I have been trying to write this post all weekend, although it seems so much longer than that. It feels as if I have been sitting here in front of this computer, fingers poised over the keyboard, ready to unleash my disgust and sadness over the House passing the Pence Amendment for no less than a week. Perhaps because it’s all I can really think about and because regardless of the amount of time I let my thoughts simmer and tell myself that if I get a good night’s rest I’ll be able to come back to this computer and suddenly all of my thoughts will make sense and come out in perfectly eloquent paragraphs that I was unable to string together the night before or the night before, I’m still just as scatterbrained, still just as upset and still just as enraged as I was on Friday afternoon when news of the amendment passing in the House flooded Twitter and the blogosphere.
I have been known to get disheartened and downright angry over a number of political moves that have been made in the name of the American people. I have been told for far too long that I take politics too seriously and that I feel too much. I have never been able to understand that line of thinking. How is it possible for someone to take the state of their country and the rights being given and taken away from the people of that country too seriously? Apathy for politics, for the rights of the people and for what state representatives are saying in Washington in the names of their constituents scares me. Frankly, apathy is what makes representatives who author, sponsor, cosponsor and vote “yes” on highly offensive, discriminatory and dehumanizing bills announce that they are truly representing the people whom they have been elected to work for. If your representatives do not hear your objecting voice, they believe they have free reign to trample all over your rights. That is exactly what the majority of the new, Republican-led Congress is doing with the introductions of H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, H.R. 358, the “Protect Life Act”, and the House passing of the Pence Amendment.
The Pence Amendment is a direct attack on Planned Parenthood and subsequently, on the health and lives of American women, the vast majority of them low-income. Passing in the House with a vote of 240 to 185, this amendment not only aims to completely defund Planned Parenthood, but would also eliminate the entire Title X program; the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing comprehensive family planning and preventative health services.
This is not about abortion, regardless of how much the majority of the House would like you to believe it is. No funds from Title X are ever used for abortion services; none. So why the elaborate stories of the sanctity of human life from the supposed “pro-life” politicians of the house? Deception, clear and simple. Hiding amendments under “hot button issues” such as abortion is sadly, politics as usual. The Pence Amendment is not about defunding abortion and it is by no means a victory for the “sanctity of human life”; it is quite literally just the opposite. Title X funds are used for cancer screenings, STI tests, mammograms, HIV testing and diagnosis, sex education, contraception, and pregnancy screening and counseling. Last year, approximately 5 million people benefited from the services funded by Title X. Without Title X, millions of American people would lose affordable access to these health care services.
I have read a lot of blogs, websites and comments about the passing of the Pence Amendment and a lot of people’s thoughts resonated with me. One comment on Feministe’s post, in particular, really stood out to me: “240 people — 240 national elected officials — have just demonstrated that they hate me (and others who’ve depended on PP) and don’t think we’re deserving of sexual and reproductive health care.” That is essentially what the passing of this bill and the future votes on other discriminatory, anti-womens-lives bills that will continue to be put to a public vote boils down to. The majority of the House has spoken loudly and clearly that they hate those 5 million people who have depended on the care and services that they received at Planned Parenthood. Myself included.
I first walked into my local Planned Parenthood seeking reproductive health care services when I was 15. Unlike many teens in the same position I was in at the time, I was not alone. I had a great pillar of support in my decision to take control over my sexual health; my aunt. Beginning in my adolescence, I was raised by a single father with the help and unwavering support of my grandmother and aunt. I knew I had three people in my life who loved me unconditionally, but when it came to the topic of sex, which I was consensually having, and my interest in obtaining additional information and tools to protect my health, I knew that my aunt was the person in my family who I could go to with this request without feeling as if she was going to reprimand me. I wasn’t interested in the “you shouldn’t be having sex” talk; that talk hardly ever works with teens and it wouldn’t have worked with me, either. Instead, my aunt could relate to me on this level and helped me make the responsible decision to take control over my sexual health and presented me with the steps in order to put that decision into action. For that reason, and so many others, I will always be thankful to my aunt for her willingness to see me as a responsible teenager who was in need of her guidance as I took this monumental step in treating my sexual health with respect. More teens in exactly that same position should be so lucky.
The fact of the matter, however, is that a lot of teens do not have that adult in their lives who are capable of putting aside any judgment, ideology, or reprimanding tone of voice and just be there for the teens in their lives who need them. It is judgment and ideology that teens see throughout their upbringing that leads them to not reach out to those adults in their lives when they need guidance, support and tools, especially when it comes to their sex lives.
Thankfully, Planned Parenthood is there for those teens and for the women and men who also walk into their health care clinics every day looking for knowledge, support, tools and guidance. If the Pence Amendment were to pass, Planned Parenthood would be unable to help most of those same people who walk into their clinics and that is completely and utterly devastating.
I have always gone to Planned Parenthood for all of my reproductive health care needs. There are several different reasons for this, but the most prominent of the reasons is that I have never been able to afford to go anywhere else. That doesn’t mean that if I were able to afford to go somewhere else that I would stop going to Planned Parenthood. I wouldn’t. I would instead feel fantastic about being able to fully pay for the services that I have received, but even though I cannot, I have not once ever been judged or turned away by Planned Parenthood because of my inability to fully pay for the services that I have needed.
It is easy for people who have never needed Planned Parenthood to not only oppose them, but hate them. The people who voted “yes” on the Pence Amendment and those who support the passing of this amendment, do not just hate Planned Parenthood; they are telling every single person who has ever needed health care services that they couldn’t afford that they don’t deserve to be healthy because they are poor. They are telling these people–they are telling me–that I do not matter and that they want me dead. That is not “pro-life” by any stretch of the imagination.
That is what really must be understood about this entire amendment and its passing. The passing of the Pence Amendment is the people in government–people who were elected to represent their constituents–using life-saving health care services as talking points and playing politics with real human lives. Lives that matter. Lives that mean something. Lives that deserve to be lived.
Speak out about this amendment. Just because it passed in the House does not mean it is destined to pass in the Senate. Call and write your Representatives and urge them to reconsider their stance on the Pence Amendment if they support it or thank them for standing up for the reproductive health and rights of women if they voted “no”. If you’re on Twitter, tweet with the hashtag #SaveTitleX and stand with Planned Parenthood.Tuesday, February 15, 2011
House Republicans (and some Democrats) have initiated an all-out war on women since taking office. People who ran for this office on the platform that they were fed up with the downward spiral of the economy and who sold false stories of compassion for the jobless to the American people used these issues as a ploy to gain access into the House. From where I’m standing, these politicians do not care about the economy or the lack of jobs in this country; instead, their “top priority” has been to police the bodies of women.
Earlier this month, news spread and subsequent outrage arose from the introduction of H.R. 3, deceivingly-titled the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, sponsored by Chris Smith, the vehemently anti-choice Representative of New Jersey and co-sponsored by 68.5% of the new Congress. The hottest topic of debate concerning this bill was how it proposed to redefine rape, claiming that the only rape victims who would be given federal funding for abortion would be victims who could prove their rape was “forcible.” Days later, the “forcible rape” amendment was taken out of H.R. 3 and with that decision, many thought we had something to celebrate; that the voices of those who had dedicated their time and efforts to raise awareness of this bill by blogging, tweeting as part of the #DearJohn Twitter protest, writing letters and calling their Representatives had made a significant difference. Maybe they had. Maybe we had. Then again, maybe removing the most radical language from this bill, which just so happened to be one of the only parts of this bill that people had been paying attention to, was just politics as usual.
Without the forcible rape amendment, this legislation is still just as devastating and misogynist. If passed, it could restrict incest victims over the age of 18 from receiving federal funds when in need of an abortion and remove the exception for women’s health, allowing federal funds to cover the costs of an abortion if, and only if, a physician certifies that continuing that pregnancy would kill that woman. If a pregnant woman would become terribly ill if she were to continue that pregnancy, well, that doesn’t mean she would die and therefore an abortion would not be covered. This legislation would also require that the government continue funding agencies and programs that, in addition to not performing abortions, do not refer women to other health care facilities, agencies and programs that do; because of the GOP’s constant attack on all of women’s reproductive health choices, this bill could very likely also affect access and funding for emergency contraception and birth control. This bill would also cut tax benefits to organizations and individuals who select an insurance policy that covers abortion.
Transcript for this video is after the jump.
As of February 8th, committee hearings have been held in regards to H.R. 3 in the House Judiciary. It will surely move through the house and come up for vote in the House and Senate.
But GOP leaders are not stopping with H.R. 3; the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act does not shamelessly and deliberately trample on the basic, fundamental rights of women enough.
Enter H.R. 358, another ill-titled bill that deserves a freakin’ award when it comes to deceptive, anti-choice politics; and I’m just talking about the title of this bill. H.R. 358 is entitled the “Protect Life Act” and is sponsored by Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and is co-sponsored by 121 other members of the House, including a few Democrats. Wait for the facepalm-inducing action.
The Protect Life Act aims to encourage and allow physicians and entire hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion even if a woman would die without one. If a woman is having a risky pregnancy and is in imminent danger of losing her life, her doctor or the hospital in which she seeks immediate emergency care from could lawfully put the future-life of her fetus above her own life.
This is not just a war on women’s rights. This is a war on women’s lives. And Joseph Pitts had the audacity to title this lawful killing of women bill the Protect Life Act. It is very clear that the lives of women are not the lives in which the new Congress aims to protect. To them, the lives of women are disposable and the future-lives of the fetuses in which these politicians, physicians and anti-choice populace who are in agreement with these misogynist bills will become disposable once they are born; especially if they are born female.
I have always had a problem with conscience clauses, which is essentially what this legislation is. Conscience clauses give employees the freedom to not fulfill the duties that are required of them, that they were hired to do, and hide it under morality. If a person has a moral objection to a particular job, then why would that person study, train and become employed in that field? It is really a common sense approach I have here: If you cannot do your job, you should not be allowed to continue working in that field. For instance, if you are a pharmacist and you refuse to sell emergency contraception to a person who needs that medication, then you should be fired. There should not be more to it than that.
This bill is very literally giving elected officials free reign to allow physicians to kill people. So, what do we say to these elected officials? To quote Sady Doyle, “We should tell Congress that we hear they are planning to kill us, and are pretty upset about it, because we want to live.”
For a transcript of the video above, Read moreTuesday, February 1, 2011
To learn about what the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is and how it will change how federal funds are used to pay for abortions in cases of rape and incest while completely neglecting the health of a pregnant woman unless her life is in imminent danger, read here.
Activism is extremely important, especially when legislation like the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is introduced and has a high probability of passing. Then, activism becomes crucial and it’s your right to stand up, speak loudly and demand to be heard.
There are many ways you can get involved in stopping the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, including online activism as well as contacting your Representative directly.
#DearJohn Twitter Protest
If you are on Twitter start following and contributing to the #DearJohn Twitter protest. Fabulous feminist and pro-choice folks who are really staying on top of this bill and the protest are Sady Doyle (who also created the #DearJohn campaign), Amanda Marcotte, Shelby Knox and Steph Herold. And, you know, myself, but that really goes without saying, doesn’t it? Oh well, shameless Twitter plug for me!
You can also tweet at John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) as well as the co-sponsors of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act who are on Twitter by looking them up here. Remember, if you are engaging via Twitter, keep your inquiries and tweets directed at representatives productive without offending or insulting.
Contact Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Co-Sponsors
The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act is sponsored by Chris Smith. He authored this bill and should rightfully know how we feel about it and about his position on stripping rape survivors and women of their reproductive rights. You can find his office mailing addresses, phone numbers and fax numbers here.
You can find the list of all 173 co-sponsors of this bill as well as information on how to contact them here.
Contact Your Representative
You have the undeniable right to contact your representative and voice your position on this bill. You can easily find out exactly who your representative is and what their contact information is here.
To quote Sady Doyle on contacting your rep:
Look that person up on Wikipedia, to get a sense of who they are, if you don’t already know. Then, CALL THEM. Be polite; be professional; do not threaten or use violent or abusive language under any circumstances. Explain to them that their constituents don’t support this bill, explain how and why it’s a bad bill, and let them know that if they support or fail to oppose this bill, they can expect that to impact them in a very bad way when it comes to the matter of keeping their jobs. We hired them; we can fire them. We want to flood them with calls, today and tomorrow. We need to stand up and be counted. And we can. But we need to make sure they don’t just see us talking on the Internet. We need to make sure they hear our voices, one by one by one.
If you’re like myself, you really, really want to get involved and contact your representative but because you’re socially awkward and have a hard time with that whole talking to people thing, especially about something you get very emotionally charged about, this can prove to be quite difficult and you may not come off as professional and respectful as you should. Sady Doyle, the lifesaver of activism that she is, worked out a script she used when calling the short list of Democrats who have co-sponsored H.R. 3 and posted it for others to use. If your Representative is not a Democrat, this script is still a really good start to working out what, exactly you want to say.
Hi, I’d like to leave a comment for the Congressman in regards to a bill that was recently introduced.
[They’ll say okay: It’s their job to be open to comments from the public, remember.]
The bill is HR3, which is an extremist anti-choice measure that would strip rights from rape survivors and people who need abortions in an unprecedented way. Even under the Hyde amendment, there were exemptions for survivors of rape and incest, and they received federal funding; this strips that back by saying that only people who are “forcibly raped” will be covered. And 70% of rapes aren’t “forcible.” Not only that, but it makes it much harder for insurance companies to cover people who need abortions, regardless of why they need them, and it strengthens “conscience” restrictions, which means that doctors can refuse to provide reproductive medical care to anyone at any time, if they can claim that their conscience was involved. [Representative] is one of the very few Democrats who has co-sponsored this bill. I’m very disappointed in him. Most Democrats don’t support these extremist anti-choice restrictions, and most Democratic voters won’t be willing to overlook this when it comes to the polls. I’d appreciate it if you could pass that comment on to the Congressman.
[They’ll say yes.]
Great. Thank you so much for your time.
I also came across a really awesome letter written by a young woman in high school to representative about this bill. Check it out here and write your own!Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Yesterday started out as a well-intentioned work day for me. Well, most Mondays do, but instead of it verging off into a black hole of Netflix instant streaming on my television or video games or actually working on my other blog, also known as my more-than-full-time job, I became very active on Twitter. Very active. Perhaps the most active–and most provoked and empowered–I have been since way back in 2009 when I was updating this blog more than twice a month.
Within about an hour of opening my eyes, picking up my computer and starting my work day, I saw the Twitter hashtag #DearJohn start appearing throughout my Twitter stream. If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, or if you follow any other feminist/outspoken pro-choice folks, you most likely saw the same thing.
#DearJohn was started by feminist social media superhero Sady Doyle, who also created the #mooreandme protest. This hashtag was created as a response to the newly-introduced bill, H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, sponsored by Chris Smith, the vehemently anti-choice Representative of New Jersey and co-sponsored by 68.5% of the new Congress.
With numbers like these, this is not a bill that has been introduced as a politician’s pipe dream of stripping women of their right to a safe and legal abortion in this country. John Boehner, the new Speaker of the House and mouthpiece of the new Congress has dubbed this bill “top priority.” This is something that could very well become reality. Who knew Margaret Atwood was writing of what could become the future of women when she penned The Handmaid’s Tale.
The wording of the title of this bill is a lesson in classic anti-choice tactics. It’s deceptive. “No taxpayer funding for abortion” says to people who identify as pro-life, as well as those who aren’t necessarily against abortion but have anti-choice-leaning views about it that, if this bill was to go into effect, their hard-earned tax dollars would not go towards funding abortions. Anti-choice and anti-choice leaning folks agree with this sentiment. However, what the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act really does is so much more, and worse, than that. It goes far enough where if you have any compassion for women and most notably, rape victims, you should wholeheartedly oppose this bill at all costs.
Here is a breakdown of what the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act will do:
- Redefine rape
The federal law, as it is seen and goes into effect today, does not use federal tax dollars to cover abortion unless it is an unwanted pregnancy resulting in rape or incest, or if the pregnant woman’s health or life is at risk. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, the rape exception would only cover “forcible” rape. Ironically enough, the word “forcible” is not defined in the bill. What this means is that if a minor child who is, say, 13 years old, is coerced into a sexual relationship with a man who is not a minor, let’s just say he’s 40, and that girl becomes pregnant as a result of that rape, well, that rape doesn’t count. If a woman is drugged and then raped, that rape doesn’t count. If a woman is unconscious and is rapes, that rape doesn’t count. If a woman is mentally disabled and cannot consent to sexual activity and is raped, that rape doesn’t count.
- Put an age restriction on incest
If a woman is raped by her father, brother, uncle, grandfather or a member of their family, and she is 18 years old, she cannot use federal funds in order to obtain her abortion. Also, let’s say a 17-year-old girl is raped by her father and she is just shy of her eighteenth birthday. If she was raped when she was 17, but is seeking an abortion when she is 18, would she be eligible? I suppose that’s up to the Chris Smith and John Boehner Official Rape Panel to decide.
- Remove the exception for women’s health
This bill will allow federal funds to cover abortion if, and only if, a physician certifies that the pregnancy will kill her. If continuing her pregnancy will damage her organs in some way or she will become terribly ill, having to live on medications, dialysis, in a wheelchair or what have you for the rest of her life, she will not get coverage because that isn’t life-threatening.
- Require government to continue funding agencies and programs that discriminate against women and endanger women’s health
Currently, it is law that doctors and nurses do not have to provide elective abortion services, nor are health care facilities required to offer abortion services. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, these facilities are given free reign to discriminate when it comes to a woman’s reproductive health care by in addition to not providing abortions, also refusing to refer women to other health care facilities, agencies and programs that do and the government cannot withdraw funds. Due to the GOP’s constant attack on all of women’s reproductive health choices, abortion is being regularly redefined to include emergency contraception and even birth control, which could also be effected by this bill.
- Cut tax benefits to organizations and/or individuals who select an insurance policy that covers abortion
Today, most private health insurers cover abortion services. Under the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, tax subsidies that are given to small business owners and individuals who purchase insurance that covers abortion would be cut. This bill would, in fact, ensure that all private insurance companies stop covering abortion services, even when abortions are medically necessary.
This bill has given me some serious Whoopi Goldberg on the topic of Roman Polanski “rape rape” flashbacks. I am highly uncomfortable with–and downright refuse to allow–a group of men to sit around and dictate to women and girls of this country what, exactly, constitutes real rape. Rape that matters. Rape that counts.
The reason why I was so provoked to speak up on Twitter, on Facebook and on this blog, and gladly give up a day’s work, is because this bill is a blatant, shameless attack on women and girls who are already marginalized and stigmatized in this country. More than half of the rapes that occur in this country go unreported. The reason for this is because there is already too much in the way of rape survivors who report their attacks. In rape cases, it isn’t the rapist who is ever on trial, it’s the victim. It is the victim who is asked:
“What were you wearing?”
“How much alcohol did you consume?”
“How many people have you had sexual relationships with?”
“How frequently do you go out partying?”
“Did you previously know the man you’re accusing of raping you?”
“Have you ever been sexually active with that man before that night?”
“Were you flirting with that man or giving him mixed signals to make him think you enjoyed his advances?”
“How many times did you say no?”
“Did you try to fight him off of you?”
And the list goes on and on.
Rape cases, as they are prosecuted in this country, are fed to a jury as a woman filing charges after experiencing “buyer’s remorse” and it is an ugly, misogynistic process. Until we stop putting the victim on trial and actually start giving rape and sexual assault survivors the justice they so rightly deserve, we will not see an increase in people reporting their attacks.
Another reason why I feel so strongly about doing whatever I can to spread the word about this bill and how downright wrong, unjust, and shameful for women and girls is because this bill could have affected me. As a survivor of childhood sexual assault and multiple rape, this bill could have limited my rights to reproductive health care and services that I could have needed as a result of my attacks. Who are Chris Smith, John Boehner, any of the 68.5% of Boehner’s Caucus, or anyone who actually supports this attack on the female gender, to tell me that my attacks weren’t real; that the extreme, traumatic and mental-illness-inducing violations of my being, when I was a child and again when I was a teenager, didn’t matter or didn’t count?
They can’t. No one can. We won’t let them.
For information on how to make your voice heard and stop the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act read here.Friday, January 28, 2011
I recently received a copy of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s newest anthology, Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex. It’s damn near perfect for me, a lover of sexuality, of sudden sex, and reading about it. Not to mention that each story is 1200 words or less and for someone who has very limited time in their daily life to sit back and enjoy a good book, I love being able to read two or three short stories in the amount of time it takes a fresh pot of coffee to brew.
Yesterday I started reading Salome Wilde’s contribution, “Too Wondrous to Measure” and at just the third line I got a little confused, as if I had missed some very pertinent information that the storyline relied on. The two words that tripped me up were claw and tip. Claw tip. By the seventh line it was all cleared up. Godzilla had entered the picture and I could do nothing but wonder, and perhaps halfheartedly hope, that Godzilla was what we were calling an unnamed, mysterious lover who happened to be, well, too wondrous to measure, if you will.
By the third paragraph we get into the Godzilla movies–the original movie is the only one that depicted him correctly, by the way–and with a turn of the page I read the sentence, After a few mishaps requiring stitches and a bit of psychotherapy, turning me on and getting me off was relatively simple to achieve. Immediate thought? Not a euphemism. Definitely not a euphemism.
An erotic story written from the perspective of a woman in love with and fucking Godzilla is certainly interesting and by far the last thing I would have thought I would read in this book. It took me by complete surprise, hence my absolute need to share it with all of you. However, by the time I got to the second-to-last paragraph and learned that this woman thought she was pregnant and had been having odd dreams of (and I quote) “little lizards skittering across my bed and newts in my bathtub,” I had about all I could take of the Godzilla fantasy of Salome Wilde.
All things considered, this story left a lasting impression, and for that, Salome Wilde, you win.