Tag Archives: abortion

Bush’s Last 77 Days

A New York Times editorial published today discusses the damage that Bush intends to inflict in his last 77 days in office. Restricting access to abortion is among his goals, the Times says:

Soon after the election, Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, is expected to issue new regulations aimed at further limiting women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and information about their reproductive health care options.

Existing law allows doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in an abortion. These changes would extend the so-called right to refuse to a wide range of health care workers and activities including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of birth control pills or emergency contraception, even for rape victims.

Doctors were recently denied the right to restrict access to medical services based on religious beliefs by the California Supreme Court. In that case, a doctor refused to provide in vitro fertilization to a lesbian, and claimed the right to deny services because she is a Christian fundamentalist, under free speech and freedom of religion protections. It’s chilling to see a law sanctioning denial of service broadened on the federal level, and dispiriting to realize that if the California Supreme Court case makes it to the Supreme Court, the doctor who denied services will likely prevail, no matter the result of today’s presidential election.

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Vampire Babes Against Choice

What is it with right-wing Christians and vampires, anyway? No, I’m not talking about the whole ban-Harry-Potter crowd; it’s the ones that like the occult that are worrying me. Everywhere you look these days there seems to be a new and unholy alliance between sexy gothic vampires and those god-fearing Main Street folks we keeping hearing so much about. Laurel K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, goes to church to protect her soul in evil times, the vampires of the HBO’s True Blood series operate in some mirror world Maybury, and, last but most certainly not least, we have the phenomenally successful Twilight saga, penned by Brigham Young University grad Stephanie Meyer.

For those of you who have somehow missed the Potter-esque towers of Twilight books in every bookstore in America and the UK, the Twlight saga has now run to four books (Breaking Dawn, released last summer, was supposed to be the last) and features a love story between a high school girl named Bella and her gorgeous vampire beau Edward. The synopsis may say ‘Buffy’ but the actually recipe is more Harelquin Romance: a heroine who doesn’t know how beautiful she really is, an inscrutable male who finds her unawareness of her beauty irresistible, an equally hunky rival who smoulders with jealousy–all mixed together in a steamy soup of overwrought teen angst.

Meyer uses the romance vehicle to take her heroine into some very un-Buffy territory. Edward insists that he and the virginal Bella only kiss until they get married, which they do immediately after she graduates from high school. It’s disturbing enough that Bella’s entire life’s ambition is to be with Edward (she disdains college, has no career ambitions and can barely be bothered to finish high school), but the real horror comes when she realises she is pregnant. Bella’s half-vampire baby is so strong that it is destroying her insides, and it will physically claw its way out of her when it reaches full term. Edward begs her to abort, but Bella is literally dying to sacrifice herself for her little hellion, and she puts measures in place to ensure that none of her loved ones can end the pregnancy and save her life.

Of course, self-sacrifice is a fixture in the sort of romance novels that Meyer draws on: the only time it is OK for romance heroines to display strength is when it helps others and hurts themselves. But Meyer goes one further by locating this maidenly masochism in precisely the place that anti-abortionists would most like to see it: the body of a pregnant teenage girl. Not only do readers get to witness Bella protect her demon seed even as it breaks her ribs and damages her organs, but they get to hear its thoughts as well. Yes, that’s right: the thing is sentient and already talking (through vampire telepathy) even though it’s still in Mommy’s womb.

It’s the anti-abortionist’s wet-dream, wrapped up in pseudo-gothic trappings: a young woman who is basically a walking womb, devoid of all desire except for the determination to protect her foetus, and a foetus that is already a fully formed person, with wills and wishes of its own. The foetus is turned into a person, while the woman is turned into a collection of baby-sustaining cells.

Just to round out the anti-choice fantasy, the baby’s birth brings all good things to Bella. In order to save her life, Edmund finally makes Bella a vampire, thus fulfilling her greatest wish. She and Edmund and the little monster retire to a perfect wee cottage owned by his hugely rich vampire family. They will never have to work, and they don’t really have to take care of the baby since it emerges half grown and ready to take care of itself. Oh, and just in case that wasn’t enough, becoming a vampire makes Bella freakishly beautiful as well. The message, hammered home with the force of a pneumatic drill, is that as long as young women never put themselves first, they’ll eventually have everything they want.

From her soulful picture on her books’ dust jackets to the indie playlists that she posts on her website, Meyer seems determined to make sure that everyone knows that BYU grads can be just as hip as the next person. Her anti-choice vampire saga is hardly the first attempt to make the religious Right seem cool, but, judging by the series’ mammoth sales figures and the upcoming movie, her attempt is going over a lot better than Christian rock ever did. I can’t help but think that a cultural mythology that brought us Buffy in the 1990s and onscreen sex between Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve in the 1980s deserves better than to be turned into the latest window-dressing for right-wing propaganda. But I guess, given the fate the religious Right would choose for young pregnant women, vampire lovers who turn teenage girls undead is probably the right metaphor after all.

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Filed under fiction, reproductive rights, sexuality, women

Liberal Blogger Smack-Down

I watched just a few minutes of Mona Charen versus Jane Hamsher on the Washington Journal’s 7:30 hour this past Sunday. As I watched, Hamsher pulled out all of the moves that typically define Republicans’ performances on these shows. Hamsher, a blogger for FireDogLake, talked over Charen, a writer for the National Review. Hamsher refused to let Charen finish her sentences, interrupted her, and shouted her down. Hamsher was unapologetically rude and Charen was apoplexic.

I found this performance both unnerving and heartening. I so disapprove of the talk show format, and I wish that it was possible for lefties to avoid cable TV shows. We don’t typically hold views that can be boiled down to a sound bite because—well, because we hold views, not bullet points in a party platform. Also, I can’t help but think that these types of talk shows feed on themselves and grow into larger national problems, like the one we have now, where talking heads spend hours evaluating politicians performances in debates and a hot minute on their policy differences. Performance overshadows principle, and I hate it.

That said, I am so grateful to Hamsher for refusing to let Charen say that botched abortion babies are born and then strangled by hospital staff because of Roe V Wade. I especially love the way that Hamsher’s smile was cemented on her face, Sarah Palin-style, when she continued to shout down Charen’s repeated and absurd assertion that most American women are against choice, once its implications are fully explained to them. Charen’s only response was to fume.

Thanks for standing up, Jane.

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N.O.W Endorsed Obama Today

Citing their efforts in support of women’s rights, N.O.W endorsed the Obama/Biden ticket today.

NOW supported Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primary, and now we join with her in saying “NO” — No Way, No How, No McCain! And we proudly stand arm-in-arm with her in putting our hopes and our dreams, our hard work and our hard-earned money, behind the next President of the United States — Barack Obama, and his running mate, longtime friend and ally of women, Sen. Joe Biden.

You’re probably voting for Obama anyway if you’re reading this feminist blog, but do spread the word if you know anyone reluctant to support Obama, particularly on Hillary’s behalf, that McCain is the devil’s spawn, especially in terms of  women’s rights.

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Why Are Feminists Afraid of Palin?

As blog administrators, we can see the search engine queries driving people to our site. “Why feminists fear Palin” is one of the queries I’ve seen in recent days, so I’d like to answer that question directly.

Feminism has a specific definition: advocating for the freedom and rights of women.

As a pro-lifer, Palin is against one of the key tenants of feminism: that women control their bodies without state interference.

Call yourself a pro-life feminist if you’d like, but that’s a contradiction in terms. There is no way around this requirement to be pro-choice if you are a feminist.

You can be a feminist if you believe life begins at conception. You just can’t advocate imposing that belief on other women via the state, forcing thousands of thousands of women to have unwanted children or back-alley abortions, and still call yourself a feminist.

I’ve never been a fan of wishy-washy multiculturalism, with its emphasis on inclusiveness and tolerance. I blame multiculturalism, in part, for the rhetorical troubles we are having today, right now, in our discussion of Palin.

Multiculturalism gave entire generations (including mine) the impression that eating Thai food was a way to fight for social justice.

It also gave the impression that feminism could stretch to mean anything, and include anyone. As the examples of Palin, Paglia, and Bruce all confirm, it can’t.

Feminism doesn’t mean whatever you want it to mean.

I pray women like these three think of another, more honest label for themselves, so I won’t ever have to mention their names and feminism in the same sentence again.

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