The Republican obsession with women’s bodies and sex

Haven’t posted for quite a while now.  Maybe it is the end of winter doldrums (I can almost say I survived my first Vermont winter which wasn’t nearly as bad as winter in the Boston I left behind.) or maybe I’m just discouraged by the general  state of politics.   I’m becoming increasingly fearful about what will happen if the Republicans take over the Presidency next year.  But I have been aroused from my lethargy by a story and editorial in today’s Brattleboro Reformer.

I’m not sure how it works in other parts of the country, but New England has a tradition of school children asking a legislator to introduce a bill for them.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the young woman who wanted Vermont to have a Latin motto.  Another group would like the Gilfeather turnip to become the Vermont state vegetable.  The children have to do their research and come and testify before the appropriate committee of the state legislature.  Their bills sometimes pass and sometimes get postponed for a year, but along the way they learn about politics and how bills become laws.  So a group in New Hampshire wants to make the red-tailed hawk the state raptor.  The Reformer editorial compares their reception to that given to the Gilfeather turnip lobbyists.

On March 17, a dozen students from Wardsboro Elementary School traveled to Montpelier to lobby for designating the Gilfeather turnip as the state vegetable. Wardsboro was home to John Gilfeather who is credited with developing the turnip that bears his name.

Rep. Emily Long, a Democrat from Newfane and a co-sponsor of the turnip bill, said she was “absolutely thrilled to see the kids here. I heard they were really good, I saw one of their teachers, and she was glowing!”

The students were told by Rep. Carolyn Partridge, a Democrat from Windham, that the bill would not pass this year, but she said many members of the committee supported it. In fact, Partridge said Gilfeather turnips had a celebrity status at her family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas tables growing up, and she said she would make a soup from them and bring it to the committee so they can taste the gnarly root vegetable for themselves.

Members of the committee were given wool-felted Gilfeather turnip pins, one of many items handcrafted and sold as part of fundraisers for the annual festival, which benefits the town’s library.

But what happened in New Hampshire?

Now let’s compare the reception the Wardsboro students received to the reception a handful of fourth-grade students received when they went to Concord to lobby to name the red-tailed hawk the state bird. What was the reaction they got? Incredibly, one legislator likened the bill to abortion.

State Rep. Warren Groen, from Rochester (need we really name his party?) said the red-tailed hawk “mostly likes field mice and small rodents. It grasps them with its talons and then uses its razor sharp beak to rip its victims to shreds and then basically tear it apart, limb from limb. And I guess the shame about making this the state bird is it would make a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.”

Yes, Groen took the opportunity to push his anti-choice agenda at the expense of a group of 9 and 10-year-old students from Hampton Falls.

We’ve all seen video and read stories about male Republicans at all levels of government getting tangled up in trying to figure out birth control, rape, and abortion.  Remember back when Newt Gingrich said women can’t be soldiers because they get a “disease” every month?  Or Rush Limbaugh thinking one had to take a birth control pill with every act of intercourse?  Or the guy who said women could hold an aspirin (I think it was an aspirin.) between their knees to prevent rape.  And most recently the state legislator who thought maybe one could swallow a tiny camera so a doctor could see how old the fetus was before an abortion was performed.  The list is endless.  But NH Rep. Groen really shows the totality of their obsession by introducing the anti-choice agenda during a hearing about raptors.  When the inappropriateness of his comments was pointed out and he was asked by leadership to apologize, Groen made the whole thing into a free speech issue.

What was Groen’s reaction to criticism of his comment? “Every time we’re in session the gallery is open, and there are children in the gallery. So, I don’t know, should we limit free speech or should we limit who goes in the gallery?”

Maybe the answer, Rep. Groen, is that on a day when birth control, abortion rights, or Planned Parenthood are being debated it is up to parents to decide if their children should be in the gallery.  But not when we are talking about red-tailed hawks.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

And while we are on the topic may I ask why Congressional Republican have to add an amendment about abortion to every single piece of legislation?  Today I’m talking about the bill concerning trafficking of women, the bill that is holding up the confirmation of Loretta Lynch to be Attorney General.  Can we drop that language and pass the bill and confirm Ms. Lynch, please?






Photograph:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Taken by Betty Lemley, New Jersey, February 2008

Pink is Out

Full disclosure:  I was a volunteer for Planned Parenthood working at a clinic where I did everything including counseling young women who were pregnant.  I won an award as volunteer of the year.  I still contribute money.  I will be increasing that contribution.  I don’t think there is anything that can convince people that Planned Parenthood does not sell abortions.  Many clinics provide only women’s health care including breast exams.  Clinics that provide abortions still mainly offer health care.  Since abortions are legal and it can be difficult to obtain, this is, to me, a public service also.  The really sad part about the Susan G. Komen Foundation decision to withdraw funding from some Planned Parenthood clinics is that it will make early detection of breast cancer difficult for many young and poor women.

Planned Parenthood

Pam Belluck writes in the New York Times

The move will halt financing to 19 of Planned Parenthood’s 83 affiliates, which received nearly $700,000 from the Komen foundation last year and have been receiving similar grants since at least 2005.

Planned Parenthood contends that the Komen foundation is yielding to longstanding pressure from anti-abortion groups, which Komen denies.

Writing in the Washington Post column She the People, Lori Stahl writes

“Not about politics” is the part that even some of  Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s most loyal supporters might question.The Dallas-based organization, which is the country’s biggest breast cancer charity, insisted its controversial decision to defund Planned Parenthood affiliates was made only in light of Komen’s new policy against supporting agencies that are under investigation. (The congressional investigation itself was launched by a conservative Republican and spurred by antiabortion groups.)

The decision was “not about politics,” a Komen statement insisted.

But the truth is that Komen founder Nancy Brinker has strong Republican ties and Cecile Richards, who leads Planned Parenthood, is daughter of late Texas Gov. Ann Richards and has longtime Democratic Party ties. Also worth noting: This is an election year.

Brinker, a longtime GOP donor who was ambassador to Hungary under then-President George W. Bush, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2009. She has cast Komen as above politics, saying its focus is women’s health.

But the decision to stop funding Planned Parenthood comes shortly after Komen unveiled a new partnership that strengthens its ties to the George W. Bush Institute. The institute is the policy-making arm of Bush’s presidential library, which is scheduled to open in Dallas next year.

It appears that the Komen Foundation has been co-opted by those opposing abortion even at the cost of women’s health.  According to the Times

Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, said that the decision “came so abruptly in the face of a long, good, working relationship with Komen” and that the change in financing criteria “was written specifically to address the political pressure that they’ve been under.”

Ms. Richards said all of Planned Parenthood’s affiliates provided around 770,000 women with breast examinations and paid for mammograms and ultrasounds for those who needed and could not afford further diagnostic services. She said she received the news from the Komen foundation in late December and had requested a meeting with officials there to discuss the matter but was rebuffed.

“Until really recently, the Komen foundation had been praising our breast health programs as essential,” Ms. Richards said. “This really abrupt about-face was very surprising. I think that the Komen foundation has been bullied by right-wing groups.”

I don’t think I have ever advocated for contributions for a cause before on this blog, but I am today.  Give money to Planned Parenthood.  Give money to the new Breast Health Emergency Fund.  Here is a link.  And stop walking in the Komen walks and giving them money.  They appear more interested in appeasing their anti-abortion supporters than promoting breast health.  This is not about abortion.  This is about breast cancer.

Protect Choice

Abortion is legal.  The abortions provided by Dr. George Tiller are not mass murder according to the law no matter what Randall Terry and Bill O’Reilly think.  If you believe that a fetus is a person, then, yes, Dr. Tiller and other physicians who provide abortions are killing.  However if you do not believe that a non-viable fetus is a person, then abortion is not murder.  The reality is that one side will never change the beliefs of the other and the law and the American Constitution protects the right of a woman to make a choice.

I have been a couselor at a Planned Parenthood and I know that the decision is never an easy one.  I had several young woman decide on adoption, but most decided to terminate their pregnancies.  They used to come with their boyfriends.  They usually told their parents.  These were women who were having first trimester abortions.  I can’t imagine how difficult the decision to have a late term abortion might be.

John Nichols wrote “A Killing in Kansas”  in the Nation

Fifteen years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered a “hit list” circulating among militant anti-abortion activists.

The top target for assassination on the list was Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician whose Women’s Health Care Services clinic in Witchita has been one of only three clinics in the United States that performs late-term abortions in order to end the pregnancies of women who doctors determine would suffer irreparable harm by giving birth.

The question is what good is a right to something if it is not available.  What does it mean to call a person a murderer over and over for doing something legal?  What does it mean to have had eight abortion providers murdered since 1977?  There are many questions which I am sure I will write about over the days to come.

Peter Rothberg in his blog Act Now has two important links.  First is the link to clips of Bill O’Reilly.  The second is to Medical Students for Choice.

Beyond his courage and medical competence Tiller’s loss will be greatly felt becuase there just aren’t that many other peope with the will and wherewithal to do what he did. It would be a fitting memorial to Dr. Tiller, as Friedman suggests, to contribute to Medical Students for Choice, and encourage more doctors with a deep commitment to reproductive rights to become abortion providers.

Yes, President Obama is right in saying we need to reduce the number of abortions, but we also need to make sure that the right is more than something on paper.