Tag Archives: abortion

If men could get pregnant….

24 Oct

When I was in high school, I remember this bumper sticker:

I didn’t really grasp the strength of the rhetoric, nor did I know that it was a quote from an amazing African American feminist–Florynce Kennedy:

The point is, I was thinking about the statement today, as I heard about the most recent remark in favor of complete abortion bans, this one by Indiana republican Richard Mourdock. He expressed the following gem at a recent debate: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/richard-mourdock-abortion_n_2007482.html

This extremely profound expression of compassion and empathy sounds even better when put to the trauma test. Tsunamis, genocide, child abuse, earthquakes, rape–all are events that God wanted to happen, and must therefore be considered gifts. But we’re not talking about the Biblical parable of Job here; specifically, something that will most likely never happen to Mourdock, is something that he insists a rape victim must consider to be a gift.

Think on this: Rape has been used as a weapon of war, as an instrument of torture and soul-killing, in the Serbian rape camps, by Congolese paramilitary soldiers, and in thousands of other examples across the centuries. Specifically, in the case of the former Yugoslavia, Serbian soldiers corralled Bosnian women into camps wherein they were raped for months on end. The goal was not just to torture the women, but to impregnate them, sowing their seeds for a future Serbian generation (and ensuring a life of shame for the raped Bosnian woman). Whether one believes in a God or not is an obfuscation here: these acts do not take place in a sphere where gifts–as such–occur.

Mourdock’s remarks, prefaced as they are with his admission of having “struggled over it for a long time,” clearly reveal his complete inability to look, feel, see, envision, guess, at what another person might be feeling after such trauma.

But I misspoke. It isn’t “another person,” it’s a woman. Mourdock’s description of “struggling,” very clearly and sadly emphasizes his complete, presumptious disconnect. The ongoing tragic irony of these incessant and ridiculous declarations concerning rape and abortion have all been made by men, about women’s experiences. The fire, fury, and righteousness of their mandate occurs in the vacuum of their sex and gender. In 1998  the artist Barbara Kruger produced this poster for the New York subway system:

 14 years later, what’s changed? (Perhaps the former percentage is now higher?)

Back to the notion of “sacrament.” Arguably, the two most famous mothers are the Virgin Mary and Mother Theresa. Hmmm, both were virgins! So, two of the most historically revered mothers in the Western world were not literally mothers at all. Maternal, submissive, self-sacrificing. But nothing went into their vaginas and nothing came out, they remained pure of defilement, empty vessels. This is relevant because, in all this talk about abortion and rape, there’s been little talk about the woman and the mother herself. And, as usual in the anti-abortion argument, near zero talk about the child once s/he’s born. Further, in all the ranting about rape and its “gifts” I haven’t heard a single politician mention rape counseling and support groups, or the funding for such. In this blog I have often ranted about the anti-abortion movement’s obsession with the fetus as a kind of figment, an abstraction encapsulating the movement’s fervor; but I think that the woman herself remains a figment in a similar fashion, what’s done to her body seen solely hypothetically. Also, the movement’s recent emphatic shift to the eradication of the “rape or incest clause” previously allowed by the right, drags the abstraction of pregnant woman even further into the absolutist mire of Christian fundamentalism. It’s not about the woman, it’s about the embryo/zygote/fetus. It’s not about the woman, it’s about (my) God.

Rape is rape

22 Aug

There are connections currently being made between the recent Akin comments on “legitimate rape” and last year’s anti-abortion legislation–co-sponsored by Paul Ryan and Akin–that made emergency allocations soley for “forcible rape.”

What exactly is “forcible rape”? Is it like fatal homicide? Is it like a robbery theft?

Is the definition of rape not “any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person”? Rape is the malevolent use of force against another, for sexual ends. Because it is forced, it is rape.

What is a non-forcible rape? Perhaps Akin and Ryan intended to make sure that all those pregnancy cases via statuatory rape flooding the still-standing abortion providors would be turned away…or, Akin and Ryan were attempting to align their position with that of the federal government, which recently expanded the dated, narrow definition of “forcible rape” in order to more fully respond to victims and their needs?

Nah.

Akin and Ryan were undoubtedly using the definition in another attempt to narrow, and eventually destroy, reproductive rights all together. State by state personhood bills aren’t enough after all: start by declaring a zygote a person, proceed by limiting the definition of rape bit by bit until the qualifiers themselves are so overwhelming as to altogether prevent any victim from coming forward, seeking assistance, or doing anything other than welcoming an unwanted potential pregnancy.

Ryan has attempted to backpedal his support of the redefinition, declaring “rape is rape.” Has he recently volunteered for a rape crisis center? taken a women’s studies class? From where did this newer version come?

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/244715-ryan-dodges-question-on-forcible-rape-language-in-house-bill

In a country where less than 10% of rapists go to prison and a victims’ suffering carries the potential to continue life-long, combined with the already massive amount of bureaucratic, psychological, medical, and legal disincentives to come forward in the hopes of prosecuting the perpetrator, how do these Ryan-sponsored measures and platforms help the actual victims of sexual violence?

They don’t, working instead towards the opposite ends. Until:

Of course, sexual violence will continue, but the ability to prove and prosecute would become so difficult, that overcoming these odds will no longer feel worth their enormous trouble. Is this the desired effect here? Attempting to redefine rape with terms like “forcible rape” gradually dilutes the term’s weightiness, rendering it affectless, or relative. If the re-definition is not used, does that mean the victim was not truly raped? Not raped by force? Should the victim proceed to mull the traumatic events over ever more in the hopes of discovering the perfect definitive qualifier?

Why would such a qualifier be necessary? Has there been such a procipitous decline in violent rape that when a person comes forward claiming to have been raped it is just as likely that it did not occur via force? Have the estimated 2% of fabricated rape claims caused so much damage to the legal system that the linguistic team of Akin and Ryan felt compelled to respond?
Of course not, such assertions are ludicrous. But that is what Akin and Ryan and their terminology have done–rendered the real act of sexual violence questionable, interpretable, trivial, in need of clarification.

Such a gesture is itself a deep and dangerous figurative violence to international struggles to prevent rape. Having to tread water and nitpick with Republican anti-choicers about how forced any victim was literally stops forward motion to change violent cultures and effect positive, peaceful progress.

Akin after the weekend

22 Aug

As mainstream Republicans have scrambled to distance themselves from the growing controversy, Missouri Republican Akin has himself refused the calls to quit the Senate race, or to disappear into the background. Akin has mildly disclaimed his previous statements concerning “legitimate rape,” but insists that his anti-abortion agenda is synonymous with that of the Republican party’s.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5glBmitf1lUorR_op1yYbSljxnU0g?docId=CNG.a3d8f6f6aa4c9643bffb399a9520db3d.441

And he’s right. The party is currently pressing for a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion in all cases, even for rape and incest. (The latter being the kind of catch-all clause, insinuating an admittance that it’s not just flighty career gals getting abortions on the fly). But the victims of the clause are no longer safe either. Akin and Romney’s vice-president Ryan supported a bill just last year pressing for a similar ban, making a vote for Romney akin to a vote for Akin. And now, the Republican party itself has voted to again make the amendment endemic to their platform (as they have done in 2000, 2004, 2008).

Despite Romney’s initial claims to be running for president to fix the economy, that jobs are Americans’ first priority, and that he wants to make our country productive again, the overriding theme in the election has become the fight to end abortion at any cost, and in all cases.

What’s this got to do with jobs? How does the Tea Party reconcile its anti-government stance with support for measures that fully assert the government’s right to interfere with half of its citizens? An interference that plays out physically, psychologically, financially, and permanently? How does less government translate into more government control of the female body? How does opposition to female reproductive healthcare butt up against anti-abortion policies? Because if the church/college/state government/shopping mall that you work at doesn’t provide any kind of female reproductive healthcare, this means not only that you are refused reimbursement for the birth control pill, but also refused any kind of neo-natal care.

Concern for the fetus only goes as far as an amendment and a billboard.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/22/opinion/dowd-just-think-no.html?ref=opinion

The 2 words that never belong together

20 Aug

In a televised interview this weekend, Missouri Republican Todd Akin defined his opposition to abortion in the strictest of terms, and including in cases of rape. Akin further hedged his bets with the following claim: 

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”  

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/us/politics/todd-akin-provokes-ire-with-legitimate-rape-comment.html

“legitimate” and “rape”: by stringing the words together Akin would seem to imply that rape isn’t always illegitimate; he further undermines the catastrophe of rape with the use of the word “legitimate” itself. Rape is devasting, violent, horrific, tortuous, and any other synonym available. It is not legitimate or illegitimate. “legitimate” is defined as lawful, valid, just. When considered thusly, the word itself should never be strung with “rape,” for a rape is never valid or just; whether or not it is lawful, is a confused term: does this mean if it is persecuted? or if a judge deems it actual? Where does the woman herself figure into this?

Further, by asserting that if it is “legitimate”/actual rape, the victim’s body will engage in a kind of “natural abortion” implies disastrous notions about the act of rape itself, and complete ignorance as to how the female sexed body actually functions. So, if the body of the victim doesn’t naturally abort the pregnancy, that then implies that an actual rape didn’t occur. Such confused magical thinking can be likened to the witchcraft trials that occurred centuries ago: if a woman accused of witchcraft drowns, she’s innocent.

And another further, Akin’s claims that the rapist should be punished, not the child, demonstrates the same muddled conception of biology and reproduction that I critiqued in last week’s post on Paul Ryan’s anti-abortion position. There is no child. There is a woman’s body with fertilized eggs at conception. Akin, like Ryan, does not even mention the woman in the equation here, the potential mother, without whom a fetus could not develop.

The Romney camp initially issued a tepid response, distancing itself from Akin. With the growing outcry however, Romney publicly stated his disagreement with Akin’s views. He should probably look over to Ryan and wonder wherein lies the disagreement…

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/21/us/politics/republicans-decry-todd-akins-rape-remarks.html?_r=1&hp

ONE of the (many) errors in logic of the “Personhood” bills

14 Aug

This weekend, Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan as his running mate. Ryan is known primarily for his extreme fiscal conservativeness, yet there are many other problems to be found in his political agenda. A conservative Catholic, Ryan has spoken consistently against abortion, family planning and Planned Parenthood.

2 years ago, he published on opinion piece for the Heritage Foundation, outlining his support for recent severe anti-choice legislation known as “personhood” bills. http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=207539

At onset, Ryan declares his support of both “free market choice” and the “natural right to life,” opining that the use of the word “choice” has been woefully colonized by those found in the pro-abortion camp. According to Ryan, one chooses to buy or sell a car, wear or return a sweater; human beings cannot be trafficked in a similar way. It is the duty of the federal government to get out of the way when it comes to its citizenry’s choices; conversely, it is the duty of government to intercede when it comes to the protections of human rights.

For Ryan, it is the rights of the most vulnerable–the unborn– that remain the most in peril:

“I cannot believe any official or citizen can still defend the notion that an unborn human being has no rights that an older person is bound to respect. I do know that we cannot go on forever feigning agnosticism about who is human. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, ‘The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.’ The freedom to choose is pointless for someone who does not have the freedom to live. So the right of ‘choice’ of one human being cannot trump the right to ‘life’ of another. How long can we sustain our commitment to freedom if we continue to deny the very foundation of freedom—life—for the most vulnerable human beings?”

Ryan consistently elides the differences between a not-yet-born nor even partially formed being and an out-of-the-womb fully grown woman. Further, he denies that the latter should be able to make choices (apparently against God and Thomas Jefferson: i.e. against both the church AND the state) that would in any way interfere with the potentiality of the former.  A hierarchical system is thus established, wherein the potentiality of the former must be held at highest regard and protection, and the potentiality and literal present of the latter must be kept in subservience.  

In his use of the term “human beings” Ryan also elides the specificity of sexual difference, rendering the argument about the rights of human beings solely. But any discussion of motherhood and/or abortion cannot ignore the sexual specificity of the equation. Only a female human being will be confronted with the happiness or impossibility that a pregnancy brings to her body and then her life. The being-that-is-not-yet-born is dependent on the female sexed body it is within, therefore it cannot legally, scientifically or even figuratively be considered a “human being” as such. The pregnant woman, however, is considered legally, scientifically and figuratively to be a “human being.”

“The freedom to choose is pointless for someone who does not have the freedom to live. So the right of ‘choice’ of one human being cannot trump the right to ‘life’ of another.” Because a fetus is not being given the chance to live, its freedom to choose is irrelevant; therefore a woman’s choice cannot decide the freedom of a fetus. Ryan’s logic is illogical: by rendering the concept of “choice” as an abstraction of which a fetus is being denied by being aborted, he then revokes the choices of the pregnant woman and her freedom to live–as she sees fit. In this construction he is attempting to equate the two parties, but because they are inherently unequal he inverts the paradigm:  rendering the fetus to be more deserving of equal protection under the law, which in turn has the effect of rendering the pregnant woman less deserving. The choices and freedoms a female human being has (or does not have) are not abstractions or flights of political fancy: they are not hypothetical. To speak of the fetus as possessor of the same choices and freedoms is to deal in conjecture and the imaginary.

Any woman’s right to choose in Virginia

26 Feb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/02/24/virginia-senate-drops-personhood-bill/

The past couple of weeks in Virginia have been vexing for any woman who likes to make up her own mind, and take care of her body as she sees and believes fit. The Virginia General Assembly attempted to pass two bills, both of which would have enormous impact on the reproductive and individual rights of all women in the state.

The “personhood” bill would grant individual rights to the teeny cells barely beginning slowly after the sperm reaches the egg. The other bill–which has received more national attention–mandated that any woman considering an abortion must first undergo a transvaginal ultrasound: the device is inserted into the vagina. This procedure does not serve any wellness purposes whatsoever. Its irrelevance implies that its purpose is sheerly to intimidate the female patient: physically and psychologically. The “personhood” bill possesses a more symbolic purpose, its intentions being merely to further the anti-choice movement all the way to the complete prohibition of abortion.

Because of an apparently unexpected amount of public outcry, both bills have been (temporarily) shelved. Depending upon the upcoming elections, both bills may be a bit harder to eradicate.