are C-sections expensive and invasive, but the baby’s long-term health may be jeopardized:

Swiss researchers are reporting in the journal Thorax this month that a Caesarean delivery is linked to a much higher risk for asthma compared with babies born vaginally.

In a study of nearly 3,000 children, the researchers found that 12 percent had been given a diagnosis of asthma by age 8. In that group, those born by C-section were nearly 80 percent more likely than the others to develop asthma. The explanation may be that a vaginal birth “primes” a baby’s immune system by exposing it to various bacteria as it moves through the birth canal.

Pro-Life? How do you respond?

Pro-life: n. code word for (usually) Christian conservatives meaning that you oppose abortion.

Mike Huckabee called me the other night. Well, Mike, the former gov of Arkansas, former fattie, former presidential candidate and current talk show host (of course… what better way to stay in the public eye in preparation for his next run) didn’t actually call me in person; his robot did.

“Hi,” said his computer voice, “this is Governor Mike Huckabee – I want to ask you a couple of questions… Did you vote in the last election?”

Since I always want to hear what Republicans are currently spinning, and because it’s true, I said yes.

“Do you consider yourself pro-life?” Huckabee’s voice asked.

Now this stumped me for a minute, because I’m “pro” lots of things. I mean who wouldn’t be pro “LIFE”? It’s better than the alternative, as Woody Allen once said.

Framing the anti-abortion movement as being “pro-life” was a stroke of linguistic genius because the most natural oppositional phrases are “pro-death”, “anti-life” or “pro-abortion” – all of which sound bad, even though none of them are accurate descriptions of those who believe women have the right to choose whether to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term or not.

Planned Parenthood used to have a brilliant slogan: “Every child a wanted child.”  It conveys the heart of the matter: a woman should be able to control her own fertility because who knows better her ability to bear, love and raise that child? No child should have to bear the burden of being born to someone who doesn’t want him. God knows, in this world a kid has a hard enough time getting the love, support, health care and education he deserves being raised by parents who wanted him. Unfortunately every community around the world has growing populations of homeless men, women and children who lacked that nurturance.

Anyway, back to Mike and me.

He took my stammering for a YES and plunged on with the true purpose of his call – to pass along the scary lie that Obama’s top priority was to pass a law to make it possible for anyone to perform an abortion on any woman anywhere anytime.  Now, if I had known Mike was going to call with such a load of codswallop, I’d have figured out how to record the call so I could quote him exactly and could parse the statement phrase by phrase…

The message was paid for by Americans United for Life, but I believe he’s done various versions of the message for other pro-life groups as well.  They are nothing if not well organized and well-funded.

I totally deplore fear-mongering as a persuasion technique – and the Right specializes in it – that and reducing the issue to its most simplistic even if the truth must be twisted or ignored to get there.  Those of us on the left have a greater interest in facts , even if they’re messy and complex to communicate.

So back to “pro-life”.

Our standard catch phrase response is “pro-choice”, which, though truthful,  lacks the emotional impact of “pro-life.”  We are certainly not “pro-abortion”; we’d much prefer the pregnancy be avoided thru the use of contraceptives. But contraception can fail and women do get raped.

Some of us believe we could call the pro-lifers “pro-fetus, anti-child,” because once the child is born conservative ideology says taxpayers shouldn’t have to support “welfare mothers” who can’t make ends meet raising kids alone.

We could also call them the “forced pregnancy” squad.

My own definition of pro-life means we respect the mother’s right to choose to give life or not. And if she does, we as a society are there to help her succeed as a parent and to help her child grow up to be a healthy, responsible, educated and contributing member of society.

Pending “midnight” regulations put on hold?

Pending: adj. not yet decided, being in continuance - from French pendre, meaning to hang (like Pendaflex file folders…)

Put on hold: v. to stop or shelve temporarily or permanently

One of the Past Occupant’s narsty habits (oh how I LOVE saying Past Occupant!) was sticking his own narsty regulations into legislation in the form of signing statements that bypassed congressional approval.  He whisked a bunch of these in at the last minute, effectively pissing into corners of the realm to show Obama who was the Biggest Baddest Cowboy.

Well.  Ha! Piss on you, cowboy.

Shortly after Obama was inaugurated, his right hand man, Rahm Emanuel, issued a memorandum ordering all agencies and departments to stop all pending regulations until a legal and policy review can be conducted by the Obama administration.

Among the noxious regulations put on hold were rules that would allow the carrying of concealed weapons in some national parks and prohibiting medical facilities from receiving federal money for discriminating against doctors and nurses who refuse to assist with abortions or dispense contraceptives based on religious grounds (which I wrote about here back in August – and which were put through despite tens of thousands of letters of protest.)

Also included were measures relaxing protections for endangered species, allowing uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, and making it easier for coal companies to dump mining debris in nearby streams and valleys.

Obviously the Obama staff had been working on this maneuver for a couple of months, indicating that the moss is not growing under their feet.

According to the NY Times, Democrats in Congress, now that they are in the majority, have several possible tricks up their sleeve to make these regs go away, but it may not be a slam dunk.

So much wreckage to undo, so little time…

Palin: “a person like me”

I’ve been listening to various “man on the street” interviews on NPR, or maybe I should say “woman on the street” because most have been women, including delegates at the Republican National Convention.

Why do they like Sarah Palin?  Because she’s just “a person like me”, “a mom like me”, everywoman with ordinary real life problems.  She’s gutsy yet feminine. But most important, she stands by her family values – which she has now proven by not giving in to expediency (abortion) when Bristol, her unmarried 17-year-old daughter gets pregnant.

I too like “people like me”, gutsy and feminine everywoman, etc etc. Some of my best friends could be described that way. But no way does that qualify any of them to lead this country! Or to serve as vice-president to a perfectly healthy president.

What ARE they thinking? This analysis by respected DailyKos blogger LithiumCola helped:

The point at issue is very deep; deeper than is usually recognized on TV and in the newspapers. To put it simply, the 2008 Presidential race will not be over politics but — as it was in 2000 and 2004 — over the purpose of politics. In that sense it will be a meta-debate, and one that many will miss because they thought it was settled long ago.

Here then are the disputants in this argument over what politics is for in the first place:

  • There are those who think that political argument is best aimed at perfecting a pluralistic society of equal citizens who do not agree on metaphysical questions of purpose and meaning, but nevertheless wish to live together under conditions of amicable cooperation,
  • and those who think that political debate is about winning, precisely, the meta (metaphysical?) argument — about settling fundamental questions of purpose and meaning on the public stage.

Pluralists do not want to address metaphysical questions on the public-political stage. This is not because they think they cannot win but because they think they should not win. Religio-philosophical victory in a political — as opposed to dinner-table — setting has, pluralists think, no upside. We get along as a people in the first place because we first agreed that religio-philosophical issues are not something we need to agree upon. We don’t debate those matters at the ballot box. Rather, we need only agree on the best ways to further our society to the benefit of all, so that we may in our own ways address questions of purpose and meaning at home. A home secured by a concern for the general welfare.

Fundamentalists assume that the stakes are higher. That what everyone is debating is a question that has, secretly or not, deep and abiding metaphysical import. That is why when fundamentalists are told that Obama is a Muslim, they take great notice. Not because they care what Obama’s religion is, but rather because they assume that Obama, like everyone else, is in a metaphysical argument, and means to win it. If he wins, they lose. As far as this goes, it does not even matter whether Obama really is a Muslim, only that his answers to the metaphysical questions are somehow different. The fact that Obama, being a pluralist, does not take himself to be having that debate, only causes cognitive dissonance and the appearance that he is trying to win underhandedly. To a fundamentalist, everyone is always trying to win the metaphysical debate.

Pluralists become frustrated with fundamentalists for the following reason. Pluralists would say that pluralists do not, through political debate, wish to prevent anyone — including fundamentalists — from doing anything they wish to do. If a fundamentalist thinks zygotes are ensouled they are free to think so, and to not have abortions, and to talk about the ensoulment of zygotes all they wish at home or in church. On the other hand, pluralists would say, what fundamentalists want is to impose their metaphysical answers by law upon everyone. Pro-choice does not prevent anyone from having a baby. Pro-life prevents everyone from getting an abortion, no matter what they think of zygotes and souls. Forbidding teacher-led prayer in public schools prevents no one from praying, while the opposite view mandates that everyone listen to a prayer or get out.

Fundamentalists get frustrated with pluralists for the following reason. Fundamentalists would say that their opponents refuse to acknowledge that pluralism has, like it or not, metaphysical import. If the nation is pro-choice that means that the nation has, in fact, taken a position on the ensoulment of zygotes. Refusing to decide is a defacto and underhanded decision. If the nation forbids led-prayer in schools that means that the nation has, in fact, witting or no, said that some things are more important than God. For example, a pluralism of belief.

We can see this last idea (pluralism must take itself to be more important than God) when fundamentalists accuse pluralists of being “secularists.” That word — “secularist” — originally designated a view about the correct structure of society and the proper place for various sorts of debate. It was not a synonym for “atheist.” “Atheist” is position in a metaphysical debate. “Secularist” is a view about where that debate should take place. But in the mouths of fundamentalists such as Bill O’Reilly or Pat Buchanan, “secularist” is precisely a synonym for “atheist.” This is because, to a fundamentalist, there is no difference between attempts to take religion out of the public square and attempts to crush it. To a fundamentalist, everyone is having the same argument that they are having.

I think she’s onto something – which for those of us who are pluralists is almost unfathomable.  We say, as I said above: “What ARE they thinking???” And the answer is it’s not about thinking; it’s about survival.

Brain stem stuff.

Pandemonium! Barack rocks the house

Pandemonium: wild uproar and noise

When Barack Obama stepped out to speak to the immense crowd (84,000!) gathered at Invesco Field, the uproar went on and on and on and on. [Update: Nielsen reports that more than 38 million people watched the speech on TV - and that doesn't count the smart viewers who watched on PBS or C-Span. This is more than watched the pagaent that opened the Olympics, more than watched the final "American Idol"- gack]

What a night this was for the Democrats and for Barack Obama.

First of all, he is like a buddha – open heart, big smile, unflappable. How can you not be drawn in by the warmth he exudes so naturally? (Biden too. In fact I can’t recall a more appealing double bill than Obama-Biden.)

Then there’s the matter of his intellect and vision.  WOW.  The speech was certainly one of the greatest I’ve ever heard.

You can find the text online in many places, but here are my favorite excepts (emphases mine):

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay, and tuition that’s beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

Now, I don’t believe that Sen. McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under $5 million a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

[That promise says] each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves — protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.

That’s the promise of America — the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America’s promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our “intellectual and moral strength.” Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can’t replace parents; that government can’t turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility — that’s the essence of America’s promise.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America — they have served the United States of America.

So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose — our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. [Preach it brother, preach it! This is ballsy talk!]

Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This, too, is part of America’s promise — the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that’s not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that’s not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that’s not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit — that American promise — that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It’s a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours — a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot. …

Amen.

Poison Pill for Planned Parenthood from the Bush administration

The Bush administration has it out for women (and the environment and the poor and our civil rights and our servicemen and and and and…). Their latest attack on the rights of women to have access to reproductive health care just came down (from the Washington Post):

The Bush administration yesterday announced plans to implement a controversial regulation designed to protect doctors, nurses and other health-care workers who object to abortion from being forced to deliver services that violate their personal beliefs.

The rule empowers federal health officials to pull funding from more than 584,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors’ offices and other entities if they do not accommodate employees who refuse to participate in care they find objectionable on personal, moral or religious grounds.

“People should not be forced to say or do things they believe are morally wrong,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said. “Health-care workers should not be forced to provide services that violate their own conscience.”

The proposed regulation, which could go into effect after a 30-day comment period*, was welcomed by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others as necessary to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways. Women’s health advocates, family planning advocates, abortion rights activists and others, however, condemned the regulation, saying it could create sweeping obstacles to a variety of health services, including abortion, family planning, end-of-life care and possibly a wide range of scientific research.

What this means – if the public doesn’t make a big enough fuss – is that pharmacists, doctors, nurses and others don’t have to provide birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraception and other forms of contraception if they think it’s wrong, and explicitly allows workers to withhold information about such services and refuse to refer patients elsewhere.

Planned Parenthood is fighting this ruling and urges people to contact their congressperson, the Dept of HHS, newspapers, etc.  And of course Planned Parenthood will accept your contributions to their action fund so they can fight it.

I can imagine a time when a vegetarian grocery checker will refuse to check you out if there’s meat in your cart, a teacher will refuse to teach your child because he’s Muslim, a fundamentalist waiter will refuse to serve a couple because they’re gay…   What is WITH these people????

*The 30-day comment period means YOU – speak up!  Here’s the Dept of Health and Human Services comment site.  (No matter that it appears the comments are about the website; this is where you comment).