A Note to Nikki Haley

Dear Gov. Haley,

You don’t know me, but I feel like I know you. I mean, I’ve known many women politicians who go against their own interests simply to win an election and curry the favor (no pun intended) of men, and not just Republicans like you.

On a recent broadcast of “The View,” you said something to the effect of “Women aren’t concerned about birth control. They’re concerned about the economy and jobs.” Respectfully, ma’am, your chief of staff needs to change the channel on the gubernatorial television from Fox News to some alternative. Then, you will see women are concerned about birth control and the loss of access to it because, well, it’s pretty simple–women can’t participate in the economy and have jobs if they’re perpetually pregnant. And the other, simple matter is that women get to decide whether or not to be pregnant, something I’m sure you’ve done at some point in your life. I suspect you were very careful not to get pregnant during that alleged affair you supposedly had, so I bet you were pretty concerned about birth control then and gave no thought to the economy.

I can understand–but not excuse–your dismissal of the importance of birth control. After all, the country of your heritage once used abortion as birth control when couples discovered they were having a daughter. I can see how that would mark you, that is, if you bothered to acknowledge that heritage. India, by the way, distributes birth control, free of charge, because they’ve grasped the concept of over-population and its deleterious effect on the economy.

Let me tell you a little story about my Irish grandmother. (Ireland is the country just west of England–I remind you because your narrow-mindedness about birth control makes me wonder if you know of anything beyond our shores.) My grandmother was a midwife in Virginia. One of her patients in the 1930’s had married at the age of 15, quite common in rural areas back then, even rural areas of South Carolina. By the time that woman was 30, my grandmother had delivered her 13 children. The thing that stood out for my grandmother, who was only a few years older than her patient, was that this 30 year old woman, who had been “a beautiful child,” according to Gramma, had gray, thin hair, weighed barely 100 pounds, had lost half her teeth, looked 60, and could barely stand. My grandmother tried to teach her the rhythm method of birth control, but the woman explained she couldn’t say no to her husband. She was dead before she was 35 and had three more children. The last one killed her.

Is this what you want us to go back to? Is this what you want for your daughter? Or your son, for that matter?

If you think women aren’t concerned about birth control, you haven’t paid much attention to the polls showing that independent, women voters are not supporting Republican candidates or their policies and are citing the recent birth control brouhaha as their reason. As a Virginia woman’s sign said at a recent protest in Richmond, “I can’t believe I’m still fighting about this shit.”

Women are concerned about birth control because that’s the single thing which has allowed us to be full partners in the economy. We’re concerned about birth control because we understand family planning is to the benefit of the family. You might say birth control is a family value.


A Post-Menopausal Woman Who Always Will Be Concerned About Birth Control

We Will Not Go Back

I’ll begin by apologizing to my male friends, if they feel they are being bashed. I’m a feminist, yes, but I like men. (Far too much for my own good, if my past relationships are any example.) That, however, doesn’t stop me from asking, “When will men just shut up and let women decide about their bodies?”

Because women are the only gender who can actually gestate a fetus, I feel, and I always have, that we should get to say when or if we do that. For some reason, men–well, a lot of Republican men–can’t stand that. In an unprecedented attack on women’s ability to make serious decisions about their health and well-being, Republican men–and women–in state legislatures have offered bill after bill to restrict access to abortion. From bills that define personhood as the moment sperm fertilizes egg (meaning a condom is an abortion to them) to proposals that women would have to prove their miscarriages were spontaneous to bills that suggested criminal charges against doctors who perform abortions and the women who seek them, we have seen a year thus far in which the dystopia described in Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale  looms.

Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum recently declared that women who seek abortions for the health and survivability of the mother are essentially lying. Then, we learn his wife had a second-trimester dilation and extraction to save her life. Apparently, though, the only way to convince Santorum it was necessary was to point out that his existing children would lose a mother. Mrs. Santorum had had a risky in utero procedure to correct a fetal defect, but it failed and the fetus became a source of sepsis for its mother. Even knowing the now-dead fetus would result in his wife’s death, Santorum hesitated before agreeing to the procedure. In the meantime, Mrs. Santorum went into premature labor, and the die was cast. When someone pointed this out to Santorum after his “women are lying about needing abortions” statement, his response was? Oh, our abortion was different. Not that I would have voted for him under any circumstance, but the hypocrisy just floors me. Abortion for my family but no one else–that’s what he means, people.

This is why, damn it, I want to make my own decisions about my body–because I have the intelligence, the information, the knowledge, and the ability to make important choices. I don’t want a man to hesitate before he says, “Oh, okay, save the mother if nothing else can be done.”

A reporter in Afghanistan once asked a man why he hesitated to bring his struggling, pregnant wife to a doctor so she wouldn’t have almost died. “It’s no matter,” he said, “I can always find another wife.” Many men in America are that close to thinking of women the same way. We are baby machines to them, uteruses with legs. We exist only to gestate, and the fetus’ well being takes precedence, even when it is the potential cause of a woman’s death. That is not acceptable.

And I love babies. I have the three cutest grandchildren in the world, and I respect their mothers’ choices. Moreover, I’m glad they were able to make that choice, that it wasn’t made for them by anyone else. I look forward to the day when no child is an accident and every child is wanted. I look forward to the day when a woman can think long and hard and make the choice best for her by herself, with no recrimination. I marched in the streets for choice, and I thought we’d already seen that day. Now, I see it slipping away through the crass manipulation of emotions by people who hate women, who believe we are incapable of making a choice after a rational, internal debate, that we lie in order to kill babies.

As if this renewed assault against a legitimate, legal, medical procedure isn’t enough, rightwingnutjobs are now focusing on contraception–as in the banning of it. This is their vision of America: Women burdened by constant pregnancy who won’t be able to compete with men in the boardroom, in Congress, anywhere. Their nostalgia for medieval times rivals that of the Taliban.

Yes, I sound angry and abrasive and all those words men use against women who believe in choice. Just understand what choice means in this instance: The woman decides. Not the government, not the minister, not the doctor. The woman. Most of the time she decides to give birth, and that’s perfect because that’s her choice. We cannot take away the other side of that choice because if we do, there is no choice without options. If a woman doesn’t want to give birth, she should have the choice not to, preferably by unfettered access to contraception. As a last resort, she must have access to safe, clean, properly performed abortion.

Anti-choice men need to understand this: We will not go back.

Not Intended to be Factual Statements

Imagine what life would be like if, every time we say something stupid, we could just shrug and say, “I didn’t intend that to be a factual statement.” Then, everyone who heard the stupidity would just smile and say, “Sure, no problem. Of course you didn’t intend that to be a factual statement.”

That begs the question, what is a non-factual statement? Why, I think everyone from my grandmother to my old English teacher to a priest or two I had respect for would say, “It’s a lie.”

Those of us on the left–excuse me, we liberals–have been the only ones up in arms about Sen. John Kyl’s  (R.-AZ) pontificating on the floor of the Senate about how 90% of what Planned Parenthood does is abortions. Once Planned Parenthood pointed out to the media that the percentage was more like three, Kyl’s spokesperson indicated to the media that Kyl hadn’t intended that to be a “factual statement.”

Oh, I see. Even if you accept that politicians lie–and they do–that admission by Kyl’s spokesperson, the glibness of it, is disgusting. Set aside the disrespect against an organization which has done more for women’s health than the nail on John Kyl’s pinky. I knew and know women–myself included before I joined up with Uncle Sam and got health insurance–who went to Planned Parenthood for medical examinations and tests exclusive to women. I know women who went to Planned Parenthood to be diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted diseases because if they went to their hometown doctors it would be too embarrassing. And yes, I know a few women who went to Planned Parenthood to get a referral for an abortion because that was the only way they could afford it.

Planned Parenthood doesn’t push abortion, but if a woman asks for one, Planned Parenthood makes no judgements but does make certain she gets a safe procedure. And everything else you go to Planned Parenthood for–routine medical screenings and cancer tests–you get treated like a human being, a person, not just a group health plan number.

Kyl was pontificating to make a political point and to advance his and the Republicans’ social agenda. (Mr. Boehner, where are those jobs y’all ran on and promised?) But, apparently, he also has sway with the Congressional Record. When the edition came out reflecting the Senate proceedings on the day Mr. Kyl made his unintended factual statement, the transcript didn’t reflect the 90% figure. The entire statement was edited to make it almost innocuous. Well, thank goodness for C-SPAN. We can still view the video, unless Kyl somehow manages a judicious edit of that, too.

So, what’s my long-winded point?

Politicians lie, but lately Republican politicians and potential Republican Presidential candidates have dropped some whoppers on us. We shouldn’t shrug this off as more of the same. We should be worried.

I could say, “I didn’t intend any of the above to be a factual statement,” but that would be a lie.

P.S. Something I thought I’d never say–way to go, Gov. Jan Brewer. She of the draconian and unconstitutional immigration bill showed amazing good sense in vetoing Arizona’s birther legislation. Will wonders never cease?

And this post’s homage to National Poetry Month acknowledges the other half of my heritage. Last post I printed a Seamus Heaney poem (and managed, with my bad typing to misspell his last name). Here then, enjoy Robert Burns’ “Lament for Culloden.”

The lovely lass o’ Inverness,
    Nae joy nor pleasure can she see;
For e’en and morn, she cries, “Alas!”
    And aye the saut tear blin’s her e’e:
“Drumossie moor, Drumossie day,
    A waefu’ day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear,
    My father dear and brethren three.

“Their winding-sheet the bluidy clay,
    Their graves are growing green to see;
And by them lies the dearest lad
    That ever blest a woman’s e’e!
Now wae to thee, thou cruel lord,
    A bluidy man I trow thou be;
For monie a heart thou hast made sair,
    That ne’er did wrang to thine or thee.”

Comments and Such

On the proposed bill in the Georgia legislature which would make it a crime to have an abortion or a miscarriage, either of which would be punishable by life in prison or the death penalty–Really? Are you nuts? Aren’t you the same rightwingnut jobs who are worried about Sharia law taking over the U.S.? If you want to get a glimpse of a world amid such laws as this, read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

On Karl Rove wanting to hold the Obama Administration accountable for FOIA responses: During the eight years when Rove was whatever he was in the White House, government agencies were told that FOIA responses were not a priority. When 9/11 happened that gave them justification. Almost anything was classified as “national security” and didn’t have to be answered. Before the Bush 2 Administration, we were held accountable up the line to the agency Administrator for timely FOIA responses. This is the height of hypocrisy and, well, craven.

On Donald Trump going “birther”: I’ve never had any admiration whatsoever for this particular capitalist, but after his questioning whether Obama was really born here just shows that he’s nuts and anyone who votes for him is likewise.

On bombing the crap out of Libya: I still don’t know how I feel about this. I don’t want to knee-jerk to the usual progressive position because bombing the crap out of Milosevic’s army got the point across about ethnic cleansing. However, cruise missiles are expensive, especially when you think about how many teachers that money could hire.

On Ann “Give Me a Radiation Vaccine” Coulter and Andrew “Selective Video Editing” Breitbart indicating that the Presidency is “beneath” She Who Shall Not Be Named: Am I in Superman’s Bizarro World? I can’t think of anyone who would diminish the institution of the Presidency more than the Half Governor of Alaska, and I thought Bush 2 did a good job of it.

On Ron and/or Rand Paul running for President: Welcome to the fascist Ayn Rand-verse and returning high-volume flush toilets to the market. No, Ayn Rand’s books are not great literature. They’re fascist trash, and I’m not waiting for John Galt.

On the first anniversary of the passage of health care reform: Thanks for removing the pre-existing condition block, thanks for letting kids stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26, thanks for making certain insurance companies can’t drop kids who get sick, and all the other positive aspects contained in the law. Now, let’s work on improving it by passing single-payer health insurance.

On Congress’ record of job production since the Repubs took over: Mr. Boehner, where are the effing jobs? Get your heads out of culture warfare and do the people’s business.

On “unaffiliated” being the fastest-growing religious group: Thank God! (That was a joke.)

On pictures of U.S. soldiers posing with the bodies of dead civilians: Gentlemen–and I use that term loosely–you disgrace your uniform and your country with these juvenile stunts, though I understand you’ve been conditioned not to think of the enemy as human beings. They are, and think how your mother would feel if a Talib posed with your body as if it were a trophy, because idiotic stunts like yours will only affect your fellow soldiers. I have a few more words for you: dishonorable discharge and Levinworth.

On the death of Elizabeth Taylor: Seventy-nine was too young, and she’ll always be timeless to me as Velvet Brown in National Velvet. She was, as some have said, the last Star, and her talent and her humanity were immeasurable. If I believed in heaven, I’d say she and Richard Burton were having a longed for, grand reunion about now.